SHORT HISTORY of the 101st AIRBORNE DIVISION
On August 19, 1942, the first commander, Major General William C. Lee, promised his new recruits that the 101st did not have a history, but a “Rendezvous with Destiny” As a division, the 101st has never failed that prophecy. During World War II, the 101st Airborne Division led the way on D-Day in the night drop prior to the invasion. When surrounded at Bastogne, Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe answered “NUTS!” and the Screaming Eagles fought on until the siege was lifted. For their valiant efforts and heroic deeds during World War II, the 101st Airborne Division was awarded four campaign streamers and two Presidential Unit Citations.
General Order nr. 5, which gave birth to the ‘Eagle’ division, states:
“The 101st Airborne Division, activated at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, has no history, but it has a rendezvous with destiny. Like the early American pioneers whose invincible courage was the foundation stone of this nation, we have broken with the past and its traditions in order to establish our claim to the future.” “Due to the nature of our armament, and the tactics in which we shall perfect ourselves, we shall be called upon to carry out operations of far-reaching military importance and we shall habitually go into action when the need is immediate and extreme. “Let me call your attention to the fact that our badge is the great American (Bald) Eagle. (Note: The official mascotte of the 101st Airborne Division was an American Bald Eagle called Abe). This is a fitting emblem for a division that will crush its enemies by falling upon them like a thunderbolt from the skies. “The history we shall make, the record of high achievement we hope to write in the annals of the American Army and the American people, depends wholly and completely on the men of this division. Each individual, each officer and each enlisted man, must therefore regard himself as a necessary part of a complex and powerful instrument for the overcoming of the enemies of the nation. Each, in his own job, must realize that he is not only a means, but an indispensable means for obtaining the goal of victory. it is, therefore, not too much to say that the future itself, in whose molding we expect to have our share, is in the hands of the soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division.”
Source: The Epic of the 101st Airborne Division
In the beginning, the 101st had only one Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) (the 502nd Parachute Infantry) and two glider regiments (the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment (GIR) and the 401st Glider Infantry Regiment), and three artillery battalions (the 377th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion (PFAB), the 321st Glider Field Artillery Battalion, and the 907th Glider Field Artillery). Additional support units were the 326th Airborne Engineer Battalion (AEB or Demolition Men), the 101st Signal Company (SC), the 326th Airborne Medical Company (AMC), and the 426th Airborne Quartermaster Company (QMC). Organizing and training the new division was a challenge. In October, 1942, the 101st began rigorous training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Throughout the fall and winter, General Lee helped to establish a whole new tactic of warfare – the use of airborne troops in battle. In June of 1943, the 101st received a second parachute infantry regiment, the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, from Camp Toccoa (former Camp Toombs), Georgia. The 506th had trained in the shadow of Currahee Mountain and had adopted the name “Currahee” as its motto. That summer the Division proved itself during the Second Army Maneuvers and in September deployed to England.
COMMANDERS of the 101st AIRBORNE DIVISION
Major General William C. Lee (from August 1942 to Februari 1944)
Major General Maxwell D. Taylor (from March 1944 to August 1945)
Brigadier General William N. Gillmore (from August 1945 to September 1945)