The 506th PIR in World War II
July 1942-November 1945

The 506th Infantry traces its ancestry back to July 1942, when it was activated at
Camp Toombs (Toccoa), GA, under the command of COL Robert F. Sink, who later retired as a Lieutenant General. COL Sink trained the men in these Northeastern Georgian Hills, putting them through one of the roughest physical training programs in the Army. Here the men worked a 12-hour day, doing push-ups, pull-ups, squat jumps, and various other exercises designed to strengthen arms and legs, and increase overall endurance.

The men ran daily to the top of Currahee Mountain in addition to their physical training, and then made long forced marches at night, or negotiated a night compass course. Said one member, the training was such as to "acquaint you with a well of energy which you had never tapped in your life before."

Here, also, the men were to go through the roughest obstacle course in the United States Army.

In addition to the rough physical training, the men also completed the "A" Stage training for jump school. Here they became potential paratroopers, undergoing various ground training, including much work in the 34-foot tower.

In late November 1942, with the "A" Stage training behind them, the 506th was ordered to Fort Benning for parachute training. The 1st Battalion moved by train from Camp Toccoa to Fort Benning. The 2nd Battalion marched from Camp Toccoa to Atlanta, GA, a distance of 115 miles, where they boarded trains for the remainder of the trip. The 3rd Battalion traveled to Atlanta by rail, and then marched the remaining 136 miles to Benning, thus setting a new world's record for an endurance march, previously held by the Japanese Army. The men carried their equipment with them through the cold, wet hours of the march. The crew-served weapons were passed from man to man in order to equally distribute the load during the long march.

Upon arrival at Fort Benning, the 506th started their parachute training. Here the men improved upon their training in the 34-foot tower, and became familiar with the feeling of the parachute as they fell from the free-fall towers.

They learned to pack their own chutes and to prepare their equipment to be dropped in an airborne operation. After completion of their parachute training, the men of the 506th made their qualifying jumps, and received their most coveted prize, "The Parachutist Badge." Of those that began jump training, 98.43 percent finished with their jump wings.

After completion of advanced airborne training at Fort Benning, the unit moved to Camp Mackall, NC, where extensive tactical training was conducted, including many night jumps. All jumps were made with full combat equipment. Here they received word that they would be attached to the 101st Airborne Division.

On 1 June 1943, the 506th was attached to the 101st Airborne Division. The members of the 506th regarded this as the Division's greatest day. Although some might dispute this claim, none would deny that the words "colorful, rugged, unusual" could be applied to the 506th. It was the Currahees who took their reviews on the double wearing purple trunks.

In early June, the 506th moved west to participate in the Tennessee maneuvers. Here they dropped behind the lines to establish roadblocks, destroy bridges, and snarl communications. Here, SGT George R. Puflitt earned the Soldier's Medal for rescuing a drowning fellow soldier who had dropped into a pond and was unable to extricate himself from his harness and equipment. After participating in the maneuvers, the 506th moved to Fort Bragg, NC, a trained fighting unit. At Fort Bragg, the training continued, and the 506th participated in reviews for visiting dignitaries, including the British Foreign Minister, Sir Anthony Eden. During the latter part of August 1943, the unit reported to Camp Shanks, NY, where preparations were made for overseas movement. The 506th crossed the Atlantic on the SS Samaria during September, arriving at Liverpool, England, on 15 September 1943.

In England, the 506th was stationed in Wiltshire County, with units in such villages as Aldbourne, Ramsbury, Froxfield, and Chilton-Foliat. Here the unit took part in such exercises as "Operations Wadham and Rankin," with each man mastering the tasks necessary to make the unit run smoothly in combat. June 5, 1944, found the men of the 506th parked by the aircraft that were to carry them into their first combat mission.

Shortly after 0100 hours on 6 June 1944, the men of the 506th hit the silk in the skies over France for the initial assault on the northern coast of Normandy.

The scattering of the air armada was such that only ten of the eighty-one planes scheduled to drop their men on the drop zone found their mark, Some of the sticks landed as far as 20 miles from the designated area. The men fought in small groups, and as others joined them, they moved towards their objectives.

Many acts of gallantry and self-sacrifice were performed by officers and men while battling through heavily fortified positions before reaching the assembly area. Just prior to the landing of seaborne forces, the high ground overlooking the beaches was seized and held by the men of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

The first day's action earned the 506th a citation, which read in part:
"In the face of determined and fierce enemy resistance, the unit seized and kept open the main causeway leading to the beaches. This action led to the successful and rapid advance inland of the seaborne forces, and insured the establishment of the beach-head in Western Europe."
From D Day until 10 July, when the unit was relieved to return to England, the 506th was to fight in the toughest battles of Normandy. Many of the men who trained with unit were not to return and many more spent months in hospitals, but the 506th proved it was better than the best the enemy could throw at it.

After less than three months in England, the 506th was to make its second combat jump. This time the unit was to land in Holland on Drop Zone "C", seize the Wilhemina Canal Bridges at Zon, then move South and take Eindhoven with its four highway bridges over the Dommel River.

Shortly after 1315 hours on the afternoon of 17 September 1944, the entire regiment landed on one field, and the unit pushed south to Zon with little difficulty.

Upon arriving at Zon, they found the two bridges had been blown when the leading group was within 50 yards of securing it. This caused a delay, and the unit was a day late in arriving at its objective, Eindhoven. By noon on D plus 1, the Eindhoven bridges were secured, and at 1830 hours, the British were able to move an armored unit into the town,

From D-Day until November, 1944, the men of the 506th became familiar with such names as Saint Oedenrode, Uden, Veghel, Keovining, Nijmegen, Opheusden and Randwigh, as they fought from town to town and repelled every counter-attack the enemy launched.

The end of November found the unit at a former French artillery garrison just outside the village of Mourmelon. Here they rested, reorganized and received replacements. The lucky ones got to see Paris. Then Bastogne and back to combat. On 18 December, the men left for Bastogne, and on 19 December, started the stubborn defense that was to amaze the world, and prove to the German Army that they could not dislodge the Paratroopers from Bastogne, although the Currahees were surrounded.

For 28 days the fighting continued -- through Christmas of 1944 and New Year's of 1945. Here they fought with what they had, and prayed that the weather would clear so that aerial drops of supplies could get to them. The supplies came, and so did the first vehicles of the 4th Armored Division, on 26 December. This began the lifting of the siege of Bastogne.

Some of the most bitter days of fighting in the Bastogne area were to follow as the hole in the doughnut became larger. The Germans were forced to surrender the ground they had once taken in the hope of splitting the Allied Forces and driving them back to the Sea. On 15 January 1945, the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment took the town of Noville, Belgium, a longtime Division objective. As the front became stable once again, it was time for the Currahees to leave Bastogne.

Leaving on the 20th of January, the 506th moved to the Alsace Province of France. This was the unit's most comfortable month of warfare, and the first opportunity of the year to get their clothing, blankets, and sleeping bags laundered.

The unit changed positions several times while holding the line, and sent out many patrols; and, although the enemy continually shelled their positions, no major operations were conducted.

On 23 February, the men of the 506th were relieved, and returned to Mourmelon, France, where they were housed in pyramidal tents. Here GEN Eisenhower spoke to the 101st Airborne Division when the unit was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation for its stand at Bastogne. This was the first time in the history of the United States Amy that an entire Division had been so honored.

On 2 April, the 506th moved to the Ruhr Pocket where they went on the line facing the Rhine River south of Dusseldorf, Germany. Here the action was comparatively quiet, although the Germans continually shelled their position. Patrolling across the Rhine was a common occurrence, and the handling of DPs (displaced persons) was a constant problem. On 14 April, the unit received orders to move to the southern part of Germany.

Operations were extremely smooth, and as the Germans fell back rapidly, there was little contact. On the 4th and 5th of May, the 506th received and carried out its last wartime mission. The mission was to capture Berchtesgaden, and it accounted for the last three casualties of the war for both the 506th and the 101st Airborne Division.

On 8 May, COL "Bob" Sink accepted the surrender of the German LXXXII Corps, commanded by LTG Theodor Tolsdorff. The 506th established its command post in Zell Am See, where it remained until the end of July, when it moved to Joigny, France. The following months were devoted to keeping the troops reasonably healthy and comfortable until they returned home.

On 1 August 1945, COL Sink left the 506th, and the Executive Officer, LTC Charles Chase assumed command. COL Chase had been Executive Officer of the 506th throughout the war and had served as the steady right hand of COL Sink during the most bitter fighting of World War II.

On 30 November 1945, the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment was deactivated at Joigny, France.

This article was published as the Wartime History Of The 506th Infantry on Page 10 of the July 19, 1963
issue of The Courier newspaper, Fort Campbell, KY, as part of the 506th's
21st anniversary celebrations.

From the book, Fighting in Normandy: The German Army from D-Day to Villers-Bocage, by Heinz Guderian, Fritz Kramer, Fritz Ziegelmann, Freiherr Von Luttwitz, and David C. Isby:

"In the opinion of the German parachute troops, the American 101st Airborne Division, and particularly its 506th Regiment [commanded by Colonel Robert F. Sink], far surpassed the other American airborne units because its commander and staff were on a par with the outstanding combat efficiency of the troops themselves."

These pages are maintained the
506th Airborne Infantry Regiment Association (Airmobile - Air Assault)
This page updated 04/12/13