It was during World War I that military strategists and leaders proposed using parachutes to drop soldiers behind enemy lines. But it never really happened during that war but the idea was in development by several countries.
It was Italy who made the first paratroop drop in 1927. Soon after, other countries began testing and preparing combat parachute actions before the next war.
Italy showed up again in 1943 when soldiers made combat jumps into North Africa with a mission to destroy U.S. aircraft.
At this point, nearly every country with military forces began experimenting and using paratroopers.
While not used to the scale it once was, the United States Army still integrates airborne operations into their strategies. And when soldiers are dropped on any particular mission where they will potentially face an enemy, it is considered an Army combat jump.
I have done some extensive research and here are 7 amazing facts on the Army combat jump.
#1: Since Vietnam
I have taken a look at documented combat jumps since the Vietnam War. For those of you who may not think the military uses airborne combat jumps in modern military systems, I believe you will be surprised…
Grenada – 1983 – Operation Urgent Fury
- A HALO jump to set up aircraft guidance systems that included these units: Long Range Surveillance Detachment, 75th Infantry Regiment; TACP, and 14th Air Support Operations Squadron
- SEAL team static line jump into water
- A daytime tactical personnel jump with these units: 1st and 2nd Battalions, 75th Infantry Regiment; 618th Engineer Company, 307th Engineer Battalion
Panama – 1989 – Operation Just Cause
- Nighttime tactical static line jump that included personnel and heavy equipment. It included these units: Task Force Red: Elements, 75th Ranger Regiment; Division Ready Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division
- Nighttime tactical static line jump with these units: Task Force Pacific: Elements, 75th Ranger Regiment; 1st Brigade Task Force, 82nd Airborne Division: 1-504th Infantry; 1-505th Infantry; 2-504th Infantry; C/4-325th Infantry; A/3-505th Infantry; 3-73rd Armor; 82nd Military Police Company
Iraq – 1991 – Operation Desert Storm
- HALO jump by U.S. Army Special Forces
Afghanistan – 2001 to 2003 – Operation Enduring Freedom
- 1st – Units: Det, HHC, 75th Ranger Regiment; HHC, A, and C Companies, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment
- 2nd – Units: Det, B Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment
- 3rd – Units: HHC, A, and C Companies, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment; Det, B/3-504th Infantry
Iraq – 2003 – Operation Iraqi Freedom
- 1st – Units: Task Force Viking / Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – North: Det, 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group; HHC, 173rd Airborne Brigade; Det, 74th Infantry Platoon; 173rd Support Company, 250th Medical Detachment, D-319th Field Artillery; 501st Support Company; 2-503rd Infantry; 1-508th Infantry; 4th Air Support Operations Squadron; 86th Contingency Response Group
- 2nd – Units: Det, HHC, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment; C Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment; Det, 24th Special Tactics Squadron
- 3rd – Units: Det, HHC, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment; A Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment; Det, 27th Engineer Battalion; Det, 24th Special Tactics Squadron
Afghanistan – 2004 – Enduring Freedom
- HALO jump – Team 3, Regimental Reconnaissance Detachment, HHC, 75th Ranger Regiment
#2: First Combat Jump In Vietnam
It was February of 1967 and those who were there said it was an unbelievable sight. The 173d Airborne Brigade jumped behind enemy lines in Vietnam near the Cambodian border.
It was called the Junction City combat jump and dropped well over 800 soldiers as well as equipment and supplies.
The operation to destroy Viet Cong propaganda offices and sites was considered a huge success. Nearly 300 Viet Cong were killed.
#3: First United States Combat Jump
It was November of 1942 during Operation Torch in North Africa. Planes flew all the way from Britain carrying over 500 soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment. The jump was full of errors from navigation, bad weather and communication. Troops were scattered all over but lessons were learned.
#4: The Largest In History
The largest combat jump in history consisted of both British and American paratroopers. It was 1945 and Hitler and his Nazis had to be stopped.
Called Operation Varsity, on March 24th, 1945, over 16,000 paratroopers jumped in scattered formations around Wesel, Germany.
Involved was the British 6th and the United States 17th Airborne Divisions. While considered a success, over 2,500 paratroopers were killed.
Other posts you may enjoy:
- Army Jump Master: 10 Things You Should Know
- National Guard Combat Medic: 14 Things You Should Know
- The Top 20 Army Airborne Soldiers of All Time
- Military Free-fall (HALO) Parachutist Badge: 10 Cool Facts
- Fort Benning, Georgia: 20 Cool Facts
#5: The 1st Combat Drop Proposal
Lewis H. Brereton was an officer on the staff of General Billy Mitchell. Brereton proposed dropping the U.S. 1st Infantry Division on the German controlled city of Metz during World War I. Mitchell loved the idea but General Pershing put it on a shelf.
#6: Jumping With All That Equipment
In most circumstances, the ammunition is dropped alone. But much of the other equipment must come down with each paratrooper.
Systematically, rifles, mortars, and other equipment needed to battle are strapped to the soldier. In some cases, the equipment can weigh so much, the soldier can barely walk and must be shoved out the plane door.
The rucksack hooked in front of the soldier is lowered down by the paratrooper as he/she descends so that it hits the ground first.
#7: How To Know A Soldier Made A Combat Jump
All soldiers who have completed Airborne training are awarded a Parachutist Badge. If you look closely at the badge and there is at least 1 bronze star, that soldier has made a combat jump. If that soldier has made 5 or more combat jumps, they will have a larger gold star.
Are you Airborne qualified? Have you made a combat jump?
Here is a downloadable PDF of Military Operational Parachute Jumps. I thought you may enjoy this extensive list that can show you just how important the parachute is in military operations.
Please post any and all comments below and thank you for stopping by.
About The Author
Greg Boudonck is a full time freelance writer and the author of over 50 books. He served in the United States Army in the early 1980’s and enjoys writing about military subjects. You can see Greg’s books on Amazon by searching his name and you can also visit his website at Lancerlife.com.