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History of the 511th Airborne Regiment

by Leo Kocher

The 511th PIR was activated at Camp Toccoa, Georgia on January 5, 1943, under the command of LTC Orin D. Haugen. He was promoted to a full Colonel a few months later. The cadre of the 511th PIR were selected mainly from the 505th PIR which was then stationed in Fort Benning, GA. The Regiment was formed from about 12,000 recruits, of which about 3,000 were selected to start basic training. From the latter number around 2,000 troopers formed the Regiment, of which 173 were commissioned and three were warrant officers


On March 23, 1943, the 511th PIR closed at Camp Mackall, NC to join the 11th Airborne Division, under the command of Major General Joseph M. Swing. Following 17 weeks of Basic training, the 511th journeyed to the Fort Benning Parachute School for three weeks of jump training. It should be noted, with all the extensive training, no 511th PIR soldier who boarded a C-47 refused to make the jump.

In December of 1943, the 511th returned to Camp Mackall for Advanced Training. The success of the Knollwood Maneuvers was very instrumental in the continued use of Airborne troops during the remainder of World War II. In January of 1944, the Regiment departed Camp Mackall for Camp Polk, Louisiana to engage in further maneuvers and prepare for overseas movement.

In April of 1944 the 511th departed Camp Polk for Camp Stoneman, California. On May 8, 1944, the 511th PIR departed from Pittsburgh, CA on the SS Sea Pike with about 2,000 troopers that had been disguised as a "Straight Leg" infantry unit. The ship had been built by the Western Pipe and Steel Corp. and launched in Feb. 1943. The ship was 492 feet long, with a beam of 70 feet. She drew 29 feet of water and her steam engines pushed her at 17 knots. On May 28, 1944 the Regiment arrived at Oro Bay, New Guinea.

While the 511th was in Strategic Reserve in New Guinea (May - October 1944), they conducted Airborne, Jungle and Amphibious training. On Nov. 7, 1944 the Regiment departed New Guinea by ship (USS Cavalier) for the Leyte Campaign in the Philippines. From November 18 to December 27 the Regiment participated in the Leyte Campaign in the Abuyog, Dulag, Burauen, Anonang, Manaraawat, Lubi, Mohonag and Anas areas.

The 511th went into reserve in the Dulag area from Dec. 27th to January 21, 1945. From Jan. 22 to Feb. 2, the Regiment prepared for the forthcoming jump on Tagaytay Ridge and moved to Mindoro by sea and air. On the 3rd of Feb., the 511th jumped on Tagaytay Ridge, Luzon. From there the Regiment moved to the Paranaque and the Pasay area and fought in the Ft. McKinley and Alabang area until Feb. 19, 1945. On Feb. 11, 1945 Col. Orin D. Haugen (the Regimental Commander) was mortally wounded and died of wounds on Feb. 22, 1945. Lt. Col. Edward Lahti, the 3rd Battallion commander assumed command and remained in command until August 1947.

On Feb. 23, 1945, in an effort to rescue the many prisoners (2,147) still under Japanese control at the Los Bonas prison, B-511th, plus the light machine gun platoon from HQ1, made a dawn jump on the prison at 0700 hours. Together with a simultaneous attack, by a Reconnaissance Platoon and Filipino guerrillas, the prison was captured. Amtracks (amphibious vehicles from the 672nd Amphibious Tractor Battalion) were used to transport the prisoners to safety. The plan envisioned the immediate evacuation of all prisoners and military personnel to the security of the Manila area. It was almost a textbook operation, no fatalities were suffered on the entire mission and all prisoners were rescued.

The Regiment fought in the Real, Mt Bijiang and Santo Tomas areas from March 4 to March 24, 1945. From March 24 to April 11, 1945, the Regiment less the 3rd Battalion, operated in the Bauen and Batangas areas as 6th Army reserve. During this period, the 3rd Battalion was attached to the 188th PG and fought in the Sulac, Sapac, Talisay and Malaraya Hill areas. From April 12 to May 4, 1945 the 511th fought in the Lipa and Mt. Malepunyo area. In May 1945, base camp was set up near Lipa, Luzon. On June 23, 1945 the 1st Battalion and Companies G and I, boarded troop transports, from the 317th Troop Carrier Group, at Lipa Airstrip and dropped by parachute near Aparri as part of the Gypsy Task Force. The 511th PIR sustained a total of 289 killed and/or missing in action causalities during the Leyte and Luzon Campaigns.   Click here for a complete list of those in the 511th who gave their lives for their country.

On August 11, 1945 the Regiment departed Luzon by air and were flown to Okinawa. On August 30, 1945 the 511th arrived by air, at Atsugi Air Base near Yokohama to occupy the city and guard the docks from which the peace delegation left to go to the USS Missouri and the signing of the Armistice.  On Sept. 16, 1945 the 511th moved to Morioka, Japan to begin the occupation of Iwate and Aomori Prefectures in Northern Honshu. Separate companies were stationed from South Morioka, all the way north of Honshu to the city of Aomori. In January of 1947 the scattered units started to move in to Camp Haugen near Hatchinohe. In February 1947, Regimental Headquarters moved from Morioka to Camp Haugen. During the months of January through March of 1947, the Regiment was brought back up to T/O strength.

In February of 1949, the Regiment less the 3rd Battalion, departed Camp Haugen and returned to the United States via the Panama Canal and arrived in New Orleans in March 1949, from where it moved to Camp Campbell, Kentucky. The 3rd Battalion remained in Camp Haugen, attached to the 7th Division, until April 22, 1949, when it departed for the United States. With the outbreak of the war in Korea, on June 25, 1950, training was intensified, including reservists. On August 1, 1950, the 187th was alerted for overseas movement and was designated the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team. To bring the 187th ARCT up to T/O strength, their ranks were filled from the 511th PIR, with most transfers being made within like units. They departed San Francisco on September 6-7, 1950 by ship and begin arriving at the Inchon Beachhead, in Korea, on Sept. 22, 1950. Of the 476 causalities suffered by the 187th in Korea, during the entire police action (1950-1953), it has been determined that at least 62, were in the first wave of 511th PIR troopers, that had been merged into the 187th ARCT in 1950. Another highlight came in March 1956, when the 511th (as part of the 11th

Airborne Division) crossed the Atlantic into Europe to replace the 5th Inf. Div., in Augsburg, Germany during Operation Gyroscope. The 511th's fifteen-year duration came to an end at Fort Campbell in July 1958, when they and the 11th Abn. Div. was officially inactivated. On June 1, 1993, A-511th Infantry was reactivated at Fort Rucker, Alabama. They were deactivated in Nov. 1994. On October 1, 1997, A-511th PIR was reactivated as a Test Company for the Enhanced Fiber Optic Guided Missile (EFOGM) system, under the Command of Cpt. Stephen Inouye at Fort Bragg, NC. It will be the first and only Airborne EFOGM Company in the world.

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The 511th PIR Commanders Tour of Duty

Col. Orin D. Haugen             Jan. 1943 - Feb. 1945

Lt.Col. Edward Lahti             Feb. 1945 - Aug. 1947

Col. Reynolds Condon           Aug.  1947 - Sept.1949

Lt.Col. M.M. Lyons               Sept.1949 - Dec. 1949

Lt.Col. Ben Harrell                Dec. 1949 - July 1950

Col. Aubrey S. Newman         Aug. 1950 - Apr. 1951

Lt.Col. Warren T. Hannum Jr. Apr. 1951 - May 1951

Col. Broadus McAfee           May 1951 - May 1952

Lt.Col. William M. Haycock  May 1952 - July 1952

Col. Curtis J. Herrick            July 1952 - Jan. 1953

Col. Robert L. Walton          Jan. 1953 - June 1953

Lt.Col. Ralph D. Burns         June 1953 - June 1953

Col. John D. Cone              June 1953 - June 1954

Lt.Col. Ralph D. Burns         June 1954 - July 1954

Col. Patrick F. Cassidy        July 1954 - June 1955

Lt.Col. Gordon K. Smith       June 1955 - Aug. 1955

Col. Herman W. Dammer     Aug. 1955 - July 1956

Lt.Col. Cameron Knox         July 1956 - Sept. 1956

Col. D.E. Munson              Sept.1956 - July 1958

 

Sources:

1) 511th Parachute Infantry Yearbooks

2) Articles from the 511th PIR Association Newsletter "Winds Aloft"

3) Communication with fellow 511th troopers and personal knowledge.

 

"Strength From Above" - An impressive and substantial historical chronicle
of the 511th PIR. Dr. James Lorio, former G Company Commander, used "Strength From Above"
to recount personal accounts and the exploits of the men of the 511th PIR. "Strength from Above" can
also be found in the PTO section and new section of the site.

 

 

 


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Copyright 1997 Patrick O'Donnell