In celebration of the first week of African American/Black History Month, we're jumping ahead from World War One all the way to 1941 to tell a story that deserves to be told across the country.
It is a little known fact that the 82nd was the first racially integrated division in our Army; and it is our duty to honor the generations of African Americans that have contributed to the great legacy of the All American Division. So this week, we bring you the incredible story of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, known as the Triple Nickle. The 555th was the Army's FIRST all-black Airborne unit and the first all-black unit integrated into the regular Army.
Staff Sgt. Will Reinier takes us back to 1941 to see how racial tensions before WWII shaped the types of jobs available to black soldiers in the war. When the Army decided to stand up an airborne unit comprised of only black soldiers, many of them saw it as an opportunity to leave their jobs as cooks, drivers, and trash collectors to fight in the war.
When they arrived at Fort Benning, Georgia, they experienced more racism as they completed their airborne training. The company would eventually grow into a battalion and move to Fort Bragg, North Carolina where the 555th would await orders to the frontlines. Those orders never came. Instead, the unit was ordered to America's Pacific Northwest to fend off forest fires started by Japanese-sent balloon bombs.
Upon returning, Maj. Gen. Jim Gavin, wartime commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, lobbied to have the 555th integrated into the Division and they became the 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
Although the Triple Nickle never saw combat, many of the Paratroopers would be the first members of an all-black Ranger Company that made its first combat jump in the Korean War.
The legacy of the Triple Nickle, as told by the original members of the unit, in this podcast is the greatest way to honor their history.
The All American Legacy Podcast is produced by the 82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs Office and hosted by Master Sgt. Dan Bailey, Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, and Staff Sgt. Will Reinier.
If you have a suggestion for the show, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tweet at us using #AALegacy and we'll give you a shout out right here in the show notes! This week, we want to thank the Triple Nickle Association, Tim McCoy, William "Kip" Ward, WTVI-Charlotte, and Sam Boyd.
You can learn more about the Triple Nickle by visiting their website at www.triplenickle.com
Make sure to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, YouTube, or where ever you listen to podcasts. Leave a rating and review and share this with your friends. Join us every Tuesday as we bring you weekly episodes from the center of the military universe - Fort Bragg.