Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The 187th Airborne Infantry, the "Rakkasans"

Bob Broumley (my dad) at Kumwha, Korea.
I've always thought that the 187th Airborne was another seriously under appreciated parachute infantry unit in American military history. Especially for their service in Korea. I was even more amazed at the dedication of these paratroopers after I read Edward Flanagan's "The Rakkasans: The Combat History of the 187th Airborne Infantry." Not only did they make two combat jumps, but as the theater's strategic reserve were used as a stopgap to avert disaster on more than one occasion. As some of the regular readers know, my dad is a Korean War veteran who served with the 187 Airborne Regimental Combat Team (RCT), as did one of my uncles. I recently wrote a summary history of the 187th Infantry Regiment (Airborne) for Military Vet Shop. I thought I'd share it here with you:

A Summary History of the 187th Infantry Regiment


Shoulder Sleeve Insignia of the 187 RCT.
Soldiers of the 187th Infantry Regiment (Airborne) have the distinction of belonging to the only airborne regiment that has served in every conflict since the inception of American airborne forces. Today, the First Battalion (1/187) and Third Battalion (3/187) of the 187th carry on the tradition while assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT) of the 101st Airborne Division. The 3d BCT carries on the nickname “Rakkasans,” the nom de guerre of the 187 Airborne.

The Regiment was constituted on November 12, 1942 and activated on February 25, 1943 as the 187 Glider Infantry Regiment (GIR) at Camp MacKall, North Carolina. The two-battalion regiment was assigned to the 11th Airborne Division for the duration of World War II.

The first major milestone for the 11th Airborne Division, which along with the 187th Glider Infantry included the 188th Glider Infantry and the 511th Parachute Infantry, was to convince the War Department that the divisional airborne concept was viable. Airborne operations during 1943 in Sicily and the Italian mainland had not gone well. The 11th and 17th Airborne Divisions conducted the Knollwood Maneuvers in late 1943 and early 1944 that demonstrated to observers that an airborne division could be flown at night, land on their planned drop zones, be resupplied by air, and hold their objective until relieved. The success of the Knollwood Maneuvers was a major factor in the approval of future parachute operations during WWII.

Paratroopers of the 187th Airborne RCT
on a training jump in Korea, circa 1953.
The 187th Glider Infantry and the rest of the 11th Airborne Division embarked for the Pacific Theater out of Camp Stoneman, California in May of 1944. Their first combat action was to join the campaign in New Guinea on May 29, 1944. The regiment joined the fight in the Philippines, landing on Leyte on November 18, 1944. The 187 GIR then landed on Luzon on January 31, 1945. The regiment, along with the 188th GIR, entered Luzon by making an amphibious landing on the enemy-held Lingayen Gulf in order to flank the Japanese lines. The 187th Glider Infantry fought in other notable actions on Luzon, like “Purple Heart hill,” Tagatay Ridge, Nichols Field, and Mount Macelod. As part of the 11th Airborne Division, the 187 GIR was one of the units instrumental in liberating the Philippine capital of Manila. The regiment was given the honor of garrisoning the city. Moreover, the 187th was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for action at Tagatay Ridge and later a Philippine Presidential Citation for valorous combat performance in the liberation of Luzon and Manila.


Anonymous said...

Looking for any information on a Merrill dever, never heard stories untill his passing. He's my grandfather and I'd like to know some more info about his service.
Thank you
Sgt Dever C.M. USMC
Semper fi

Jim Broumley said...

Try requesting his DD214 from the National Archives, then you'll know his dates of service and with which units. Follow the link above on researching military service, or click here: Good luck with your research!

patrick daly said...

I was assigned to 1;st battalion a company as a medic from june 1953 til February 1954. was on line with them the last combat day in july. would like to hear from anyone that was there at those times.

Anonymous said...

My mom's cousin was Chaplin Holland Hope. He was one of those who jumped into Korea where his actions were rewarded with a Silver Star, Purple Heart and a Combat Infantryman's Badge. He retired at Fort Bliss, Texas after serving in WWII with the Americal Division, in Korea and in Vietnam as SF qualified. In retirement he volunteered at Wm. Beaumont Hospital for more than 20 years. Chaplin Col. Holland Hope is buried with his wife at Fort Bliss National. Cemetary.

Unknown said...

I'm looking for my Father who served and was stationed in Japan in 1955. Staff Sargent at that time. The only name is Doyle and a picture.

GP Cox said...

My father, Everett Smith, was one of the original 187th/11th Airborne Division members. I agree that the Rakkasans have been underrated ever since their creation in 1943. It is a pleasure to make the acquaintance of another 'child' of the 187th!!

Unknown said...

My name is Paul Fisher Ltc retired. And generation Paratrooper and father of a 3rd generation paratrooper. I am an amateur History buff with my undergraduate degree in History. Focused on Germany from Bismark through 3rd Reisch.
Served in the 3rd Battalion 503rd Infantry Regiment of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Separate in Vietnam 69 - 70 as the Battalion Commo Officer. After retiring in 1988 I worked as a government contractor with several high tech Corps. Upon fully retiring in 2005 I became involved in the 163rd Airborne Association. I also served in the 82nd Airborne after Vietnam. Big Airborne fan, Designed multiple Challange coins based on the 173rd existing designs and my own. Looking to find a copy of the reflagging letter of the 2/503rd to 2/509th. Any chance at all you might lead me in the right direction. I am over the moon about your book on the 503rd. Finally hoping someone gets its origins right. Please contact me. Warm regards, paul

Unknown said...

Paul Fisher....Forgive my fat finger typing

Jim Broumley said...

Paul Fisher: Thanks for the post and question. I went through my research for the book on the 509th (The Boldest Plan is the Best) and did not find the order redesignating the 2/503 to 2/509. Unfortunately, due to their independent status many of the primary source documents for the 509th PIB did not make it to the archives. I did my research at the Army Education Center in Carlisle and at the National Archives in College Park (DC). There might be more records somewhere as yet unfound.
Sorry I couldn't help. Good luck with your search and thank you for your service.

M. Rink said...

My father was with the 187th/11th Airborne Division, and made both jumps in Korea. His name was Sgt William Rink, and he passed in 1998. I'm trying to find which battalion and company he was in, so I can do further research. Thanks for any help.

M. Rink said...

I have some pictures taken while he was in Korea, and one of them shows him sitting on a jeep that has this insignia on the hood

On the bumper, it says "187/674F" I'm wondering if that "674F" can help narrow down what unit he was in?

Jim Broumley said...

MR. Rink:
The "674F" stands for the 674th Parachute Artillery Battalion. During Korea the 187th was a separate Regimental Combat Team. Basically the parachute infantry regiment with attached units to beef it up. The 674th was one of those.
I suggest you locate (or request from NARA) a copy of your father's form DD214 which will tell you what units he was assigned and when, as well a lot of other information like medals, schools, where stationed, etc.
I do not have unit rosters or other information like that on the 187. For that you will need to get into the archives. To help you with your research, check out this article I wrote on how I went about it with my dad and other relatives:
Good luck with your research!

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