The 17th Airborne Division (Thunder from Heaven) was officially activated as an airborne division in April 1943 but was not immediately sent to combat, remaining in the United States to complete its training. During this training process, the division took part in several training exercises, including the Knoll Wood Maneuver, in which it played a vital part in ensuring that the airborne division remained as a military formation in the US Army. As such it did not take part in the first two large-scale airborne operations conducted by the Allies, Operation Husky and Operation Neptune, transferring to Britain only after the end of Operation Overlord. When the division arrived in Britain, it came under the command of Gen Matthew B. Ridgway’s XVIII Corps (Airborne), a part of Gen Lewis H. Brereton’s First Allied Airborne Army, but was not chosen to participate in Operation Market Garden, the airborne landings in the Netherlands, as Allied planners believed it had arrived too late and could not be trained up in time for the operation. However, after the end of Operation Market Garden the division was shipped to France and then Belgium to fight in the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge (Bastogne Northern area). The 17-A/B gained its first Medal of Honor during its time fighting in the Ardennes, and was then withdrawn to Luxembourg to prepare for an assault over the River Rhine. In March 1945, the division participated in its first, and only, airborne operation, dropping alongside the British 6th Airborne Division as a part of Operation Varsity, where it gained three more Medals of Honor. The division then advanced through Northern Germany until the end of World War II, when it briefly undertook occupation duties in Germany before shipping back to the United States. There, it was officially inactivated in September 19453

December 1944Casualties KIA 564; WIA 1473; MIA 129; Battle Casualties 2166; Non-Battle Casualties 854 and Total Casualties 3020.

Campaigns Rhineland, Ardennes, Central Europe

Awards Distinguished Service Cross 4; Legion of Merit 8; Silver Star 177; Soldiers Medal 5; Bronze Star 695; Air Medal 16. Prisoners of War Taken 17.344

Commanding General
Maj Gen William M. Miley, Aug 25 1944 – VDay

Assistant Division Commander
Brig Gen John L. Whitelaw, Aug 25 1944 – VDay

Artillery Division Commander
Brig Gen Joseph V. Phelps, Aug 25 1944 – VDay

Chief of Staff
Col Willard K. Liebel, Aug 25 1944 – VDay

Assistant Chief of Staff – G-1
Lt Col Lewis R. Good, Aug 25 1944 – VDay

Assistant Chief of Staff – G-2
Lt Col Lyle N. McAlister, Aug 25 1944 – VDay

Assistant Chief of Staff – G-3
Lt Col Edwin J. Messinger, Aug 1944 – Aug 1944 – VDay

Assistant Chief of Staff – G-4
Lt Col Charles W. Koester, Aug 25 1944 – VDay

Assistant Chief of Staff – G-5
Lt Col Richard A. Norton, Sep 29 1944 – VDay

Adjutant General
Lt Col Gabe W. Lewis, Jr., Aug 25 1944 – VDay

CO 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment
The BulgeCol Edson D. Raff, Aug 25 1944 – VDay
CO 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Col James W. Coutts, Aug 25, 1944 – Apr 9, 1945
Lt Col Ward Ryan, Apr 9, 1945 – VDay
CO 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Lt Col Louis A. Walsh, Jr, (x)
CO 193rd Glider Infantry Regiment
Col Maurice G. Stubbs, Aug 25 1944 – VDay
CO 194th Glider Infantry Regiment
Col James R. Pierce, Aug 25 1944 – Vday

Order of Battle – 1944-1945

507th Parachute Infantry Regiment
– assigned to 17-A/B March 1, 1945
513th Parachute Infantry Regiment
– replaced the 517-PIR on March 10, 1944
517th Parachute Infantry Regiment
– relieved March 10 1944, replaced by the 513-PIR
550th Airborne Infantry Battalion
– not assigned; under division operational control during the BOB
193rd Glider Infantry
194th Glider Infantry (disbanded March 1, 1945)
17th Parachute Maintenance Company
139th Airborne Engineer Battalion
224th Medical Company
155th Airborne Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion
17th Airborne Division Artillery
680th Glider Field Artillery Battalion
681st Glider Field Artillery Battalion
464th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion (assigned Mar 1, 19)
466th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion
Special Troops (Headquarters activated Mar 1, 1945)
717th Airborne Ordnance Company
411th Airborne Quartermaster Company
517th Airborne Signal Company
Military Police Platoon
Headquarters Company
Reconnaissance Platoon (assigned Mar 1, 1945)

761st Tank Battalion, Jan 15, 1945 – Jan 27, 1945
Charlie Co, 15-TB (6-AD), Jan 31, 1945 – Feb 7, 1945
6th Guards Armored Brigade (UK), Mar 27, 1945 – Apr 3, 1945

Field Artillery
802d Field Artillery Battalion (105-MM), Jan 3, 1945 – Jan 5, 1945

507th Parachute Infantry Regiment (Non organic), Aug 27, 1944 – Mar 1, 1945
345th Regimental Combat team (87-ID), Jan 15, 1945 – Jan 16, 1945

Tank Destroyer
811th Tank Destroyer Battalion (SP), Jan 17, 1945 – Jan 27, 1945

Field Artillery
681st GFAB to 95-ID – Apr 5 1945 – Apr 13 1945Churchill tanks of 6th Guards Tank Brigade carry US Paratroopers of the 17th Airborne Division.Churchill tanks of 6th Guards Tank Brigade carry US Paratroopers of the 17th Airborne Division

193-GIR to 101-A/B, Jan 3, 1945 – Jan 7, 1945
193-GIR to 101-A/B, Jan 14, 1945 – Jan 18, 1945
507-PIR to XIX Corps, Mar 31, 1945 – Apr 2, 1945
194-GIR to 95-ID, Apr 5, 1945 – Apr 13, 1945

Command Posts
Aug 30, 1944, Camp Chiseldon, Wiltshire, England
Dec 24, 1944, Camp Mourmellon, Marne, France
Dec 28, 1944, Charleville, Dept. Ardennes, France
Jan 3, 1945, Morhet, Prov. Luxembourg, Belgium
Jan 15, 1945, Celli, Prov. Luxembourg, Belgium
Jan 17, 1945, Bertogne, Prov. Luxembourg, Belgium
Jan 19, 1945, Compogne, Prov. Luxembourg, Belgium
Jan 22, 1945, Lavigny, Prov. Luxembourg, Belgium
Jan 24, 1945, Steinbach, Prov. Luxembourg, Belgium
Jan 24, 1945, Eschweiler, Luxembourg
Jan 29, 1945, Enscherange, Luxembourg
Feb 11, 1945, Châlon-sur-Marne, Dept. Marne, France
Mar 24, 1945, Wesel (2000-M north), Rhineland, Germany
Mar 28, 1945, Peddenburg, Rhineland, Germany
Mar 29, 1945, Vulffen, Rhineland, Germany
Mar 30, 1945, Haltern, Rhineland, Germany
Apr 1, 1945, Dulmen, Westphalia, Germany
Apr 3, 1945, Appelhulsen, Westphalia, Germany
Apr 4, 1945, Munster, Westphalia, Germany
Apr 6, 1945, Marxloh, Rhineland, Germany
Apr 8, 1945, Bottrop, Rhineland, Germany
Apr 10, 1945, Essen, Rhineland, Germany
Apr 21, 1945, Marxloh, Rhineland, Germany
IllustrationCombat Narrative

The division was flown to the Reims area of France during Dec 23 and Dec 25 by emergency night flights and assembled at Mourmelon Le Grand. During the period of Dec 27-31, the division defended the Meuse River from Givet to Verdun and relieved the 28-ID in the Neufchâteau area on Jan 1, 1945. On Jan 3, the 17-A/B attacked 45 five miles northwest of Bastogne and was strongly opposed at Dead Man’s Ridge, capturing Rechrival and Flamierge on Jan 7.

The division gained and then lost the high ground north of Laval and was forced out of Flamierge by strong German counter-attack on Jan 8. On Jan 11, the German forces commenced their general withdrawal and the division moved up to retake Flamierge the next day. Salle fell without opposition on Jan 13, and the following day, the 507-PIR secured Bertogne while the 194-GIR took Givroulle and the division reached the Ourthe River. It took over the Hardingny – Houffalize line on Jan 18, and by Jan 20, had advanced beyond Tavigny, Steinbach, and Limerlé. On Jan 22, the 17-A/B continued behind the retreating Germans, captured Espeler and Wattermal on Jan 26, when the paratroopers were relieved by the 87-ID.

The division then began clearing operations and on Feb 6, assaulted to the Our River which the 507-PIR crossed north of Dasburg, Germany. The bridgehead came under an heavy counter-attack until, Feb 10, when the 6-AD relieved the 17-A/B which was sent back to Châlons-sur-Marne for reserve duty.

Attached to the 1st Allied Airborne Army, the 17-A/B made an airborne assault east of the Rhine River north of Wesel on Mar 24, 1945 and took Diersfordt and the high ground to the East of the town, containing strong German counter-attacks. The next day, the 194-GIR and the 507-PIR attacked across the Issel Canal.

Operation VarsityBy Mar 27, the 194-GIR took positions near the Erle-Schermbeck Road and the 513-PIR assisted the British 6th Guards Armored Brigade attack toward Dorsten. The following day, the 507-PIR overran Wulfen.
The 194-GIR was motored to Dulmen as the 2-AD began passlng through and relieved the division. The division crossed the Rhine River at Wesel on Mar 31 and cleared the city of Münster on Apr 2-3.

The division started to the Duisburg region on Apr 5, and relieved the 79-ID of defensive positions along the Rhine-Herne Canal the next day. The 5O7-PIR attacked across the canal on Apr 8, and cleared to the Berne Canal by Apr 9. The 5O7-PIR seized Essen without opposition on Apr 10.

The following day the division cleared scattered resistance from the Mulheim-Duisburg sector of the Ruhr region, the 507-PIR gaining a small bridgehead at Mulheim which it turned over to the 79-ID. The division received the formal surrender of Duisburg and began the relief of the 79-ID on Apr 12. It then engaged in military government duties until the hostilities were declared ended on May 7, 1945.

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