Attached Units - The U.S. Airborne during World War II Reserve Units
541st Parachute Infantry Regiment
he 541st Parachute Infantry Regiment was activated on August 12, 1943 at Fort Benning, Georgia under the command of Colonel Ducat M. McEntee. Because it was comprised of men whose scores on the Army's Intelligence tests were exceptionally high, the 541st PIR became one of the best-trained and disciplined regiments in the U.S. Army.
The regiment was kept in strategic reserve in the Untied States. Although the member of the regiment were highly motivated it was never involved in combat action. However, in July, 1945 the 541st was ordered to Manila but was immediately disbanded upon it's arrival. It's troopers were eventually absorbed into the 11th Airborne Division, which was preparing for the invasion of the
542nd Parachute Infantry Regiment
n September 1, 1943 the 542nd Parachute Infantry Regiment was activated at Fort Benning, Georgia under the command of Colonel William T. Ryder who was fresh from a tour of combat duty with the 82nd Airborne Division. Colonel Ryder also served as a lieutenant in command of the original Parachute Test Platoon. He later served as the airborne advisor to General MacArthur.
On March 17, 1944 the Regiment was deactivated. Two battalions of the original 542nd were used to provide replacements for units in the European Theater and the third battalion became the 542nd Parachute Battalion. The 542nd Parachute Infantry Battalion was formed on March 17, 1944 and remained at Fort Benning until 1 July 1944 when it was relocated to Camp Mackall, North Carolina. The unit was then attached to the Airborne Center Command Headquarters, remaining in this assignment for one year.
Since the 542nd PIR never fielded more than two battalions it was considered a regiment in name only. It main function was to provide replacement troops to the parachute infantry units overseas. It was finally deactivated on July 1, 1945 at Camp Mackall.
On 1 July 1945 the unit was re-designated The Airborne Center Training Detachment, and was reorganized by the removal of two line companies and most of the men were transferred to I Company. G Company & H Companies also underwent reorganization were replaced by a Glider Company and a battery from the 467th Airborne Field Artillery.
During the life span of the 542nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, the 542nd Parachute Infantry Battalion and the Airborne Center Training Detachment furnished several thousand badly needed, highly trained paratroopers and glidermen that served in units fighting overseas. The Battalion provided the Airborne Center with airborne equipment testing and development, Airborne Firepower and Operations Demonstration Teams, "War Bond" sales promotion teams and Army Air Corps Troop Carrier Schools.
he 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion was activated as a result of
a recommendation made in December 1942 by the Advisory Committee on Negro
Troop Policies, chaired by the Assistant Secretary of War, John J. McCloy.
In approving the committee's recommendation for a black parachute battalion,
Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall decided to start with a company,
and on 25 February 1943 the 555th Parachute Infantry Company was constituted
(placed on the rolls of the Army).
On 19 December 1943, Headquarters, Army Ground Forces, authorized the
activation of the company as an all-black unit with black officers as well
as black enlisted men. All unit members were to be volunteers, with an
enlisted cadre to be selected from personnel of the 92d Infantry Division
at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. The company was officially activated on 30 December
1943 at Fort Benning, Georgia. After several months of training, the unit
moved to Camp Mackall, North Carolina, where it was reorganized and redesignated
on 25 November 1944 as Company A of the newly-activated 555th Parachute
Infantry Battalion.(picture above right: Captain James Porter)
The battalion did not serve overseas during World War II. However, in
May 1945 it was sent to the west coast of the United States to combat forest
fires ignited by Japanese balloons carrying incendiary bombs. Although
this potentially serious threat did not materialize, the 555th fought numerous
other forest fires. Stationed at Pendleton Field, Oregon, with a detachment
in Chico, California, unit members courageously participated in dangerous
fire-fighting missions throughout the Pacific Northwest during the summer
and fall of 1945, earning the nickname "Smoke Jumpers" in addition
to "Triple Nickles."
Soon after returning to Camp Mackall in October 1945, the 555th Parachute
Infantry Battalion was transferred to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, its home
for the next two years. During this period the unit was attached to the
elite 82d Airborne Division. When the battalion was inactivated on 15 December
1947, most of its personnel were reassigned to the division's organic 3d
Battalion, 505th Airborne Infantry. On 22 August 1950 the 555th Parachute
Infantry Battalion was disbanded (removed from the rolls of the Army).