The History of the 82nd Airborne Division
An elite, active-duty airborne infantry division of the United States Army which specializes in parachute assault operations into hostile areas, the 82nd Airborne Division is located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and is the primary fighting arm of the XVIII Airborne Corps. The mission of the 82nd Airborne Division is to, within 18 hours of notification, strategically deploy, conduct forcible entry parachute assault and secure key objectives for follow-on military operations in support of U.S. national interests.
The 82nd Airborne Division was constituted in the National Army on August 5, 1917 and was organized on August 25, 1917, at Camp Gordon, Georgia, as 82nd Division. The unit acquired the nickname “All-American,” which is the basis for its famed “AA” shoulder patch, and the “AA” that appears in the center of its flag. During World War I, many units created nicknames for themselves to build camaraderie and boost morale. Shortly after its inception, the newly formed 82nd, in partnership with the Atlanta Georgian newspaper, held a contest to collect nickname ideas for the division. The winning nickname, “All American,” was submitted by Vivienne Goodwin and was chosen for its embodiment of the 82nd’s unique makeup. Unlike other divisions at the time, a diverse group of men from all 48 states served in the 82nd. Throughout history, many soldiers went through the unit including such famous soldiers as Sergeant Alvin C. York, General James M. Gavin, Dave Bald Eagle (grandson of Chief White Bull), Senator Strom Thurmond (325th GIR in World War II), Senator Jack Reed, and Congressman Patrick Murphy (the first Iraq War veteran elected to Congress).
Recalled for World War II in March of 1942, the Division was re-designated as the 82nd Airborne Division the following August and became the first airborne division in the United States Army. During World War II, the 82nd Airborne Division made its name through parachute assaults into Sicily, Salerno, Normandy, and Holland. At the battle of Anzio in Italy, a German officer gave the paratroopers one of their myriad nicknames when he referred to them as “those devils in baggy pants.”
The 82nd was not sent to the Korean War, but rather began its use as the United States strategic reserve and rapid deployment force. In January of 1968, during the Tet Offensive, the 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division was alerted and enroute to Chu Lai within 24 hours. The 82nd stayed in Vietnam for 22 months of direct combat. The All-Americans fought in the Hué – Phu Bai area, and then later fought heavy battles in the Mekong Delta, the Iron Triangle, and along the Cambodian border. The 3rd Brigade returned to Fort Bragg in December of 1969.
As the most highly trained light infantry division in the world, the 82nd Airborne has participated in practically every potential combat deployment of the U.S. Army since Vietnam. This includes Grenada in 1983, Honduras in 1988, the invasion of Panama in 1989, Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia and into Iraq in 1990-91, Bosnia in 1995, Kosovo in 1999, Afghanistan in 2002, and the invasion of Iraq in early 2003, among others. The 82nd Airborne Division continues to support US operations worldwide including engagements against Islamic State.