Valdosta Daily Times

National, International News

June 29, 2013

101st seeking to save ‘Band of Brothers’ regiment

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. — The 101st Airborne Division is trying to save its illustrious 506th Infantry Regiment, whose origins date to World War II’s fabled “Band of Brothers,” from deactivation under the Army’s massive restructuring.

The Army announced this week that at least 12 combat brigades nationwide are to be eliminated by 2017 under sweeping military reductions, among them the 4th Brigade Combat Team at Fort Campbell, Ky.

The long-term reorganization seeks to reduce the Army’s size from a high of about 570,000 members at the peak of the Iraq war to 490,000 to shrink spending and reflect the country’s current military needs as wars in Iraq and Afghanistan end.

The brigade traces its lineage to the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, created in 1942, at Camp Toccoa, Ga.

The 506th was among several parachute regiments created to sneak behind enemy lines in the war. Nicknamed “Currahee,” which is a Native American Cherokee term for “stands alone,” the regiment parachuted into Normandy during the D-Day invasion in 1944 and then later parachuted into Holland. The regiment raced to liberate Europe amid bouts of fierce fighting in Bastogne, Belgium and then overran Hitler’s famed “Eagle’s Nest” in Germany.

The regiment wasn’t associated with the “Band of Brothers” nickname until the book by historian Stephen Ambrose came out in 1992, reigniting interest in the regiment among the public. The subsequent HBO miniseries produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks about the men of Easy Company won national acclaim, and followed the soldiers from paratrooper training through D-Day and the end of the war.

Brig. Gen. Mark Stammer, acting senior commander of the 101st Airborne Division, said the division wants to preserve the regiment’s two battalions, along with its flags and its historical legacy.

He said during a news conference Thursday at the post on the Tennessee-Kentucky state line that the regiment’s battalions should be transferred to two of the division’s three remaining infantry brigades.

The Army’s restructuring plan also calls for adding an additional battalion, which is between 600-800 soldiers, to its remaining infantry and armor brigades. Adding the battalion was a recommendation from commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan who said it would beef up the fighting capabilities of the brigades when they go to war.

If Washington’s defense and budget planners approve of such a plan, he said “the 506th will live, but it will just live in another brigade combat team.”

Following World War II, the regiment was deactivated and reactivated a number of times in its history and moved to other locations as the Army reorganized in the post-war era.

The 506th deployed to the Vietnam War for four years, winning a presidential unit citation for their actions in the A Shau Valley. The regiment’s soldiers served in Iraq for a 2004-2005 stint before the regiment returned to Iraq from late 2005 through 2007 in Baghdad as the new 4th Brigade Combat Team under the 101st Airborne Division. The 4th Brigade is currently on its third deployment to Afghanistan.

John O’Brien, the installation historian at Fort Campbell, said the regimental flag with its battle streamers carries the history of the unit, marking the battles and campaigns from World War II to recent times. If the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment were moved to a new unit, that regimental flag would continue to fly, he said.

“History, heritage and values ... those things provide the glue that holds the unit together,” O’Brien said. “You can imagine how powerful it is to say, ‘I am member of the Band of Brothers.”’

Jim Martin served in the G Company of the original 506th regiment. At 92, he just returned from a trip to Europe to visit locations, including the coast of France, where he and fellow soldiers fought.

Martin, who lives near Dayton, Ohio, said the Army command needs to exercise care when it makes changes to special units such as the 506th. “If you disband them, you’re not going to get them back very easily.”

He said the regiment’s original commander, Col. Robert Sink, wanted his soldiers to stay together from their initial basic training through paratrooper training and on into combat to build trust among the soldiers. Although he admits he’s not one for emotion, he worried that splitting up the regiment’s battalions would be disruptive for the soldiers.

“The problem with doing that is you lose the unit cohesiveness,” he said. “Anytime you move around or change, you lose that.”

Sink’s daughter Robin Sink McClelland has a mailing list of about 400 veterans and their families to share information about the regiment and its history.

“Everybody feels proud to be a member of the Currahee nation, so anything they can do to keep that going would be good,” she said.

Joe Alexander, 67, of Lenoir City, Tenn., who was a second lieutenant in the regiment during the Vietnam War, said while he understands that the Army needs to cut down its size, he was hoping they would be spared when the Army spread the brigade cuts throughout the country.

“We are competitive and we all want our regiments to be saved,” he said. “But it does seem like they could have picked another one that had less of a history.”

1
Text Only
National, International News
  • AP4507280123 copy.jpg Today in History for Monday, July 28, 2014
    Today is Monday, July 28, the 209th day of 2014. There are 156 days left in the year. 
     

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tentative deal reached on VA reform

    The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees have reached a tentative agreement on a plan to fix a veterans’ health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays.

    July 27, 2014

  • United States-Libya_Rich.jpg US evacuates embassy in Libya amid clashes

    The United States shuttered its embassy in Libya on Saturday and evacuated its diplomats to neighboring Tunisia under U.S. military escort as fighting intensified between rival militias. Secretary of State John Kerry said “free-wheeling militia violence” prompted the move.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP9607270692 copy.jpg Today in History for Sunday, July 27, 2014

    Today is Sunday, July 27, the 208th day of 2014. There are 157 days left in the year.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • No ticket for Shrek over loud musical, chief says

    A musical being performed in a New Hampshire park has drawn some noise complaints, but the deputy police chief says he’s “not giving Shrek a ticket.”

    July 26, 2014

  • Arizona Execution Dru_Rich copy.jpg Arizona’s McCain: Execution was torture

    U.S. Sen. John McCain says the execution of an Arizona inmate that lasted two hours was torture.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ukraine Plane_Rich copy.jpg US: Russia firing into Ukraine

    Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the crisis.
    Russia accused Washington of lying and charged Ukraine with firing across the border on a Russian village. It also toughened its economic measures against Ukraine by banning dairy imports.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP7107260254 copy.jpg Today in History for Saturday, July 26, 2014

    Today is Saturday, July 26, the 207th day of 2014. There are 158 days left in the year.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mideast Iraq_Rich copy.jpg Iraq elects new president amid attacks

    Iraqi lawmakers elected a veteran Kurdish politician on Thursday to replace long-serving Jalal Talabani as the country’s new president in the latest step toward forming a new government. But a series of attacks killed dozens of people and Islamic militants destroyed a Muslim shrine traditionally said to be the burial place of the Prophet Jonah, underscoring the overwhelming challenges facing the divided nation.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hong Kong Shutdown_Rich copy.jpg Hong Kong firms on edge as blockade looms

    As activists vow to shut down Hong Kong’s financial district in protest at China’s attempt to hobble democratic elections in the city, businessman Bernard Chan is preparing for the worst.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

Do you agree with the millage rate increases?

Yes. We need to maintain services
No. Services should have been cut.
     View Results