555th Parachute Infantry Battalion: Triple Nickles

War Heroes

Company A, 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, was activated at Fort Benning on December 31, 1943. Twenty-three officers and enlisted men were the first black soldiers to graduate from Jump School, long held to be one of the most difficult training centers in the Army.

The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, was activated at Camp Mackall, North Carolina, on November 25, 1944, under the command of Captain James H. Porter, often thought of as the “Father of the 555th.”

In March 1945, the 555th was ordered to provide a reinforced company for participation in Operation FIREFLY in Oregon and California. Japanese balloon bombs were causing forest fires along the Pacific Coast and the 555th troopers were the Nation’s first line of defense. At Camp Pendleton, Oregon, the company was trained in “smoke jumping” techniques, developed in the 1930s by the U.S.

Forest Service as a means to combat wild fires. Throughout the summer of 1944, the troopers plunged by parachute into some of the most difficult terrain in the Pacific Northwest. They were the Army’s first rough terrain jump specialists.

During late 1947, Major General James M. Gavin, 82nd Airborne Division Commander, conducted the ceremony that transferred the 555th troopers to the 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Gavin’s action was a first step towards integrating black soldiers into the ranks of the 82nd. The 555th, the Army’s only black parachute battalion, was now on the inactive list, but the troopers always thought of themselves as Triple Nickles.

In the years ahead they would be the cutting edge of efforts to integrate the Army. Gavin’s vision of racial justice and their resolve would help transform the Army. They were a vanguard of freedom.

War Heroes In Color: Hacksaw Ridge- Desmond Thomas Doss

War Heroes

As a combat veteran, it’s important to me to share the stories of those who fought before me for our country.

War Heroes in Color.

Desmond Thomas Doss (February 7, 1919 – March 23, 2006) was a United States Army corporal who served as a combat medic with an infantry company in World War II. He was twice awarded the Bronze Star Medal for actions in Guam and the Philippines.

Doss further distinguished himself in the Battle of Okinawa by saving 75 men,[a] becoming the only conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Second World War . His life has been the subject of books, the documentary The Conscientious Objector, and the critically acclaimed 2016 film Hacksaw Ridge.

Before the outbreak of World War II, Doss was employed as a joiner at a shipyard in Newport News, Virginia. Doss entered military service, despite being offered a deferment for his shipyard work, on April 1, 1942, at Camp Lee, Virginia.

He was sent to Fort Jackson in South Carolina for training with the reactivated 77th Infantry Division. Meanwhile, his brother Harold served aboard the USS Lindsey .

Doss refused to kill an enemy soldier or carry a weapon into combat because of his personal beliefs as a Seventh-day Adventist.

He consequently became a medic assigned to 2nd Platoon, B Company, 1st Battalion, 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division.

While serving with his platoon in 1944 on Guam and the Philippines, he was awarded two Bronze Star Medals with a “V” device, for exceptional valor in aiding wounded soldiers under fire. During the Battle of Okinawa, he saved the lives of 50–100 wounded infantrymen atop the area known by the 96th Division as the Maeda Escarpment or Hacksaw Ridge.

Doss was wounded four times in Okinawa, and was evacuated on May 21, 1945, aboard the USS Mercy. Doss suffered a left arm fracture from a sniper’s bullet and at one point had seventeen pieces of shrapnel embedded in his body. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in Okinawa.

Coloured by Johnny Sirlande for Historic photo restored in color
Image courtesy of Desmon Doss Family