The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion
America's First All African American Parachute Unit
In the winter of 1943-1944 twenty young African American enlisted men were ordered to Fort Benning, Georgia to train as parachutists. These young men were pioneers because, never before in the segregated military system then prevalent, were "Coloreds" considered intelligent enough to serve in combat units of any type and certainly not capable of being paratroopers.
Of these twenty young men, seventeen made up the test platoon, they were Walter Morris, Jack C. Tillus, Leo D. Reed, Hubert Bridges, Alvin Moon, Ned D. Best, Rodger S. Walden, Mc Kindley Godfrey Jr., Elijah Wesby, Samuel W. Robinson, Calvin R. Beal, Robert F. Green, Lonnie M. Duke, Clarence H. Beavers and James F. Kornegay.
In early 1944 sixteen of these young men completed requisite training, in spite of being subjected to treatment designed to make them fail, and were awarded the silver wings of qualified parachutists. Shortly thereafter an additional trooper, having being delayed by a family emergency was awarded the coveted parachutist badge. Then came six officers: Jasper Ross, Cliford Allen, Bradley Biggs, Edwin H. Willis, Warren C. Cornelius and Edward Baker. These men went on to form the cadre for the 555th Parachute Infantry Company at Camp Mc Kall, North Carolina.
Now that the gates were open, a vertable flood of young black men volunteered for parachute training, causing the rapid evolvement of seventeen enlisted men and six officers into he 555th Parachute Infantry Company and 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, which was attached to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
On a cold day in December, 1947, teary eyed members of the "Triple Nickles" Battalion stood in mass formation as this proud, one of a kind battalion was deactivated and reactivated as the 3rd Battalion 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division........thus becoming the first black unit in history to become part of an American combat division. This historic milestone was presided over by Major General James M. "Slim Jim" Gavin, a much admired and respected World War ll Commander.General Gaven because of his effort in bringing the "Triple Nickles" into the mainstream, will always be revered by members of the 555th Parachute Infantry Association.
The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion subsequently provided personnel for the formation of the 503rd Airborne Anti-Aircraft Battalion and the 80th Airborne Anti-Aircraft Battalion. These three battalions then provided personnel for the 2nd Airborne Ranger Company which became the first black unit in history to make a combat jump in Korea while attached to the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team. Also, who was to know that one day a Black Paratrooper would command the prestigious 82nd Airborne Division, some 33 years after the formation of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion. A Black Officer, Major General Roscoe Robinson became Commanding General of the 82nd Airborne Division.........the most sought after command in the United States Army.General Robinson was a 2nd lieutenant in the US Army after graduating from West Point at the birth of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion.
The story of the "Triple Nickles" is a newly told chapter in military and black social history. Without a doubt, the courage and competency of the black memembers herein mentioned paved the way for the integrated military and civilian societies that all Americans enjoy today. The 555th Parachute Infantry Association was formed as a vehicle designed to pay homage to those brave troopers who have preceded us and to maintain their memory by doing good works for the society in which they live.
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