The 187th ‘Rakkasans’ – part (1)

11th Airborne Division, 1943 Yearbook

My father, Everett A. Smith, was a member of Headquarters Company/187th/11th Airborne Division, from 1942 until 1946.  From the very start of the division, General Joseph M. Swing was their commander.  Often called ‘Uncle Joe’, Smitty’s picture of him says, “My General” on the reserve side.

Major General Joseph Swing

Soldiers of the 187th Infantry Regiment (Airborne) have the distinction of belonging to the only airborne regiment that has served in every conflict since the inception of American airborne forces. Today, the First Battalion (1/187) and Third Battalion (3/187) of the 187th carry on the tradition while assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT) of the 101st Airborne Division. The 3d BCT carries on the nickname “Rakkasans,” the nom de guerre of the 187th/11th Airborne Division.

Smitty reclining in front, on the far right, with the HQ Company/187th Regiment/11th Airborne

The Regiment was constituted on November 12, 1942 and activated on February 25, 1943 as the 187 Glider Infantry Regiment (GIR) at Camp MacKall, North Carolina. The two-battalion regiment was assigned to the 11th Airborne Division for the duration of World War II.

The first major milestone for the 11th Airborne Division, which along with the 187th Glider Infantry included the 188th Glider Infantry and the 511th Parachute Infantry, was to convince the War Department that the divisional airborne concept was viable. Airborne operations during 1943 in Sicily and the Italian mainland had not gone well. The 11th and 17th Airborne Divisions conducted the Knollwood Maneuvers in late 1943 and early 1944 that demonstrated to observers that an airborne division could be flown at night, land on their planned drop zones, be resupplied by air, and hold their objective until relieved. The success of the Knollwood Maneuvers was a major factor in the approval of future parachute operations during WWII.

courtesy of the U.S. Army Signal Corps

The 187th Glider Infantry and the rest of the 11th Airborne Division embarked for the Pacific out of Camp Stoneman, California in May of 1944. Their first combat action was to join the campaign in New Guinea on May 29, 1944.  This would start the long and productive relationship with the 5th Air Force.  The regiment joined the fight in the Philippines, landing on Leyte on November 18, 1944. The 187 GIR then landed on Luzon on January 31, 1945.

Camp Stoneman, “Through these portals…..”

The regiment, along with the 188th GIR, entered Luzon by making an amphibious landing on the enemy-held Nasugbu Point in order to flank the Japanese lines. The 187th Glider Infantry fought in other notable actions on Luzon, like “Purple Heart hill,” Tagatay Ridge, Nichols Field, and Mount Macelod. As part of the 11th Airborne Division, the 187 GIR was one of the units instrumental in liberating the Philippine capital of Manila. The regiment was given the honor of garrisoning the city. Moreover, the 187th was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for action at Tagatay Ridge and later a Philippine Presidential Citation for valorous combat performance in the liberation of Luzon and Manila.

November 1944: Two Coast Guard-manned landing ships open their jaws as U.S. soldiers line up to build sandbag piers out to the ramps, on Leyte island, Philippines. (AP Photo)

At the end of WWII, the 11th Airborne Division was selected as the first troops to enter Japan on occupation duty. On August 30, 1945 flew to Atsugi Airfield in Yamamoto, Japan. The 187th Infantry was the first American occupation troops, and the first foreign military force to enter Japan in more than 2,000 years. It was in Japan that the regiment earned its nickname.

Gen. Swing’s flag atop Atsugi Airfield hanger

The regiment had been converted from glider infantry to the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment. The Japanese had no word to describe these soldiers falling from the sky, so they used the made up Japanese word “rakkasan” to describe what the American soldiers did. The literal translation means “falling down umbrella men.” The locals started calling the troopers “Rakkasans,” and the name stuck.

To be continued…….

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.

################################################################################################################

Military Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

################################################################################################################

Farewell Salutes – 

Paul Barns Jr. – Miami,. FL; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Lt.

Joan Carlsen – Littleport, ENG; RAF WAAF, WWII, radio operator

Thomas R. Cross (101) – WY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 517th PIR, Col. (Ret.)

Jack Farley – Burdine, KY; US Army, Korea & Vietnam, Sgt. (Ret. 27 y.), Bronze Star, Purple Heart

Milton Farmer – Canton, GA; US Army, Korea & Vietnam, Co. A/ 187th RCT, (Ret. 20 y.)

Daniel Grosso – Buffalo, NY; USMC, WWII, Purple Heart

Wesley McNaughton – Ottawa, CAN; RC Army, WWII, ETO, Electrical & Mechanical Corps

Leonard Nixon – Garden City, SC; US Navy, WWII, PTO, electrician’s mate, USS Bougainville

Elgin Roy – Chattanooga, TN; USMC, WWII, PTO & CBI

Donald J. Streiber – Bountiful, UT; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT

################################################################################################################################################################################################################################

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 July 20, 2020, in SMITTY, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 108 Comments.

  1. Thanks for your like of my post, ” Israel In Isaiah, 1:1-31, Notes;” you are very kind.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. great story once again, GP. so glad i came across your blog.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Great tribute to your father, GP.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Like that nickname gp, reminds me of the name for helicopters in Vietnam, mai bai whup whup from the sound the rotors made, and the name for rear view mirrors on cars in pidgin English, look him front watch him back, great piece of historical reading mate, your Dad certainly got around.

    Liked by 2 people

    • He was there in the beginning of the 187th, through the war. I do believe he kept track of them afterward because I remember him sounding sad when he told me the 11th Airborne was separated.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. God bless your father; didn’t know the root of the Rakassans went back that far!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Interesting history, GP, including the origin of the nickname ‘Rakkasans’!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. While I did not post regarding the 100th birthday of General Muller
    I did have lunch with him and spent a day recording his recollections of
    the Los Banos Raid planning. This was in 2001. The author of a
    forth coming book about the 11th AB now posesses my audio
    cassettes of the Muller interview along with my interviews w/11th AB Recon
    platoon member, Terry Santos, and Jerry/Margaret Sams, author of
    my favorite prisoner account of the Los Banos Camp, “Forbidden
    Family: a Wartime Memoir of the Philippines”.

    I am looking forward to reading the balance of your 187th material.
    One of my dad’s friends, legendary 511th trooper, “Bull” Hendry
    was with the 187th in Korea.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Calling General Swing My General speaks volumes of the love and respect your father had for General Swing

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Priceless photos, especially the flag on the hanger, and the General. The fact that your dad wrote “My General” on the back speaks volumes. Great post, looking forward to part 2.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. They are quite a unit and Smitty was obviously proud to have served as one of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Interesting info about the 187th and 188th. My reading of history tells
    me those regiments landed in Southern Luzon at Nagsubu and not
    at the Lingayen site north of Manila as noted in the article.

    The 187th & 188th became parachute qualied while the 11th AB
    was held in reserve on New Guinea. I don’t believe the 11th as
    then constituted participated in combat. Later, the 503d was
    attached to the 11th AB and they did see action in New Guinea
    as an independent unit. General Swing thought all his troops
    should be jump qualified so he set up a New Guinea jump school.

    On Luzon there were battles around Hwy 17 leading to
    Tagaytay Ridge but I don’t believe there was a specific
    engagement there.

    A couple of interesting bits of FYI:

    • As of July 2020 B Gen Henry “Butch” Muller who was 11th AB
    G2 and a key Los Banos Raid planner survives at 103 years of age.

    • A new book about the 11th AB during WWII by an experienced
    writer is in the research stage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So far I have no idea why I have Lingayen in the article, but I will double check. Thank you. On New Guinea, the reason they were sent was to assist with the fighting there, but it did not transpire, so additional training kept them there and MacArthur’s wish to have their identity kept secret from the enemy. Before the 511th landed, the 187th and 188th were clearing the area from enemy the jump. Shorty Ridge was one area that needed to be cleared before the jump. I did a post for Gen. Muller on his 101st birthday….
      https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/2018/03/05/brig-general-henry-muller-101-years-and-still-going-strong/

      Liked by 2 people

      • While I did not post regarding the 100th birthday of General Muller
        I did have lunch with and spent a day recording his recollections of
        the Los Banos Raid planning. This was in 2001. The author of a
        forth coming book about the 11th AB now posesses my audio
        cassettes of the Muller interview along with my interviews w/11th AB Recon
        platoon member, Terry Santos, and Jerry/Margaret Sams, author of
        my favorite prisoner account of the Los Banos Camp, “Forbidden
        Family: a Wartime Memoir of the Philippines”.

        I am looking forward to reading the balance of your 187th material.
        One of my dad’s friends, legendary 511th trooper, “Bull” Hendry
        was with the 187th in Korea.

        Liked by 2 people

        • My favorite, so far, is by General E.M. Flanagan, who I also spoke with twice concerning the 187th.
          At the moment, I am drawing a blank on “Bull” Hendry, can you give me more? It seems odd a member of the 511th would go over to the 187th.
          Please keep me informed about the progress of the new book.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I like Flanagan’s book too but I was referring
            to the written accounts of Los Banos prisoners
            and not those who concentrate on the military
            mainly. I am a big fan of Forbidden Family because
            Margaret Sams & her husband, Jerry, had
            a particularly different experience. Jerry was a
            character as a prisoner and throughout his life.
            They attended almost all 11th AB and 511th PIR
            reunions with my parents as they were friends
            and neighbors here in rural California.

            As to James ‘Bull’ Hendry joining the
            187th I don’t think it was anything to give lots
            of thought to. He trained So Korean (commandos)
            since he had a particular skill set. He wasn’t even
            close to the only one to move from one unit to
            another. Obviously, if you are a career person you
            will shift around….General Swing (whom I met
            when goose hunting in 1967) came from the
            artillery side of things. After the war Gen Muller
            (still Col) was a military attache to the CIA & met
            w/Truman once a week , served in Latin Amer, &
            Army War College, Reg CO 82nd AB, Asst Div
            CO 101st AB (1969) , Training CO Ft Polk, La

            Liked by 1 person

          • Hey, GP……. another Tx of the 11th AB/Los Banos
            was done in the early 80s . It was called
            ‘Deliverance at Los Banos’ by Anthony Arthur,
            a historian. If you saw the History Channel Tx
            of the Los Banos Raid when it was broadcast
            or in VHS form you would have seen an
            interview w/Arthur as a part of the TV
            program

            Liked by 1 person

    • Further confrontations….
      “The 188th and the 1st of the 187th continued to advance toward the western edge of Tagatay Ridge despite the stubbornly defended Cariliao-Batulao defile. They were confronted with heavy artillery, machine gun and small arms fire as they rounded the steep bend. The southern ridge, the highest area of Tagatay Ridge would hereafter be known as “Shorty Ridge,” named after Colonel “Shorty” Soule. The Japanese artillery was extremely accurate and the 11th would soon find out the answer. Before the G.I.s even landed on Luzon, the enemy had put white crosses in the trees and had pre-adjusted their artillery to them. The soldiers were not the only ones pinned down. With them was “the spearhead tipped with brass.” Generals Eichelberger, Swing, Pierson and Farrell were in the group. Col. Coe was killed, Col. Wilson and Capt. Lyman of the 187th were wounded.”

      “More than 300 enemy soldiers were killed on Shorty Ridge, an important area of defense for the Japanese that included reinforced caves and tunnels. The 511th was in the process of jumping.”

      Like

  12. Hello,thanks for useful post share

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I always find your posts about your father’s role in the war the most powerful. He was certainly one of the greatest generation. And how interesting to know the explanation for Rakassan.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This really was a fascinating history, and I loved finding the translation of ‘rakassans.’ It certainly is descriptive — interesting how people will invent words to describe new experiences, and that certain was a new one!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. General Swing certainly looks the part. John Wayne must have studied him. 🙂 I’m so glad you have these old photos, GP. Thanks or sharing them with us.
    LOL, “falling down umbrella men,” isn’t a bad description for considering they had no word for it. Hugs on the wing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • When there isn’t a word – improvise, eh?! There was no Japanese word for retreat either, so during the war, when necessary, they would tell the men to about-face and follow the man in front of you.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I (Leo) remember my dad telling me that among US Army troops, the Japanese feared the 187th.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I can understand that. No only did they have long and arduous physical training, they could be both glidermen and paratroopers. Thank you for contributing to the post, Leo!

      Like

  17. That is quite some record that Smitty was part of.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. “Gen. Swing’s flag atop Atsugi Airfield hanger” I wonder how many copies of that photograph finished up on the walls of returning veterans’ houses. Quite an iconic image!

    Liked by 3 people

  19. Thanks for the explanation of Rakassans. I’m sure that would have been a strange sight to see so many men falling through the sky. You are certainly lucky to have pictures of your dad during his time of service.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Very interesting, particularly the detail of “falling down umbrella men.”

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Are those ships LSTs? That’s a remarkable photo.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Reading about your Dad, and the important work he did, got me teary-eyed. 🙂 What an amazing man! I KNOW you are proud of him! 🙂

    As for The General. 🙂 To have a good, wise leader…that you can trust…so valuable! 🙂

    Wonderful post, GP! 🙂
    (((HUGS))) 🙂
    PS…HAHAHA on the poo-landing and the counting cartoons! 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m always happy to hear you smile on the cartoons! That would have been important to Smitty as well.
      Dad, oh yes, I’m very proud of him. The General, I am extremely grateful. If I’m not mistaken, his casualty numbers were the lowest compared to the other divisions, despite them being a smaller division. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Love the history here, GP. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I love the name “Falling Down Umbrella Man”. Very appropriate! Thanks for another history lesson.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Great post! I’m looking forward to part two.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Another informative post. Thanks GP. Love the cartoons. I never lost my wallet but I did have my glasses fly off as soon as I exited once.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I would think being the first occupation troops in Japan was quite an honor. It seems the Army had a lot of confidence in that division. I bet you have many interesting stories about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • MacArthur considered the 11th Airborne his secret weapon. The Japanese never knew they existed until they landed on Leyte, nor did they ever know just how much training they had.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I suspect the fact that the 11th AB was in MacArthur’s good favor helped.
      A couple of guys from my dad’s company, (H511) were recovering near
      GHQ. Their names were Feuerisen & Merisieki and they were asking an
      officer about getting in to see Gen MacArthur. The discussion was heard
      by Mac inside an open window. He heard the men chirping about the 11th
      not getting love from Stars & Stripes. He called for the 2 guys from H511 &
      told them that the 11th was his `secret weapon”. Mac gave a message to
      them for Div HQ ) and told them to tell their fellow soldiers “good job”
      they would get recognition.

      One of the simple reasons for initial parachute division occupation
      of Japan by the US was that paratroopers traveled light. They just
      don’t have lots of extra stuff. That was one reason the
      11th AB was ideal for crossing the interior of Leyte from coast to
      coast through the mountain jungle.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Strangely coincidental – my father told me about 2 guys who who wanted to see MacArthur – same story, but he didn’t know their names. Thanks !!

        Like

  28. Another good history lesson! “My General” speaks a lot about the nature of the man.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Rakkasans is truly a name of honour for the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment. You must be proud that your dad was part of this regiment, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Love where the nickname comes from. Looking forward to Pt . 2.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. I bet those troops loved it that they had a nickname from the enemy. The Scottish troops in Wellington’s army wore Highland Dress uniforms, and Napoleon called them ‘Devils in skirts’.
    Good to see that they are still proud of being ‘Umbrella Men’ to this day.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. “Falling down umbrella men” I love that. Wow, what an incredible man your father! I would have loved to hear the rememberings first hand.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You will. Later on I will be reposting his letters and some things he told me. I always admired that dad went through the rigorous and very long training, despite being 10 years older than most of the other paratroopers.

      Liked by 1 person

  33. Chiefs in military environment are most time father figures. Arent they? 😉 If not, something is going wrong. They have to care for their soldiers like fathers. Beeing part of every conflict sounds a very busy time. Your father did a very good, important, but also very dangerous job. Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes he did. I wish I had expressed my appreciation for that better.
      Thank you for reading this, Michael.
      Most of the 11th Airborne was sent to Europe to help with protection during the Cold War, except for the 187th, but I was wondering if any one still remembers them (that you know of).

      Like

  34. I love how the nickname came to be, and I love that they carry it forward today. Falling from the sky into battle – the mere thought makes me shake. Amazing men.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Great that the nickname is retained.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Thank you, Steve.

    Like

  1. Pingback: The 187th ‘Rakkasans’ – part (1) | The Inglorius Padre Steve's World

  2. Pingback: Translation Issues in Movies – July 21, 2020 | Ups and Downs of Family History V2.0

  3. Pingback: The 187th ‘Rakassans’ – part (1) — Pacific Paratrooper | Ups and Downs of Family History V2.0

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: