Although the men who served in the 503rd PIR and 503rd PRCT share many of
the same decorations, each Veteran's service record is unique. Service dates with the unit, wounds
receieved, acts of valor recognized, military action participation and orgainizations the individual
belonged to prior to or after service with the 503rd PIR or 503rd PRCT, all determined the decorations each soldier may be entitled to.
Decorations earned can be found on the veteran's Enlisted Record and Report of
Separation Report. Today, the form is commenly refered to has the DD Form 214, but prior to January 1, 1950,
several similar forms were used by the military services, including the WD AGO 53, WD AGO 55, WD AGO 53-55, NAVPERS 553, NAVMC 78PD and the NAVCG 553.
To learn more about the various decorations awarded to the veterans who served in the 503rd PIR and 503rd PRCT, see below.
Shortly after the war, several Officers of the 503rd attended the Advance Officers Training Course at Fort Benning.
Most wrote their course monographs based on their personal experiences in the 503rd PRCT, not surprisly, most wrote about Corredigor.
The following images of the 503rd were taken in early March, 1942 at Fort Benning, Georgia.
The unit was first activated as the 503rd Parachute Battalion on August 22, 1941.
With the authorization of Parachute Regiments, the 503rd Parachute Battalion became the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment
on March 2, 1942 by combining the 503rd and 504th Parachute Battalions. The 503rd Parchute Battalion became the 1st Battalion
of the 503rd Parachut Infantry Regiment and the 504th Battalion became the the 2nd Battalion
of the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment. This was the first of many re-structures of the unit. The unit remained at Fort Benning
until it was moved to Fort Bragg, North Carolina on March 19, 1942.
Ellis, John, and Marshall Brucer. A History of Airborne Command and Airborne Center: Text from the Official History of the Airborne Effort. Sharpsburg, MD: Antietam National Museum, 1979.
Guthrie, Bennett M. Three Winds of Death: The Saga of the 503d Parachute Regimental Combat Team in the South Pacific. Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press, 2000.
Not only did the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment move to Fort Bragg in North Carolina,
but also the newly created Airborne Command. The Airborne Command was an evolution of
the Provisional Parachute Group and was established for coordinating the activities of all airborne forces,
including training the units for combat, prior to being released for offensive action (the parachute school for trainning
and certification remanined at Fort Benning). Prior to the move, a delegation made visits to Fort Bragg to evaluate the facilities.
"Modifications necessary to adequately provide space and facilities to meet the requirements of
the 503d were accomplished at an expense of $27,000."1 A portion of the old 9th Division area,
used for the Airborne Command.
The 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment remained at Fort Bragg until their departure on October 10, 1942.
During their stay, the unit honed their combat skills at the squad, platoon, company and battalion levels.
Elements of the regiment also performed several exhibition jumps to display their techniques and participated
in a few large scale parades. Some of the Companies also participlated in specilized training, such as Company B's
trip to Camp Young, California for desert training in late August, 1942.
The unit also went through more re-structuring changes. In late May, 1942, the Second Battalion of the
503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment was sent overseas to England for training and would eventually
become part of the 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment. In Early June, the newly activated Third Battalion of the
503rd Parachute Infantry arrived at Fort Bragg, which was the old 502nd Parachute Battalion.
Headquarters and HQ Company of the 502d became HQ and HQ Company Third Battalion. 503d; Company A of the 502d became company G, Third Battalion, 503d;
Company B of the 502d became Company H, Third Battalion, 503d; and Company C of the 502d was asaigned as Company I, Third Battalion, 503d Parachute Infantry Regiment.2
Prior to leaving Fort Bragg, "'A' Company of the 504th Parachute Infantry (82nd Airborne Division) was attached to the Regiment on the night of departure and loaded on the train with the 503rd, but retained its original designation." 3 When the unit was re-organized again in early December, 1942, Company A of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment would become D Company of the 503rd Parachute Regiment Infantry.
The images below are a representation of their time at Fort Bragg.
The images were taken mid March 1942 through June 1942.
1John Ellis and Marshall Brucer, A History of Airborne Command and Airborne Center: Text from the Official History of the Airborne Effort (Sharpsburg, MD: Antietam National Museum, 1979), 39.
2Bennett M. Guthrie, Three Winds of Death: The Saga of the 503d Parachute Regimental Combat Team in the South Pacific (Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press, 2000), 21.
3Don Abott, Chronological History of the 503rd Parachute Inftanry Regiment (503rd PRCT Association, WWII Archives).
Guthrie, Bennett M. Three Winds of Death: The Saga of the 503d Parachute Regimental Combat Team in the South Pacific.Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press, 2000.
503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment: Morning Reports for Company A. April 1942 - August 1942. National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, MO 63138
503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment: Morning Reports for Company B. April 1942 - August 1942. National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, MO 63138
503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment: Morning Reports for Company C. April 1942 - July 1942. National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, MO 63138
The 503rd Parachute Regimental Combat Team, World War II began with the activation of the 503rd Parachute Battalion in Fort Benning, Georgia on 22 August 1941. The Battalion was the third of four Parachute Battalions formed prior to the beginning of World War II. The others were 501st, 502nd and 504th.
On 2 March 1942 the 503rd Parachute Battalion was the nucleus around which the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment was formed.
This was the first of a number of such regiments organized over the next few years. The Regiment was transferred to Fort Bragg, North Carolina in March 1942.
On 20 October 1942 the Regiment left POE San Francisco on the MS Poelau Laut. The first stop was the Panama Canal Zone where the 501st Parachute Battalion was picked up. This Battalion was redesignated as the Second Battalion which had been sent to England and eventually, redesignated as the 509th.
The Regiment landed in Cairns, Australia on 2 December 1942 after a voyage of 43 days and 42 nights. Later the Regiment was expanded into a Combat Team with the assignment if the 462d Parachute Field Artillery Battalion on the 29 march 1944 and the 161st Parachute Engineer Company on 13 September 1944.
During it's more than three years service in the Southwest Pacific Theater, the 503rd served in five major combat operations. A number of other missions were planned
but called off by higher headquarters.
The Regiment jumped in the Markham Valley, New Guinea, on 5 September 1943, in the first successful Airborne Combat Jump. The Regiment forced the Japanese evacuation of a major base at Lae to take a route, which proved to be disastrous for them. The third battalion of the 503rd had a major skirmish with the rear guard of this exodus. The successful employment of Parachute troops, in the Markham Valley, has been credited with saving the concept of vertical
envelopment form being abandoned following several less than successful engagements in Europe.
Two rifle battalions of the 503rd Regiment jumped on the island of Noemfoor off the coast of Dutch,
New Guinea early in July 1944, followed by an amphibious landing by the other riffle battalion a few days later. The Regiment was employed in the elimination of the Japanese garrison on that island. Airfields constructed on Noemfoor after its capture played a significant role in supporting the advance of Allied troops form New Guinea to the Philippines. Sergeant Ray E. Eubanks was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, posthumously, for his actions on Noemfoor.
Following a non-combat landing on the Island of Leyte, in the Philippines, the 503rd Parachute Regimental Combat Team made a major amphibious landing on the island of Mindoro, in the central Philippines on 15 December 1944. Originally, it was intended for the 503rd to jump on Mindoro but due to inadequate airstrip facilities at Leyte an airborne landing was not possible. The purpose of this landing was to secure sites for air strips providing forward Air Corp bases to support later landings at Lingyen Gulf, Luzon. The Combat Team was subjected to intense air and naval actions during this operation,
at one point being shelled for 25 minutes by a Japanese Naval task force. One Company of the Combat Team engaged in a fierce battle against a Company-size enemy air raid warning station on the north end of Mindoro.
The Combat Team jumped on Fortress Corregidor on 16 February 1945 to liberate that Island from the occupying Japanese forces. This was the most vicious combat action in which the Combat Team was engaged in during its existence. Corregidor was the bastion which withstood a fierce Japanese siege for nearly five months in 1941 and 1942, thereby interrupting the Japanese advance toward Australia. The 503rd was proud to have been allowed to have the honor of recapturing the Island. Japanese sources, within recent years have estimated there were 6550 Japanese on the Island when the 503rd landed.
Of those, only 50 survived. The 503rd, however, lost 169 men killed and many more wounded or injured. The 503rd was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for its actions. Private Lloyd G. McCarter was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery on Corregidor.
Almost immediately after returning to Mindoro from Corregidor, the Combat Team was called upon to bolster the 40th Division which was bogged down on the Island of Negros, in the Central Philippines. The Combat Team was inserted into Negros by landing craft, although it had been alerted for another combat jump. The objectives of the proposed jump, a strategic bridge and a large lumber mill, were destroyed by Japanese forces, thereby eliminating the first objectives of the 503rd. The 503rd engaged in fierce battles against frantic Japanese resistance in the mountainous areas of Negros for more than five months.
The 40th US Division convinced higher headquarters there were only a few enemy troops remaining on the Island and were moved to Mindanao, leaving the 503rd to battle the Japanese alone. At the end of the War with Japan in August 1945, about 7,500 surviving Japanese troops surrendered to the 503rd Parachute Regimental Combat Team.
Official U.S. War Department sources estimated the 503rd killed over 10,000 Japanese troops during its combat operations in the Southwest Pacific. Unfortunately, the 503rd lost a lot of good men in accomplishing its missions.
The names of 392 of these men have been identified (as of March 21, 2018, 402 men have been indentified).
By early November 1945 the 503rd Parachute Regimental Combat Team ceased to be operational. All men with lengthy service in the Southwest Pacific had been rotated to the United States while those who had served the Combat Team for a shorter time had been reassigned to the 11th Airborne Division and sent as occupation troops to Japan.
The regiment was inactivated on 24 December 1945 at Camp Anza, California.
Veterans of the 503rd, who served during World War II, began holding informal get-togethers almost immediately after 1945.
An association was established and National Reunions have been held each year since 1957.
Abott, Don. Condensed History of the 503rd Parachute Inftanry Regiment. 503rd PRCT Association, WWII Archives.
The addition of Company C of the 161st Engineers was indeed a welcomed addition to the men of the 503rd PIR, when they joined up with the unit at Noemfoor in mid July, 1944.
Their equipment and skills were invaluable to the newly formed Combat Team. Not only did they help make camp life more bearable through the creation of clean campsites with
latrines and drinking water, they also went out on patrols with troops, and used their heavy equipment to clear timber, construct and repair roads. After Noemfoor,
they went on to distinguished themselves as an integral part of 503rd PRCT.
In August 1943, volunteers were sought to form an engineer battalion of airborne troops at Camp Carson, Colorado. The resulting 161st Airborne Engineer Battalion consisted of Headquarters, A, B, and C companies, with Company C designated
as the paratroop company. The remaining battalion members were to be glider troops. Company C was detached from the rest of the battalion and sent to Laurinburg Maxton Army Air Force Base at Laurinburg, North Carolina, where engineer training was
accomplished as well as Stage A of the paratrooper jump training. When Company C was sent to parachute jump school at Fort Benning, Georgia, the men immediately began Stage B training. Their qualifying jump occurred in Alabama on New Year’s Eve 1943.
Proudly sporting their silver wings, the men of Company C, 161st Parachute Engineers, returned to Laurinburg-Maxton and thence to Camp Mackall, where their paratroop engineer training was refined.
1Bennett M. Guthrie, Three Winds of Death: The Saga of the 503d Parachute Regimental Combat Team in the South Pacific (Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press, 2000), 114-115.