The 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment was activated during World War II on 20 October 1942 at Camp Blanding, Florida. Lieutenant Colonel Roy E. Lindquist formed the unit and remained its commander throughout the war.
After extensive training and maneuvers the 508th embarked on 19 December 1943 in New York City, New York and sailed on 28 December 1943 for Belfast, Northern Ireland, arriving there on 8 January 1944. After additional training at Cromore Estate in Portstewart, the regiment was moved by ship to Glasgow in Scotland and by train on 13 March 1944 to Wollaton Park in Nottinghamshire, England, where they became part of the veteran 82nd "All American" Airborne Division, commanded by Major General Matthew Ridgway, which had seen distinguished service in Sicily and Italy. A sister unit, the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment (later to become attached to the 17th Airborne Division), who were part of the 2nd Airborne Brigade with the 508th, were camped less than ten miles away at a former country hotel called Tollerton Hall, Nottinghamshire. During training in England Brigadier General James M. Gavin, the Assistant Division Commander (ADC), was particularly impressed with the regiment, noting that the 508th "looks as good as any new outfit that I have ever seen, if they cannot do it it cannot be done by green troops."
The 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment participated in Operation Overlord, jumping into Normandy 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 Parachute Infantry, of Major General Maxwell Taylor's 101st Airborne Division. Like most paratroop units involved in Overlord, the 508th were dropped in the wrong locations and had extraordinary difficulty linking up with each other. During the assault on June 6, a platoon leader of the 508th, First Lieutenant Robert Mathias, of Company E of the 2nd Battalion, was the first American officer killed by German fire on D-Day.
Portions of the 508th regrouped and remained in contact with German forces until relieved on 7 July when they became the divisional reserve force. On 13 July, they were transported back to England in two LSTs and returned to their station at Wollaton Park. Of the 2,056 paratroopers of the regiment who participated in the D-Day landings, only 995 returned. The 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment had, by this time, suffered 1,061 casualties, out of an initial strength on D-Day of 2,056. 307 had paid the ultimate price, including the Commanding Officer (CO) of the 1st Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Herbert F. Batchellor, the highest-ranking officer to lose his life in the regiment.
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:
After their success in Normandy, the 508th PIR 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 Dal 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. After being relieved in the Netherlands, they continued fighting the Germans in the longest-running battle on German soil ever fought by the U.S. Army, then crossing the border into Belgium.
The 508th later played a major part in the Battle of the Bulge in late December 1944, during which they screened the withdrawal of some 20,000 troops from St. Vith and defended their positions against the German Panzer divisions. They also participated in the assault led by the 2nd Ranger Battalion to capture (successfully) Hill 400. The regiment saw little further service in the war and in April 1945 were detached from command of the 82nd Airborne Division, coming under direct control of the First Allied Airborne Army. Lindquist, now a full colonel, relinquished command of the regiment to Lieutenant Colonel Otho Holmes in December, 1945. The 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment returned to the United States soon after, settling at Camp Milner, New Jersey and was inactivated on 25 November 1946.
The following awards were received by individuals.Medal of Honor:1 (First Sergeant Leonard A. Funk, Jr.)
Distinguished Service Cross:14
Legion of Merit:3
The 508th was reactivated as the separate 508th Airborne Regimental Combat Team 1951 at 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 as a combat unit.
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 82d Airborne Division, the former Company A, 508th PIR was reorganized and re-designated as HHC, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 508th Infantry, an element of the 3d Brigade. The former Company B, 508th PIR was reactivated as HHC, 2d Battalion (Airborne), 508th Infantry, part of the 1st Brigade. The 1st and 2d 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 3d 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 Huế and the Tet counteroffensives. It was later awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. 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 193d 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 3d Battalion, 5th Infantry.
In 1983 both battalions served in the Operation Urgent Fury with the invasion of Grenada.
The colors of 1st Battalion, 508th and 2d 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 2d, 1st and 3d Brigades, respectively.
The 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry was activated as part of the 193rd Infantry Brigade from 1987 to 1995 at Fort Kobbe, Panama. The 1st Battalion fought during Operation Just Cause, the invasion of Panama. It was inactivated with the parent 193rd Infantry Brigade as US forces departed Panama in 1995.
During Operation Just Cause, HHC, A Company, and B Company, were assigned to secure and hold Fort Amador. Company C was given a separate assignment, to secure and hold La Commandancia alongside elements of the 75th Ranger Regiment. During the battle for La Commandancia, Company C incurred the only battalion's only Killed in Action (KIA) for the battalion: Private First Class Vance Coats and Sergeant Mike DeBlois.
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 June 2000 to become the reactivated 173rd Airborne Brigade. The battalion had elements training all over Europe and participated in the Kosovo peacekeeping mission from 1996 to 2006.
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.
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 (the 4th 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, and 2-508 was sent to replace 1-17th Infantry Regiment / 5th SBCT/ 2ID in the Argahndab River Valley. Each company from 2-508 was then replaced by battalions from the 101st Airborne division, due to the outnumbered paratroopers in the birthplace of the Taliban. The Brigade returned to RC South (Zharay and Maywand) in 2012.
As part of Army-wide reductions and reorganizations, the 4th BCT was inactivated on 16 May 2014. The brigade's two infantry battalions, 1-508 PIR and 2-508 PIR were reassigned to the 82nd's 3rd BCT and 2nd BCT, respectively.Constituted 6 October 1942 in the Army of the United States as the 508th Parachute Infantry
Activated 20 October 1942 at Camp Blanding, Florida
Inactivated 25 November 1946 at Camp Killmer, New Jersey
Redesignated 16 April 1951 as the 508th Airborne Infantry; concurrently allotted to the Regular Army and activated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Inactivated 22 March 1957 at Fort Campbell, Kentucky
Redesignated 15 July 1962 as 508th Infantry, a parent regiment under the Combat Arms Regimental System
Withdrawn 10 July 1987 from the Combat Arms Regimental System and reorganized under the United States Army Regimental System
Redesignated 1 October 2005 as the 508th Infantry Regiment
World War II: Normandy (with arrowhead); Rhineland (with arrowhead); Ardennes-Alsace; Central Europ
Vietnam: Tet Counteroffensive; Counteroffensive, Phase IV; Counteroffensive, Phase V; Counteroffensive, Phase VI; Tet 69/Counteroffensive; Summer-Fall 1969; Winter-Spring 1970
Armed Forces Expeditions: Dominican Republic; Grenada; Panama (with arrowhead)
War on Terrorism:
Afghanistan: Consolidation II; Consolidation III
Iraq: Liberation of Iraq (with arrowhead); Transition of Iraq
Presidential Unit Citation (Army), Streamer embroidered COTENTIN PENINSULA
Valorous Unit Award, Streamer embroidered HUE AND SAIGON
Valorous Unit Award, Streamer embroidered GHAZNI AND WARDAK PROVINCES 2007-2008
Valorous Unit Award, Streamer embroidered ZABUL AND KANDAHAR PROVINCES 2009-2010
Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army), Streamer embroidered IRAQ 2003
Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army), Streamer embroidered AFGHANISTAN 2013-2014
Army Superior Unit Award, Streamer embroidered 1990
French Croix de Guerre with Palm, World War II, Streamer embroidered STE. MERE EGLISE
French Croix de Guerre with Palm, World War II, Streamer embroidered COTENTIN
French Croix de Guerre, World War II, Fourragere
Military Order of William (Degree of the Knight of the Fourth Class), Streamer embroidered NIJMEGEN 1944
Netherlands Orange Lanyard
Belgian Fourragere 1940
Cited in the Order of the Day of the Belgian Army for action in the Ardennes
Cited in the Order of the Day of the Belgian Army for action in Belgium and Germany
Cited in the Order of the Day of the Belgian Army for action at St. Vith