11th Airborne Division (United States)

11th Airborne Division (United States)

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name=11th Airborne Division

caption=11th Airborne Division shoulder sleeve insignia
nickname=The Angels
type=Airborne Infantry
Air Assault
branch=United States Army
dates= 25 February 1943 – 30 June 1958
1 February 1963 – 29 June 1965
country=United States
battles=World War II
*Pacific War
*Raid at Los Baños
notable_commanders=Major-General Joseph M. Swing
US Infantry
previous=10th Mountain Division
next=12th Infantry Division ("Inactive")
The 11th Airborne Division was an airborne division in the United States Army which was first activated during World War II. The division was officially activated on 25 February 1943 and took part in several training exercises throughout the rest of the year, including the Knollwood Maneuver; the division played a vital part in this exercise, helping to ensure that the airborne division remained as a military formation in the United States Army after the poor performance of American airborne forces during Operation Husky. The division remained in the United States as a reserve formation and did not take part in the early airborne operations conducted by the Allies, such as Operation Husky and Operation Neptune, only transferring to the Pacific Theater in June 1944.

When the division arrived in the Pacific, it entered a period of intense training to ensure that it became acclimatized to its new environment, and in November it was transported to Leyte in the Philippines and entered combat, initially being deployed as an infantry formation and not participating in any airborne operations. The division finished its operations in Leyte in January 1945, and was then ordered to take part in the invasion of Luzon, initially being divided into two. The division's two Glider Infantry Regiments were deployed as conventional infantry, securing a beachhead and then fighting their way inland, whilst the division's single Parachute Infantry Regiment was kept in reserve for several days until it participated in the divisions first airborne operation, landing on the Tagatay Ridge and linking up with the two glider regiments. The division was then reformed and fought on for the rest of the campaign on Luzon, helping to liberate Manila, the capital of the Philippines. It also conducted the famous Raid at Los Baños, in which two thousand civilians interned by the Japanese at the beginning of the conflict were liberated by several companies of paratroopers. The division took part in one last operation in Aparri, aiding the advance of American forces in Northern Luzon, before World War II came to an end.

After the end of World War II, the division was ordered to land in southern Japan, forming part of the American military presence during the Occupation of Japan, landing on 30 August 1945. The division remained in Japan for four years until May 1949, when it was relieved of its occupation duties and returned to the United States. It then became a training formation, whilst the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment was detached from the division and saw service in the Korean War before returning to the United States. The division was deactivated 30 June 1958 and then reactivated 1 February 1963 as the 11th Air Assault Division (Test), an experimental formation designed to explore the theory and practicality of helicopter assault tactics. It was finally deactivated on 29 June 1965 with all of its personnel and equipment coming under the command of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). This division should not be confused with the U.S. Army's 11th Infantry Division, which was activated during World War I.


World War II


The 11th Airborne Division was officially activated on 25 February 1943 at Camp Mackall in North Carolina under the command of Major-General Joseph M. Swing. The division was originally composed of the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment, the 187th Glider Infantry Regiment and the 188th Glider Infantry Regiment. At its formation at Camp Mackall, the division had a strength of 8,321 men – only slightly more than half of the strength of a regular American infantry division during World War II. [ Flanagan, p. 305. ]

Knollwood Maneuver

Despite being activated in 1943, the division was not immediately shipped out to Europe to participate in the first large-scale Allied airborne operation, the Allied invasion of Sicily (Operation Husky) – unlike the 82nd Airborne Division, which had been activated a year prior to the 11th Airborne. [ Devlin, p. 204. ] The division remained in the United States while Operation Husky took place, but Major-General Swing was temporarily reassigned to the African Theatre to act as airborne advisor to General Dwight D. Eisenhower when planning for the operation began. Another general officer took command of the division until Swing returned. [Devlin, p. 212.] In December 1943, the 11th Airborne was chosen by the Swing Board to participate in what came to be known as the Knollwood Maneuver. The Swing Board was a committee formed in mid-September 1943, composed of United States Army Air Force, parachute-glider infantry and artillery officers, whose purpose was to demonstrate the validity and military effectiveness of American airborne forces. It was chaired by Major-General Swing, who had returned from Sicily and resumed command of the division. The Swing Board was necessitated by the poor performance of American airborne forces during Operation Husky, during which the parachute and glider-borne airborne troops had suffered high casualties and had been perceived to have failed to achieve many of the objectives they were tasked with during the invasion of Sicily. Devlin, p. 246. ] General Eisenhower had conducted a thorough review of the performance of the American airborne forces during the operation, and had come to the conclusion that they were too difficult to control in combat and that as a result there should be no divisional-sized airborne formations. [ Flanagan, p. 98. ] Despite this criticism of the airborne forces, General George Marshall had ordered the Swing Board to be formed and a large airborne maneuver be performed in December to evaluate the effectiveness of divisional-sized airborne forces. [ Flanagan, p. 99. ]

Quote box
quote = "I do not believe in the airborne division. I believe that airborne troops should be reorganized in self-contained units, comprising infantry, artillery, and special services, all about the strength of a regimental combat team [...] To employ at any time and place a whole division would require a dropping over such an extended area that I seriously doubt that a division commander could regain control and operate the scattered forces as one unit."
source = – The conclusion of General Eisenhower's review of the performance of American airborne forces during Operation Husky
width = 35%
align = left

The Swing Board therefore met in the middle of September and began to make arrangements for the maneuver that would effectively decide the fate of the airborne division as a concept for the American military. The maneuver would also allow the 11th Airborne and its individual units to receive further airborne training, as had occurred with the 101st Airborne Division and the 82nd Airborne Division a few months previously. [ Huston, p. 98. ] The objective of the maneuver for the attacking airborne forces would be to capture Knollwood Army Auxiliary Airfield [ cite web |url= http://www.moorecountyairport.com/history.htm |title= Moore County Airport History |date= 2006-06-13 |work= |publisher= Moore County Airport |accessdate= 2008-07-27 ] near Fort Bragg in North Carolina, after which the maneuver was incidentally named, and for the defending forces to repel such an assault. The entire operation would be observed by Lieutenant-General Leslie J. McNair, overall commander of the ground forces of the US Army; McNair had once been a supporter of the airborne troops and the concept of the airborne division, but had been greatly disappointed by their performance in North Africa and more recently Sicily. His observations and reports to the U.S. War Department, and ultimately General Eisenhower, would do much to decide the success or failure of the exercise. [ Devlin, p. 247. ] Whilst an important observer, however, McNair would not actually direct the exercise; it would be directed by Brigadier-General F. W. Evans, commanding general of I Troop Carrier Command, the formation under which all air transport for airborne operations were controlled. [ Huston, p. 136. ] The attacking forces for the maneuver were the 11th Airborne Division with the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment attached to it for the duration of the exercise, whilst the defenders were composed of a composite combat team from the 17th Airborne Division with a battalion from the 541st Parachute Infantry Regiment attached. [ Flanagan, p. 100. ]

The exercise occurred on the night of 7 December, and was judged to be a great success by those who observed it, with the attacking troops of the 11th Airborne Division overwhelming the defending forces of the 17th Airborne Division and capturing the Knollwood airport. McNair reported that the success of the maneuver pleased him, and highlighted the great improvements in airborne training that had occurred in the months between the end of Operation Husky and the Knollwood Maneuver. Huston, p. 137. ] Due to the success of the units of the 11th Airborne Division during the exercise, the airborne division as a concept for the American military was deemed to be effective and was allowed to remain.


After its participation in the Knollwood Maneuvers ended, the division remained in reserve until January 1944, when it was moved by train from Camp Mackall to Camp Polk in Louisiana. There, the division remained for four weeks, conducting a number of maneuvers and tests to ensure that it was prepared to be transferred overseas and enter combat. Flanagan, p. 309. ] In April 1944, the division was then moved to Camp Stoneman, California, and then sailed to Milne Bay between 25 May and 11 June. Between June and September the division became acclimatized to its new environment and continued its airborne training. It conducted parachute drops in the New Guinea jungle and around the airfield in Dobodura. Then, on 11 November, the division boarded a convoy of naval transports and was escorted to Leyte in the Philippines, arriving on 18 November. [ Harclerode, p. 603.] Four days after its arrival, the division was attached to XXIV Corps and committed to combat in Leyte, but only as an infantry division and did not operate in an airborne capacity. It was ordered to relieve the 7th Infantry Division, engage and destroy all Japanese forces in its operational area, and protect XXIV Corps rear-area supply dumps and airfields. [ Devlin, p. 557. ]

Major-General Swing ordered the 187th Glider Infantry Regiment to guard the rear installations of XXIV Corps, and the 188th GIR to secure the division's rear and conduct aggressive patrols to eliminate any enemy troops in the area. The 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment was ordered to conduct the attack against the Japanese, which it began on 28 November when it relieved the 7th Infantry Division and began moving overland, two battalions advancing abreast and the regiment's third battalion in reserve. [ Devlin, pp. 557–558. ] The regiment advanced slowly, its progress impeded by heavy Japanese resistance, a lack of mapped trails, and heavy rainfall, with more than twenty-three inches (60 cm) of rain falling in Leyte in November alone. As the regiment advanced, resupply became progressively more difficult, with the division resorting to using large numbers of Piper Cub aircraft to drop food and ammunition to the regiment as it advanced. [ Flanagan, p. 310. ] To try to rectify these problems, the division created several solutions, such as dropping platoons of the 187th from Piper Cubs in front of the 511th PIR to reconnoiter for the regiment, and using C-47 transport aircraft to drop artillery pieces to the regiment's location when conventional transport, such as mule-trains, failed. [ Flanagan, pp. 311–312. ]

On 6 December, the Japanese attempted to disrupt the operations of the 11th Airborne Division and other American units on Leyte by conducting two small-scale airborne operations. The first raid attempted to deploy a small number of Japanese airborne troops to occupy several key American-held airfields at Tacloban and Dulag, but failed when the three aircraft used in the operation were either shot-down, crash-landed or were destroyed on the ground along with their passengers. [ Tugwell, p. 278.] The second, larger, raid was conducted by between twenty-nine and thirty-nine transport aircraft supported by fighters, and despite heavy losses managed to drop a number of Japanese airborne troops in the area around Burauen airfield, where the headquarters of 11th Airborne Division were located. [Tugwell, p. 279. ] [Flanagan, p. 313. Tugwell states that there were twenty-nine transport planes, whilst Flanagan writes that there were thirty-nine.] Five L-5 Sentinel reconnaissance aircraft and one C-47 transport were destroyed by the Japanese airborne troops, but the raiders were eliminated by an "ad hoc" combat group composed of artillerymen, engineers and support troops and led by Major-General Swing.Flanagan, p. 313.]

Meanwhile, the 511th PIR continued its advance on 7 December, being reinforced by 2nd Battalion, 187th GIR, its progress slow but steady, and on 17 December it broke through Japanese lines and arrived at the western shoreline of Leyte, linking up with elements of the 32nd Infantry Division. [ Devlin, p. 562.] It was during this period of fighting that Private Elmer E. Fryar earned a posthumous Medal of Honor when he helped to repel a Japanese counterattack, personally killing twenty-seven Japanese soldiers, before being mortally wounded by a sniper. [cite web |url=http://www.history.army.mil/html/moh/wwII-a-f.html|title= Medal of Honor Recipients World War II (A-F)|accessdate=2008-06-10 |author= United States Army, Centre of Military History|date= 2007-07-16|publisher= United States Army] The regiment was then ordered to set up temporary defensive positions against possible Japanese attacks before being relieved on 25 December by 1st Batt., 187th GIR and 2nd Batt., 188th GIR. These two battalions then proceeded to combat further Japanese resistance, incurring considerable casualties against a heavily dug-in enemy. The entire regiment was then reassembled at its original base-camp in Leyte on 15 January 1945, and on 22 January, the division was alerted that it would take part in an operation in Luzon. [Devlin, pp. 563–564. ]


After several days of rest and relaxation after its operations in Leyte, the division received notification it that it was to take part in a further operation in the Philippines, this time destined for Luzon, to the north of Leyte. It would be on Luzon that the division would take part in its first combat jump, although only the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment was scheduled to actually conduct an airborne operation; the 187th Glider Infantry Regiment and the 188th Glider Infantry Regiment would conduct an amphibious assault and secure a beach-head on Luzon for American forces.Flanagan, p. 314.] On 27 January, the 187th and 188th GIR boarded transport ships and set sail for Luzon, whilst the 511th was transported by C-46 Commando transport aircraft from Leyte to Mindoro. Then, at dawn on 31 January, the two Glider regiments landed in naval landing craft near Nasugbu in southern Luzon after a short naval barrage and strafing by A-20 Havoc light bombers and P-38 Lightning fighter aircraft, securing a beach-head against light Japanese resistance. The 188th rapidly advanced and secured Nasugbu, with its 1st Battalion advancing up Highway 17, a major highway in Luzon, to deny the Japanese forces any chance to set up defenses. Simultaneously, the regiments 2nd Battalion advanced south and secured the right flank of the division after crossing the River Lian. [Harclerode, pp. 613–614.] By 10:30 am the 188th had advanced deep into southern Luzon, allowing the 187th to come ashore and relieve those units of the 188th that had secured the right flank of the division. By 2:30 pm, the 188th had reached the River Palico and secured a vital bridge over the river before it could be destroyed by Japanese sappers. It then continued its advance by following Highway 17 to Tumalin, where it encountered heavier Japanese resistance. [Harclerode, pp. 614–615. ]

The 188th continued to advance against increasing Japanese resistance until midnight, when the 187th took over the lead, and then followed the 187th, the two units resting briefly before coming to the Japanese main line of resistance, a series of trenches linked to a number of bunkers and fortified caves manned by several hundred infantry and a number of artillery pieces. [Harclerode, p. 615.] At 9:00 am, the 188th launched an attack on the Japanese line and managed to break through by midday, spending the rest of 1 February mopping up resistance in the area. On the morning of 2 February, another attack was launched, breaking a second Japanese line of defense and pursuing the retreating Japanese troops. By midnight, the 188th had breached a third Japanese line, and the divisional reconnaissance platoon had reached an area near Tagaytay Ridge where the 511th PIR was scheduled to conduct its airborne operation.Harclerode, p. 617.] The airborne operation had been scheduled for 2 February, but was rescheduled for 3 February due to continued Japanese resistance slowing the progress of the two Glider regiments. Maj.Gen. Swing only wanted the operation to go ahead if the Glider regiments were in range to provide assistance to the 511th if Japanese resistance was heavier than expected. Due to there only being forty-eight C-47 Dakota transport aircraft available, the regiment was forced to conduct the airborne operation in three lifts; the regimental staff, the regiments 2nd Battalion and half of its 3rd Battalion would be dropped first, then rest of the regiment in the second drop, and then the 457th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion would be dropped in the third lift.Flanagan, p. 315. ]

At 03:00 on 3 February, the troops of the first lift entered their transport planes, and at 07:00, the first transports took off, protected by an escort of P-61 Black Widow night fighters, flying over Mindoro and eventually following Highway 17 all the way to Tagaytay Ridge. The ridge itself was an open space some two thousand yards (1,829 m) wide and four thousand yards (3,657 m) wide, plowed in places, and had been mostly cleared of Japanese troops by local Filipino guerrillas. At 08:15 the first echelon of the first lift, approximately 345 men, successfully dropped onto the drop zone, although the second echelon, consisting of approximately 570 men, were dropped prematurely and consequently landed about eight thousand yards (7,315 m) east of the drop zone. The second lift also encountered problems with accuracy, with some 425 men dropping correctly but another 1,325 dropping early due to pilot error. Despite these problems, however, the entire regiment was assembled within five hours of the first lift landing in the drop zone. [Flanagan, p. 316.] After fighting against minor Japanese resistance, by 3:00 pm the 511th had made contact with the 188th and 187th, and the entire division was once again assembled as a single formation. After clearing the ridge of any remaining Japanese defenders, the division began to advance towards Manila, reaching the Paranaque River by 9:00 pm on 3 February and encountering the beginning of the Genko Line, a major Japanese defensive belt that stretched along the southern edge of Manila. [ Devlin, p. 573. ] This defensive belt consisted of approximately 1,200 blockhouses between two and three stories deep, many of which had naval guns or large-caliber mortars embedded within them, as well as entrenched large-caliber anti-aircraft weapons, machine-gun nests and booby-traps consisted of rigged naval bombs. The entire line was manned by some 6,000 Japanese troops. [Harclerode, p. 620.]

The division was ordered to breach the Genko Line and drive into Manila, linking up with other American forces attacking the city from the north. All three of the divisions regiments were committed, and they began their advance on 5 February, managing to break through the defensive line despite a fierce defense by the Japanese units manning the section of the line the division attacked. [Devlin, p. 574.] The 511th had led the assault and broken through the Genko Line, but was soon replaced as the divisions spearhead by the 188th, with the glider regiment advancing westwards towards Manila in the face of heavy opposition as the 511th attempted to move into the city from the north. By 11 February, the division had penetrated as far as Nichols Field, an airfield which formed the center of the Genko Line and was heavily fortified with a number of entrenched naval guns and a series of bunkers. After a short artillery bombardment on the morning of 12 February, 2nd Battalion of the 187th attacked the north-west corner of the airfield whilst the 1st Battalion of the regiment and the entire 188th attacked from the south and south-eastern corners. This pincer movement succeeded in securing the airfield despite a local counter-attack, and by nightfall, the airfield was secured. [Harclerode, p. 621.] The following day saw the division advance across the airfield and towards Fort McKinley, the headquarters of Rear Admiral Iwabuchi, commander of the Japanese defenders on Luzon. It was during this advance that Private First Class Manuel Perez Jr. neutralized several Japanese bunkers which were impeding the advance of the division, capturing one single-handedly and personally killing eighteen Japanese soldiers during his actions. PFC Perez was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. [cite web |url=http://www.history.army.mil/html/moh/wwII-m-s.html|title= Medal of Honor Recipients World War II (M-S)|accessdate=2008-06-10 |author= United States Army, Centre of Military History|date= 2007-07-16|publisher= United States Army] On 17 February the division launched its assault on the Fort against fierce resistance, taking heavy casualties as it drew nearer to the Fort, particularly when the Japanese detonated a quantity of naval depth charges buried under a set of lawns near the Fort. The Fort was penetrated by the 511th, however and by 18 February the area had been cleared of its defenders. [Harclerode, p. 623. ] On 15 February, the 1st Battalion of the 187th, alongside other American units, had also launched an attack on Mabato Point, an extremely heavily fortified position featuring the same entrenched bunkers and defensive positions seen in the Genko Line. It took six days of hard fighting against heavy Japanese resistance before the area was cleared, the airborne troops being aided by multiple airstrikes and the frequent use of napalm and heavy artillery. Sporadic resistance continued until 3 March, when all organized Japanese resistance in the area ended. [Harclerode, pp. 623–624. ]

Raid at Los Baños

The next operation that the division was to be involved in concerned the liberation of a large number of civilian prisoners detained by the Japanese on Luzon. The majority of these prisoners were located in internment camps scattered throughout Luzon, the largest being at Los Baños. The Los Baños camp was located on the campus of the Agricultural College of the Philippines, some forty miles (64 km) south-east of Manila. [Flanagan, p. 327.] When American forces had first landed on Luzon, General Douglas MacArthur had become concerned with the plight of the interned civilians and had assigned the duty of rescuing the civilians held at Los Baños on 3 February to the division, but heavy Japanese resistance and the division encountering the Genko Line meant that it was unable to devote any resources to raiding the camp at the time.Flanagan, p. 328.] All that could be done during February was to gather as much information about the internment camp as the division could get, primarily through liaising with the guerrilla groups which operated in Southern Luzon and in the area around Los Baños. As information about the camp was received and analyzed, Major-General Swing and his command staff were briefed daily by the liaison officer working with the guerrilla groups, Major Vanderpool.

As Vanderpool liaised with the guerrillas, and several civilians who were able to escape from the camp, he was able to learn that the camp was surrounded by two barbed-wire fences approximately six feet tall, and several guard towers and bunkers surrounded the perimeter, each containing at least two guards. Prisoners left each morning under guard to gather food supplies and firewood from a nearby town. [Devlin, pp. 599–600. ] After several days, Vanderpool managed to learn about the civilian population of the camp, finding that the population consisted of American civilians in three distinct groups. The first consisted of Protestant missionaries and their families, the second of Roman Catholic nuns and priests, and the third was composed of professional workers, such as doctors and engineers, and their families, including several hundred women and children. All appeared to be in good health, although many had become weak from food rationing. [Devlin, p. 600. ] On 20 February, Major-General Swing felt that he could provide sufficient troops to conduct a raid on Los Baños, and a plan was rapidly created by Major Vanderpool and the divisional staff officers.Flanagan, p. 330.] The plan which was finally agreed upon had four distinct phases. Firstly, the divisional reconnaissance platoon would travel across a nearby lake and move to the outskirts of the camp, securing a large field which lay next to the camp which would act as a drop zone for the airborne forces involved. Then, at the agreed upon hour, a company of paratroopers would be dropped into the drop zone, enter the camp, eliminate all Japanese resistance and organize the internees for evacuation. The third phase of the plan came in the form of fifty-four Amtracs, tracked amphibious transports, which would transport a further two companies of paratroopers onto the shore of the lake, who would then secure a beachhead whilst a convoy of Amtracs and a guard detachment would travel to the camp. The internees would be escorted back to the beachhead, as would the company of paratroopers holding the camp. Finally, a task force consisting of a reinforced infantry battalion, two battalions of heavy artillery and a tank destroyer battalion would travel down Highway 1, the highway that led to Los Baños, to block any Japanese forces attempting to recapture the internees.

The operation began on the night of 21 February, when the divisional reconnaissance platoon made their way to the shore of the lake and collected ten canoes, assisted by a group of guerrillas. Despite navigational difficulties, the platoon landed near Los Baños at 2:00 am on the morning of 22 February and hid in the jungle near the camp after securing the field to be used by the paratroopers. [Harclerode, p. 631.] During the afternoon, B Company of the 1st Battalion of the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment was transferred to the airfield from which the company would be deployed, whilst the rest of the battalion rendezvoused with the Amtracs which would transport them to the camp.Harclerode, p. 632.] Then, at 7:00 am on the morning of 23 February, B Company took off in ten C-47 Dakota transport aircraft, shortly after arriving over the Drop Zone which the reconnaissance platoon had cleared previously, deploying from the C-47s and landing on the field. As the first paratroopers landed in the field, the reconnaissance platoon and its supporting guerrilla group opened fire on the guard towers and pillboxes which surrounded the internment camp, using Bazooka rounds to penetrate the concrete pillboxes, then entered the camp and engaged the rest of the Japanese garrison. The paratroopers soon entered the battle, and by 7:20 am the Japanese guards had been eliminated and the internees were being rounded up and readied for evacuation. [Flanagan, p. 332.] During this time the Amtracs had landed the two other companies of the 511th, who had secured a beachhead, and a convoy of Amtracs soon reached the camp without incident. The internees were loaded onto the Amtracs, priority being given to the women, children and wounded, with some of the able-bodied men walking alongside the Amtracs as they returned to the beach. The first convoy of Amtracs left at approximately 10:00 am, with B Company, the reconnaissance platoon and the guerrillas being used as a rearguard. By 11:30 am all of the civilians had been evacuated, and by 13:00 the Amtrac convoy returned for the rearguard, with the last paratroopers leaving the beach at approximately 15:00. [Flanagan, p. 333.] The taskforce that had been deployed to protect the airborne troops as they rescued the internees met heavy Japanese resistance, but despite suffering several casualties was able to prevent Japanese forces advancing on the camp during the evacuation process, before retreating back to American lines. [Devlin, pp. 609–610.] The evacuation had been a complete success, and some 2,147 civilian prisoners had been liberated by the airborne troops during the operation. [Devlin, p. 608.]


The last combat operation that the division would participate in took place on 23 June 1945, in the province of Aparri in northern Luzon, and would also prove to be the last airborne operation conducted by the division during World War II.Flanagan, p. 335.] By this period of the conflict, the only Japanese forces remaining on Luzon came under the command of General Tomoyuki Yamashita and his Fourteenth Area Army, numbering approximately 150,000 men. Yamashita, in an attempt to delay Allied progress as much as possible, divided his troops into three groups and deployed them throughout northern Luzon, positioning his best troops, "Shobu" Group, to the far north. "Shobu" Group proved to be the most tenacious of the Japanese troops and forced Lieutenant-General Walter Krueger, commander of the Sixth United States Army, to commit a significant portion of his formation against them, including four infantry divisions, an armored task force, and a large band of guerrillas. However, while these forces pinned down "Shobu" Group, the 37th Infantry Division began advancing northwards, defeating a weaker Japanese formation and encircling "Shobu" Group. In order to ensure that the 37th was successful in its drive, Krueger called for an airborne force to land near Aparri and advance southwards, linking up with the 37th and eliminating all remaining Japanese resistance in northern Luzon. [Flanagan, p. 336.]

Lieutenant-General Krueger's plan for the airborne operation called for the 11th Airborne Division to assemble and then drop a battalion-sized combat team on the Camalaniugan Airfield, approximately ten miles (16 km) south of Aparri, which would then advance southwards, eliminating all Japanese resistance it faced until it linked up with the leading elements of the 37th Infantry Division. [Devlin, p. 643. ] To fulfill this task, Maj.Gen. Swing formed a special unit, naming it Gypsy Task Force, which comprised the 1st Battalion of the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment, G and I Companies of the regiment's 2nd Battalion, an artillery battery from the 457th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, and a platoon of engineers and miscellaneous signal and medical detachments. [Harclerode, p. 635.] Gypsy Task Force would be transported by fifty-four C-47 Dakota and thirteen C-46 Commando transport aircraft, as well as six Waco CG-4A Gliders which would be used to land jeeps and supplies for the Task Force. [Harclerode, p. 636.] On 21 June, a detachment of pathfinders from the division had flown to the area and secured the airfield which was designated as the drop-zone for the task force. Then, on 23 June, the troops of Gypsy Task Force were loaded onto the transport aircraft, which took off at 6:00 am, alongside a fighter escort, and at 9:00 am, the pathfinder detachment set off colored smoke to mark the drop-zone. The paratroopers then began to jump from the aircraft and land on the airfield, suffering several casualties from fierce winds and the uneven ground around the airfield, which killed two men and injured seventy.Flanagan, p. 337.] However, despite suffering these casualties, the Task Force was rapidly assembled and began its advance southwards, encountering heavy Japanese resistance and having to rely on the use of flamethrowers to eliminate Japanese bunkers and fortifications. After three days of fighting, the Task Force encountered the lead elements of the 37th Infantry Division, finishing the encirclement of the remaining Japanese forces in Luzon and having eliminated a significant part of "Shobu" Group. Task Force Gypsy had therefore completed the mission assigned to it, and completed the last combat operation that the 11th Airborne Division was to participate in. [Flanagan, p. 338.]

Post-World War II

Occupation of Japan

Prior to the detonation of two nuclear weapons over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, General MacArthur intended to use the 11th Airborne Division in the invasion of Japan. Plans for the invasion called for the division to remain as Sixth Army's operational reserve, to be committed if required. [Skate, p. 202.] However, with the end of hostilities in the Pacific Theater shortly after the atomic bombings, the division was instead selected by General MacArthur to lead the American forces selected to participate in the occupation of Japan, the divisional staff receiving orders to this effect on 11 August 1945. [Flanagan, p, 340.] The division began its participation in the occupation by being transported to Okinawa on 12 August, an operation which involved using 99 B-24 Liberator bombers, 350 C-46 Commando and 150 C-47 Dakota transport aircraft to airlift 11,100 men, 120 vehicles and approximately 1.16 million pounds (530,000 kg) of equipment. [Flanagan, pp. 340–341.] Once the division had arrived on Okinawa, it waited for several weeks before receiving its next orders. [Huston, p. 230.] On 28 August, the division was ordered to land at Atsugi Airfield outside of Yokohama, secure the surrounding area, remove all Japanese civilians and military personnel to a perimeter of three miles (5 km), and finally occupy Yokohama.Flanagan, p. 341.] To facilitate this order, the commanding general of Air Transport Command-Pacific, who controlled all transport aircraft in the Pacific, gathered together a large number of C-54 Skymaster transport aircraft. Then, at 6:00 am on 30 August, the first C-54 landed at the airfield at Atsugi, carrying Swing and his divisional staff, thereby signalling the beginning of the division's participation in the occupation of the country. The division was finally assembled around Atsugi by 7 September, and by 13 September, the 11th had been joined by the 27th Infantry Division, which was also to take part in the military occupation and had been airlifted into Japan at the same time as the 11th. [Huston, p. 231.] The division then took up its occupation duties around Japan, first remaining in Yokohama but later moving to northern Japan and setting up camps along the coast of Honshu and on the island of Hokkaido. [Devlin, p. 649.] The division would remain in Japan as an occupying force for four years, until May 1949 when it was officially relieved of its occupation duties and returned to the United States. Flanagan, p. 345.]

Training and first deactivation

When its tour of duty as an occupying force in Japan came to an end, the division returned to the United States and was transferred to Camp Campbell in Kentucky. The division then became a training formation, with several of its subordinate units deactivated, including the 188th Glider Infantry Regiment. Training continued until the outbreak of the Korean War, when the 187th Glider Infantry Regiment, renamed the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment and the 674th Airborne Field Artillery Battalion were detached from the division and formed as a separate RCT (Regimental Combat Team) for service in Korea.

The 187th RCT saw service in Korea, fighting for two years in the conflict and conducting two airborne operations, as well as fighting as a conventional infantry unit. [Weeks, p. 171.] As the 187th was fighting in Korea, the rest of the division continued to act as a training formation, processing and training approximately thirteen thousand recalled reservists between September and December 1950 alone.

The 187th RCT remained in Korea until 1 October 1953, and was then transferred to Japan for two years, when the formation was replaced in Japan by the 508th RCT. The 187th returned to the United States on 17 July 1955 as a unit independent of the 11th Airborne Division. [Flanagan, p. 368.] The 11th was then transported to Germany in early 1956 to replace the 5th Infantry Division stationed in Augsburg and Munich, Germany. This transfer took place as part of Operation Gyroscope, where one division would replace another as part of a rotation scheme. As the division was enroute to Germany, the 187th RCT was relocated to Fort Campbell, taking over the camps that the 11th had recently vacated, and began an intensive training regime and conducting several training exercises. [Flanagan, p. 370.]

According to the U.S. Army Center of Military History, the 187th was assigned to the newly-reactivated 101st Airborne Division on 1 July 1956. The 101st had been reactivated to test the new Pentomic structure that eliminated a division's three infantry regiments and battalions in favor of five battle groups. To perpetuate the lineage and honors of the old regiment, Company B, 187th was reorganized and redesignated as HHC, 2nd Airborne Battle Group, 187th Infantry. [http://www.history.army.mil/html/forcestruc/lineages/branches/inf/0187in002bn.htm] During the following year, the 508th ARCT was also assigned to the 101st, although its lineage was not perpetuated by any of the battle groups assigned to the division. [http://www.bragg.army.mil/4BCT/1951-57.htm]

When the 11th Airborne Division in Germany was converted to the Pentomic structure on 1 March 1957, the lineage of Company A, 187th was perpetuated as HHC, 1st Airborne Battle Group, 187th Infantry. [http://www.history.army.mil/html/forcestruc/lineages/branches/inf/0187in001bn.htm] Soon thereafter the 11th Airborne Division was inactivated in Augsburg on 1 July 1958 as it was reflagged as the 24th Infantry Division. Of all the Airborne components of the division, only 1-187th, 1-503rd and the 11th Quartermaster Company, a parachute rigger unit, remained on jump status in the 24th Infantry Division Both battle groups departed the 24th in early 1959 by rotating to Fort Bragg, NC, to become part of the 82nd Airborne Division. [Flanagan, p. 372.]

Reactivation and final deactivation

In the early 1960s, the United States Army began to explore alternative ways in which it could conduct future conflicts, and one of the many ideas thought up by planners in the United States Department of Defense was the concept of helicopter assault tactics. In order to investigate this concept and evaluate its effectiveness, the 11th Airborne Division was reformed on 1 February 1963 as a test-bed formation for testing air assault tactics, being renamed as the 11th Air Assault Division (Test).Flanagan, p. 376.]

To effectively test the air assault concept, the 11th was to be a "light" division, capable of rapid movement through the use of air force or army aircraft, thereby completely recreating the organizational structure that the 11th Airborne Division had possessed when it had been deactivated. The original combat units that the 11th Airborne Division had under its command, the 187th Glider Infantry Regiment, the 188th Glider Infantry Regiment, and the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment were also reformed under the new division. As a small testbed unit, only one battalion of each regiment existed in the division's force structure. For large-scale exercises, personnel and equipment of the 2nd Infantry Division, also assigned to Fort Benning, were used.

For the next two years, the 11th Air Assault Division would develop and refine air assault tactics, as well as the equipment that an Air Assault division would require to be an effective formation. The 187th and 188th tested helicopters to assess their ability to be utilized as a combat aircraft in various exercises, ranging from command and control maneuvers to scouting and screening and aerial resupply. [Flanagan, p. 377.] After two years of testing, however, the division was inactivated for the final time on 29 June 1965, with the division's personnel and equipment being transferred to the newly formed 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). [Flanagan, p. 378.] The colors of the 1st Cavalry Division, at that time assigned to Korea, were transferred to Fort Benning, while those of the 2nd Infantry Division were simultaneously moved to Korea. The assets of the 2nd Infantry Division and the 11th Air Assault Division were merged to form the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).



*cite book
last = Blair
first = Clay
authorlink = Clay Blair
title = Ridgway’s Paratroopers – The American Airborne In World War II
publisher = The Dial Press
date = 1985
isbn = 1-55750-299-4

*cite book
last = Devlin
first = Gerard M.
title = "Paratrooper – The Saga Of Parachute And Glider Combat Troops During World War II
publisher = Robson Books
date = 1979
isbn = 0-31259-652-9

*cite book
last = Flanagan
first = E. M. Jr
title = Airborne – A Combat History Of American Airborne Forces
publisher = The Random House Publishing Group
date = 2002
isbn = 0-89141-688-9

*cite book
last = Harclerode
first = Peter
title = Wings Of War – Airborne Warfare 1918–1945
publisher = Weidenfeld & Nicolson
date = 2005
isbn = 0-30436-730-3

*cite book
last = Huston
first = James A.
title = Out Of The Blue – U.S Army Airborne Operations In World War II
publisher = Purdue University Press
date = 1998
isbn = 1-55753-148-X

*cite book
last = Skate
first = John Ray
title = The Invasion of Japan: Alternative to the Bomb
publisher = University of South Carolina Press
date = 1994
isbn = 1-57003-354-4

*cite book
last = Tugwell
first = Maurice
title = Assault From The Sky – The History of Airborne Warfare
publisher = Westbridge Books
date = 1978
isbn = 0-71539-204-2

*cite book
last = Weeks
first = John
title = Airborne To Battle – A History Of Airborne Warfare 1918–1971
publisher = William Kimber & Co Ltd
date = 1971
isbn = 0-71830-262-1

External links

*cite web
last =Murray
first =Williamson
title =Airborne Operations During World War II
publisher ="World War II" magazine
url =http://www.historynet.com/airborne-operations-during-world-war-ii.htm/
accessdate = 2008-04-28

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