The 82nd Airborne Division has had its share of famous soldiers from Sergeant Alvin C. York to General James M. Gavin. But that's not what the 82nd is really about. The real story of the 82nd is the thousands of unnamed paratroopers in jump boots, baggy pants and maroon berets, who have always been ready and willing to jump into danger and then drive on until the mission was accomplished.
The 82nd Infantry Division was formed August 25, 1917, at Camp Gordon, Georgia. Since members of the Division came from all 48 states, the unit was given the nickname "All-Americans," hence its famed "AA" shoulder patch. In the spring of 1918, the Division deployed to France. In nearly five months of combat the 82nd fought in three major campaigns and helped to break the fighting spirit of the German Imperial Army.
On August 15, 1942, the 82nd Infantry Division became the first airborne division in the U.S. Army. On that date, the All-American Division was re-designated the 82nd Airborne Division. In April 1943, paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division set sail for North Africa under the command of Major General Matthew B. Ridgway to participate in the campaign to puncture the soft underbelly of the Third Reich. The Division's first two combat operations were parachute and glider assaults into Sicily and Salerno, Italy on July 9 and September 13, 1943. In January 1944, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, which was temporarily detached from the Division to fight at Anzio, earned the nickname "Devils in Baggy Pants." The nickname was taken from an entry made in a German officer's diary. On June 5-6, 1944, the paratroopers of the 82nd's three parachute infantry regiments and reinforced glider infantry regiment boarded hundreds of transport planes and gliders and, began the largest airborne assault in history. They were among the first soldiers to fight in Normandy, France. On September 17, the 82nd Airborne Division conducted its fourth combat jump of World War II into Holland. Fighting off ferocious German counterattacks, the 82nd captured its objectives between Grave and Nijmegen. Its success, however, was short-lived because the defeat of other Allied units at Arnhem.
When America was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, the 82nd was called upon to fight global terrorism. 82nd soldiers deployed to Afghanistan and the Central Command Area of Responsibility to support combat operations.