517th PIR history
The 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment was activated on March 15, 1943 at Camp Toccoa, GA under the command of Col. Rupert D. Graves and then assigned to the Airborne Command and to the 17th AB Division on April 15, 1943. It moved to Camp MacKall on August 8, 1943. It participated to the Tennessee manoeuver on February 8, 1944 and returned to Camp MacKall on March 5, 1944 where it was relieved from the 17th AB Division (on March 10, 1944) and attached to the 2nd Army.
On May 7, 1944, the 517th PIR was sent to Camp Patrick Henry, VA to prepare overseas shipment. It leaves the USA on May 17, 1944 to Italy.
During World War II, the 517th PIR was a separate infantry regiment, at times attached to the 17th Airborne Division, 82nd Airborne Division and later the 13th Airborne Division. During most of their combat, the unit was an independent combined force of 17th Airborne troops called the 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team.
The 517th PIR arrived in Italy on May 28, 1944 and was committed into combat under IV Corps along Highway 1 north of Rome on June 17, 1944.
The 517th PIR was one of three parachute infantry regiments assigned to the First Airborne Task Force, which was charged with the assault on Southern France. The assault was set on August 15, 1944. The 517th PIR realised its first and only combat jump and dropped early at 03h28 AM on the 15th. After three days of heavy fighting around the towns of Le Muy, Les Arcs, La Motte and Draguignan, German resistance ceased. For their participation in Operation Dragoon and the subsequent liberation of France, the 517th PIR was awarded the French Croix de Guerre.
Battle Of The Bulge
The 517th PIR was attached to the XVIII Airborne Corps following the liberation of France, along with the 82nd, 101st and 17th Airborne Divisions. Elements of the 517th PIR attached to the 82nd AB Division participated in counter-attacks near the Belgian towns of Soy, Sur-Les-Hys, Hotton and Manhay, pushing the German offensive past its starting point. The 517th PIR suffered heavy casualties in the ferocious fighting during the battle, during which 1st Battalion received the Presidential Unit Citation for its successful assault on Soy and Hotton. PFC Melvin E Biddle B/1/517th PIR was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroic actions during the Soy-Hotton engagement.
Last Days of WWII
Following the Battle of the Bulge, the 517th PIR was assigned to the 13th Airborne Division on March 1, 1945, to take part in Operation Varsity. However, prior to the operation, the 13th AB's participation in the attack was called off. Following the end of World War II, the 517th PIR arrived in New York on August 20, 1945 and was assigned to Fort Bragg, NC on August 23, 1945, where the unit was inactivated on February 25, 1946.
The 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team accumulated over 150 combat days during five campaigns on battlefields in Italy, France, Belgium and Germany.
The battalion casualty rate was 81.9%. The Team suffered 1,576 casualties and had 252 men killed in action.
In addition to the one Medal of Honor, troopers of the 517th PRCT earned 6 Distinguished Service Crosses, 131 Silver Stars, 631 Bronze Stars, 1,576 Purple Hearts, 5 Legion of Merits, 4 Soldier's Medals, 2 Air Medals and 17 French Croix de Guerres.
From left : Pfc John B. Dickson Company "A" and Pfc William H. Faltysek Company Hq. Note the two men wear the 17th AB Division shoulder insigna.