World War II
The division was activated on August 15, 1942 at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. On August 19, 1942, its first commander, Major General William C. Lee, promised his new recruits that the 101st had a "rendezvous with destiny."
During World War II, the Pathfinders of the 101st Airborne Division led the way on D-Day in the night drop prior to the invasion. They left from RAF North Witham having trained there with the elite, veteran 82nd Airborne Division.
On August 2 1944 the division became part of the First Allied Airborne Army. As part of this formation it took part in Operation Market Garden.
During the Battle of the Bulge the 101st, as one of the few forces available to contain the German advance was rushed forward to defend the vital road junction of Bastogne. Famously, Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe answered the German demand for surrender with the reply "To the German Commander: NUTS! -The American Commander" and the division fought on until the siege was lifted and the German advance halted.
On 1 August 1945, the 101st Airborne Division left Germany for Auxerre, France, to begin training for the invasion of Japan. When Japan surrendered two weeks later, the operation became unnecessary. The 101st deactivated on 30 November at Auxerre.
For their efforts during World War II, the 101st Airborne Division was awarded four campaign streamers and two Presidential Unit Citations. The division suffered 1,766 Killed In Action; 6,388 Wounded In Action; and 324 Died of Wounds during World War II.
The 101st Airborne Division was reactivated as a training unit at Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky, in 1948 and again in 1950. It was reactivated again in 1954 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and in March 1956, the 101st was transferred, less personnel and equipment, to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to be reorganized as a combat division.
From September through November of 1957 elements of the division were deployed to Little Rock, Arkansas, by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to enforce Federal court orders during the Little Rock Crisis.
In the mid-1960s, the 1st Brigade and support troops were deployed to the Republic of Vietnam, followed by the rest of the division in late 1967. In almost seven years of combat in Vietnam, elements of the 101st participated in 15 campaigns. Notable among these were the Battle of Hamburger Hill in 1969 and Firebase Ripcord in 1970. The 101st was deployed in the northern I Corps region operating against the NVA infiltration routes through Laos and the A Shau Valley. Elements of the division supported the ARVN Operation Lam Son 719, the invasion of southern Laos, in 1971, but only aviation units actually entered Laos. In the seven years that all or part of the division served in Vietnam it suffered 4,011 Killed In Action and 18,259 Wounded In Action.
In 1968, the 101st took on the structure and equipment of an airmobile division. Today, the 101st stands as the Army's and the world's only air assault division with unequaled strategic and tactical mobility. In 1974, the training of the 101st was recognized with the creation of the Air Assault Badge, now a service wide decoration of the United States Army.
Tragedy struck the division on December 12, 1985. A civilian aircraft, Arrow Air Flight 1285, chartered to transport some of the division from peacekeeping duty with the Multinational Force Observers on the Sinai Peninsula to Kentucky, crashed near Gander, Newfoundland. All eight air crew members and 248 US servicemen died, most were from the 3d Battalion, 502d Infantry. The crash was the worst in Canadian aviation history. President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy travelled to Fort Campbell to comfort grieving family members.
Persian Gulf War
In January 1991, the 101st once again had its "Rendezvous with Destiny" in Iraq during the combat air assault into enemy territory. The 101st sustained no soldiers killed in action during the 100-hour war and captured thousands of enemy prisoners of war.
The division has supported humanitarian relief efforts in Rwanda and Somalia, then later supplied peacekeepers to Haiti and Bosnia.
The division was deployed once again to Iraq in 2003 as part of the 2003 invasion of Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom). The division was in V Corps, providing support to the 3rd Infantry Division by clearing Iraqi strongpoints which that division had bypassed. The Division then went on to a tour of duty as part of the occupation forces of Iraq, using the city of Mosul as their primary base of operations, before being withdrawn in early 2004 for rest and refit. As part of the Army's modular transformation, the existing infantry brigades, artillery brigade, and aviation brigades were transformed. The Army also re-activated the 4th Brigade Combat Team (known as "Currahee", and not active since World War II) and its subordinate units, to form a seven major units division (four infantry BCTs, two aviation BCTs, and one support Unit of Action), making it the largest formation currently in the U.S. Army.
The division's second deployment to Iraq began in the late summer of 2005. The division headquarters replaced the 42nd Infantry Division, which had been directing security operations as the headquarters for Task Force Liberty. Renamed Task Force Band of Brothers, the 101st assumed responsibility on November 1, 2005 for four provinces in north central Iraq: Salah ad Din, Kirkuk, Diyala and As Sulymaniyah. On December 30, 2005, Task Force Band of Brothers also assumed responsibility for training Iraqi security forces and conducting security operations in Ninevah and Dahuk provinces as the headquarters for Task Force Freedom was disestablished.
During the second deployment, 2nd and 4th Brigades of the 101st Airborne Division were assigned to conduct security operations under the command of Task Force Baghdad, led initially by 3rd Infantry Division, which was replaced by 4th Infantry Division.
Task Force Band of Brothers' primary mission during its second deployment to Iraq was the training of Iraqi security forces. When the 101st returned to Iraq, there were no Iraqi units capable of assuming the lead for operations against Iraqi and foreign terrorists. As the division concluded its tour, 33 battalions were in the lead for security in assigned areas, and two of four Iraq divisions in northern Iraq were commanding and controlling suborinate units.
Simultaneously with training Iraqi Soldiers and their leaders, 101st Soldiers conducted numerous security operations against terrorist cells operating in the division's assigned, six-province area of operations. Operation Swarmer was the largest air assault operation conducted in Iraq since April 22, 2003. 1st Brigade conducted Operation Scorpion with Iraqi units near Kirkuk.
Developing other aspects of Iraqi society also figured in 101st operations in Iraq. Division commander Maj. Gen. Thomas Turner hosted the first governors' conference for the six provinces in the division's area of operations, as well as the neighboring province of Erbil. Numerous civil affairs operations were directed by the division, including the construction and renovation of schools, clinics, police stations, and other important landmarks in civilian communities from Turkey to Baghdad and from the Syrian border to the Iranian border.
The 101st Airborne Division returned to Iraq in 2005 and came home to Fort Campbell in 2006.
Extensive video footage of the 101st Airborne Division in action from WWII to present day is available on YouTube (www.youtube.com)
and on Google Video (www.google.com) - search by 101st Airborne Division.