503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment…

After its activation, 2-503 PIR moved to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where it trained until June of 1942 when it was sent to the United Kingdom in preparation for the airborne operation in North Africa. 2d Battalion, 503d Parachute Infantry on 8 November 1942 conducted the first combat jump in US history when 39 C47 aircraft, en-route from Lands End, England, dropped the Battalion onto a drop zone near Lourmel, Algeria. This action initiated the North Africa campaign against the French. On 15 November 1942, approximately 300 paratroopers jumped into an open area near Youks les Bains on the Tunisia – Algeria border. The ensuing thrust east to cut off the German lines of communications in Gafsa, Tunisia included a third airborne drop of 30 paratroopers and heavy equipment onto El Djem in December 1942 with a mission to destroy an enemy railroad bridge. Of the 30 paratroopers to descend on the objective that fateful day in December 1942 only six returned to friendly lines. There were numerous recorded heroic actions by the paratroopers of the 2-503 PIR in North Africa, most notably was one of the first fallen paratroopers of World War II, Private John Thomas Mackall for who Camp Mackall, North Carolina is namedUnbeknownst to the “Rock Battalion”, the 2-503 PIR was re-designated the 509th Parachute Infantry during the North African Campaign but was not informed of such until after the war. During it’s more than three years service in the Southwest Pacific Theater, the 503d served in five major combat operations. In July of 1943, the 503d moved to Port Moresby, New Guinea, where it made final preparations for its first combat operation in the Pacific Theater. On 5 September 1943 the Regiment jumped into the Markham River Valley, New Guinea for Operation ALAMO; the first airborne operation conducted by US forces in the Pacific Theater. During the operation, the Regiment forced the Japanese evacuation of a major base at Lae, in which the Third Battalion of the 503d battled the rear guard of this exodus. This successful employment of airborne forces in the Markham Valley has been credited with saving the concept of vertical envelopment from being abandoned following several less than successful engagements in Europe. After two weeks of fighting, the Japanese were defeated and the 503d re-assembled at Port Moresby for the return to Australia. For Operation CYCLONE, 2-503 along with 1-503 conducted an airborne assault on the island of Noemfoor of the coast of Dutch New Guinea early in July 1944. In support of the 1st and 2nd Battalions airborne operation, 3-503 conducted an amphibious landing a few days later. Fighting as a part of the Regiment on Noemfoor, 2-503 was responsible for destroying the Japanese garrison and enabling the construction of airfields, which played a significant role in supporting the advance of Allied troops form New Guinea to the Philippines. Sergeant Ray E. Eubanks earned the Medal of Honor, posthumously, for his actions on Noemfoor. Following an unopposed landing on the Island of Leyte, in the Philippines, the 503d Parachute Regimental Combat Team made a major amphibious landing on the Island of Minoro, in the central Philippines on 15 December 1944. Originally, it was intended for the 503d to jump onto Mindoro but because of inadequate airstrip facilities on Leyte, and airborne assault was not possible. The purpose of the eventual landing was to secure sites for an airhead, thus providing forward Army Air Corps bases to support later actions. The Regiment was subject to intense enemy air attack and naval bombardment throughout this action. The mid-December 1944 operation on Leyte provided the Regiment a staging area for its assault on the Philippine fortress island of Corregidor, nicknamed “The Rock,” from which the Regiment would later take both its nickname and its motto. At 0830 on 16 February 1945, after weeks of naval and aerial bombardment, the 503d hit Corregidor conducting the most vicious combat action in which the Regiment was engaged during its existence to date. The mission commenced with the combat jump on Fortress Corregidor codenamed Operation TOPSIDE. Corregidor Island was the bastion that withstood a fierce Japanese siege for nearly five months in 1941 and 1942, thereby interrupting the Japanese advance toward Australia. The 503d was proud to have bestowed the honor of re-patriating “The Rock”. The first jump, made in thirty-five mile per hour winds at an altitude of 550 feet, was made by the 3-503 with the 2nd Battalion following at 1240 that afternoon. Due to a high number of injuries during the first two jumps, the 1st Battalion jump was cancelled and the battalion made and amphibious assault the following day. The surprise created by the airborne assault into the island interior and the inability of the Japanese to react to both an airborne and amphibious assault enabled the US Forces to defeat the numerically superior Japanese forces. After two weeks of vicious fighting the island was subdued, and on March 2, 1945, the third anniversary of the 503d Infantry Regiment’s activation, the island of Corregidor was formally turned over the General Douglas MacArthur.An estimated 6,550 Japanese soldiers were on the island when the 503d jumped, and of those only 50 survived. In turn, the 503d had 169 paratroopers killed in action. For its actions during this operation, the 503d was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation and Private Lloyd G. McCarter was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery on Corregidor. Almost immediately after returning to Mindoro from Corregidor, the Regiment was called upon to reinforce the 40th Infantry Division which was bogged down on the Island of Negros, in the central Philippines. The Regiment was inserted by landing craft, although it had been alerted for another combat jump. The objectives of the proposed airborne operation were a strategic bridge and a large lumber mill, but retreating Japanese forces subsequently destroyed them both. The 503d engaged in fierce battles against frantic Japanese resistance the mountainous areas of Negros for more than five months. The 40th Infantry Division was re-directed to other operations on Mindanao, leaving the 503rd to battle the Japanese alone. At the end of the war in August of 1945, over 7,500 of the surviving Japanese troops on this island surrendered to the 503d Parachute Regimental Combat Team. Official U.S. War Department sources estimated that the 503rd killed over 10,000 Japanese Troops during its combat operations in the Southwest Pacific. By early November 1945, the 503d Parachute Regimental Combat Team ceased to be operational…

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6 thoughts on “503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment…

  1. Its amazing the airborne soldiers only had 169 of their soldiers killed when the Japanese had over 6000 in the above story. It really goes to how well trained the US airborne soldier really was and how they worked together for a commom goal…in other words…they were dam good and aggressive…

    Liked by 1 person

      • Yea I suppose I can do that, I guess I can be wordy at times…but when I’m in my writing mode, it’s just how I feel to get the point across, the feel of how it was, the details are so important in my opinion…but I’m working on a post about my grandfather’s war on Guam with the 3rd Marines. It’s been on the shelf for awhile, I really need to get back writing and researching again. I put so much into my Facebook page since 2008 where I did so many hours of research and photo searches I just burned myself out. What I think I can do is just post some of that work on this blog to fill it out a bit more…

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s a good idea, you already did the research. I am not a FB person, now do I tweet twitter or whatever else they have these days, 🙂 At my age there only so many new tricks I can remember! haha

        Like

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