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Edson Duncan Raff
Nickname "Little Caesar"
Born (1907-11-15)November 15, 1907
Died March 11, 2003(2003-03-11) (aged 95)
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Unit 2nd Battalion 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Commands held 2nd Battalion 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 77th Special Forces Group
Battles/wars World War II
Operation Torch, Operation Overlord, Operation Varsity
Awards

Edson Duncan Raff (November 15, 1907 in New York City – March 11, 2003 in Garnett, Kansas) was an officer in the US Army and author of a book on paratroopers. He served as commanding officer of the first American paratroop unit to jump into combat, the 2nd Battalion 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, near Oran as part of Operation Torch.[2] His book, We Jumped to Fight, was based on his experience in that operation and was published in 1944.

Raff had served as First Captain of Cadets at a small prep school in Winchester, Virginia called the Shenandoah Valley Academy before serving in the Army. Due to the tough training course he gave the paratroopers in the 509th (and his stocky physique), Raff was nicknamed "Little Caesar" by them.[3][4] He first saw combat during Operation Torch as the commander of the 509th:[5]

...the main force with Lieutenant Colonel Raff also jumped early some 35 miles east of the objective airfields. Although he broke several ribs in a hard landing, Lieutenant Colonel Raff continued to lead his paratroopers toward their objectives. After a full day and a night forced march, a company of weary paratroopers reached the airfield at Tafaraoui on the morning of November 9. Both airfields had already been captured by Allied amphibious forces. Thus ended the first and rather disappointing American Airborne combat operation in history.

He spent time as an airborne planner on General Omar Bradley's staff and was assigned by General Matthew Ridgway to lead Task Force Raff, a composite unit of M-4 Sherman tanks and scout cars landed at Utah Beach on D-Day to support the 82nd.[6] When the commander of the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment was captured in Normandy, Raff was assigned on June 15, 1944, to command the regiment. Raff led that unit, nicknamed "Raff's Ruffians", through the rest of the war, including its participation in Operation Varsity.

As the plane neared the DZ, Raff recalls:[7]

I was alone standing in the door of the plane looking down at the river passing beneath the plane, smoke partially obscured my view. At that moment, I said a prayer to the infant Jesus, The Little Flower, 'Little Flower, in this hour show Thy power.' The prayer was given to me by my sister who was a nun. I said the prayer before every jump.

After the war in 1954, Raff would command the 77th Special Forces Group, based at Fort Bragg and is credited by Lieutenant General William Yarborough[8] as the "father" of the then-controversial green beret now routinely worn by US Army Special Forces.

ReferencesEdit

  1. "French Honor U.S. Paratroop Chief", Stars and Stripes (ETO), Dec 14, 1942, page 1
  2. Atkinson, Rick. An Army at Dawn. New York, New York: Henry Holt & Company. pp. 89-90. ISBN 0-8050-7448-1
  3. Military.com Content
  4. "Good God. Gaston" Time magazine Oct 12, 1942
  5. research
  6. Nordyke, Phil. All American, All the Way. Zenith Imprint, 2005. pg. 310. ISBN 0-7603-2201-5, ISBN 978-0-7603-2201-7
  7. A Legend
  8. LTG Yarborough to BG Emerson

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