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US Airborne Formations 1942-45  


US Airborne Formations 1942 – 1945


The 82nd Infantry Division had recently completed its basic unit training and had begun conversion to a motorised Division in July 1942.  It was soon decided that it would be split and used to form two Airborne Divisions.

On 15th August 1942 the 82nd split to form the first two Airborne Divisions, the 82nd Airborne “All American” and the 101st Airborne “The Screaming Eagles”.

82nd Airborne Division

After re-organisation and initial training, the 82nd Airborne Division departed the States in late April 1943 and arrived in French Morocco on 10th May.  Preparations began for Operation HUSKY, the invasion of Sicily.  The eventual combat jump in July 1943 proved a disaster, with most sticks miss-dropped by poorly trained transport crews.

After fighting as ground troops on Sicily, the 82nd moved back to North Africa then returned to Sicily and soon assaulted in to Italy at Salerno.  The 82nd shipped to England in February 1944 to prepare for the assault into Normandy on 6th June 1944.  The Division returned to England in July to prepare for the Market Garden operation and assault into the Nijmegen area in September 1944.  Committed to the Ardennes counter offensive in December, it fought there until February 1945, and in Germany from April until hostilities ended on 7th May 1945.

101st Airborne Division

The 101st Airborne Division departed Fort Bragg and arrived in England in September 1943.  The Division air assaulted into Normandy on 6th June 1944 and fought there until July when it returned to England.  The Division air assaulted into Eindhoven, Holland in September 1944, fighting there until November when it moved back to France.  Committed to the Ardennes counter offensive until December, the Division fought there and in Germany until February 1945 when it was relocated to France for re-organisation.  Sent into Germany at the end of March, the 101st fought there until hostilities ended on 7th May 1945.  It was planned to return the Division to the States for re-deployment to the Pacific as one of the two Airborne Divisions slated for the invasion of Japan.  Not required for this eventuality, it was then de-activated in France on 30th November 1945.
11th Airborne Division  

The 11th Airborne Division was activated at Camp Mackall NC on 25th February 1943.  It was the only Airborne Division to retain all its originally assigned Regiments and Field Artillery Battalions.  In January 1944 the Division moved to Camp Polk and arrived in New Guinea in May 1944, where it undertook extensive training, during which time the Parachute and Glider units within the Division cross-trained.

The Division was shipped to Leyte in November and fought there until January 1945.  On 3rd February 1945 elements of the Division conducted a combat jump at Taqaytay Ridge.  Operations shifted to Southern Luzon in late February, where the Division fought until July 1945.  On 23rd February 1945 elements of the Division jumped at Los Banos, in conjunction with a ground operation led by the Divisions Recon Platoon to undertake the most successful US POW occupation.

13th Airborne Division


The 13th Airborne Division was activated on 13th August 1943 at Fort Bragg NC, the 13th moved to Camp Mackall in January of the following year.  In January 1945 it departed the United States and arrived in France in February.  The Division was initially slated for the Rhine Crossing Airborne operation but lack of aircraft prevented its participation and it was destined to see no combat as a Division, being kept in Theatre Reserve. The 13th did serve a value role however, providing battle casualty replacements for the battered 17th, 82nd and 101st.  It returned to the States in August 1945 and, not needed in the Pacific, it was moved to Fort Bragg where it assumed the task of out-processing airborne personnel – a role originally planned for the 17th Airborne.

15th Airborne Division


The 15th Airborne was scheduled for activation in 1943, along with nine Infantry Divisions.  These proposed formations became known as ghost Divisions.  Five other Divisions – 6th, 9th, 18th, 21st and the 135th – were notionally to be activated to play their part in OPERATION FORTITUDE in 1944.  This was a deception plan to mislead the Germans into believing the Allies would land in the Pas de Calais rather than Normandy.


17th Airborne Division


The “Golden Talon” Division was activated at Camp Mackall on 15th April 1943.  In March of the following year the 17th moved to Camp Forrest, then in August 1944 it arrived in England where it trained extensively before being flown into France in December, where it engaged in ground combat until February 1945.

The entire Division air assaulted across the Rhine at Wesel during OPERATION VARSITY on 24th March 1945, and fought until the next month.  Fortunately, it was not required in the Pacific and returned to the States in September 1945 for de-activation.

1st Airborne Task Force


Formed in July 1944 for the invasion of Southern France, the 1st Airborne Task Force was assigned an odd collection of dissimilar Airborne units, including the 2nd British Independent Parachute Brigade and the First Special Service Force.  Code-named Rugby Force and organised into 5 combat teams, it air assaulted into the Argens Valley in the vicinity of Le Muy on 15th August.  The 1ATF fought to the Italian Border and was dissolved on 23rd November, with most of the units being attached to the XVIII Airborne Corps.

1st Parachute Infantry Brigade


The 1st Parachute Infantry Brigade was activated under the Airborne Command on 20th July 1942 at Fort Benning, to supervise the training of assigned units.  It was not intended as a tactical formation.  On 12th January 1943 it was re-designated the 1st Airborne Infantry Brigade.  On 27th January 1944 its units were assigned elsewhere and de-activated.


2nd Airborne Infantry Brigade


The 2nd Airborne Infantry Brigade was activated under Airborne Command on 30th June 1943, to exercise training control over the 501st and 508 PIR.  In January 1944 it moved to Northern Ireland and the two PIR’s were relieved and attached to the 101st and 82nd respectively.  The Brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company were attached to the 82nd Airborne Division and its personnel absorbed into the Division.  It was de-activated on 15th January 1945.

The First Allied Airborne Army (FAAA)


The FAAA was formed from the combined Airborne forces, a joint US/British Command, on 18 August 1944 at Ascot, England.  It was tasked with planning future airborne operations and unit training.  Under its Command Control were the US XVIII Airborne Corps and 1 x Troop Carrier Command.  It oversaw the Holland operation in September 1944.

The FAAA was also responsible for re-supplying the 101st Airborne during the Battle of the Bulge, moving the 17th Airborne from England to France and planning the Rhine Crossing.  On 20 May 1945 the FAAA was disbanded and the US element formed into the 1st Airborne army, which doubled as the Berlin District Headquarters.

The first Airborne Army was disbanded in December 1945.

XVIII Airborne Corps


The formation originally activated as 11 Armoured Corps on 17 January 1942 was re-designated XVIII Corps on 9th October 1943 and tasked with troop training.  Upon arrival in England it was re-designated XVIII Airborne Corps on 25 August 1944 and was placed under the control of the First Allied Airborne Army and given command over the 17th, 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, and later the 13th.

Additionally, it commanded nine Infantry and Armoured Divisions at different times.  All non-divisional Airborne units in Europe were attached to the Corps in Nov/Dec 1944.  The Corps were involved in the Holland operation in September 1944, followed by the Battle of the Bulge in December.  In March 1945 it launched the Rhine Crossing and fought through Northern Germany until VE Day.

The Corps returned to the States in July, where it was to prepare for the invasion of Japan but was de-activated on 15 October 1945.

Phantom Divisions


The purpose of Phantom Divisions were to make the Germans believe that there were additional divisions combat–ready in Britain.  They were to be worn by a limited number of troops in England with the hope that Axis agents would then report it to German intelligence.


There were also one Army, two Corps and fourteen non-airborne “Phantom” units.


From top left, 16th, 18th, 19th, 21st

and 135th Airborne Divsions (Phantom)