The regiment was activated at Fort Benning, Georgia on July 6, 1942, as part of the US Airborne Command based at Ft. Bragg. In 1943, the 505th was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. Of note, the first colonel of the regiment was James Gavin, later commander of the 82nd Airborne division for much of World War II.
World War II
In preparation for the invasion of Sicily, the regiment was moved to Tunisia, in North Africa, where they completed six weeks of training. The regiment made a combat jump into Sicily, which was the first regimental sized combat jump in history. The unit then returned to North Africa for refit before participating in the assault on Salerno, where they made their second combat jump.
In the American airborne landings in Normandy, the 505th actually jumped before its scheduled "h-hour", thus earning their motto "H-minus". Upon completing operations in the Ste. Mere-Eglise area, the unit was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. In September 1944, the unit then participated in Operation Market Garden, in which the regiment received a second Presidential Unit Citation. the war. By the end of the war, the 505th was awarded two Distinguished Unit Citations, the French fourragère, the Netherlands Military Order of William, and the Belgium fourragère. Following the German surrender, the regiment served as part of the Allied occupation force in Berlin.
Distinctive Unit Insignia
The distinctive unit insignia was originally approved for the 505th Airborne Infantry Regiment on 24 January 1952. It was redesignated for the 505th Infantry on 20 May 1958.
The 505th PIR distinctive unit crest is, according to the U.S Army Institute of Heraldry"A Silver color metal and enamel device 1 5/16 inches (3.33 cm) in height overall, consisting of a shield blazoned: Argent, four bendlets Azure surmounted by a winged Black panther salient inverted Proper, that part on the bendlets fimbriated of the first. On a wreath Argent and Azure, a winged arrowhead point down Gules, in front of a cloud Proper. Attached below the shield a Blue scroll turned Silver and inscribed "H-MINUS" in Silver."
The colors blue and white are used to symbolize Infantry. The black panther symbolizes stealth, speed and courage, all characteristics of a good parachutist. The wings are added to represent entry into combat via air, and the bendlets symbolize the unit's parachute drops into combat. The winged red arrowhead is used to represent the regiment's first combat attack in Sicily during World War II.
The official insignia is in fact not the insignia first designed by the men of the unit, which was simply a black panther on a shield, with the original motto, "Ready" inscribed below it. However, the Institute of Heraldry refused to approve the crest known by the men of the WWII 505th and replaced it with the above-referenced insignia.
James Maurice "Jumpin' Jim" Gavin (born as James Nally Ryan; March 22, 1907 – February 23, 1990) rose to the rank of Lieutenant General in the United States Army. He was also referred to as "The Jumping General", because of his practice of taking part in combat drops with the paratroopers he commanded.
Gavin was the youngest U.S. Major General commanding a division during World War Two. During combat, he was known for his habit of carrying an M1 Garand rifle, as opposed to the pistols traditionally carried by officers.
His men, who respected him a great deal, also called him "Slim Jim" due to his athletic figure. Gavin fought against segregation in the U.S. Army, which gained him some notoriety.