National Airborne Day 16 August 2020 80 years

The history of United States Airborne Forces did not begin on the training fields of Fort Benning, Georgia, as some believe. In fact, the origin of Airborne Forces in the U.S. military began with a familiar name to American military history, Brigadier General William L. “Billy” Mitchell (1879-1936).

As well as being considered the spiritual father of the United States Air Force, which he advocated for fiercely during his tenure in the military, BG Mitchell was the first to imagine airborne tactics and sought the creation of U.S. Airborne Forces.

Billy Mitchell

It is not recorded exactly when he organized a demonstration of Airborne Infantry for U.S., Russian and German observers. However, according to records at Ft. Benning, Georgia, it is confirmed that BG Mitchell held the demonstration “shortly after World War I” at Kelly Field, in San Antonio, Texas. During the demonstration, six soldiers parachuted from a Martin Bomber. After landing safely, the soldiers assembled their weapons and were ready for action in less than three minutes after they exited the aircraft.

Reprinted and broadcast countless times, High Flight is regarded as one of the world’s great war poems and the greatest anthem of aviation. It is the official poem of the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Air Force. First year cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy are required to memorize it. Extracts have been quoted in a variety of occasions. The most famous example occurred on Jan. 28, 1986, when President Ronald Reagan, speaking of the Challenger, Space Shuttle disaster, closed his address with the sentence: “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of Earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’”

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth

of sun-split clouds, – and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung

High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,

I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung

My eager craft through footless halls of air . . .

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue

I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace

Where never lark nor even eagle flew –

And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod

The high untrespassed sanctity of space,

Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

– Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

 

AIRBORNE ALL THE WAY !

These men with silver wings

Troopers from the sky above

In whom devotion springs

What spirit so unites them?

In brotherhood they say

Their answer loud and clear.

“Airborne All the WAY!”

These are the men of danger

As in open door they stand

With static line above them

And ripcord in their hand.

While earthbound they are falling

A silent prayer they say

“Lord be with us forever,

Airborne All the Way.”

One day they’ll make their final jump

Saint Mike will tap them out

The good Lord will be waiting

He knows what they’re about

And answering in unison

He’ll hear the troopers say

“We’re glad to be aboard, Sir,

Airborne All the Way!”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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Military, Airborne Humor – 

Para-Toast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Robert Abney – Richmond, IN; US Army, Vietnam, 173rd Airborne Division, Purple Heart

Lynn Adams – Pocatello, ID; US Army, Vietnam, 82nd Airborne Division

James Cook – OH; US Army Air Corps, Japan Occupation, 11th Airborne Division

William Farrell – Augusta, GA; US Army, WWII & Korea, 504/82nd Airborne Division, US Army War College grad, Capt. (Ret. 20 y.)

Trevor Goldyn – USA; USMC, Bahrain, Sgt., 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade

Albert Hayden – Capr Giradeau County, MO; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Hershel Hegwoods – Forest, MS; US Army Air Corps, WWII, 11th Airborne Division, Purple Heart

John Latham (100) – Chicago, IL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B-17 mechanic, TSgt. (Ret.)

Debrah Lepley – Coshocton, OH; US Army, 101st Airborne Division

Allan Stoll – Bossier City, LA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO

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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 August 16, 2020, in Current News, Home Front, Post WWII, Uncategorized, Vietnam, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 113 Comments.

  1. Yes indeed, a great poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Military Poetry always interests me gp, it always evokes the very emotions of the Military mind and persona. Your piece about the demonstration would have to have been spectacular, from plane to earth then combat mode is quite a feat, cheers mate, great posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a lovely post, GP! That poem always gave me chills. Today you’ve shed new light on it for me. (As a child, I was taught to put everything in the context of death (this poem, even Puff the Magic Dragon. So that is what the poem was for me — something tragic and sad.) But as I read it just now, it became new. It seems thrilling and positive. So thank you, my friend, for putting this poem back where it always should have been. Hugs on the wing.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks for sharing these wonderful, moving poems, GP- really enjoyed the slideshow, too. It was a great way to remember the Airborne’s tremendous service!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Thanks for your like of my post, “Israel In Isaiah, 2:1-4, Notes;” your kindness is greatly appreciated. Please keep up your amazing work.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Salute to the Airborne guys!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Happy National Airborne Day! I’ve done a lot of WWI aviation reading lately and Billy Mitchell definitely comes up a lot 🙂 “I dropped out of Parachute School…” LOL. Well done.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. GP, Great tribute to Billy Mitchell on this 75th Anniversary Year of VJ Day!!! Dropping by to checkout your latest!!! Wife Geri FINALLY had her surgery to reconnect her intestines from diverticulitis on July 30, 6 hour surgery!…..delayed by COVID. The surgeon replaced the colostomy bag but gave her a new one with the small intestine, a temporary illeostomy for three months. It’s been a long haul. May you & yours be safe & well! Phil

    Liked by 2 people

    • With all the complaints I hear from people of what they’ve lost and miss due to the pandemic, they should try to empathize with what all you and your wife have endured – I recall an old saying, “I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.”
      I hope the doctors have a good prognosis for your wife for the future, please give her my best. And you, dear friend, I admire your strength, please take care!

      Liked by 2 people

  9. I think of that poem High Flight whenever I see a Spitfire in the sky above or on television.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I have a problem with WordPress. I can’t “like” your post, however, I do like the toast with the parachute

    Liked by 2 people

    • Another reader had a problem with the Like button yesterday. Sometimes, if you refresh your page, things straighten themselves out.
      Thank you for coming by, Henry, always a pleasure to see you!

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Wonderful to have the parachutes gliding by, while reading that wonderful poem.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Sorry, i had a delay yesterday, GP! Hope you celebrated the day, in a great manner. I had a short walk to our former borderzone with the Czech Republic, but was really shocked. Nothing happend there, since five years.No tourism, no happyness. Sadier situation as before the border opening. Michael.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. The poetry is deeply moving, GP. This is a wonderful tribute.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Happy National Airborne Day!!! 🙂 A wonderful tribute! The poems got me teary-eyed.
    HUGS!!! 🙂
    PS…I’d like my toast delivered that way! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Supposedly Magee wrote the poem as he descended from 33,000 feet in his seventh flight in a Spitfire Mk I. By the time he landed, it was more or less finished.
    Magee was killed on December 11th 1941 in an aerial collision. He is buried in the graveyard of Holy Cross Church in the village of Scopwick in Lincolnshire.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I need some “para toast” – thanks for an informative read on war history GP. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. When I was a young boy growing up in Milwaukee, where the airport is named for General Mitchell, who was from there, my dad would often talk about how Billy Mitchell told the military about the attack on Pearl Harbor years before it happened. Now I know there was quite a bit more to the story but that’s still the first thing I think of when I see General Mitchell’s name.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are many stories of people knowing what was about to happen, including FDR saying at a dinner the weekend before that it would be bombed 8 Dec. (Remember the date line – to the Japanese, they DID bomb Pearl on the 8th). But history tends to defend FDR’s honor and continues to state that there is no proof.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wow. I had not heard that. How interesting. I think in my dad’s case it was kind of hero worship, a hometown boy that excelled. It does seem that I had read that FDR knew something, but I don’t remember what it was about. Now I’ve got some homework to do.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. Great tribute, GP! I salute them on this National Airborne Day!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. That would have been quite the demonstration at the end of WWI. That seems a long time ago for them to have their act already together. Cute cartoons also!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. A silent prayer they say “Lord be with us forever, Airborne All the Way.” What a beautiful line. And what an amazing story of devotion.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. What a moving poem this is, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I’ve never understood why anyone in his right mind would want to jump out of an airplane. After reading the first poem, I have a much better understanding now.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. A salute to Airborne troopers, present and past!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. The poems are beautiful, GP. Sending our Airborne troops best wishes!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I used to do calligraphy, and did that poem for one of my pieces, my dad was RAF. It’s hanging up in my dining room still, lovely tribute GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Today’s cartoons were especially amusing — loved them! And I was glad to be reminded of those poems, too. I’ll admit it: I can’t imagine jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, and then being ready for combat as soon as I hit the ground. Thank goodness there are some who were willing, and capable.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Fascinating

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Airborne are always the best soldiers in any military.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. It takes a lot of guts to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. Happy National Airborne Day.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. I love that poem. Tweeted this, as always.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Wonderful tribute

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Lovely homage, GP. I’ve always loved that poem and my goal is to someday write something half as lyrical and poignant. Even here in Virginia hunt country, we have an old hangar that was supposedly christened by Bill Mitchel. The former airfield is now a steeplechase race field that is used twice a year and the hanger is now a warehouse for lawn equipment.
    It was Wood Field near Charlottesville.

    Charlottesville’s Municipal Band performed, and a bronze tablet memorializing 1st Lt. R.H. ‘Buck’ Wood Jr. was unveiled at the airport’s entrance by his sister, Mrs. Isabelle Wood Holt.

    General William ‘Billy’ Mitchell, who had been in charge of the American Expeditionary Forces during WWI, delivered the keynote address.”

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Super post, GP. Thank you for recognizing these brave soldiers

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Good day. Thanks for the reminder.

    Liked by 2 people

  35. The poems are beautiful!
    Loved the “I dropped out of parachute school” classic 😂

    Liked by 3 people

  36. Happy National Airborne Day, GP! Both poems are amazing, but the first one especially is awesome. Love the cartoons as well!

    Liked by 1 person

  37. My dad’s youngst brother was in the (British) 1st Airborne in the 1950s. Congratulations to your paratroops on their celebratory day.
    As you mentioned Billy Mitchell, I wonder if you have seen this film, GP? Gary Cooper is very good in it.
    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047956/
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  38. To all my Airborne brothers and sisters, past and present, I salute you: Airborne all the way.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. This is such a nice tribute. I love the toast cartoon.

    Liked by 1 person

  40. Thank you for sharing.

    Like

  41. I appreciate you sharing.

    Like

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