On August 16, 1940, the first official Army parachute jump took place. Before then, not much was thought about airborne warfare, but because of the tactics explored by aviation pioneers such as General William Mitchell and Major William Lee, paratroopers became vital in U.S. military operations.
In Recognition of the bravery of airborne soldiers and the ingenuity of the developers of the parachute jumps, President George W. Bush designated August 16 as National Airborne Day. This year, we at Low VA Rates are commemorating the anniversary by sharing some aeronautical history and facts.
Paratrooping capabilities wouldn’t be what they are today without the work of General William Mitchell, also known as the Father of the United States Air Force. After becoming the first American officer to fly over German lines during World War I, he recognized the importance of airborne combat and pushed for a bigger military presence in airborne combat. Although that goal was not accomplished during his lifetime, he laid the groundwork for a future generation of airborne soldiers to accomplish it.
Another “Father” was General William Lee, the Father of the American Airborne. During World War I, he noticed an increase in Hitler’s airborne troops and was determined to see the United States military legitimize paratrooper warfare.
When President Franklin D. Roosevelt realized the prevalence of airborne troops in Germany, he commissioned Lee to create the first paratroop platoon. Lee did so and became the first commander of the Army’s jump school at Fort
Lee’s platoon experimented with parachute jumping, and on August 16, 1940, the first official parachute jump took place.
Use in Combat
Although the first Army parachute exercise occurred in 1940, it wasn’t until November 1942 that the practice proved its worth in combat. Troops parachuted into Northern Africa during Operation Torch, landing behind enemy lines and helping secure enemy airfields.
This method continued to be used throughout World War II, contributing to the victory of Allied Forces in several important campaigns, including the Battle of the Bulge, the invasion of Southern France, and most notably the D-Day Invasion. General Lee’s platoon parachuted into Normandy shouting “Bill Lee!” as they made their descent since General Lee had recently suffered a heart attack and had to return home instead of flying in with his men.
Airborne forces are credited with shortening World War II and saving countless lives. They were also critical during the wars in Korea and Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Hazardous Work Environment
Today, paratroopers are among the Army’s elite. Extensively trained, they have to be ready to go at a moment’s notice and are often the first soldiers on the scene in either combat or humanitarian relief. It is estimated that the United States’ airborne forces are ready to go within 18 hours of their call to action.
Jumping from high altitudes is, of course, risky. Rapid ascents can lead to decompression sickness and lack of adequate pressure on the body can cause a condition called hypoxia. During landing, airborne soldiers are at a high risk of injury. While they are trained how to land safely, mitigating factors such as wind speed or drop zone terrain can make it difficult to execute that landing. The most common injuries are to the lower extremities, the lower back, and the head.
As a crucial line of defense, these men and women deserve every benefit the VA offers, and at Low VA Rates, we strive to ensure paratroopers and all veterans of the military get those benefits. Check out our site or call us today to see how we can help you.