The First Airborne Infantry "Test Platoon"

In late June of 1940, the US War Department finally followed suit of many other countries and created an Airborne Infantry “Test Platoon” at Fort Benning, GA. This test platoon was composed of 2 officers and 48 enlisted soldiers from Fort Benning’s 29th Infantry Regiment. The first Lieutenant William T. Ryder was the test platoon’s leader and also considered the first American paratrooper. The soldiers had all been selected from a pool of 200 volunteers, based on high standards of health and fitness. Ryder, along with the designated assistant platoon leader Lieutenant James A. Bassett, led this first group of volunteer Airborne soldiers.

Lieutenant Colonel William C. Lee, a staff officer for the Chief of Infantry who was intently interested in the test platoon, recommended that the men be moved to the Safe Parachute Company at Hightstown, NJ for training on the parachute drop towers used during the New York World’s Fair. Eighteen days after organization, the platoon was moved to New Jersey and trained for one week on the 250-foot free towers.

Less than 50 days after being organized, the first official jump from an airplane in flight was made by the Test Platoon from a Douglas B-18 over Lawson Field on August 16, 1940. Prior to this drop, the platoon held a lottery to determine what lucky soldier would follow Lieutenant Ryder out of the airplane. Private William N. “Red” King won this lottery and became the first official enlisted man of the test platoon to jump out of an airplane.

The Four Original Jump Towers
The Four Original Jump Towers
Photo Credit: Army.com

The Army paratrooper movement rapidly gained momentum as two new Parachute Battalions – the 501st and 502d- came into existence. The 501st Parachute Battalion, commanded by Major William M. Miley, became the first parachute combat unit in the Army. With all of this progress in parachute and paratrooper training, the War Department saw it fit to establish a unified training command. On May 15, 1943, at Fort Benning, the First Parachute School.

Today, the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 507th Infantry Regiment has the responsibility to conduct the U.S. Army Airborne School. Army Airborne School, also called “Jump School”, is where students learn how to jump out of aircraft, navigate by using a parachute, and then land on the ground and move on to combat objectives. Students at the school go through three phases of training: ground, tower and jump.

THE AIRBORNE CREED


I am an Airborne trooper! A PARATROOPER!

I jump by parachute from any plane in flight. I volunteered to do it, knowing well the hazards of my choice.

I serve in a mighty Airborne Force–famed for deeds in war–renowned for readiness in peace. It is my pledge to uphold its honor and prestige in all I am–in all I do.

I am an elite trooper–a sky trooper–a shock trooper–a spearhead trooper. I blaze the way to far-flung goals–behind, before, above the foe’s front line.

I know that I may have to fight without support for days on end. Therefore, I keep mind and body always fit to do my part in any Airborne task. I am self-reliant and unafraid. I shoot true, and march fast and far. I fight hard and excel in every art and artifice of war.

I never fail a fellow trooper. I cherish as a sacred trust the lives of men with whom I serve. Leaders have my fullest loyalty, and those I lead never find me lacking.

I have pride in the Airborne! I never let it down!

In peace, I do not shrink the dullest of duty not protest the toughest training. My weapons and equipment are always combat ready. I am neat of dress–military in courtesy–proper in conduct and behavior.

In battle, I fear no foe’s ability, nor under-estimate his prowess, power and guile. I fight him with all my might and skills–ever alert to evade capture or escape a trap. I never surrender, though I be the last.

My goal in peace or war is to succeed in any mission of the day–or die, if needs be, in the try.

I belong to a proud and glorious team–the Airborne, the Army, my Country. I am its chosen pride to fight where others may not go–to serve them well until the final victory.

I am the trooper of the sky! I am my Nation’s best! In peace and war I never fail. Anywhere, anytime, in anything–I AM AIRBORNE!

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