The 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army is probably one of the most recognized divisions. While many people have heard about this Division via news stories or through word of mouth, there are many facts they do not know.
Top 25 Facts About the 101st Airborne Division
These facts are listed in no particular order. At the end of this post, leave a comment to tell us which fact you enjoyed the most.
1: The Beginning
The roots of the 101st Airborne Division goes all the way back to 1918 and World War I. The 101st Division was organized in November of 1918 at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. Approximately 1 month later, the 101st Division was demobilized because World War I ended.
In September of 1921, the 101st Division was deemed an Organized Reserve Unit. The Headquarters were in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was during this time that the 101st adopted the Screaming Eagle which was a tradition with the Wisconsin Volunteers during the Civil War.
3: Airborne and World War II
In August of 1942, several huge changes came. The 101st Division of Reserves was disbanded. The very next day at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, the 101st Airborne Division became a reality. Major General William Lee was the first Commander and he exclaimed:
“The 101st Airborne Division has no history, but it has a rendezvous with destiny. 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.”
4: 1st On D-Day
The first soldiers to perform actions in regards to D-Day were the Pathfinders of the 101st Airborne Division. They parachuted in the night before to lead the way for D-Day.
5: D-Day Drop Zones
The 101st had a total of 3 Drop Zones for D-Day. They were:
- Drop Zone Able. The first “stick” that dropped here left in an organized fashion, but ended up landing in the wrong drop zone except the Commander, Lieutenant Steve Chappuis who landed correctly. Other sticks also were disorganized, but they organized on the ground. Artillery that was parachuted all landed approximately 20 miles away except 1 howitzer.
- Drop Zone Charlie. This wave was under intense anti-aircraft fire, but the majority of sticks jumped on or near their drop zones. Overall, this drop was successful except for the damage to aircraft and lost pilots.
- Drop Zone Dog. Very similar to Charlie, these planes had to deal with anti-aircraft fire, but same as Charlie, the majority of drops were quite successful.
6: Operation Market Garden
The 101st Airborne Division took part in Operation Market Garden during World War II. In many ways, this Operation was a failure. The idea was to capture a vast amount of bridges to halt movement by German forces. At first the 101st had success, but some bridges gave them problems and German resistance was overwhelming.
7: World War II Stats And Awards For The 101st.
For their actions during World War II, the 101st Airborne Division received 4 Campaign Streamers and 2 Presidential Unit Citations. The loss stats were:
- 1,766 soldiers killed in action.
- 6,388 soldiers wounded in action with 324 dying as a result of wounds.
In August of 1945, many members of the 101st were training and preparing for possible movement to the Pacific action, but the War ended. On November 30th, 1945, the 101st was inactivated.
9: Helmet Insignia
The 101st came up with a unique way to distinguish which regiment a soldier belonged with. They were the suits in a deck of cards. This started in World War II and is still used.
- Spades: In WWII, this was used by the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. It is now used by the 4th Brigade Combat Team.
- Clubs: In WWII, clubs was used by the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment. It is now used by the 1st Brigade Combat Team.
- Hearts: In WWII, hearts was used by the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment. It is now used by the 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
- Diamonds: In WWII, this was used by the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment. It is now used by both the 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment and the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade.
Also added was the Torii for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team.
10: Training Unit
From 1948 to 1953, the 101st was utilized as a training unit at Camp Breckenridge, Kentucky. It was inactivated in 1953, but was reactivated as a combat unit in Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
In September of 1957, President Eisenhower ordered elements of the 101st to travel to Little Rock, Arkansas. Their mission was to be escorts to 9 African American children who wanted to go to school. The 101st had a mission in the Civil Rights movement and the Little Rock Nine.
In 1965, the 1st Brigade of the 101st was deployed to Vietnam. In 1967, the rest of the Division was sent to the Vietnam jungles.
In 1967, with Vietnam raging in war, the city of Detroit, Michigan had one of the worst riots in American history. Members of the 101st were sent to Detroit to help stop the violence occurring there.
14: Firebase Ripcord
In 1970, the 3rd Brigade of the 101st were given the mission of rebuilding the abandoned Fire Support Base Ripcord. During this mission, the North Vietnamese were watching. All of a sudden, the North Vietnamese launched a huge attack. For 23 days, there was a major battle. 75 of the American soldiers were killed.
After Vietnam, the 101st was reorganized and rebuilt. It took on an air-mobile division structure. The Army use personnel and equipment from the disbanded 173rd Airborne Brigade. Only 1 Brigade and support was on jump status. The other 2 Brigades were air-mobile.
16: Plane Crash
In 1985, elements of the 101st were involved in peacekeeping duties on the Sinai Peninsula. Coming home to Kentucky, the civilian aircraft they were on crashed near Newfoundland. A total of 248 service members died in the crash. President Ronald Reagan traveled to Fort Campbell to comfort families of the deceased.
17: Gulf War
In 1991, the 101st was ordered into the 100 hour war. Not one member was killed, while they captured many prisoners of war. It was a great success for the Screaming Eagles.
18: Firefighters Too
The State of Montana had serious fires spreading in 2000. Members of the 3rd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment of the 101st traveled to Montana and worked as firefighters.
19: 1st In Operation Enduring Freedom
Elements of the 101st were the first to enter Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom. The 101st has been operating in Afghanistan since 2001.
20: Iraqi Freedom
In 2003, a man I have much respect for…Major General David Petraeus operating as Eagle 6, led the Screaming Eagles into War in Iraq. These were his words:
“Guidons, Guidons. This is Eagle 6. The 101st Airborne Division’s next Rendezvous with Destiny is North to Baghdad. Op-Ord Desert Eagle 2 is now in effect. Godspeed. Air Assault. Out.”
In 2014, the Ebola was spreading all throughout West Africa. In a whole new danger, the 101st was sent to help contain the disease.
The 101st has a plethora of Campaign Credits. Consider:
- World War I-3
- World War II-4
- Vietnam War-15
- Southwest Asia-2
23: 101st Awards
Overall, the 101st Airborne Division has achieved many awards.
- 5 Presidential Unit Citations
- 5 Valorous Unit Awards
- 5 Meritorious Unit Commendations
- 1 French Croix de guerre with Palm
- 1 Belgian Croix de guerre 1940 with Palm
- 1 Belgian Fourragère 1944
- 4 Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm
- 2 Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Honor Medal
- 1 Navy/Marine Unit Commendation
- 1 Joint Meritorious Unit Commendation
24: Notable Members of the 101st
Here are some people who are well known who served with the 101st:
- John Block. Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture under President Reagan.
- Randy Couture. This MMA fighter served with the 101st in the early 1980’s.
- Jimi Hendrix. The great guitarist at one time served with the 101st. He completed jump school and then was released.
- Jorge Otero Barreto. He was known as the Puerto Rican Rambo. I wrote about him in my published book: Puertorriqueños Who Served With Guts, Glory and Honor.
- Jack Warden. This great actor served with the 101st in World War II.
There were many more…these are just a few.
25: Medal of Honor Awards
There have been a large amount of MOH winners from the 101st in Vietnam. They are:
- 1st Lt James Gardner-Vietnam
- Spec 4 Dale Wayrynen-Vietnam
- SFC Webster Anderson-Vietnam
- SS Joe Hooper-Vietnam
- SS Clifford Sims-Vietnam
- Captain Paul Bucha-Vietnam
- PFC Milton Lee-Vietnam
- Sgt Robert Patterson-Vietnam
- Spec 4 Peter Guenette-Vietnam
- Spec 4 Frank Herda-Vietnam
- Spec 4 Joseph LaPointe Jr-Vietnam
- Sgt Gordon Roberts-Vietnam
- SS John Gertsch-Vietnam
- PFC Kenneth Kays-Vietnam
- Lt Colonel Andre Lucas-Vietnam
- Corp Frank Fratellenico-Vietnam
- Spec 4 Michael Fitzmaurice-Vietnam
The 101st Airborne Division has, and is an important part of the United States Army. We would like to hear from anyone who is, or has served as a Screaming Eagle. We want to thank all members of the 101st for service you have rendered in defense of the United States of America.