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506th Infantry Regiment (United States)
File:506InfRegtCOA.gif
506th Infantry coat of arms
Country USA
Branch Army
Service history
Active 1942–1945
1948–1949
1950–1953
1956–1984
1987–present
Size Two battalions
Nickname Currahees
Motto Currahee
Cherokee for "Stands Alone"
Battles World War II
Vietnam War
Operation Enduring Freedom
Iraq Campaign
Decorations Presidential Unit Citation (2)
Meritorious Unit Commendation
Navy Unit Commendation (1st Battalion)
French Croix de Guerre with Palm
Belgian Croix de Guerre 1940 with Palm
Order of the Day of the Belgian Army
Belgian Fourragere
Commanders
Commanders Robert F. Sink
Andre Lucas (2nd Battalion)
Insignia
Insignia 506 patch

The 506th Infantry Regiment is a unit assigned to the 4th Brigade Combat Team (BCT) of the 101st Airborne Division. During World War II, the unit was designated the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (506th PIR).

In recent times, the regiment gained widespread recognition by virtue of the 2001 HBO miniseries Band of Brothers.

HistoryEdit

World War IIEdit

The regiment was initially formed at Camp Toccoa, Georgia in 1942 where it earned its nickname, "Currahees", after Currahee Mountain which is located inside the boundaries of the camp. The Cherokee word, which translates to "Stand Alone", also became the unit's motto. Members of the unit also wear the spade (♠) symbol on the helmet outer and the Screaming Eagle badge (indicating membership of the 101st) on the left sleeve. During World War II, the only commander of the regiment was Colonel Robert F. Sink. As such, the 506th was sometimes referred to as the "Five-Oh-Sink". On 10 June 1942, the 506th became part of the 101st Airborne Division.

At the completion of their training at Camp Toccoa, Col. Sink read an article in Reader's Digest about how a unit in the Japanese Army broke the world record for marching. Col. Sink thought his men could do better than that, and as a result, the regiment marched 137 miles (220 km) to Airborne School in Fort Benning, Georgia. This march was conducted over 75 hours and 15 minutes, with 33.5 hours being used for marching. Only 12 out of 556 enlisted men failed to complete the march. All 30 officers completed it, including their commander, then-Major Robert L. Strayer. Newspapers covered the march and many civilians turned out to cheer the men as they neared Five Points.

The 506th would participate in three major battles during the war: D-Day, Operation Market Garden, and the Battle of the Bulge. (They would have participated in Operation Varsity, which would have been three combat jumps, but SHAEF decided to use the 17th Airborne instead.)

D-Day: Operation OverlordEdit

Like almost all paratroop units, the 506th was widely scattered during the Mission Albany night drop on the morning of D-Day. The most famous action for the 506th on D-Day was the Brécourt Manor Assault. Although promised they would be in battle for just 3 days, the 506th did not return to England for 33 days, participating in the battle for Carentan. Of about 2000 men who jumped into France, 231 were killed in action, 183 were missing or POWs, and 569 were wounded — about 50% casualties for the Normandy campaign.

Operation Market GardenEdit

The airborne component of Operation Market Garden, Operation Market was composed of American units (101st Airborne Division, the 82nd Airborne Division, and the IX Troop Carrier Command), British units (1st Airborne Division) and Polish units (1st Independent Parachute Brigade). The airborne units were dropped near several key bridges along the axis of advance of the ground forces, Operation Garden, with the objective of capturing the bridges intact in order to allow a deep penetration into the German occupied Netherlands and to capture the key bridge crossing the Rhine river at Arnhem.

The 101st Airborne was assigned five bridges just north of the German defensive lines northwest of Eindhoven. The parachute drop was in daylight resulting in well targeted and controlled drops into the designated drop zones. The 101st captured all but one bridge, the one at Son which was destroyed with explosives by the German defenders as the airborne units approached the bridge. The ground forces of XXX Corps linked up with elements of the 101st Airborne on the second day of operations but the advance of the ground forces was further delayed while engineers erected a Bailey Bridge at Son replacing the destroyed bridge. XXX Corps then continued its advance into the 82nd Airborne area of operations where it was halted just shy of Arnhem due to German counterattacks along the length of the deep penetration.

The 101st Airborne continued to support XXX Corps advance during the remainder of Operation Market Garden with several running battles over the next several days.

The Battle of the BulgeEdit

The unit was directly involved in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 – January 1945. While resting and refitting in France after Operation Market Garden, General Eisenhower called upon the 101st Airborne on 16 December to be moved into the Belgian town of Bastogne by 18 December, so that the Germans would not gain access to its important crossroads. The short notice of a move left the unit short of food, ammunition, arms, men, and winter clothing. The unit, along with the rest of the 101st Airborne, was encircled immediately. The 506th was sent to the eastern section of the siege. During the siege, there were reports of problems with tying in the gap in between the 501st PIR and the 506th. To stall the Germans so that the defense could be set up, the first battalion of the 506th (along with Team Desobry from the 10th Armored Division) was sent out to combat and slow down the Germans in the towns of Noville and Foy. One third (about 200 men) of the battalion was destroyed, but in the process had taken out 30 enemy tanks and inflicted 500-1000 casualties. The battalion was put into reserve and the 2nd and 3rd battalions were put on the lines. A supply drop on 22 December helped to some extent. After the Third Army broke the encirclement, the 506th stayed on the line and spearheaded the entire offensive by liberating Foy and Noville in January, until being transferred to Haguenau. They were pulled off the line in late February 1945.

Rest of the warEdit

The unit was put back on the line on 2 April, and continued for the rest of the war, taking light casualties. It assisted in the encirclement of the Ruhr Pocket and the capture of Berchtesgaden, then took up occupational duties in Zell am See, Austria. The 506th began training to be redeployed to the Pacific theater but the war ended in August 1945.

Post World War IIEdit

The 506th was inactivated in 1945, then re-activated as the 506th Airborne Infantry Regiment in 1948–1949, again in 1950–1953 and finally, in 1954 to train recruits. Despite the designation "Airborne Infantry" and its continuing assignment in the 101st Airborne Division, none of these troops received airborne training, nor was the "Airborne" tab worn above the Divisional patch.

The colors of the 101st were reactivated as a combat division in 1956 under the Pentomic structure, which eliminated infantry regiments and battalions in favor of five battle groups per division. The colors of Company A, 504AIR were reactivated as HHC, 1st Airborne Battle Group, 506th Infantry, the only active element of the 506th. Just before the Cuban Missile Crisis, on 1 October 1962, 1-506th was deployed to Oxford, Mississippi to assist in restoring order after James Meredith arrived to integrate the University of Mississippi.

VietnamEdit

The Pentomic structure was abandoned in 1964 in favor of brigades and battalions, and the 1st ABG, 506th Infantry was reorganized and redesignated as 1st Battalion (Airborne), 506th Infantry. Additionally, the lineage of Co. B, 506AIR was reactivated as HHC, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 506th Infantry. Both battalions were part of the 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, which was deployed to Vietnam from late 1967 to 1971. 1-506th was recognized for its role during the Tet Offensive in early 1968 and the Battle of Hamburger Hill in May 1969 together with 2-506th, during the battle of FSB Ripcord.

On 1 April 1967 the colors of the former Company C, 506AIR were reactivated at Fort Campbell as HHC, 3rd Battalion, 506th Infantry. Assigned to the 1st Brigade, it served in Vietnam and was inactivated at Fort Campbell on 31 July 1972.

The division, to include the battalions of the 506th, was reorganized as Airmobile in 1968, later renamed Air Assault in 1974. During the Vietnam War, five soldiers from the 506th were awarded the Medal of Honor.

Post-VietnamEdit

When the 101st was reformed in 1972 at Fort Campbell (after its return from Vietnam), the 1st Battalion was the only active unit of the regiment, assigned to the division's 2nd Brigade. The battalion deployed to various training missions across the United States. In 1980, for example, deployments included Fort Drum, New York; Camp Grayling, Michigan; and Fort Polk, Louisiana. In addition, members of Company C was present at Ronald Reagan's inauguration. Hardcore Charlie company was detached to the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry,for Bright Star 81 in September to "round out" that unit when it deployed to the Sinai for peacekeeping duties—the first U.S. military force to be deployed to the Middle East since the end of World War II. Its colors were inactivated on 5 June 1984 when all of the infantry battalions of the brigade were reflagged as elements of the 502nd Infantry. The battalion was reactivated on 16 March 1987 as part of the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division in Korea, by reflagging an existing infantry battalion at Camp Greaves, and it was later reorganized as an Air Assault battalion.

On 30 September 2005 it was relieved (less personnel and equipment) from assignment to the 2d Infantry Division and assigned to the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

IraqEdit

In 2004, 1-506th was deployed from Korea to Habbaniyah, Iraq. Instead of returning to Korea, the 2nd Brigade relocated to Fort Carson, Colorado, in August 2005 to be reflagged to 2-12IN Regiment as a component of the 2nd Infantry Division. In March 2008 2nd ID was reflagged to 4ID and the colors went back to FT Lewis, Washington. Concurrently, the existing 1-506th was reflagged while a "new" 1-506th was created by reflagging an existing battalion within the 101st and assigning it to the division's 4th Brigade Combat Team. Additionally, the colors of 2-506th were reactivated within the 4th BCT, again by reflagging an existing battalion.

The 1st Battalion (1-506) deployed to Ramadi, Anbar Governorate, Iraq, from November 2005 until November 2006 under LT.Colonel Ronald P. Clark. HHC (Hellraisers), Company A (Able), Company B (Outlaws), Company C (Gunfighters), Company D (Death Dealers) and elements of Company E, 801st BSB (Wrench) occupied Camp Corregidor, the main FOB. Companies A, C and D were tasked with missions, mounted in M1114 HMMWV's and on foot in the "Mulaab" District of Ramadi. Company A occupied the Combat Outpost, which shared the facility with the HHC medical aid station (Voodoo), elements of Company E, 801st BSB (Wrench), and a platoon of sappers from Company C, 876th Engineer Battalion, part of the 2nd Brigade, 28th Division, Pennsylvania National Guard. Company A was tasked with operations ranging from the North of FOB Corregidor to the Euphrates River. Company B (Outlaw), was posted 7 kilometers to the East of the Corregidor FOB at OP Trotter, with a separate mission of protecting the most vulnerable part of the MSR (Main Supply Route) leading into Ramadi, and the occupation of "OP Graveyard," an isolated and abandoned cemetery to the south of the MSR. Time magazine magazine described Ramadi during this time as "The Most Dangerous Place." During this time, Forward Observers from Task Force 1-506 claimed the honor of the first use of a GMLRS (Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System)(Company B, 2nd Platoon "Diablos," 1st Squad) in combat.

The 2d Battalion (2-506) deployed to Forward Operating Base Falcon in South Baghdad, cross-attached to the 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division from November 2005 until November 2006 under Lieutenant Colonel Gregory Butts. During the Baghdad clearance operations that set the stage for the Iraq War troop surge of 2007 under General David Petraeus, the 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry conducted the first deliberate clear-hold-build operation in the Doura Market as part of Operation Together Forward II under Multi-National Division - Baghdad (MND-B). Careful examination of their TTPs (Techniques, Tactics, and Procedures) for this combined, joint operation with the Iraqi National Police and Iraqi Police resulted in the emulation of their tactics for similar operations across Baghdad for the next six months, a temporary measure until surge forces could arrive and set up Joint Security Stations (JSS).

AfghanistanEdit

As of early 2008 the 4th Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 101st Airborne Division (the 1-506th and 2-506th being part of that brigade), deployed in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. 1st Battalion was deployed to the Ghazni, Wardak, and Western Paktika Provinces with the exception of Company A (Able), split in half (1st and 2nd platoons) along with a platoon from Company D (Dog) to assist a team from 10th Special Forces Group in the Northern province of Kapisa in the outpost FOB Kutchsbach for the first six months of the deployment. After completing their mission in establishing a safe area of operation in the Tagab valley and large compound to support a battalion of French forces, the units rejoined their companies that were scattered in the other provinces. Much of the fighting was with insurgents that have attempted to interdict the main highway that runs from Kabul in the north to Kandahar in the south. One three-man team, known as the Shamsheer team, part of the OCCP, was widely used in collecting intel, finding high valued targets and locating caches with the Afghan soldiers that Cpt. Threadcraft, Sgt. Beard and, Spc. Bruins trained. The 2nd Battalion was deployed primarily in the Khost regions, with elements serving in eastern Paktika and Kandahar provinces. The 2nd Battalion's Company D (Dog) served in some of the most brutal firefights of the deployment, losing seven soldiers during rotation. The 506th returned to Fort Campbell in March 2009.

Information about current activity (including the recent deployment to Afghanistan in 2010-2011) can be found at the active duty website of the 101st Airborne Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team [1] and on the website of the 506th Airborne Infantry Regiment Association.

Notable membersEdit

World War IIEdit

  • Donald Burgett, of Company A, fought from Normandy to the end of the war. He wrote four books on his time in the company.
  • Sergeant Joseph Beyrle, of Company I, fought for US and Russian forces.
  • Colonel Robert F. Sink, regimental commander for all of World War II.
  • Lieutenant Colonel Robert Lee Wolverton, commanding officer 3rd battalion
  • Easy Company
    • First Lieutenant Lynn "Buck" Compton, officer with Company E during World War II and chief prosecutor in the case of Sirhan Sirhan. He has published a book called "Call of Duty: My Life before, during and after the Band of Brothers".
    • Staff Sergeant William "Wild Bill" Guarnere, a colorful noncom of Company E who maintains a website devoted to the history of the 506th.
    • First Lieutenant Carwood Lipton, company first sergeant, later promoted to 2nd Lieutenant via battlefield commission.
    • Technical Sergeant Donald Malarkey, non-commissioned officer, served in Easy Company for the entire war. He has published a book called "Easy Company Soldier".
    • Captain Lewis Nixon, intelligence officer and close friend of Major Richard Winters
    • Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Sobel, initial commanding officer.
    • Lieutenant Colonel Ronald Speirs, took command of Company E during their assault on Foy, Belgium in January 1945. Final commanding officer. Went on to become commandant of Spandau Prison.
    • Private First Class David Webster, a rifleman and diarist of Company E whose book "Parachute Infantry" deals in detail with the 506th.
    • Major Richard Winters, started out as a platoon leader in Company E. Was made company commander when the commander's plane was shot down on D-Day. He was made 2nd Battalion Executive Officer at the end of Operation Market Garden in October 1944. Ended the war as commander of 2nd Battalion. He published a memoir of his war service ("Beyond Band of Brothers") and has also been the subject of a biography ("Biggest Brother").
  • Filthy Thirteen

VietnamEdit

In popular cultureEdit

  • The book Band of Brothers tells the story of Easy Company, and was the basis of a successful TV miniseries, aired on HBO.
  • In the film Saving Private Ryan, the titular Pvt. James Francis Ryan of Iowa state he was assigned to Baker Company (B Co.) 1-506th. Captain Miller also encountered 506th Pathfinders early on in the movie during the search for Pvt. Ryan.
  • In the video game Call of Duty, the player character in the American campaign is depicted as a soldier from the 506th as denoted by the Poker Spade insignia on his M1 helmet.
  • in the film Saints and Soldiers the characters are from the 506th Infantry Regiment, as depicted by the black Spade on their helmets.
  • In the Tom Clancy novel Without Remorse, Emmet Ryan, father of Jack Ryan, claimed to have jumped on D-Day with "E 2-506th".
  • In the Company of Heroes computer game, the player controls paratroopers from 506th's Fox Company in some of the main campaign missions.

ReferencesEdit

  • Donald Burgett (1999). The Road to Arnhem : A Screaming Eagle in Holland. Presidio Press. ISBN 0-89141-682-X. 
  • Stephen Ambrose (2001). Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-1645-8. 
  • Major Dick Winters with Cole C. Kingseed (2006). Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters. Berkley Caliber. ISBN 0-425-20813-3. 
  • William J. Guarnere and Edward J. Heffron, with Robyn Post (2007). Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends. Berkley Caliber. ISBN 978-0-425-21728-3. 
  • David Kenyon Webster (1994). Parachute Infantry: An American Paratrooper's Memoir of D-Day and the Fall of the Third Reich. Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 0-8071-1901-6. 
  • Keith W. Nolan (2000). Ripcord: Screaming Eagles Under Siege, Vietnam 1970. Presidio Press. ISBN 0-89141-642-0. 
  • Major General Benjamin L. Harrison. Hell On A Hill Top: America's Last Major Battle In Vietnam. iUniverse Press.  (available from FSB Ripcord Association)
  • Jake McNiece. The Filthy 13: From the Dustbowl to Hitler's Eagle's Nest: The True Story of the101st Airborne's Most Legendary Squad of Combat Paratroopers.  [2]

External linksEdit

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