Tag Archives: award

Equal in All Ways; Fighting the Firefly

“There was a terrible explosion. Twigs flew through the air, pine needles began to fall, dead branches and dust, and dead logs went up” said Richard Barnhouse to Oregon’s Mail Tribune, describing the detonation of a Japanese bomb.

However, Barnhouse not talking about combat in the Pacific Theater; World War II Japan was attacking the United States.

The Japanese fire balloon campaign, known as Fu-Go, involved hydrogen-filled balloons carried across the ocean by the Jet Stream to the US’ West Coast, where they would drop their payload of explosives.

This screen grab from a Navy training film features an elaborate balloon bomb.

The men of the 555th Parachute Infantry Regiment answered the nation’s call to fight back. Never reaching the necessary manning to fight in the European Theater, the 555th PIR received orders on May 5th, 1945 to report to Oregon and be assigned to the 9th Services Command.

Their primary mission; recovery and destruction of Japanese balloon-bombs; firefighting was their secondary mission according to a report published by the U.S. Army War College.

Arriving at Pendleton Field, Oregon a week later, the men of the 555th PIR conducted more training in land navigation, medical aid and physical endurance while waiting for their equipment to arrive.

A Japanese Fu-Go balloon with its payload of charges suspended below.

Even there, the all African American unit faced discrimination much like that of the deep South when training at Fort Benning. The paratroopers found it difficult to buy a drink or a meal in the town of Pendleton and the commander of the base did not want them mixing with the base’s population. Undaunted, the paratroopers continued taking pride in their skills and staged demonstration jumps for local civilians.

By that time, however, the Fu-Go campaign was tapering off, the Japanese reportedly having used it as an effort to improve morale among factory workers, telling them the balloons were causing havoc in Los Angeles or Seattle.

They soon received training by the U.S. Forest Service to parachute into heavily wooded areas and fight fires caused by the Fu-Go balloons, careless campers and lightning. Specially equipped and trained, the “Triple Nickle” paratroopers became the forefathers of modern-day Smokejumpers.

Based at Pendleton Field, Oregon with a detachment at Chico, the 555th PIR responded to 36 fire calls, making more than 1,200 individual jumps.

More than thirty paratroopers sustained injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to broken legs and even crushed chests. Tragically, Malvin L. Brown, a medic assigned to Headquarters Company, died August 6, 1945 after falling while trying to descend from a tree.

While at Camp Pendleton, the 555th PIR would establish another historic landmark. On July 25, 1945, fifty-four men conducted a full combat-equipment jump with live ammunition. After their initial assault on their objective, they marked it and called in Naval aircraft piloted by trainees to bomb and strafe it. This marked the first time African-American paratroopers to conduct a joint operation with the Navy.

Even with the accomplishment of these tremendous feats, their most important footsteps were yet to come.

Panther Brigade Celebrates Centurion Jump

Sgt. Maj. Steven Noonan, the 3rd Brigade Combat Team’s Operations Sergeant Major, became the 82nd Airborne Division’s newest Centurion after completing his 100th static-line parachute operation early Sept. 21, 2018 jumping onto Fort Bragg’s Sicily Drop Zone.

Noonan has served in the 504th, 505th and 508th Parachute Infantry Regiments during his career and completed the nighttime combat jump with other members of the brigade to rehearse Assault Command Post operations.

Congrats to the Panther EIB Recipients

Congratulations to the 24 Panther paratroopers who earned their Expert Infantryman Badge in late August!

These paratroopers demonstrated their mastery at a myriad of skills, tasks, drills and physical endurance tests to earn the badge.

Of the 24, five of them were True-Blue, having passed each evaluation on the first attempt.