503rd PIR, Nadzab, New Guinea

503rd PIR patch

503rd PIR patch

Many members of MacArthur’s staff were not enthusiastic about the plan. Allied resources were thin, and Japanese air and ground strength was formidable. Many military planners were skeptical of airborne operations. Some questioned the viability of the entire concept. German paratroops had suffered unsustainable casualties assaulting Crete in May, 1941. Allied airborne operations had met with disaster invading Sicily in July, 1943. Experience argued against establishing additional airborne units. Nevertheless, Kenney was convinced that with proper planning and support his plan would succeed. Fifth Air Force firepower was committed to provide close air support, and the troopers would be dropped in one lift to achieve mass and surprise. 

This was the first combat jump for the 503rd PIR.

The U.S. 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) was tasked to jump on Nadzab, New Guinea, to seize, clear and defend the airstrip. The 503rd PIR was one the first operational airborne units created by the U.S. Army. The paratroopers had been training for eight months in Australia and were ready to fight. The regiment was reinforced by a section of Australian parachute field artillery. They would later be joined by a small, elite unit of Australian engineers tasked with making the field operational. The U.S. 871st Airborne Engineer Battalion would be air-landed after the initial drop to clear the way for the transports ferrying in the Australian infantry. The operation started on September 5, one day after the amphibious assault by the 9th Australian Division south of Lae.

Landing of the 503rd Parachute Regiment

Landing of the 503rd Parachute Regiment

That dawn, seventy-nine transport planes and swarms of fighters and bombers departed from eight forward airfields scattered across New Guinea. They flew fast and low through the misty mountains of the Owen Stanley Range and rendezvoused over Nadzab. Allied fighters established a multi-layered air umbrella; medium bombers strafed and bombed suspected enemy positions while attack bombers put down smoke screens along the edges of the drop zones. Three columns of transport planes, flying at an altitude of 600 feet, dropped the paratroopers. Once the troopers had secured and marked the drop zones, heavy bombers, carrying 300 pound supply parcels rigged with parachutes, began to circle and drop additional supplies to the ground force.

503rd landing behind smoke screen

503rd landing behind smoke screen

The Japanese were completely surprised. They had no troops in the area, and within hours the airstrip at Nadzab was firmly in Allied hands. The engineers worked feverishly to improve the strip while the paratroopers established a defensive perimeter and sent out reconnaissance patrols toward Lae. Advanced elements of the Australian 7th Division flew into Nadzab on September 6. By September 10, the division’s lead brigade, supported by Fifth Air Force transports and bombers, was on its way to Lae. The Japanese could not stop the assault, and the fortress fell on September 16. The supply lines to Rabaul were cut, and the Allies passed another milestone on their way to Tokyo.

The 503rd PIR assault on Nadzab was one of history’s most successful airborne operations. General MacArthur called it the greatest example of combat efficiency he had ever witnessed. The results had skeptical minds in the army and elsewhere reconsidering their objections to airborne operations. General Kenney’s imaginative use of airpower and willingness to accept risk, combined with the flexibility of Australian ground commanders and the superb tactical skill of Allied soldiers and airmen, did more than shorten the war in the Pacific.  (This action was prior to the regiment joining the 11th Airborne Division.)

Information acquired from the U.S. Army.

Here is a very short video made of the jump!

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PERSONAL NOTE –  Our fellow blogger Mustang Koji and his family are supporting a worthy program for our deployed troops, Operation GratitudePlease pay them both a visit!

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HAPPY AUSTRALIA DAY 2016!! Australia-Day-January-26-2016-with-the-Australian-Map (640x480)

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Military Humor –

"Yum, what a dish that is!

“Yum, what a dish that is!

Pict0023

 

Click on image to enlarge.

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Farewell Salutes –

Francis Blackwell Alley – Tyron, NC; US Army WAC, WWII

Mark Cofield – Colorado Springs, CO; US Army, Iraq, XVIII A/B Corps, Sgt., KIA0083f165f66161f63454e92890403bcd

Jerry Davis – Cedar Ridge, CA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Edwin Fields – VA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 8th Air Force, B-24 gunner

Leo Hallahan – Dubuque, IA; US Army, WWII, PTO

Earl Martin – Brush Prairie, WA; US Merchant Marines, WWII

Alex Ochipa – Berwick, PA; US Army, WWII

Orville Petty – Jacksonville, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Vincent Quigley – Scarborough, CAN; RC Army, WWII, Irish Regiment

William Unger – Belvidere, KS & New Orleans, LA; USMC (Ret. 30 years), WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Navy Cross

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on January 25, 2016, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 87 Comments.

  1. As an Australian, I’m amazed I had no idea this operation took place. Thank you.

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    • Most of your soldiers were in the European Theater, so I am presuming that is what your educational system concentrated on. But so many in the US heard very little to nothing about all this. Thanks for coming by.

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      • Actually, if I’d relied upon the education system, I’d have known nothing about any of it. I’m a keen amateur historian with a pretty good reference library and I’ve never seen a thing on this.
        I never even knew my country had airborne soldiers during that war. We have a fantastic war museum in Canberra and I’m pretty sure this whole action is just ignored.

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      • By 1943 I think most Australian troops were back in our part of the world. It was an important moment for us as a nation when following the fall of Singapore Prime Minister John Curtin insisted Australian troops return to the Pacific. Churchill actually ordered them to Burma while they were sailing back home and Curtin had to insist. It fundamentally changed how Australia related to Britain and America. The Australian Army’s major campaigns in WWII were against the Vichy French in Syria, North Africa, Crete, the fall of Singapore which subsequently saw many perish on the Burma railway and our own backyard in the Pacific. With MacArthur’s island hopping and US troop build up we became less and less relevant strategically in the later years of the war. General Freyburg meanwhile was leading NZ Forces in Sicily.

        Liked by 1 person

    • No we tend to hear about Tobruk and Kokoda more than anything else but trust me there are many stories to discover. Very lucky GP passes on such things.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting story. We’ve all heard the exploits of paratroopers in Europe glorified in the Band of Brothers book and series. It is interesting that this drop was so amazingly successful yet not as well known.

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  3. What a great video! Thank you for sharing! I came across an interesting historical character recently I thought you might find particularly interesting. You may know about her already – Tiny Broadwick. She was the first woman to parachute from a plane and the first person to jump free-fall after getting her static-line tangled while demonstrating parachuting for the US Army.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well done, those guys~! Just watching the vid makes the adrenalin surge and pulse race …

    No mention of casualty figures, or did I miss something? What a truly brilliant masterstroke—a well done para operation is very difficult to counter (we could be seeing more of them in the future perhaps) …

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great story with a lot of danger.The video is very interesting information because a picture say more than a hundred words

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    • I hope i don’t run out of room with all the photos I use, because I am like you, I feel the picture explains the story a whole lot better than I ever could. Thanks for visiting.

      Like


  6. Wünsche dir einen glücklichen Dienstag lieber Gruß und Umarmung Gislinde

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  7. Te pretuiesc pentru ca imi intri direct in inima , bajbaind prin bezna neputintei mele, si scoti la lumina doar acele mici comori ale sufletului pe care nimeni altcineva nu le-a cautat atat de departe…
    I appreciate because I go to the heart, groping through the darkness of my helplessness, and bring out those little treasures of the soul just that nobody else has looked so far away …

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  8. Operation Gratitude is an amazing organization, that I have the privilege to volunteer in, in SoCA. They not only provide packages for our deployed troops, but also for our veterans, wounded warriors, those in training, and also for children (special packages during the holidays for children), of deployed troops. The gratitude I feel for being able to volunteer is immeasurable. The rewards are many, too numerous to mention, but let me just say that they are emotionally satisfying, to say the least.

    Like

  9. Thanks again GP. By the way how many Dinkel letters were sent and have they ever been published as a book?

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  10. What a fantastically daring operation. It’s always nice to see some original thinking being rewarded this way.

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  11. The video really brought it all to life. Those paratroopers had to be really anxious as they did this in battle for the first time. How many actually dropped?

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  12. I knew nothing about this. Very impressive.

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  13. Fabulous find of the video. Not often you see smoke being laid down by aircraft!

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  14. wonderful story and link!

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  15. Very interesting and loved the film clip. That was really something to see, Everett!

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  16. The video really put the exclamation point on your post. The planes lined up were impressive. Great job, GP. –Curt

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  17. Hey! You mentioned the story about Op Grad! I was wondering where new likes were coming from! Thank you!

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  18. Jumping out at 500′ with battle gear into enemy territory would’ve made me pee. Incredible courage for these men making their first jump into combat! I loved the smoke screen footage! First time for me. And think of the logistics just getting all the aircraft there across the Pacific!

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  19. Operation Gratitude (from Mustang Koji) looks great. As the mother of two warriors, I appreciate the support.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Thanks for posting more about the war in New Guinea and the video.

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    • My pleasure, Adam. It certainly was a long haul trying to get the Japanese off the island; I would be quite remiss if I didn’t try to give most everyone a mention for such an operation – US, Australian and native!

      Like

  21. That was quite a gamble to take, and a game changer.

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  22. An amazing operation. I am imagining the sight of all those planes and parachutes.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. We are grateful for Koji’s support — and yours, too! Thank you for the shout out!

    Liked by 2 people

  24. I like it a lot GP!

    Like

  25. I love reading about the war in New Guinea. I feel like I’ve filled in so many blank spots by reading your blog – Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. I enjoyed the short film clip, GP. Nice to see a report of a successful airborne operation too.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Thanks GP for posting something on PIR action during the Pacific Campaign…you don’t read or hear alot about any of them…In one of my history books, it list the 503 PIR as being with the 11th Airborne BEFORE the jump into New Guinea, but that is incorrect isn’t it?

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