Have you ever wanted to jump out of a perfectly good airplane? If so, you would be part of an elite group called Airborne. I would like to inform you of 3 key events of the evolution of Airborne.
Major General William C. Lee, Dunn is considered the father of Airborne. He was a North Carolina State University ROTC graduate who stayed in the Army after World War I, and was assigned as a peace-time observer in Germany. In this position Lee took note of Hitler’s development of his airborne troops.
Lee returned to Washington as a Major in the Office of the Chief of Infantry. He was impressed by what he had seen the German Army doing with its airborne forces and its successes.
Major Lee talked about it constantly with his infantry Colonel. The Colonel did not have a high expectation of the development of an American Airborne Unit. He was quoted as saying “Major, I am sick and tired of hearing your nonsense about airborne warfare. No American soldier is ever going to have little enough sense to jump out of an airplane even in a parachute, and I don’t want to hear the word airborne spoken in this office again. This is a direct order.” The only thing Major Lee could say was, “Yes, sir.”
A few weeks later, Major Lee, as the junior officer in the office, received a phone call regarding the possibility of airborne warfare. He was under direct orders not to even use the word, so he handed the phone to the Colonel. The gentleman on the phone was President Franklin Roosevelt’s military aide. He told the Colonel, the President had been reading about Hitler’s airborne activities and wanted to know more about it. The Colonel handed the phone back to Lee and ordered, “Tell this man anything he wants to know.”
Major Lee was invited to the White House to brief President Roosevelt on what he had seen in Germany. The President was so impressed that he ordered airborne planning and training to begin immediately.
On March 25, 1942, the 82nd Infantry Division was...