The 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment originated in July 1941, as the 502nd Parachute Battalion, an experimental unit formed to test the doctrine and tactics of parachute assault. On 2 March 1942, the unit was re-designated as the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment. The 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment was activated on 1 July 1941, at Fort Benning, Georgia, and joined the 101st Airborne Division 16 August 1942.
The regiment would participate in three major battles during the war: Battle of Normandy, Operation Market Garden, and the Battle of the Bulge. The 502nd was often referred to as the "Five-Oh-Deuce" or simply, "The Deuce".
At the war's end in Europe, the 502nd was inactivated on 30 November 1945 with the rest of the division.
While on inactive status, the regiment was redesignated on 18 June 1948 as the 502nd Airborne Infantry Regiment and allotted to the Regular Army on 25 June that same year. It was activated on 6 July 1948 at Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky, as a training that was Airborne in name only. Less than a year later, it was inactivated on 1 April 1949 at Camp Breckinridge. Shortly after the outbreak of the Korean War, it was again activated on 25 August 1950, again as a training unit at Camp Breckinridge, and then inactivated on 1 December 1953 at Camp Breckinridge following the truce declared in July. It was activated yet again as a training unit on 15 May 1954 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
In 1956 the division's colors were transferred, less personnel and equipment, to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, as a combat Airborne division tested for the new Pentomic division concept, which eliminated the three infantry regiments and their subordinate battalions in favor of five battle groups. The reactivated 101st was formed using the assets of the 187th ARCT and the 508th ARCT.
The lineage of the 502nd was revived with the activation on 25 April 1957 of HHC, 1st Airborne Battle Group, 502nd Infantry (bearing the lineage of Co A, 502PIR) as a unit within the 101st. As the rest of the Army converted to the Pentomic structure, the 2nd ABG, 502nd Infantry (perpetuating the lineage of Co B, 502PIR and assigned to the 11th Airborne Division in Germany) was activated on 1 March 1957 by reflagging existing elements of the 11th Airborne Division. It was inactivated on 1 July 1958 when the 11th itself was inactivated and reflagged as the 24th Infantry Division.
The Pentomic configuration was soon found unworkable and a brigade configuration was adopted. Cynical observers believed it an attempt to allow more brigadier generals into the Army, but these commanders remained colonels as their predecessors had commanded regiments.
The reorganization from battle groups to brigades and battalions placed two battalions of the 502nd in different brigades of the 101st. The 2nd Battalion was in the 1st Brigade with 1–327th and 2–327th Infantry. Deployed to Vietnam in 1965, it was most notably commanded by LTC Hank "The Gunfighter" Emerson. 1-502nd Inf was in 2nd Brigade with 1–501st and 2–501st Inf and didn't arrive in Vietnam until late 1967 with the remainder of the division.
When the remainder of the 101st was alerted for movement to Vietnam in late 1967, it was a skeletal formation that had been drained of personnel to support the war effort. To bring it up to full strength prior to deployment, it was necessary to fill it with non-airborne-qualified personnel from other units in the Third Army area. The division effectively ceased being an airborne unit, although the official transformation to the 101st Airborne Division did not take place until mid-1968. When U.S. forces returned from Vietnam, the 1st Cavalry Division went through a testing process as a TRICAP (Triple Capacity: Armor, Infantry, and Air Cavalry) unit before being converted to an armored division, leaving the 101st as the only airmobile (renamed air assault in 1974) division in the Army. During the late 1970s until the early 1980s, two battalions, the 1st and 2nd, were assigned to the division. The 1st battalion was part of the 2nd brigade, while the 2nd battalion was assigned to the 1st brigade. Both units made several off post deployments from Panama to Alaska. The 1st battalion,("Taskforce Strike") deployed to the Sinai as a peacekeeping force in September of 1980. The unit was first U.S. forces in the region since World War II.
In November 1984, through a complex "reflagging" process, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 502nd Infantry (bearing the lineages of Companies A, B, and C, 502nd PIR of WW II fame) were placed under the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
Concurrent with the reflagging within the 101st, the 4th, 5th and 6th Battalions, 502nd Infantry were activated within the Berlin Brigade by reflagging the existing 2nd, 3rd and 4th Battalions, 6th Infantry. This was part of a wider Army plan to regimentally pair units based within the United States with those stationed overseas for battalion rotational purposes. These three battalions, perpetuating the lineages of World War II Companies D, E and F, 502nd PIR, were neither airborne nor air assault and were inactivated in the drawdown of the early 1990s. The rotation plan was found to be unworkable and was quietly abandoned.
Operation Provide Comfort 1991
Operation Provide Comfort Pictures
Operation Desert Shield
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