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508th Infantry Regiment (United States)
File:508 INF RGT COA.gif
508th Infantry Regiment coat of arms
Country USA
Branch Army
Service history
Active 1942-46, 1951-57, 1962-present
Size approx. 4,500
Part of 82nd Airborne Division
Nickname Red Devils
Motto Fury From the Sky
Battles World War II

Operation Powerpack
Vietnam War
Operation Just Cause
Afghanistan Campaign
Iraq Campaign

Commanders
Commanders COL Timothy F. WatsonColonel Roy E. Lindquist
Insignia
Insignia 100px

During World War II, the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment (508th PIR or Red Devils) was a regiment of the 82d Airborne Division which in turn became part of XVIII Airborne Corps of the United States Army.

World War IIEdit

War memorial in Wollaton Park (4)

Memorial to fallen members if the regiment in Wollaton Park in Nottingham, where the 508th were based in 1944–1945.

The regiment was activated on 20 October 1942 at Camp Blanding, Florida. Lt. Col. Roy E. Lindquist formed the unit and remained its commander throughout World War II.[1] After extensive training and maneuvers the unit embarked on 19 December 1943 in New York and sailed on 28 December 1943 for Belfast, Northern Ireland, arriving on 8 January 1944. After additional training at Cromore Estate, Portstewart, the unit was moved by ship to Glasgow, Scotland and by train on 13 March 1944 to Wollaton Park, Nottinghamshire, England. A sister Regiment, the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, who were part of the 2nd Airborne Brigade with the 508th, were camped less than 10 miles away at a former Country Hotel called Tollerton Hall, Nottinghamshire.

The unit participated in Operation Overlord, jumping into Normandy on at 2:15 a.m. on 6 June 1944. Their immediate objectives were to capture Sainte-Mère-Église, secure crossings at the Merderet River near laFiere and Chef-du-Pont, and establish a defensive line north from Neuville-au-Plain to Breuzeville-au-Plain. There they were to tie in with the 502nd Infantry Regiment. Like most paratroop units in Operation Overlord, they were dropped in the wrong locations and had extraordinary difficulty linking up with each other. During the June 6th assault, a 508th platoon leader, Lt.Robert P. Mathias, would be the first American officer killed by German fire on D-Day.[2]

Portions of the 508th regrouped and remained in contact with German forces until relieved on 7 July when they became the division reserve force. On 13 July, they were transported back to England via two LST's and returned to their station at Wollaton Park. Of the 2056 troops who participated in the D-Day landings, only 995 returned. The regiment suffered 1061 casualties, of which 307 were killed in action.

For its gallantry and combat action during the first three days of fighting, the unit was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation (later re-designated as the Presidential Unit Citation), quoted in part below:

The 508th Parachute Infantry is cited for outstanding performance of duty in action against the enemy between 6 and 9 June 1944, during the invasion of France. The Regiment landed by parachute shortly after 0200 hours, 6 June 1944. Intense antiaircraft and machine-gun fire was directed against the approaching planes and parachutist drops. Enemy mobile antiairborne landing groups immediately engaged assembled elements of the Regiment and reinforced their opposition with heavily supported reserve units. Elements of the Regiment seized Hill 30, in the wedge between the Merderet and Douve Rivers, and fought vastly superior enemy forces for three days. From this position, they continually threatened German units moving in from the west, as well as the enemy forces opposing the crossing of our troops over the Merderet near La Fiere and Chef-du-Pont.

They likewise denied the enemy opportunity to throw reinforcements to the east where they could oppose the beach landings. The troops on Hill 30 finally broke through to join the airborne troops at the bridgehead west of La Fiere on 9 June 1944. They had repelled continuous attacks from infantry, tanks, mortars, and artillery for more than 60 hours without resupply. Other elements of the 508th Parachute Infantry fought courageously in the bitter fighting west of the Merderet River and in winning the bridgeheads across that river at La Fiere and Chef-du- Pont. The regiment secured its objectives through heroic determination and initiative. Every member performed his duties with exemplary aggressiveness and superior skill. The courage and devotion to duty shown by members of the 508th Parachute Infantry are worthy of emulation and reflect the highest traditions of the Army of the United States.[3]

After their success in Normandy, the regiment returned to its billet at Wollaton Park and prepared for its part in Operation Market Garden, jumping on 17 September 1944. The regiment established and maintained a defensive position over 12,000 yards (11,000 m) in length, with German troops on three sides of their position. They seized a key bridge and prevented its destruction. Other units prevented the demolition of the Waal river Bridge at Nijmegen. The regiment additionally seized, occupied, organized and defended the Berg EN Dalkamp Hill mass, terrain which controlled the Groesbeek-Nijmegen area. They cut Highway K, preventing the movement of enemy reserves, or escape of enemy along this important international route.

The regiment later played a part in the Battle of the Bulge. Col. Lindquist relinquished command of the regiment to Lt. Col. Otho Holmes in December, 1945.[1] The unit was inactivated on 25 November 1946.

Unit citationsEdit

The regiment was recognized with the following citations:[4]

Individual awardsEdit

The following awards were received by individuals.[4]

Cold WarEdit

The 508th was reactivated as the separate 508th Airborne Regimental Combat Team 1951 at (Fort Benning, Ga) Fort Bragg, North Carolina, served in Japan, and later moved to Fort Campbell where it once again inactivated in March 1957 as part of the reactivation of the 101st Airborne Division.[5]

When the Army abandoned the Pentomic battle group structure in the early 1960s, the 508th reorganized under the Combat Arms Regimental System as a parent regiment and at the same time was renamed the 508th Infantry. Within the 82nd Airborne Division, the former Company A, 508th PIR was reorganized and re-designated as HHC, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 508th Infantry, an element of the 3rd Brigade. The former Company B, 508th PIR was reactivated as HHC, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 508th Infantry, part of the 1st Brigade. The 1st and 2nd Battalions, 508th Infantry continued to serve in the 82d Airborne Division. They served in Operation Powerpack in the Dominican Republic in 1965 and 1966.

When the 3rd Brigade was sent to Vietnam in response to the Tet Offensive in early 1968, 1-508th accompanied it. There it took part of the heavy fighting of Hue and Saigon. It was later awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. In 1983 both battalions served in the Operation Urgent Fury with the invasion of Grenada.

From 8 August 1962 to 26 June 1968, the lineage of Co C, 508 PIR was reactivated as HHC, 3-508th INF, and the unit served as an airborne battalion within the 193rd Infantry Brigade in Panama. When the Airborne component of the battalion was reduced to a single company (Co A), the battalion was reflagged as the 3rd Battalion, 5th Infantry.

In October 1983, the 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry Regiment, also deployed to Grenada in Operation Urgent Fury.

The colors of 1st Battalion, 508th and 2nd Battalion, 508th Infantry departed the 82d Airborne Division during an Army-wide reflagging of combat units in the 1980s, leaving the division with battalions of the 325th, 504th, and 505th within the 2nd, 1st and 3d Brigades, respectively.

Operation Just CauseEdit

The 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry was activated as part of the 193rd Infantry Brigade from 1987 to 1995 at Ft. Kobbe, Panama. The 1st Battalion fought during Operation Just Cause, the invasion of Panama. It was inactivated with the parent 193d Infantry Brigade as US forces departed Panama in 1995.

During Operation Just Cause, HHC, A co., and B co., were assigned to secure and hold Ft. Amador. C co., was given a separate assignment, to secure and hold La Commandancia alongside elements of the 75th Ranger Regiment. During the battle for La Commandancia, C co. incurred the only KIA's for the battalion; PFC Vance Coats and Sgt. Mike DeBlois.

Kosovo peacekeepingEdit

The colors of 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry were reactivated in 1996 in Vicenza, Italy, by reflagging the existing 3rd Battalion, 325th Infantry, an airborne battalion combat team, and was expanded in 2000 to become the reactivated 173d Airborne Brigade. The battalion had elements training all over Europe and participated in the Kosovo peacekeeping mission from 1996 to 2006.

Invasion of IraqEdit

On 26 March 2003, the 1-508th conducted a combat jump into northern Iraq. On the northern front it operated with special operations forces and Kurdish allies in tying down Iraqi forces. After the fall of Saddam’s government, it continued to serve throughout Iraq. For its service in Iraq the 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry was awarded the Meritorious Unit Citation.

Operation Enduring FreedomEdit

In 2005-2006 the 1st Battalion, as part of the 173d Airborne Brigade, deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. As part of Task Force Fury, they were deployed to the border on Pakistan in RC East where it served under the Command of Joint Task Force Devil (1st Brigade, 82d Airborne Division) at Orgun-E. Units were located across RC East in company FOBs at Waza Kwha, C Company (Rock); Bermel, A Company (Sharks); Sharana, HHC (Workhorse), and B Company (Legion). In June 2005 Legion was redeployed to RC South (Kandahar) under Task Force Gun Devil (3d Battalion, 319th Field Artillery). The battalion returned from Afghanistan in February 2006. The colors of 1-508th left the 173rd when the battalion was reflagged as 1-503d Infantry in June 2006.

In January 2006, the colors of both the 1st Battalion and 2nd Battalion, 508th Infantry Regiment, were reactivated as infantry battalions in the newly activated 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. In January 2007, 1-508th, 2-508th, and the 4-73 Cavalry (acting as the Brigade's Reconnaissance Squadron) deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In August 2009, the brigade returned to Afghanistan to support Operation Enduring Freedom. The Brigade returned to RC South (Zharay and Maywand) in 2012.

Current unit organizationEdit

The Brigade Combat Team is composed of:

An article in the June 25, 2013 issue of the Army Times announced the 4th BCT, 82d Airborne Division would be included in an Army-wide reduction of brigade combat teams. The remaining BCTs will be expanded, and it's likely 1-508th and 2-508th will be assigned to other BCTs within the 82d concurrent with the inactivation of the 4th BCT.[1]

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit

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