A “brief” History of the 11th Airborne Division  
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  by Leo Kocher 511th PIR           
  The 11th Airborne division, nicknamed "The Angels," was activated at Camp Mackall, N.C.., Feb. 25, 1943, under the command of Maj. Gen. Joseph Swing. After almost a year training, in ground and Airborne tactics, the division was tested for overseas movement and in May 1944, sailed from San Francisco for New Guinea. There the paratroopers trained for jungle warfare and intensified combat unit ground training.    
  On Nov. 7, 1944, the Angels sailed from New Guinea and on Nov. 11, 1944 landed at Leyte Beach, Leyte, Philippine Islands, 40 miles south of Tacloban. In three months of bitter fighting, the division cleared the treacherous mountain pass from Burauen to Ormoc, killing more than 5,700 Japanese.  Their mission completed, the 11th Abn. paratroopers were withdrawn from the front lines in January 1945, given a short rest, re-equipped and on Jan. 26, 1945, the 188th and 187th GIR stormed Nasgubu Beach, Luzon, Philippine Islands while the 511th jumped inland at Taygaytay Ridge.  Linking up, the Division started a drive towards Manila. In five days, the division fought its way from Nasgubu Beach to Manila, a distance of 69 miles.   
  They eliminated all opposition along Highway 17, destroyed the famed fortified "Genko Line" protecting southern Manila, took Fort McKinley, Clark Field and Nichols Field. For the achievement, the division was cited by Lt. Gen. Robert L. Eichelberger, then commanding general of the 8th U.S. Army and almost every unit within the division was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.   
  From Manila the paratroopers swung south. In a lighting thrust by land, sea and air, the division made a daring raid on Los Banos Internment Camp behind Japanese lines and successfully rescued 2,147 internees. This accomplished, they cleared the Japanese from southern Luzon, eliminating enemy strongholds in Ternate , Macolod and Mount Malepunyo.   
  Near the close of the Luzon campaign. one reinforced battalion, designated "Task Force Gypsy" was attached to the 6th U.S. Army. A combined parachute and glider operation was launched on Aparri, in Northern Luzon to seal off the Cagavan Valley and permit the annihilation of the remaining Japanese. Task Force Gypsy was the largest and one of the only U.S. glider operations of the Pacific War.  
  During action on Luzon, the division participated in combat parachute jumps at Taygaytay Ridge, Los Banos, and Aparri. It was at Aparri that the 11th Abn. successfully completed the only combat glider landing made in the Pacific theater.  In May 1945, the division moved into a rest and training camp near Lipa, Luzon to prepare for the planned invasion of Japan.   
  While at Lipa, the Division was reorganized to confirm to the new TO&E for Airborne Divisions.  The 541st PIR arrived from stateside to be assigned as the 2nd Parachute Regiment in the Division.  But Gen Swing chose to keep the original three Regiments and inactivated the 541st using its personnel and men from the inactivated 503rd PRCT to activate the 3rd Battalions in the 187th and 188th.  The 188th was designated PIR and the 187th PGIR.  
  Japan's surrender canceled the invasion of Japan plans and on Aug. 10, 1945, the division moved to Okinawa to spearhead the occupation and ensure Gen. Douglas MacArthur would have a safe arrival into Japan.  The 11th Abn. landed at Atsugi Airdrome, near Tokyo, on Aug. 30, 1945, and occupied an initial area in and around Yokohama. It remained there until mid-September 1945, when they moved to northern Japan and assumed responsibility for Akita, Yamagata, Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures. The division later took over control of Amori, Hokkaido, Fukushima and Prefectures to control almost half the island of Honshu and all the island of Hokkaido.  
  General Swing left the division, which he had formed and led through combat, in January 1948, to assume command of 1st Corps, 8th Army and Maj. Gen. William M. Miley assumed command.  The division was relieved of its occupation role in early 1949 and made the move back to the United States and Camp Campbell, KY, to start an intensive training program. In the summer of 1949, they provided instructions to move than 1000 Reserve Officer Training Corps students and Reserve Officers, including the officers and men of the 100 Airborne Division, one of the five such division's in the Army reserve Forces. Earlier, in late 1948 and early 1949 the Airborne Division's TO&E was changed, doing away with glider forces and designating all Regiments as 'Airborne' and parachute qualified.  
  In 1950, the division started concentrating on training and preparation for "Exercise Swarmer," scheduled to be held in May 1950 near Ft. Bragg, N.C.   Swarmer was the largest ever Airborne maneuver testing whether a successful airhead could be established, reinforced and re-supplied behind an enemy's forward lines.  As a result of re-supply techniques learned on "Swarmer," forces in the Korean Conflict had superior re-supply methods and mobility over the enemy forces. The 187th was designated as an Airborne Regimental Combat Team in July 1950 and ordered to Korea.  MacArthur had asked for the 82nd Airborne but was denied as it was in strategic reserve.  The 187th was badly under strength so existing personnel from the 511th were assigned to the 187th to bring it up to full wartime strength.  
  MacArthur had wanted to use the 187th to establish an airhead in conjunction with the Inchon invasion but neither enough troop carrier aircraft or parachutes were available so the 187th air-landed at Kimpo airbase outside of Seoul. The 3rd Bn was attached to the 1st Marine Division for the capture of Seoul.  
  The 187th ARCT, while still assigned to the 11th Abn. Div., made a combat assault at the at Sukchon-Sunchon area near the foothills of Pyongyang, in Oct. 1950, to cut off North Korean forces defending the capitol.  In March 1951 they made a second combat assault near the 38th Parallel at Munsan-ni.  Both assaults caught the enemy by surprise and permitted the taking of objectives which would have taken weeks of slugging on foot. It also cut off and provided the capture of thousands of prisoners.  In March 1951, the 187th was designated a separate Regimental Combat Team and unassigned from the 11th Airborne Division.  
  Meanwhile, the remainder of the 11th Abn. at home was not idle. To fill the void of 187th overseas movement, the famous 188th Glider Infantry Regt. of the 11th Abn., in the Pacific during World War II, had been restored to the division in August 1950.  Upon its restoration to the division, the 188th was re-designated a Parachute Infantry Regiment.  The 188th had distinguished itself in World War II as the only unit to make a glider attack in the Pacific theater in Operation Gypsy (Aparri) on Luzon in 1945.  It also provided a battalion as the link up element for the Los Banos operation, one of the most spectacular and successful raids of World War II which liberated 2,147 allied prisoners from a Japanese concentration camp. B-511th Company and the machine-gun platoon of HQ1-511th Company was the Airborne assault element of the rescue operation.  
  To restore the Division to full strength and make the Div. complete, the historic and battle-tested 503rd, know as "The Rock" for its capture of Corregidor, was reactivated on March 5, 1951. This was the anniversary of it original activation in 1942 at Fort Benning, Ga., and the anniversary of the surrender of Corregidor to the 503rd by the Japanese in 1945.  
  With the outbreak of the war in Korea, training was intensified. In the late summer months of 1950, the 11 Abn. Div. was charged with training, processing and shipment overseas of 13,000 enlisted reservists which was completed in December of the same year.  Additionally, with the worsening of the war in Korea (after the Chinese entered the war) the Division was maintained in a constant state of combat readiness should events require its use either in the Pacific or, as many feared then, in Europe.  Fortunately such was not to be.  
  In March 1956,  the Division crossed the Atlantic into Europe to replace the 5th Inf. Div., in Augsburg, Germany during Operation Gyroscope. The division's tenure came to an end at Fort Campbell in July 1958, when the 11th Abn. Div. was officially inactivated.  The cause was partially due to disciplinary problems and that the 101st was restored as an active Airborne Division in the army's strategic forces.  There was no room for a third Airborne Division and the 'Airborne Division stepchild of the Pacific' had to go.  
  Five years later, the 11th Air Assault Div (Test) was formed at Fort Benning, Ga., the training area site for many soldiers of the original division. The unit commander was Maj. Gen. W.O. Kinnard, who had been chief of staff of the 101st Abn. Div. during World War II.  During its brief, two year tenure, the division conducted studies developing the concept of helicopters and the use of air mobility. When tests were completed, the division was deactivated and the 1st Cavalry was given the trained assets. Once again the 11th was given the short shrift as the concept of air assault was mistakenly considered as an 'air cavalry' mission.  Combat in Vietnam soon disproved that idea, but it was too late for the 11th.  Only the 187th, originally of the 11th remains on the active rolls bearing part of the 11th battle honors.  Due to its service in Korea, the 187th is the only Regiment of Airborne vintage to serve in all of America's wars and in every form of vertical envelopment since the advent of 'airborne' and thus constitutes an unbroken line of 'airborne' history.  
  11th Airborne Commanders  
  MG Joseph M. Swing.............02-1943...........02-1946  
  BG Frank Dorn.......................02-1943...........06-1946  
  MG Joseph M. Swing.............06-1946...........01-1948  
  MG William M. Miley............01-1948...........01-1950  
  MG Lyman L. Lemnitzer........01-1950...........11-1951  
  MG Wayne C. Smith...............11-1950...........01-1952  
  MG Ridgely Gaither................02-1952...........04-1953  
  MG Wayne C. Smith................05-1953...........05-1955  
  MG Derrill McDaniel..............06-1955...........09-1956  
  MG Hugh P. Harris..................10-1956...........04-1958  
  MG Ralph Cooper....................05-1958...........06-1958  
  Div. Inactivated  
  MG Harry W. O. Kinnard..........1963..................1965  
  1) 11th Airborne and 511th Parachute Infantry Yearbooks.  
  2) 187th ARCT Yearbooks  
  3) Articles from the 11th Airborne and 511th PIR Association Newsletters.  
  4) Newspaper Articles and communication with fellow 11th Airborne troopers.  
  5) Edited and expanded by Col William Weber 187th