Majority of information courtesy of the Saving Private Ryan wiki
The 101st Airborne Division — the "Screaming Eagles"— is a U.S. Army modular infantry division trained for air assault operations. During World War II, it was renowned for action during the Normandy Landings, Operation Market Garden, and in the Battle of the Bulge. During the Vietnam War, the 101st Airborne Division was redesignated first an airmobile division, then later as an air assault division. For historical reasons, it retains the "Airborne" tab identifier, yet does not conduct parachute operations at a division level. Many modern members of the 101st are graduates of the US. Army Air Assault School, and wear the Air Assault Badge, but it is not a prerequisite for assignment to the division. The division's headquarters are at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is the only U.S. Army division with two aviation brigades.
World War II
The division was activated on 15 August 1942 in the morning at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. On 19 August 1942, its first commander, Major General William C. Lee, promised his new recruits that the 101st had "no history but had a rendezvous with destiny."
General Order Number Five, which gave birth to the division, reads:
The 101st Airborne Division, activated at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, has no history, but it has a rendezvous with destiny. Like the early American pioneers whose invincible courage was the foundation stone of this nation, we have broken with the past and its traditions in order to establish our claim to the future.
Due to the nature of our armament, and the tactics in which we shall perfect ourselves, we shall be called upon to carry out operations of far-reaching military importance and we shall habitually go into action when the need is immediate and extreme.
Let me call your attention to the fact that our badge is the great American eagle. This is a fitting emblem for a division that will crush its enemies by falling upon them like a thunderbolt from the skies.
The history we shall make, the record of high achievement we hope to write in the annals of the American Army and the American people, depends wholly and completely on the men of this division. Each individual, each officer and each enlisted man, must therefore regard himself as a necessary part of a complex and powerful instrument for the overcoming of the enemies of the nation. Each, in his own job, must realize that he is not only a means, but an indispensable means for obtaining the goal of victory. It is, therefore, not too much to say that the future itself, in whose molding we expect to have our share, is in the hands of the soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division.
The 101st Airborne Division was activated on August 16, 1942, at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, and was put under the command of Major General William C. Lee. It was made up of the 501st PIR, the 502nd PIR, and the 506th PIR.
After all its regiments were ready, it headed to RAF North Witham, England, to await its mission known as D-day. Around that time, Lee fell ill, and command was passed on to Major General Maxwell D. Taylor.
It dropped its units at Utah Beach in Normandy, France, as part of Operation Overlord on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The majority of the division got scattered all over Normandy, and hardly anyone hit their DZ.
Lt Col. Steve A. Chappuis, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 502nd PIR, and his stick were the only ones that landed in their group's DZ. He helped capture the coastal German artillery battery at Utah Beach, but the battery was already dismantled.
Lt Col. Patrick F. Cassidy, Commander of the 1st Battalion, 502nd, was able to capture Saint-Martin-de-Varreville, and set up a defense from Foucarville, to Beuzeville. Another part of the battalion was able to capture Saint-Germain-de-Varreville, and grouped with Cassidy's men. Cassidy sent staff sergeant Harrison C. Summers to lead a group of men to take out a group of Germans at the "WXYZ" designation. Summers, with the help of private Camien, was able to kill all 30 Germans. They didn't know what was coming for them.
A company in the 506th known as Easy Company helped destroy a German artillery battery at Brécourt Manor, so division could head on deeper into Normandy. The 506th also captured Carentan.
It eventually left for England around July. It was then put into the XVII Airborne Corps, in the 1st Allied Airborne Army. They liked to cuss a lot because of the pain. No one knew what has happened only the people that was there know.
During World War II, the Pathfinders of the 101st Airborne Division led the way on D-Day in the night drop prior to the invasion. They left from RAF North Witham having trained there with the 82nd Airborne Division.
On 25 August 1944, the division became part of the XVIII Airborne Corps in the First Allied Airborne Army. As part of this formation, the division took part in Operation Market Garden.
During the Battle of the Bulge the 101st, as one of the few forces available to contain the German advance was rushed forward by truck to defend the vital road junction of Bastogne. Famously, Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe answered the German demand for surrender with the reply "To the German Commander: NUTS! -The American Commander" and the division fought on until the siege was lifted and the German advance halted.
On 1 August 1945, the 101st Airborne Division left Germany for Auxerre, France, to begin training for the invasion of Japan. When Japan surrendered two weeks later, the operation became unnecessary. The 101st deactivated on 30 November at Auxerre.
For their efforts during World War II, the 101st Airborne Division was awarded four campaign streamers and two Presidential Unit Citations. The division suffered 1,766 Killed In Action; 6,388 Wounded In Action; 324 Died of Wounds during World War II.
- Division Headquarters
- 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, attached 1st May 1944 – past 9 May 1945.
- 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment.
- 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, assigned 1st March 1945, previously attached 15 September 1943 - 1 March 1945.
- 327th Glider Infantry Regiment.
- 401st Glider Infantry Regiment disbanded 1st of March 1945 in France; assets to 327th GIR.
- HHB, Division Artillery
- 321st Glider Field Artillery Battalion (75mm)
- 463d Parachute Field Artillery Battalion (75mm)
- 907th Glider Field Artillery Battalion (75mm)
- 377th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion (75mm)
- 81st Airborne Antiaircraft Battalion
- 326th Airborne Engineer Battalion
- 326th Airborne Medical Company
- 101st Parachute Maintenance Company
- 101st Signal Company
- 101st Counter Intelligence Corps Detachment
- Headquarters, Special Troops
- 801st Airborne Ordnance Maintenance Company
- 426th Airborne Quartermaster Company
- Headquarters Company, 101st Airborne Division
- Military Police Platoon
- Reconnaissance Platoon
- Band (assigned on 1 Mar 45 reorganization)
Source: Order of Battle: U.S. Army World War II by Shelby Stanton, Presidio Press, 1984.
The 101st is distinctive partly by their helmet decorations. The soldiers used the card suits diamonds, spades, hearts, and clubs to indicate the regiment to which they belonged. The only exception being the 187th, who were added to the division later.
- These insignias were first seen in World War II, and can still be seen on 101st Division soldiers today.
- 327th: Clubs (♣) (Currently worn by the 1st Brigade Combat Team)
- 501st: Diamonds (♦) (Currently 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment is part of the 4th Brigade (ABN), 25th Infantry Division in Alaska.) The Diamond is still worn by members of the 501st in Alaska and is concurrently used by the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade.
- 502nd: Hearts (♥) (Currently worn by the 2d Brigade Combat Team)
- 506th: Spades (♠) (Currently worn by the 4th Brigade Combat Team)
- 187th: Tori (Currently worn by the 3d Brigade Combat Team; not during World War II, when the 187th Infantry Regiment was part of the 11th Airborne Division.)
The 101st Airborne Division was reactivated as a training unit at Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky, in 1948 and again in 1950. It was reactivated again in 1954 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and in March 1956, the 101st was transferred, less personnel and equipment, to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to be reorganized as a combat division. The 101st was reactivated as a "pentomic" division with five battle groups in place of its World War II structure that featured regiments and battalions. The reorganization was in place by late April 1957 and the division's battle groups were:
- 2nd Airborne Battle Group, 187th Infantry
- 1st Airborne Battle Group, 327th Infantry
- 1st Airborne Battle Group, 501st Infantry
- 1st Airborne Battle Group, 502nd Infantry
- 1st Airborne Battle Group, 506th Infantry
Division artillery consisted of the following units:
- Battery D, 319th Artillery (Abn)
- Battery E, 319th Artillery (Abn)
- Battery A, 321st Artillery (Abn)
- Battery B, 321st Artillery (Abn)
- Battery C, 321st Artillery (Abn)
- Battery A, 377th Artillery (Abn)
Other supporting units were also assigned.
From September through November 1957 elements of the division's 1st Airborne Battle Group, 327th Infantry (bearing the lineage of the old Company A, 327th Glider Infantry Regiment) were deployed to Little Rock, Arkansas, by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to enforce Federal court orders during the Little Rock Crisis.
The division wasn't activated for the Korean War, but it fought in most of the rest of American wars such as the Vietnam War, Gulf War, Iraq War, and is currently fighting in Operation Enduring Freedom, part of the War in Afghanistan.