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509th Infantry Regiment (United States)

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1942–45 1947-present

United States Army

Two battalions

United States

Airborne forces

509th Infantry Regiment (United States)

Part of
Joint Readiness Training Center and 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division

The 509th Infantry Regiment is an airborne infantry regiment of the United States Army. Previously titled the 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment (509th PIR) was the first parachute infantry unit of the U.S. Army to make a combat jump during World War II. Currently its 1st and 3rd battalions are active. The 1st Battalion serves as the Opposing Force (OPFOR) at the Army's Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana. The 3rd Battalion is assigned to the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, at Fort Richardson, Alaska.



With the advent of World War II, the United States Armed Forces foresaw a need for highly mobile units that the Allies could quickly insert into the theater of battle. The 509th PIR was originally constituted on 14 March 1941 as the 504th Parachute Battalion and activated on 5 October 1941 at Fort Benning, Georgia. The 503rd and 504th Parachute Infantry Battalions were joined together to form the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment on 24 February 1942 at Fort Bragg, NC. The 504th PIB was reorganized and redesignated as the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, and its Companies A, B, and C were redesignated as Companies D, E, and F, respectively, of the 503rd PIR.

In June 1942, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Edson Duncan Raff, the 2nd Battalion, 503rd PIR was detached from the 503rd PIR and sailed to Scotland, becoming the first American parachute unit to go overseas in World War II. It was attached to the British 1st Airborne Division for training, which included mass tactical jumps from C-47 aircraft at 350 feet, extensive night training, and speed marching for 10 miles to and from the training area daily; and on one occasion, marching 32 miles in 11 hours. In summer 1942, Allied forces were completing the task of planning Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa, with the 2nd Battalion, 503rd PIR scheduled to take the lead and make the first combat jump.

Operation Torch was the first joint military action undertaken by the Allies in World War II. This was the springboard for the idea, formed by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, of attacking the "soft underbelly of Europe" before attempting a cross-channel attack from England onto mainland Europe. The main objective of Torch was to seize French Northwest Africa and, for political reasons, the Americans would lead operation. The airborne segment of the operation entailed flying 1,500 miles from England to seize two French airfields near Oran.

Just prior to Operation Torch, on 2 November 1942 the battalion was again redesignated, as the 2nd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment. On this momentous day, as C-47s flew over the English countryside, the 509th paratrooper was born.

World War II

The 2-509th PIR carried out the first American combat jump during the invasion of North Africa. The transport planes flew all the way from English airfields to the African coast. This first operation was unsuccessful, with 7 of its 39 C-47s widely scattered. Only 10 aircraft actually dropped their troops, while the others unloaded after 28 troop carriers, nearly out of fuel, landed on the Sebkra d'Oran, a dry lake near their target. The 509th marched overland to occupy its objective, and on 15 November 300 paratroopers successfully dropped on the Youks-les-Bains Airfield.

Forty-six Paratroopers from the 509th participated in the liberation of Ventotene, a small Italian island, on 9 September 1943. The German commander was tricked into surrendering to the weaker American force before realizing his mistake. An account of this is given in John Steinbeck's "Once There Was a War."

Later, the 509th PIR saw two more combat jumps in Italy and Southern France. After landing, they were often used as elite mountain infantry in the Italian mountains and French Alps. Corporal Paul B. Huff, a member of the 509th, was the first American paratrooper awarded the Medal of Honor on 29 February 1944 for action at Anzio, Italy.

On 10 December 1943 the battalion was redesignated as the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion.

During the Battle of the Bulge in late 1944, the 509th fought in Belgium to blunt the German attack. An account of this battle is described in the book "Bloody Clash at Sadzot." The war ended for the 509th at the end of January 1945 near St. Vith, Belgium, with only about 50 remaining unwounded of the original 700 who entered the battle. Effective 1 March 1945 the 509th PIB was disbanded, and the men left were used as replacements for the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division.

Post-World War II

After World War II, the colors of the 509th remained inactive until 1963, when Company A, 509th PIB was reactivated as HHC, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry, and Company B, 509th PIB was reactivated as HHC, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry.

Since 1958 the 8th Infantry Division in Germany had had an Airborne component consisting of the 1st Airborne Battle Group, 504th Infantry, and the 1st Airborne Battle Group, 505th Infantry, as well as other supporting elements on jump status. When the division reorganized from the Pentomic structure to the new structure using brigades and battalions, 1-504th and 1-505th were replaced by 1-509th and 2-509th, respectively. Located at Lee Barracks in Mainz-Gonsenheim, Germany, the two battalions formed the infantry component of the 1st Brigade (Airborne), 8th Infantry Division (Mechanized). Other units of the brigade included the 5th Battalion (Airborne), 81st Artillery; Troop A (Airborne), 3rd Squadron, 8th Cavalry; Company A (Airborne), 12th Engineer Battalion; and Company B (Airborne), 8th Medical Battalion.

In 1973, as the 1st Brigade's jump status was ending, a new unit with the designation of 3rd Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry (bearing the lineage of the World War II-era Company C, 509th PIB) was activated to form an Airborne Battalion Combat Team (ABCT) from elements of the existing airborne forces within the brigade. After a brief training period at Rhine Kaserne Barracks in West Germany, the unit moved to Vicenza, Italy, as a separate Airborne Battalion Combat Team. Commanded by LTC Ward M. Lehardy, it was composed of a Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC), a Combat Support Company (CSC), three Airborne Rifle Companies, and one 105 mm towed Field Artillery Battery. The colors of 1-509th and 2-509th were reflagged as 2-28th and 2-87th. Shortly after its arrival in Italy, the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry was reflagged as the 1st Battalion, 509th Infantry.

On 1 July 1975 the lineage of Co C, 509th PIB was again reactivated, this time at Fort Rucker, Alabama, as the separate Company C (Pathfinder), 509th Infantry. The company was created by reflagging the existing 5th Infantry Detachment (Pathfinder), which had served at the post since 24 June 1963. (A Pathfinder presence at Fort Rucker can be traced back to about 1960 with the activation of the Pathfinder Team, Company A, 2nd Battle Group, 31st Infantry, to support the Aviation Center.) Contrary to some erroneous accounts, Company C (Pathfinder) 509th Infantry was not created by transferring Company C, 1st Battalion, 509th Infantry from Italy to Fort Rucker; these companies were two separate units. There had already been a Pathfinder presence at Fort Rucker for 15 years. Even if the 5th Infantry Detachment (Pathfinder) had not already existed, the Army would not have reduced the strength of its forward-deployed Airborne Battalion Combat Team in Europe when sufficient manning was available in CONUS. Additionally, the organization and manning of an Airborne Rifle Company is different from that of an Airborne Pathfinder Company.

The size of C-509th varied depending upon funding and mission requirements. For example, documents on file at the United States Army Center of Military History in Washington, DC, indicate that when the company was activated in 1975 by replacing the 5th Infantry Detachment (Pathfinder), it was authorized 4 officers and 108 enlisted soldiers. Documents dated 22 September 1987 show the unit as still having 4 officers authorized but only 77 enlisted soldiers.

In 1983, 1-509th in Italy was reflagged as 4-325th to align it with elements of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg under an Army-wide combat arms battalion rotation program.

The lineage of 1-509th was reactivated provisionally in 1987 to serve as the OPFOR at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. The unit was activated at Little Rock Air Force Base in a formal ceremony on 21 May 1988. The unit was stationed at LRAFB because it provided modern quarters and facilities that Ft. Chaffee lacked, and it deployed on a per-rotation basis to Ft. Chaffee. The unit served and serves as the opposing force for American and Allied light infantry. In June 1993, 1-509th moved along with the Joint Readiness Training Center to Fort Polk, Louisiana. Since moving to Fort Polk, 1-509th Infantry has become an elite urban fighting training unit.

On 31 May 1993, the separate Company C (Pathfinder) 509th Infantry at Fort Rucker was reflagged as Company A (Pathfinder) 511th Infantry, reactivating the colors of a unit that had served with the long-inactive 11th Airborne Division and the short-lived (1963–65) 11th Air Assault Division (Test). The era of a Pathfinder unit at Fort Rucker ended on 31 October 1995 when A-511th was inactivated to meet budget cut ceilings.

In May 2004 Companies A and B, with attachments from Troop D of the 1st Battalion, 509th Infantry at Fort Polk deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II. In Iraq they conducted combat patrols in and around the Baghdad area. One member of Troop D received the Silver Star for Valor in combat. Companies A and B and attachments returned in March 2005. During the deployment, Troop D and HHC continued to support JRTC exercises.

Global War on Terror

In mid-2004, after nearly 60 years, 1-509th deployed to Iraq. Alpha and Bravo companies were deployed to the areas surrounding Baghdad.

With the expansion of the Airborne force in Alaska from a single battalion (1-501st) at Fort Richardson, Alaska to a brigade 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, the lineage of Company C, 509th PIB was again reactivated on 16 September 2005 as the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry, and assigned to the 4th BCT, 25th Infantry Division at Fort Richardson. The battalion deployed with the 4th BCT in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in October 2006. The following is a media release from 10 November 2007, covering the battalion's work during OIF:

In February 2009 the Geronimo battalion deployed as a part of the 4th BCT (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. A portion of the Valorous Unit Award citation is below.

For extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy. During the period 1 July 2009 to 30 November 2009, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3d Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment and its subordinate units displayed extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in the vicinity of East Paktika. The unit conducted a total of 302 combat patrols, and was responsible for 398 enemies killed, as well as the capture of 34 detainees. The company was also responsible for the safety of the populace of East Paktika during Afghan national elections. The unit’s unrelenting perseverance and coordination allowed the unit to advance the struggle against the Taliban and contribute to the political and economic growth and development of the region. Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3d Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment’s outstanding performance of duty is in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflects distinct credit upon the unit, the 25th Infantry Division, and the United States Army.

Significant events

  • Constituted 14 March 1941 in the Army of the United States as the 504th Parachute Infantry Battalion, consisting of HHC and Companies A, B & C.
  • Activated 5 October 1941 at Fort Benning, Georgia
  • Reorganized and redesignated 24 February 1942 as the 2d Battalion, 503d Parachute Infantry Regiment, consisting of HHC and Companies D, E, and F. Battalion Deployed detached from the Regiment to England.
  • 2/503 PIR arrived in England, and reorganized and redesignated 2 November 1942 as the 2d Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, consisting of HHC and Companies D, E, and F. Remainder of 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment proceeded to Pacific Theater and separate Lineage with new 2nd Battalion.
  • 2/509 PIR assaulted Oran and Youks-les-Bains Airfield in North Africa as part of Operation TORCH.
  • TORCH assignment terminated, and unit attached to the 82nd Airborne Division on 15 November 1942.
  • 2/509 PIR assaulted Sicily as part of Operation HUSKY on 9 July 1943.
  • 2/509 PIR assaulted Salerno. Italy on 9 September 1943 as part of Operation Avalanche.
  • 2/509 PIR parachuted onto Avellino on 14 September 1943. The unit was immediately engaged upon landing by German Forces, and was badly decimated. Unit was subsequently withdrawn from Combat, and temporarily assigned as Security for Headquarters, 5th U.S. Army
  • 2/509 PIR located at Venafro, Italy, and reorganized and redesignated 10 December 1943 as the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion, consisting of HHC and Companies A, B, and C.
  • Battalion arrived in France on 15 August 1944, for the start of Operation Dragoon.
  • Operation Dragoon finished successfully on 14 September 1944, and Battalion released for
  • 509 PIB engaged in Rhineland Campaign on 5 September 1944.
  • 509 PIB relieved from Rhineland Campaign, and assigned to the 101st Airborne Division on 18 November 1944.
  • 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion relieved From assignment to 101st Airborne Division 18 December 1944 and prepared for unit disbandment and personnel and equipment reassignment.
  • 509 PIB Disbanded 1 March 1945 in France, with personnel and equipment reassigned to the 82nd Airborne Division.
  • Unit Reconstituted 12 May 1947 in the Regular Army as the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion
  • Reorganized and redesignated 1 April 1963 as the 509th Infantry, a parent regiment under the Combat Arms Regimental System. 509th Infantry assigned to the 8th Infantry Division and was activated same date in Germany.
  • 3/509th Infantry organic elements constituted 15 January 1972
  • 3/509th Infantry activated 15 January 1973 in Germany
  • 2/509th Infantry and 3-509th Infantry inactivated 31 August 1973 in Germany and relieved from assignment to the 8th Infantry Division
  • 1/509th Infantry relieved 1 September 1973 from assignment to the 8th Infantry Division
  • Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry redesignated 1 July 1975 as Company C, 509th Infantry and activated at Fort Rucker, Alabama.
  • 1/509th Infantry inactivated 1 July 1983 in Italy.
  • 509th Infantry withdrawn 16 January 1986 from the Combat Arms Regimental System and reorganized under the United States Army Regimental System
  • Headquarters, 509th Infantry transferred 18 December 1987 to the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command, and activated at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas
  • C-509th Infantry transferred 2 October 1988 to the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command and reorganized at Fort Rucker, Alabama.
  • 509th Infantry transferred same date to the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command
  • 1-509th Infantry activated 21 May 1988 at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas
  • 1-509th Infantry inactivated 31 May 1993 at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, and Withdrawn from the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command.
  • C-509th Infantry inactivated same date at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and withdrawn form the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command
  • 1/509th Infantry activated 15 January 1994 at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
  • A CO and B CO 1-509th Infantry Deployed in June 2004 in support of OIF to Baghdad, Iraq. The two airborne infantry companies were attached to 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division. A CO was attached to 2-14 IN and B CO was attached to 4-31 IN. Both Companies returned from combat in March 2005.
  • C-509th Infantry redesignated 10 December 2004 as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry.
  • HHC, 3/509th Infantry Regiment assigned 16 September 2005 to the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, and activated at Fort Richardson, Alaska
  • September 2006: 3/509th IN (ABN) deploys in support of OIF
  • December 2007: 3/509th IN (ABN) returns from OIF deployment
  • February 2009: 3/509th IN (ABN) deploys in support of OEF
  • March 2010: 3/509th IN (ABN) returns from OEF deployment
  • December 2011: 3/509th IN (ABN) deploys in support of OEF
  • Companies C and E are activated on 12 September 2014 as part of 1st Battalion, 509th Infantry at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
  • Lineage

    509th Infantry Regiment [1]

  • 1st Battalion [2]
  • Official website:

  • 2d Battalion (Inactive)
  • 3d Battalion [3]
  • Campaign participation credit

  • World War II:
  • Algeria-French Morocco (with arrowhead);
  • Tunisia (with arrowhead);
  • Naples-Foggia (with arrowhead);
  • Anzio (with arrowhead);
  • Rome-Arno;
  • Southern France (with arrowhead);
  • Rhineland;
  • Ardennes-Alsace
  • Global War on Terror:
  • Operation Iraqi Freedom V
  • Operation Enduring Freedom X
  • Decorations

  • Presidential Unit Citation for LIEGE, BELGIUM
  • Presidential Unit Citation for CARANO, ITALY
  • Superior Unit Award for 1993–1994
  • Meritorious Unit Commendation for Operation Iraqi Freedom 2.5
  • Valorous Unit Award for Operation Iraqi Freedom 5
  • Valorous Unit Award for Operation Enduring Freedom X
  • French Croix de Guerre with Silver Star, World War II for MUY EN PROVENCE
  • 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 at ST. VITH
  • Personnel authorized to wear the insignia of the French 3d Zouaves Regiment
  • References

    509th Infantry Regiment (United States) Wikipedia

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