Upon the activation of the 101st Airborne Division on 16 August 1942 at Camp Clairborne, Louisiana, Major General William C. Lee observed that "The 101st... has no history, but it has a rendezvous with destiny." Time and time again, the 101st has kept that rendezvous and in so doing, has acquired a proud history.
The 101st Airborne Division traces its lineage to World War I with the formation of the 101st Division on 23 July 1918, which was demobilized 11 December 1918 as a result of the armistice. In 1921, the 101st Infantry Division reconstituted and reorganized as a reserve unit with headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. On 15 August 1942, the division disbanded as a reserve unit and activated in the United States Army as the 101st Airborne Division.
Following the suggestion of Major William C. Lee, the War Department formed the first parachute unit, a test platoon, at Fort Benning, Georgia, on 25 June 1940. This platoon, consisting of volunteers from the 29th Infantry Regiment, made Its first jump on 16 August 1940. The success of the unit led to the establishment of several parachute battalions and regiments during the following two years.
In 1942, Major Lee, by now Brigadier General, endorsed the concept of airborne divisions after studying the British Army use of parachute troops during the early years of World War II. The commander of Army Ground Forces, Lieutenant General Lesley J. McNair, concurred with Lee's recommendation and ordered the formation of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. Initial personnel and equipment for both divisions came from the 82nd Motorized Infantry Division, which deactivated at the same time. Brigadier general Lee assumed command of the 101st Airborne Division on 19 August 1942.
Originally, the 101st had one parachute regiment (the 502nd Parachute Infantry), two glider regiments (the 327th and the 401st Glider Infantry), and three artillery battalions (the 377th Parachute Field Artillery, the 321st Glider Field Artillery, and the 907th Glider Field Artillery). Additional support units were the 326th Airborne Engineer Battalion, the 101st Signal Company, the 326th Airborne Medical Company, and the 426th Airborne Quartermaster Company.
Organizing and training the new division was a challenge. In October 1942, the 101st began rigorous training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Throughout the fall and winter, General Lee helped to establish a whole new tactic of warfare - the use of airborne troops in battle.
In June of 1943, the 101st received a second parachute infantry regiment, the 506th, from Camp Toccoa, Georgia. The 506th had trained in the shadow of Currahee Mountain and had adopted the name "Currahee" as its motto. That summer the Division proved itself during the Second Army Maneuvers and in September deployed to England.
The 101st Airborne Division boarded ships in New York harbor and arrived in England ten days later. They spent ten months in the counties of Berkshire and Wiltshire, training six days a week. Units worked on close combat, night operations, street fighting, combat field exercises, chemical warfare, the use of German weapons, and a number of other military subjects, all in addition to demanding physical training, which included hikes of twenty-five miles. In October, the Division began its own jump school to train over 400 new personnel and key members of non-jump units of the 101st.
In January, 1944, the newly nicknamed Eagle Division received a third parachute infantry regiment, the 501st. In March, the 401st Glider Infantry Regiment detached one battalion to be a part of the 82nd Airborne Division. Major General Lee suffered a heart attack in February and returned to the United States. Major General Maxwell D. Taylor became the new commander.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force planned an invasion of Northern France, code named Operation OVERLORD. The mission of the 101st was to jump in before the waterborne invasion forces landed on an area designated as UTAH Beach. The paratroopers would secure exits from the beachhead and prevent these areas from receiving German reinforcements.
In preparation for its mission, the 101st participated in three Army-wide exercises: BEAVER, TIGER, and EAGLE. In May, elements of the Division began leaving their training areas for the airfields and marshaling areas. They would not assemble again until they met on the drop zones of France.
At fifteen minutes after midnight on 6 June 1944, Captain Frank L. Lillyman led his team of 101st Pathfinders out of the door of a C-47 transport and landed in occupied France. Behind the Pathfinders came six thousand paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division in C-47's of the IX Troop Carrier Command. D-Day began. Running into heavy German flak as they approached the drop zones, many of the troop transports took evasive action and scattered the jumpers over a wide area. By nightfall only twenty five hundred men could assemble in their units.
Struggling to carry out the mission of the 101st to clear and secure the exits from Utah Beach for the arrival of the 4th Infantry Division, small groups of soldiers valiantly did the best they could. Major General Taylor could assemble only a little over a hundred men, most of them officers, before he set out to secure one of the causeways leading to Utah Beach. Referring to his brass-heavy group, Taylor remarked, "Never were so few led by so many."
On the night of 6 June, the Assistant Division Commander, Brigadier General Don F. Pratt, led the fifty-two glider assaults during the invasion. Although all of the pilots managed to land within a two-mile area, only six of them were in the designated zone. Intelligence reports had not mentioned that most fields were bordered with hedgerows, four-foot earthen fences covered with a tangle of hedges, bushes, and trees. Because of the darkness and the hazard caused by these hedgerows, five soldiers were killed in the landings. One of them was Brigadier General Pratt.
Glidermen played an important role during the Normandy operations. As counterparts of the airborne infantrymen, they delivered personnel, equipment, vehicles, and weapons to the Division. The first daylight glider operation occurred on the morning of 7 June. Using a heavier cargo glider, the pilots delivered 157 personnel, 40 vehicles, 6 guns, and 19 tons of equipment, which was crucial to the success the Division had in carrying out its objectives.
After the seizure of the causeways, the 101st proceeded toward a new objective, the capture of the town of Carentan, which was the junction point for the two American forces from UTAH and OMAHA Beaches and a key to the success of the invasion. For five days the 101st waged a bitter fight to dislodge the German 6th Parachute Regiment from the town and to hold R until the arrival of American armor units from the beachhead. During the attack on Carentan, Lieutenant Colonel Robert G. Cole, Commander of 3rd Battalion, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, wiped out a strategically important pocket of enemy resistance. For this action, Lieutenant Colonel Cole became the first member of the 101st to win the Congressional Medal of Honor.
After thirty-three days of continuous fighting, the 101st Airborne was relieved and returned to England to train for its next mission. Elements of the Division received the Distinguished Unit Citation and the Division Commander was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
Throughout the rest of the summer, the Allied airborne forces prepared for several major operations, all of which were canceled because of the speed of the Allied advance. Then, logistical problems and stiffening German resistance slowed the Allies short of the German border. That autumn, the 101st took part in the largest and most daring airborne operation of the war, Operation MARKET GARDEN. Three airborne divisions, the British 1st and the American 82nd and 101st, would jump into a narrow corridor in Holland and seize a series of important bridges. At the same time, a British army corps would drive out of Belgium, quickly cross the captured bridges, finally cross the Rhine at the town of Arnhem, and then sweep into the German Ruhr.
On 17 September 1944, the 101st jumped into four drop zones between the Dutch towns of Son and Veghel and set out to seize their objectives. Heavy opposition from elements of several German divisions around the town of Best presented a serious threat to the Division and the entire MARKET GARDEN Operation. During this battle, Private First Class Joe E. Mann of the 3rd Battalion, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, became the second member of the Division to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. Private First Class Mann shielded the men of his squad from an exploding grenade at the cost of his own life.
The glider operations associated with MARKET GARDEN were among the most extensive in the war. American glider troops of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions departed from seventeen different airfields. The 101st alone used a total of 933 gliders. Over 750 of these made landings either on the landing zone or within one mile of it. The men, material, and weapons brought in by gliders once more played a decisive role in the success of a mission.
Two days after the 101st landed in Holland, the first elements of the British Guards Armored Division reached the Americans at Eindhoven, the first Dutch city to be liberated. While the British continued their unsuccessful drive to capture Arnhem, the American paratroopers fought a series of engagements against superior German forces that were trying to cut the corridor along a sixteen-mile front. After seventy-two days in combat, the Division received relief, at the end of November, and went to a base camp at Mourmelon-le-Grand, France, for a long and well-deserved rest.
While the 101st rested in France, Adolf Hitler prepared a surprise attack involving thirteen German armored and infantry divisions. He hoped to paralyze Allied Forces in the west and defeat the Soviet army in the east. 68,822 men of the American VIII Corps occupied a forty mile front in the Ardennes region of Belgium. On 16 December the Germans attacked. The American front began to collapse, and the entire northern wing of the allied armies in the west was threatened. At 2030 hours, 17 December, the 101st received orders to proceed north to Bastogne.
Brigadier General Anthony C. McAuliffe, the acting commander (General Taylor was in the United States on War Department business), led the 11,840 soldiers to the strategically important Belgian town of Bastogne. They traveled 107 miles in open ten-ton trucks, most of which had been hurriedly gathered from Rouen and Paris. Since the German forces were overrunning the lightly protected approaches to the town, General McAuliff a directed the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment east towards the direction of the town of Longvilly, an offensive move that temporarily disorganized the Germans and gave the 101st time to set up Its defense of Bastogne.
Bastogne was in the center of a highway network that covered the eastern portion of the Ardennes, a densely forested area that required mechanized forces to use roads rather than fields for rapid movement. It was the mission of the 101st to hold Bastogne and disrupt the German line of communication. During the battle, Combat Command B of the 10th Armored Division, the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion, and the 969th Field Artillery Battalion were attached to the 101st. These units played critical roles in the outcome.
On 20 December, German troops isolated Bastogne and the 101st by seizing the last road leading out of the town. The success of their offensive in the west depended on the defeat of the 101st and the capture of Bastogne. Strong German armored and infantry forces tried to break through the American lines north, then south, and finally west of the town, and were beaten back each time. On 22 December, the German commander, Lieutenant General Heinrich von Luttwitz, issued a demand for surrender. General McAuliffe gave his now-famous reply, "Nuts". Although outnumbered by units from five German divisions, the 101st continued to resist until 26 December when the American 4th Armored Division broke through to Bastogne.
Although no glider assault had been planned in connection with the battle for Bastogne, glider troops again played a vital role. Encircled and dangerously low on ammunition, the 101st had over four hundred wounded housed in civilian facilities and without medical aid. Early in the morning of the 26th, cargo gliders managed to deliver much-needed supplies of food, ammunition, and medicine, litter jeeps, aid men, and surgeons.
During the next three weeks, the Screaming Eagles encountered some of the hardest and bloodiest fighting of the Bastogne campaign. Teamed with the United States Third Army, they reduced the German pocket in the Ardennes and ended German resistance in the area.
On 18 January 1945, VIII Corps relieved the 101st of its task of defending Bastogne. Upon departure, the Division received a receipt from the Viii Corps command that read: "Received from the 101st Airborne Division, the town of Bastogne, Luxembourg Province, Belgium. Condition: Used but serviceable."
For its heroic defense of Bastogne, the 101st was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation, the first time in the history of the United States Army that an entire division received the award.
At the end of March, the 101st went to the Ruhr region of Germany less the 501 st Parachute Infantry Regiment, which remained in reserve for a proposed, but never conducted, special raid to free Allied prisoners of war. After the collapse of the Ruhr pocket, the rest of the 101st moved to southern Bavaria.
The last combat mission of World War 11 for the Screaming Eagles was the capture of Berchtesgaden, Hitler's vacation retreat. Once again teamed with the Third Infantry Division, the 101st completed their mission and spent the remainder of the war at Berchtesgaden, with some elements in Austria. Battery A of the 321st Field Artillery fired the last combat round for the division in this operation.
While at Berchtesgaden, the 101st received the surrender of the German XIII SS and LXXXII Corps. Several prominent Nazis were also captured. The 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment captured Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, commander-in-chief of the Nazi party. The 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment captured Julius Streicher, the anti-Semitic editor of Der Sturmer, and Obergruppenfuhrer Karl Oberg, the chief of German SS in occupied France. Colonel General Heinz Guderian, a leading armor expert, was also captured.
On 1 August 1945, the 101st Airborne Division left Germany for Auxerre, France, to begin training for the invasion of Japan. When Japan surrendered two weeks later, the operation became unnecessary. The 101st deactivated on 30 November at Auxerre.
During the next eleven years, the 101st activated and then inactivated three times as a training unit, including periods at Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky, from July 1948 to May 1949 and from August 1950 to December 1953. In May 1954, the Division activated at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, remaining until March 1956 when it was transferred to Fort Campbell.
Throughout early 1956, Fort Campbell received new units and reorganized and trained them under the auspices of Headquarters, 101st Airborne Division (Advance). Then on 21 September, the 101st became the Army's first pentomic division. The uniquely equipped and reorganized division comprised five self-contained battle groups: 2nd Abn BG 187th Infantry, 1st Abn BG 327th Infantry, 1st Abn BG 501st Infantry, 1st Abn BG 502nd Infantry, and 1st Abn BG 506th Infantry.
In September 1957, elements of the 101st Airborne went to Little Rock, Arkansas, to assist in maintaining order during a series of civil disturbances. The integration of Central High School in Little Rock was a major milestone in the quest for racial equality. In the midst of the tension and potential violence that surrounded the operation, the courage, tact, and discipline of the troops of the 101st prevented a possible tragedy.
Geared to fight on the nuclear battlefield, the 101st participated in a number of important exercises, beginning in 1958 with a division-sized exercise called EAGLE WING. In 1960, the 101st conducted exercise QUICK STRIKE, which placed the Division in a nuclear battlefield situation. In the following year, the Screaming Eagles joined the 82nd Airborne Division in a series of large scale exercises in North and South Carolina called SWIFT STRIKE I, II, and Ill.
The Division underwent a second major reorganization in early 1964, shedding the pentomic concept for the Reorganization Objective Army Division organization. The basic components of the new airborne ROAD division were the nine-infantry battalions, a cavalry squadron, and three artillery battalions. This new structure increased the firepower of the 101st, improved ground mobility, and facilitated better command and control. Several local operations and a major joint service maneuver, involving one hundred thousand troops in the Mojave Desert, successfully tested the new organization. The next spring, the Screaming Eagles prepared to send a brigade of infantry and support troops to the Republic of Vietnam.
The 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division landed at Cam Ranh Bay on 29 July 1965. The third United States Army unit to arrive in Vietnam, the 1 st Brigade engaged in twenty- six separate operations in three of the four tactical zones of Vietnam. Called the "Nomads of Vietnam' they captured enough weapons to equip eight enemy battalions and took two thousand tons of rice from the Viet Cong. Medical personnel provided treatment for over twenty-five thousand Vietnamese, and the brigade relocated fifteen thousand refugees.
While the 1 st Brigade participated in KLAMATH FALLS, Its last combat operation as a separate brigade, the remainder of the division moved in December 1967 from Fort Campbell to Bien Hoa in operation EAGLE THRUST. The operation made military history as the largest and longest airlift directly into a combat zone. Established at Bien Hoa on 13 December, the Screaming Eagles were ready for action.
On 31 January 1968, the enemy launched the largest single attack of the war, the Tet offensive. Throughout the assault, the 101st engaged in combat operations ranging as far south as Saigon and as far north as Quang Tri. One platoon from the 2nd Brigade battled on the rooftop of the United States embassy in Saigon, which was under attack by Viet Cong commandos.
Operation NEVADA EAGLE was the largest single campaign ever fought by the 101st Airborne Division. This operation, designed to secure the coastal lowlands (Thua Thlen Province) in I Corps from the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese, began on 17 May 1968 and lasted 288 days until 28 February 1969. Thua Thien Province was captured and enough rice was removed to feed ten enemy battalions for the next year.
One of the most important Viet Cong and North Vietnamese supply and staging areas was the A Shau Valley, which ran along the western edge of the Thua Thien Province. Before NEVADA EAGLE, the 1 st Brigade had made a seventeen day raid into the valley in an operation called SOMERSET PLAIN. Upon the completion of NEVADA EAGLE, the 101st again attacked the A Shau Valley. In a series of operations known individually as MASSACHUSETTS STRIKER, APACHE SNOW, and MONTGOMERY RENDEZVOUS, the Screaming Eagles cut North Vietnamese supply lines, destroyed base camps, and seized tons of supplies. The Division cleared the way for the first friendly armored vehicles to enter the valley and reopened temporary airstrips abandoned years earlier.
During APACHE SNOW, the 3rd Battalion of the 187th Infantry assaulted Dong Ap Bia Mountain in one of the most famous and controversial battles of the war. These operations pitted the division against some of the best-trained and equipped North Vietnamese units in South Vietnam. The success of these operations decimated the enemy and forced him to place more reliance upon supply bases in neighboring Laos.
While NEVADA EAGLE was going on, the 101st Airborne Division changed its name to the 101st Air Cavalry Division on 1 July 1968. A year later, on 29 August 1969, the Screaming Eagles became the 101st Airborne Division (Air mobile), becoming the Army's second air mobile division, in recognition of the transition from parachutes to helicopters.
Field action throughout 1969 and 1970 centered around support of civil operations in the pacification program. Operation RANDOLPH GLEN was a departure from the more conventional use of combat forces in South Vietnam. The 101st provided technical assistance to government officials of Thua Thien Province. Elements of the 101st worked with the Army of The Republic Vietnam (ARVN) 1st Infantry Division providing security against outside Communist pressure. Operations TEXAS STAR and JEFFERSON GLEN followed with increased emphasis on the Vietnamization of the war effort. Using a network of fire support bases and aggressive patrolling, the Screaming Eagles thwarted enemy thrusts into Thua Thien Province. For its involvement in the many civil affairs programs, the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) received the Vietnamese Civic Action Medal on 23 May 1970.
Although a small task force from the 101st participated in a limited incursion into Cambodia from April to June 1970, the most important test of the airmobile concept came in February 1971 during operation LAM SON 719. During this operation, the 101st supported Vietnamese forces in their attack across the Laotian border. Designed to cut enemy infiltration routes and to destroy North Vietnamese staging areas in Laos, the operation began on 8 February as the 101st and other American aviation units airlifted South Vietnamese troops into Laos. For many years, the enemy had controlled the area of Laos adjacent to South Vietnam and had built up extensive defenses. When the operation ended on 9 April 1971, less than one Allied aircraft for every thousand sorties was lost, despite the increased enemy use of anti-aircraft weapons, artillery, and armor.
South Vietnamese soldiers of the ARVN 1st Infantry Division, supported by the 101st, invaded the A Shau Valley in Operation LAM SON 720, from April to August 1971, to cut enemy supply lines which cost the enemy both men and equipment. For its actions, the 101st received the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm
In late 1971 and early 1972, the 101st withdrew from Vietnam and returned to the United States. It was the last United States Army division to leave the combat zone in Vietnam Seventeen Congressional Medal of Honor awards were given to individuals from the 101st. Vice President Spiro T. Agnew and Army Chief of Staff General William C. Westmoreland welcomed the 101st home during official homecoming ceremonies on 6 April 1972 at Fort Campbell.
The Screaming Eagles were at 20 percent of their authorized strength on homecoming day due to an early separation date program, the transfer of soldiers too their units to complete their tours of duty in Vietnam, and an extensive leave policy. A recruiting program called "Unit of Choice" enabled the 101st to reach sixty-five percent by December. Rebuilding combat readiness became the major goal of new training programs. On 24 January 1973, elements of the 3rd Brigade participated in the largest airborne operation held by the 101st since their return from Vietnam. Exercise QUICK EAGLE I tested the combat readiness of the 3rd Brigade, and subsequent QUICK EAGLE exercises tested the rest of the Division. By June 1973, the 101st was again combat ready.
The 101st underwent significant identity changes during 1974. On 1 February, the 3rd Brigade announced the termination of its parachute status, and Major General Sidney B. Berry, Commanding General of the 101st, authorized the wearing of an airmobile badge. When the airmobile designation was dropped on 4 October that same year, the Division added the Air Assault designation. Graduates of the Air Assault School each received the newly designed air assault badge, which officially became an Army qualifications skill badge on 20 January 1978, retroactive to 1 April 1974 for any soldier in an air assault unit who had demonstrated qualifying professional knowledge and skill.
Throughout 1975 and 1976, the three brigades of the 101st participated in a number of readiness exercises both at and away from Fort Campbell. The most important of the exercises in 1975 occurred when 2nd Brigade and support units departed Fort Campbell for Fort Bliss, Texas, to take part in GALLANT SHIELD 75. In the desert environment, the air assault task force engaged large mechanized forces. This exercise served as a forerunner of the largest training exercise the division undertook in the post-Vietnam era. For the first time since the Second World War, the 101st Division returned to Europe to participate in REFORGER 76. Training for REFORGER 76 began late in 1975 followed by the actual processing of men and equipment for departure in the summer of 1976.
In July, equipment, vehicles, and 318 of the Division's aircraft were ready to leave from Norfolk, Virginia. On 7 August, the advance party left for the Federal Republic of Germany, and by 29 August, the deployment was complete. The first tactical exercise began the following week. Using the air assault tactics tested at Fort Campbell and with a German mechanized brigade and an American armored cavalry regiment for ground support, the Screaming Eagles pushed the aggressors back. Within forty-eight hours, the Division disengaged from the first exercise and moved to their major unit assembly areas to refit and deploy to a new area of operation. The scenario for a second exercise paralleled that of the first. Both times the 101st fought in a mid-intensity warfare environment and each time air assault tactics proved effective
After the second exercise ended, the Screaming Eagles participated in partnership training with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) units from Belgium, Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands. In addition, the 101st hosted an "Air Assault in Action" demonstration for NATO personnel and made commemorative visits to the Division's World War 11 battle sites at Bastogne and in the Netherlands. After redeployment to the United States, a full Division review at Fort Campbell on 22 October celebrated the end of REFORGER 75 and the safe return of the soldiers who had participated in the exercise.
In following years, a "one Army' concept developed
and received great emphasis. During 1977 and 1978, the 101st led
all other United States Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) active duty
divisions in training assistance for National Guard and reserve
units. At the same time, the Division continued Their major mission
of preparing for war while helping to assure the peace.
Elements of the division trained at Fort Campbell and in remote areas such as the Northern Warfare Center in Alaska and the Jungle Operations Training Center in Panama. During 1978, elements of the 229th Attack Helicopter Battalion and the 2nd Squadron of the 17th Cavalry again represented the 101st on European soil, participating in REFORGER 78.
In June 1979, the Division received the first of Their new UH-60A Black hawk helicopters and integrated them into the air assault concept. The Division Commander, Major General Jack V. Mack mull, accepted the 101st production helicopter in January 1981. Fulfilling its readiness role under the "one Army" concept, the division played a vital part in helping the United States meet Its commitment in the Middle East. Between 7 November and 25 November 1980, elements of the Division participated in the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Exercise BRIGHT STAR near Cairo, Egypt. The contingent was a battalion combat team of nine hundred men from the 1st Battalion of the 501st Infantry along with support units. The exercise gave the Screaming Eagles experience in overseas movement, desert warfare, and coordination with other branches of the United States Armed Forces and with foreign allies. Since then, several other exercises involving the Rapid Deployment Force have been carried out.
In late March 1982, the XVIII Airborne Corps designated the 1st Battalion of the 502nd Infantry as the replacement unit to be sent to the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt for a six-month tour of duty with the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO). Sup porting the American commitment to the peacekeeping force established under the terms of the 1979 Egypt-Israeli peace treaty, the Screaming Eagles and the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg alternated six month tours of duty.
Also during 1982, the Division received two Cohesion Operational Readiness and Training System (COHORT) companies. Under this system, soldiers could be associated with a specific unit throughout their Army careers. After recruitment, the company received initial entry training and advanced individual training at one post. Upon arrival at their first duty station, they remained with their initial battalions for at least one year and then rotated as a unit to their first overseas assignment, concluding their enlistment abroad. The first Division COHORT company was Bravo Company of the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry, which arrived at Fort Campbell in June 1982. Alpha Company of the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry, arrived as the second COHORT company at the beginning of August 1982.
Reorganizing once more in 1983, units from the 327th, 502nd, and 187th Regiments became the 1 st, 2nd, and 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). The 327th and the 502nd were two of the original units assigned to the I 0 1 st at Their activation in 1 942. The 187th's distinction stems from being the only airborne unit to serve in three wars: World War 11, Korea, and Vietnam.
Throughout 1984, the division participated in fifteen major exercises in the United States, Germany, Honduras, and Egypt, helping to maintain the readiness needed to fulfill its assigned mission to deploy rapidly worldwide using the unique capabilities of an air assault division.
In 1985, tragedy struck the 101st after a seemingly routine MFO tour of duty for the 3rd Battalion of the 502nd Infantry. Returning to Fort Campbell from the Sinai on 12 December, 248 Screaming Eagles perished in an aircraft crash near Gander, Newfoundland.
In 1987, a division-wide exercise called GOLDEN EAGLE validated the operational and logistical capabilities of the new 'Army of Excellence."
Spanning an area of operation from Smyrna, Tennessee, to Madisonville, Kentucky, the 101st tested the concept of light, flexible, rapidly deployable forces being available for worldwide contingency missions.
Another milestone was reached in September 1989 when the 101st participated in the first full-scale inland water deployment since World War II. As part of a Joint Readiness Training Exercise taking place at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, the 101st loaded 8 million pounds of equipment and transported R down the Cumberland and Mississippi Rivers.
The air assault concept is continuously being challenged in exercises all over the globe, from Alaska to Egypt. Places such as Bastogne, Carentan, Eindhoven, Saigon, and Quang Tri will be not forgotten.
The patch of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) shows the head of an American bald eagle superimposed on a black shield. When originally adopted on 23 May 1923 by the 101st Division, the patch was a black shield with an eagle's head over a pair of yellow flames symbolizing battle or war. The eagle's head represented Old Abe, the famed eagle mascot of the Wisconsin Infantry Regiment in the Civil War.
During the Civil war, the 8th Wisconsin carried Old Abe into battle screaming his fury at the enemy while tethered to a wooden shield. Though wounded twice, Old Abe survived and returned to Wisconsin after the war. When he died, his admirers mounted his remains for display in the Wisconsin state capital building. A fire in the building destroyed Old Abe, yet his memory lived on when the 101st Division, then headquartered in Milwaukee, placed him on its unit patch.
When the 101st Airborne Division activated at Camp Clairborne on 16 August 1942, it adopted the same eagle patch, only without the flames. Identification of any symbolism in the use of a black background is hypothetical. Black, thought to be representative of iron, recalls the old "Iron Brigade," of Wisconsin Civil War fame from which the 101st traces its heritage. On the other hand, Old Abe rode into battle perched on a black shield, which was considered symbolic of a fighting unit or soldier. Finally, on 29 August 1942, an airborne tab was added.
In November 1942, the division received from the state of Wisconsin a new eagle mascot named Young Abe, who trained with the Division until his death in 1943. Just prior to the pentomic reorganization in September 1956, the 101st acquired its last live eagle mascot, Bill Lee I. This eagle died eight months later.
Only two changes have been made in the patch since 1942. First, the black shield was worn without the airborne tab when the unit was a training division during 1948-49 and 1950-53. Second, the Division wore a green and black colored patch throughout the Vietnam war and then reverted to the completely black background behind a white eagle with a gold beak and a red tongue after its return to Fort Campbell.
Today, the heritage of Old Abe lives on in the spirit and shoulder patch of the Screaming Eagles.