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The 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment was activated under the Airborne Command, Fort Bragg, N.C., July 6, 1942, at Fort Benning, Ga. The regiment was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division Feb. 4 the following year.
During World War II, the 505th PIR participated in seven major campaigns and four regimental airborne assaults. On April 28, 1943, the 505th left the New York Port of Embarkation for Casablanca, North Africa, where the regiment underwent six weeks of grueling training. The Regiment then flew to Kairouan, Tunisia, where final preparations were conducted for the 505th's entry into battle.
The regiment made its first regimental-size combat jump July 9, 1943, as it landed behind enemy lines at Gela, Sicily. In its first trial-by-fire, the 505th, though outmanned and outgunned, used raw courage and fighting spirit to block the German Herman Goering Panzer Division and to save the beachhead and the Allied landings. With Sicily secure, the Allies continued attack on the Axis powers with landings on the Italian mainland.
The 505th conducted its second combat parachute attack on September 14, 1943, into Salerno, Italy, becoming the first unit to enter Naples. During the early months of 1944, the Division was moved to England as the allies were preparing for the assault on Western Europe. The largest combined military operation in history, "D-Day", was to be spearheaded by the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions.
On June 6, 1944, at 3 a.m., 505th Paratroopers were landing on the Normandy Peninsula for the regiment’s third combat jump. It was one of the first airborne units to hit the ground, and it liberated the first town in France, St. Mere-Eglise. The paratroopers jumped prior to the actual start of the invasion – "H-Hour". Because of that tradition, of being the first into the fight, the 505th motto is "H-Minus".
For their performance during the invasions, the 505th was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, which is the unit equivalent of the Medal of H