82nd Airborne Division

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The 82nd Airborne Division is the largest formation of the United States Army that is completely qualified to parachute into combat. The need to be able to conduct an air assault via parachute limits the size and weight of equipment that they can carry, but also lets them attack areas at intercontinental distances, their transport aircraft using air refueling. It is based at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

All soldiers in the Division are "double volunteers", having volunteered for the United States Army, and then for parachute training.

Operational role

The Division reports to the headquarters, XVIII Airborne Corps. Under the restructuring of the United States Army, brigade combat teams, the Division as a headquarters, or, as in the Gulf War, the entire Corps can be attached to a Unified Combatant Command

In the new structure, the 82nd has four Infantry Brigade Combat Teams, an Aviation Brigade, and division support elements.

The 1st Brigade Combat Team's lineage is that of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. For the 2nd BCT, the colors come from the 325th Parachute Infantry Regiment, the 3rd BCT derives from the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and the new 4th BCT is based on the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

The 82nd Aviation Brigade's lineage comes from three units: [1]

  • 82nd Combat Aviation Battalion
  • lst Squadron (Air)
  • 17th Cavalry Regiment
  • 269th Aviation Battalion.

Its units fly OH-58 Kiowa Warrior scout armed helicopters, AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, UH-60 Blackhawk light troop and cargo-carrying helicopters, as well as specialized types was created for the 82nd Airborne Division.

Both regular support units (e.g., supply and personnel) as well as specialized units such as parachute riggers make up the 82nd Sustainment Brigade. There is also a Division Special Troops brigade.

Division Ready Brigade

At all times, the unit maintains a Division Ready Brigade, able to go into operations within 18 hours. At various times, it has also maintained a reinforced Ready Company, able to load into transports and fly to a mission area within much shorter short time.

Inherent limitations

It must be understood, however, that a pure airborne division is very limited in heavy weapons and logistics, and, while it can be the first unit into a situation, will need to link up with supporting units within days. Its ability to fight tank-heavy units is also limited, especially with the retirement of the M551 Sheridan light tank.


Long before airborne operations were considered, 82nd Infantry Division was created in, 1917. Since members of the Division came from all 48 states, the unit was given the nickname "All-Americans," symbolized by "AA" on shoulder patch. It fought for five months in the First World War, but was demobilized at war's end. [2]

Activation of WWII Airborne Divisions

In the fall of 1940, the 501st Parachute Infantry Battalion (test) was formed, and, after nine months of experimenting, a second battalion was formed. By February 1942, four parachure regiments had been formed. At that thime, the existing 82nd Motorized Division was split into two units, the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. The non-parachute-qualified infantrymen in the 82nd were trained as glider infantry.[3]

WWII Combat

Techniques developed with each successive operation, both the U.S. learning from its own experience, and also from the airborne operations of other nations.


In July 1943, the 82nd made a combat jump and glider assault into Sicily. They were effective on the ground, but had significant fratricide problems when troopships and their escort ships, with poor training in aircraft identification and antiaircraft discipline, fired on them.

Action on the main Italian landmass

They also made a combat drop and glider attack further up the Italian peninsula, as part of the Saleno invasion.

Still wearing their distinctive uniforms, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment fought as ground infantry at the Anzio landings. From the captured diary of a German officer, they earned their nickname, "Devils in Baggy Pants".

Battle of Normandy

With the 504th repairing from its losses in Italy, the 82md force in Operation OVERLORD and the Battle of Normandy was as three parachute and one glider regiment. attacking on the night of 5-6 June 1944. The drops had navigational problems and the paratroopers of the several airborne divisions were scattered, as they made a night jump before the main amphibious invasion the next day. In retrospect, the scattering may have been a benefit, as it thoroughly confused the enemy.

The 82nd suffered 5,245 killed, wounded and missing. Its after-action report read, "...33 days of action without relief, without replacements. Every mission accomplished. No ground gained was ever relinquished."


After Normandy, the XVIII Airborne Corps was created, composed of the 82nd and 101st, as well as the new 17th Airborne Division. The 82nd and 101st were put under the First Allied Airborne Army, along with a British airborne division and a Polish airborne brigade.

That force jumped on 17 September 1944, into the area of Nijmegen and Grave in the Netherlands, as part of Operation Market Garden. MARKET was the airborne part centered on Arnhem; GARDEN was the linkup of XXX British Corps. The 82nd achieved its objectives, but the entire operation was not as successful. Due to poor intelligence, the British and Poles dropped into areas where strong German forces were reconstituting. The single road over which XXX Corps could reach the Airborne was repeatedly blocked, so the relief took far longer thann planned.


The division returned to the U.S. on 3 January 1946. Even with the considerable draw-downs of the Army, the 82nd was retained and made a regular division, based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina on 15 November 1948. It remained as a strategic reserve, and trained in climates and terrain all over the world. As part of worldwar reserve, it was not committed to the Vietnam War until 1968.

The Americas

In April 1965, a brigade of the 82nd participated in Operation POWER PACK, the intervention into a civil war in the Dominican Republic

It also sent brigades to Detroit, Michigan in 1967 and Washington, D.C. in 1968, when rioting was beyond the control of local and state forces.


The division's 3rd Brigade was deployed to Vietnam during the Tet Offensive, and served in Vietnam for 22 months, returning on 22 December 1965.


Worldwide training continued, as well as full alerts for the Arab-Israeli War of 1973, a possible May 1978 intervention in Zaire, and to support the November 1979 attempt (Operation EAGLE CLAW) to rescue U.S. embassy hostages in Iran.


In October 1983, part of the 82nd operated in Operation URGENT FURY, the intervention in Grenada. Its performance was not up to the expectations, including those of the task force deputy commander for land warfare, MG H Norman Schwarzkopf Jr..


A task force, in March 1988, conducted what was officially a training exercise in Honduras, Operation GOLDEN PHEASANT. In practice, it was a show of force against the Nicaraguan Sandanistas.


A full brigade task force jumped. at night, on Torrijos International Airport, Panama, on 20 December 1989, as part of Operation JUST CAUSE. It was joined by a battalion already in Panama. It conducted ground and heliborne operations there until 20 January 1980.

Since the airport had been seized, questions were raised as to why a jump, rather than a landing, was made. The rationale was that the runways had not been cleared of debris, the transports were overhead, and the troops needed to be on the ground.

Gulf War

After the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait started the Gulf War, the first U.S. ground troops in Saudi Arabia were the 2nd Brigade of the 82nd, which was the Division Ready Brigade. The rest of the division flew in shortly afterwards, and served as a "tripwire" force until heavy tank-killing forces could arrive as a serious deterrent to Iraqi movement into Saudi Arabia.

More troops arrived, and the XVIII Airborne Corps was the first large operational unit in Iraq. On February 23, the 82nd, on vehicles, joined the XVIII Corps "left hook" into Iraq. Followed by attacks from the Pan-Arab Corps, III Marine Expeditionary Force, and VII U.S. Corps, the ground war ended 100 hours later. The UN mission of ejecting the Iraqis from Iraq was successful.

Ann Dunwoody, who served as executive officer and later division parachute officer for the 407th Supply and Transportation Battalion, became, in 2008, the first female four-star general in the U.S. military, heading Army Materiel Command. Assuming Senate confirmation, she will be the first woman to wear four stars. She now wears the Master Parachutist and Parachute Rigger badges.

Humanitarian operations in the U.S.

After Hurricane Andrew in August 1992, the 82nd sent a task force to south Florida, assisting in Federal relief for over 30 days.


Knowledge that the 82nd was flying toward Haiti, ready for a combat drop, the Haitian regime surrendered. Coincidentally, it was the anniversary of Operation Market Garden.


82nd Airborne Division paratroopers were among the first ground troops sent into the war-torn Kosovo region of the Balkans in Summer 1999, when the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment moved in from neighboring Macedonia. They were followed shortly by the 3d Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, who themselves will be followed by the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment in January 2001 as part of regular peacekeeping operation rotations.

Response to 9/11 attacks

Ready units were chopped to the operational control of United States Central Command and, starting in June 2002, a brigade of the 82nd has been part of the NATO force in Afghanistan.

Iraq War

In February of 2003, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), deployed along with the Division Headquarters to Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Division conducted sustained combat operations throughout Iraq and the CENTCOM area of operations. In May 2003 the Division Headquarters returned to Fort Bragg.

A brigade of the 82nd stayed in Iraq, until the Division returned in August 2003. Brigade combat teams were rotated in and out of Iraq until April 2004. Periodically, brigades and battalions have deployed to Iraq, especially battalions for short-term contingencies such as election security.


  1. Globalsecurity.org, 82nd Aviation Brigade "TOO EASY!"
  2. 82nd Airborne Division, Brief History of the 82nd Airborne Division
  3. Galvin, John R. (1969), Air Assault: the development of airmobile warfare, Hawthorn Books