Colonel Edson D Raff
R E L A T E D
B I O S
Matthew B Ridgway
James M Gavin
Gen Omar N. Bradley
George S Patton
17th Airborne WW II
of Honor Recipients
Pvt Joe Gandara
Pvt George J Peters
R E L A T E D
S I T E S
USAAF Airborne Troop Carriers in World War II
The Drop Zone
Cross Channel Attack (Hyperwar)
Carentan Historical Center
R E L A T E D
R E S O U R C E S
Airborne (CMH) Center for Military History
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D-Day Jump Rosters
Parachute Infantry Regiment
he 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) was activated on July 20, 1942 at
Fort Benning, GA.
Lieutenant Colonel George V Millett Jr (pictured right) was given the command. After jump-training at Fort Benning the
regiment deployed to the Army air base at Alliance, Nebraska and became part of the 1st Airborne Brigade.After arriving in North Ireland in December, 1943, the 507th was attached to the 82nd Airborne along with the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Still under the command of Colonel George V. Millett Jr, the 507th moved to Nottingham, England in March, 1944 to prepare for the Allied invasion of Europe.
D-Day - Operation Neptune
The 507th PIR first saw combat during the Normandy invasion - 6 June 1944. The 507th and the 508th
PIRs were to be dropped near the west bank of the Merderet River. The objectives of both regiments was to establish
defensive positions in those areas and prepare to attack westward sealing off the Cotentin Peninsula.
In the predawn hours of D-Day the sporadic jump patterns of the 507th and 508th PIRs left troopers
spread out over a twenty mile area. Some who overshot the Drop Zone (DZ) dropped into the Merderet River and
its adjoining marshes. Many troopers who jumped with heavy equipment were unable to swim free and drowned. Others
roamed the countryside until they encountered other units and joined their effort. Even Colonel Millett, the
commanding officer of the 507th was unable to muster his troops and was captured three days after the drop in
the vicinity of Amfreville. Only the 2nd Battalion under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Charles J Timmes (pictured left) was
able to function as a team and began digging in around Cauquigny on the west bank of the Merderet River.
Upon verification of Colonel Millett's capture, General Ridgway transferred the command of the
507th to Colonel Edson Raff, a veteran of the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion during Operation Torch. Colonel
Raff received this command after fighting his way through to General Ridgway at Les Forges. Colonel
Raff would lead the 507th, "Raff's Ruffians" as they would become known, until the end of World
Throughout the confusion the indomitable spirit of the paratroopers in the days and weeks
following D-Day enabled the 82nd Airborne to seize La Fiere bridge and push westward to cut off the
Cotentin Penninsula. After 33 days of continuous combat the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions returned
to England aboard LSTs.
In August, 1944 General Matthew Ridgway the 82nd Airborne Commanding General was promoted and
took command of the newly formed XVIII Airborne Corps which included the 17th, 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions.
The 504th PIR which sat out the Normandy drop because of depleted ranks suffered at Anzio was now at full
strength. Since the 17th Airborne Division was now training in England and in need of another parachute
regiment to full out its ranks, it was determined that the battle-tested 507th PIR would be permanently assigned
to it. The 17th Airborne Division under General Miley's command would not participate in Operation Market
Garden. Instead, it was held in strategic reserve while completing their training.
( Picture above left: Troopers of HQ1 Company 507th PIR in France sometime after D-Day [1/Lt Robert W Law Jr is officer in the center])
(^^ Click Above Picture to Enlarge ^^)
Battle of the Bulge - The Ardennes Offensive
The Germans launched their last great offensive in Belgium on 16 December, driving west through
thinly held positions, and catching the Allies unprepared. Maj. Gen. Troy Middleton's VIII Corps was giving
way, and he desperately needed reinforcements.
The 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions had recently disengaged from operations
in Holland and were training and refitting in base camps in the Reims-Suippes-Sissonne area of France.
The 17th Airborne Division was in training at base camps in Wiltshire and Surrey, England. Corps
Headquarters and Corps troops were split between Epernay, France and Ogbourne St. George, England.
The initial success of the enemy counter-offensive resulted in a decision by
General Eisenhower, Supreme Commander, SHAEF to detach the XVIII Airborne Corps from the FAAA and attach
it to the Twelfth Army Group. Meanwhile, concurrent action had been taken to move the 82nd and 101st
Airborne Divisions by truck to the vicinity of Bastogne, Belgium which was the concentration area
assigned by the First U.S. Army. Poor weather conditions initially kept the 17th Airborne Division in
England. However, they were later able to fly into action from England and fought under the
Third U.S. Army.
From 23 to 25 December, elements of the Division were flown to the Reims area in France
in spectacular night flights. These elements closed in at Mourmelon. After taking over the defense of the
Meuse River sector from Givet to Verdun, 25 December, the 17th moved to Neufchateau, Belgium, then marched
through the snow to Morhet, relieving the 28th Infantry Division, 3 January 1945.
Initially, the 507th PIR and the 193rd Glider Infantry Regiment (GIR) were kept in reserve
in anticipation of a German counter attack. However, once the 17th Airborne Division cleared the western
side of Bastogne of all German units, the 507th PIR and the 193rd GIR turned eastward and led an attack
across Luxembourg to the Our River. On February 10, 1945 the 507th PIR was relieved and returned to
its base camp at Chalons-sur-Marne in France.
Operation Varsity - The Airborne Assault on the Rhine
In early February 1945, the tide of battle was such as to enable an accurate estimate as
to when and where the 2nd British Army would be ready to force a crossing of the Rhine River. It was
determined that the crossing would be in conjunction with an airborne operation by XVIII Airborne Corps.
The sector selected for the assault was in the vicinity of Wesel, just north of the Ruhr, on
24 March 1945. Operation Varsity would be the last full scale airborne drop of World War II and the
assignment went to the 17th Airborne Division with the 507th spearheading the assault dropping at the
southern edge of the Diersfordter Forest, three mile northwest of Wesel.
It was during this operation that Pfc George J Peters of the 507th was awarded the Medal of Honor. Pfc Peters and a group of 10 other troopers landed in an open field near the town of Fluren. Raked by enemy machine gun fire the troopers laid there helplessly. Peters, armed with only his rifle and a few grenades took it upon himself to charge the German machine gun nest. After receiving several wounds and bleeding profusely Peters crawled to within 15 feet of the gun emplacement and pitched two grenades into the
enemy stronghold. The ensuing explosion silenced the machine gun and its crew.
Operation Varsity was a text book success. All of the units had performed in an amazing
fashion shattering the German defenses in four and a half hours. In the ensuing days the 17th Airborne
would lead the thrust into the heartland of Germany. On April 10th the 507th captured Essen, the home of
the Krupps Steelworks.
On May 7, 1945, General Alfred Jodl signed the instrument of surrender in Rheims, France.
The ceremony was repeated the next day in Berlin for the benefit of the Russians and President Truman
declared May 8 as V-E Day. In September, 1945 the 17th Airborne Division was shipped home and deactivated.
( Source: "
Paratroopers" by Gerard M. Devlin)
507th Parachute Infantry Regiment - Pictures
R E L A T E D B O O K S
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