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Unit History of the 187th

By Col. William Weber (Ret)

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The 187th Infantry Regiment was constituted on 12 November 1942 at Camp Mackall, North Carolina. On 25 February 1943, the 187th was activated. designated a glider regiment, and assigned to the 11th Airborne Division. A two battalion regiment, 187th trained and prepared for combat with its men trained at the end of the war both as gliderists and parachutists.

In May 1944, the Regiment deployed with the Division to the southwest Pacific debarking at Lae, New Guinea. With the invasion of the Philippines, the Regiment landed at Leyte and participated in bitter fighting which included repulsing the only Japanese airborne operation against US forces in WWII, and the bloody battle of Purple Heart Hill in the mountains of Leyte

In January 1945, the 187th landed with the Division at Nasubu Bay, south of Manila, to block Japanese forces and to advance on Manila from the south. From January to April the 187th was in constant action, ranging from Nichols Field, Fort McKinley and Manila to Mount Macolod and Malepunyo.

In May, the Regiment moved into Lipa to refit, rebuild, and prepare for (he Invasion of Japan. At this time, the 3rd Battalion was formed and the Regiment was redesigned a para-glider regiment. When the war ended, the 187th was selected to spearhead the occupation of Japan and gained the distinction of being the first foreign round combat unit to enter Japan.

While serving as occupation forces, the 187th received the title "Rakkasan" from the Japanese which literally translated means "Falling Down Umbrella". In April 949, the Rakkasans returned to the United States with the 11th Airborne Division and settled into then Camp Campbell, Kentucky. In early 1950, the Rakkasans participated in the largest peacetime airborne maneuver in history, "Operation Swarmer". The Performance of the Regiment during this maneuver was instrumental in the Regiment being selected to form an airborne regimental combat team to enter the Korean conflict.

The Rakkasans participated in the Inchon landing operation in September 1950, and assisted in the liberation of Seoul and the Kimpo Peninsula. In October the Rakkasans made a highly successful jump at Sukehon-sunchon, a classic example of the striking power at well-trained airborne soldiers. Battles at Suan, Wonja and Kaesong were followed by the famous Munsan-ni drop and the battles at bloody Inje. Koje-do established another high mark in the reputation of the Rakkasans as they subdued rebellious POW’s at that camp.

With the adoption of the battle group concept in 1957, the 187th Infantry was redesignated as the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Airborne Battle Groups, 187th Infantry. These battle groups served proudly in various units and locations to include the 101st Airborne Division, the 11th Airborne Division in Germany, as part of the peacekeeping force in Lebanon in 1958, and with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

In February 1963, following another Army-wide reorganization, the unit was redesignated the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry and assigned to the 11th Air Assault Division at Fort Benning, Georgia who tested new air assault tactics. A year later, following successful testing and evaluation of the concept, the Rakkasans were once again assigned to the 101st Airborne Division.

The Rakkasans soon returned to war when the 3rd Brigade of the 101st deployed to Vietnam in 1967. There, in battles from the A Shau Valley to the Iron Triangle, the Rakkasans added nine decorations and twelve battle streamers to the two decorations and three battle streamers of WWII and the four decorations and six battle streamers of Korea.

Upon return to the U.S. in 1972 with the 101st, the 3rd Battalion of the Rakkasan Regiment preserved the history and traditions of the Rakkasans until October of 1983, when the 1st, 2nd, and 4th Battalions were activated. On 21 November 1984, the 5th Battalion was activated bringing to five the number of Rakkasan battalions on active duty. The 1st Battalion was inactivated in Panama on 1 May 1987. On 10 July, the 2nd Battalion was inactivated in Panama. The 5th and 4th Battalions at Fort Campbell were redesignated as the 1st and 2nd Battalions, respectively, on 3 September 1987.

In September 1990, the Rakkasans once again answered the call and began deploying to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield. On 20-21 February 1991, two companies from 1st Battalion air assaulted into Objective Weber capturing 434 Iraqi soldiers. On 25 February 1991, the 48th Anniversary of the Regiment, the Rakkasans conducted the deepest and largest air assault operation in history as it struck 155 miles behind enemy lines into the Euphrates River valley. This action led to the timely defeat of Iraqi forces and ensured a total allied victory.

The Rakkasans are the only airborne warfare regiment in the history of the Army to fight in every war since the development of airborne tactics. From glider to parachute to air landing to air assault by helicopter, the regiment has entered combat using every mode of airborne assault and has pioneered the tactics that govern these modes. In each, the Rakkasans have given meaning to "Ne Desit Virtus - Let Valor Not Fail".

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Copyright 1997 Patrick O'Donnell