The 506th Infantry Regiment, formerly known as the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment and 506th Airborne Infantry Regiment, was a famous unit assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. It was the first unit in the United States military to have trained paratroopers.
The regiment was initially formed during World War II at Camp Toccoa, Georgia in 1942 where it earned its nickname, "Currahees", after Currahee Mountain which is located inside the boundaries of the camp. During WW2, the 506th would play a role in several important battles and operations such as D-Day, Battle of the Buldge, and Operation Market Garden.
After WW2, they were deactivated and reactivated numerous times. During the Cold War the 506th would go on to serve in the Vietnam War.
The last time the regiment was reactivated was in 1987 as part of the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division in Korea. Recently they have fought in the Gulf War and the War against Terror.
Battle vs. 1st Parachute Division (by CBA222)
From the diary of Private John Julian, Easy Company, Second Battalion, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne Division
Camp Toccoa, Georgia October 9, 1942
“Three miles up! Three miles down!” yelled Herbert Sobel.
“Great, we just got here and he’s making us run up Currahee.”
“You better be at the top of the mountain in 30 minutes, or you’ll have to do it again!”
Fort Benning, Georgia May 7, 1944
“Welcome to the graduation class of the 506th. I will now present each of you with your regiment badge.”
An officer presented him with the badge to a roaring crowd.
Once again the cheers sounded.
It was a few more before it got to me.
That was me. I took a deep breath and a sweeping glance at the ground before coming to face the officer that presented me with the badge. It was Colonel Sink.
“Good job, son. I’m proud of you. “
Everything seemed to go quicker after that.
A few more were called until the last few.
That got the loudest cheer of all, from the crowd and the graduates.
Colonel Sink stood up to talk and motioned for everyone to quiet down.
“Thank you all for coming here. We all appreciate your support for these men. The paratrooper is a new concept within the U.S. military, we hope they will all do well and help us win the war. Congratulations, you are all now certified paratroopers of the 506th!”
Normandy June 6, 1944
“Number nine ok!
“Number eight ok!
“Number seven okay!
My turn, “Number six okay!”
Once everybody was ready, all we could do was to wait for the green light to turn. Suddenly flashes began to occur and our plane started shaking.
“Let’s jump already!”
“Is that the green light?”
“Mayday! Mayday! This is troop carrier #1567, we are taking hits and going down! Repeat, we are going down! *STATIC*”
“We can’t turn on the green light yet! We’re three minutes from the drop zon--------”, the copilot was hit before he could finish his sentence.
“Oh no,” whispered the pilot.
Then like a beacon of hope, the green light switched on.
“Green light is on! Everybody prepare to jump! Go! Go! Go!”
That was the last thing I heard before I plunged into the madness below.
Carentan June 12, 1944
I managed to regroup with the 506th (or whatever was left of it) and help capture a bridge. Today was my first real battle with the enemy. Here I learned to true glories and horrors of war. Here’s how it went.
Laughter erupted from the men as they drank some more. Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th PIR had just got back after three days of combat in the rough terrain of Normandy and France. Now they were set to go back to England for a well-deserved rest.
“What is it?”
“Division wants everybody suited up and ready to move out.”
And with a short solute and an acute turn Pvt. Gauser was gone.
1st Sgt. Carwood Lipton took a deep breath as he stepped on to the podium.
“Sorry to break the mood boys, but we’re moving out again.”
The atmosphere of the room instantly changed. No one was talking. Smiles were swept of their faces quicker than a thunderbolt. They weren’t sad…but maybe a bit………weary?
“Your mission is to capture the French town of Carentan in Normandy. This particular city connects Utah and Omaha Beach. Failure of this mission will result in the main Allies force to be pinned down and will likely result in you staying longer. You will be engaging in hard house to house fighting. Grenades and rifles in the windows. Make sure your weapon is working and take lots of ammo. You’ll need it. Good luck.”
“Pack your gear. We’re moving out in two minutes.”
“Got a light?” asked Pvt. Jackson over the roar of the truck.
“Yeah, here you go.”
He was about to light his cigarette when his platoon leader Captain Richard Winters whispered,
“Second Platoon, move out. Take cover in those trenches. Go!”
“You heard the captain, get going Private!”
Easy Company moved silently into the trenches, awaiting orders. No one made a move. After a minute or so, Winters came telling everyone to move out, so we did.
“I’m gonna kill some Krua-----AH!!!!”
What happened next stayed crystal clear in my mind. For the first time I felt very fearful. There were men screaming, a few cries of “Get down!” and the like. The bullets wouldn’t stop coming. Men were diving into the trenches faster than they got out. But in all that Lt. Spears was still moving forward at a rapid pace. I thought I would never be charge like that in all this------
“What are you waiting for?! KEEP MOVING FORWARD!!!” shouted Winters.
“GET OUT OF THOSE TRENCHES! KEEP MOVING FORWARD!!!”
After that all the men poured out of the trenches, and ran for the town, machinegun fire still raining down on them.
And then I instinctively moved forward.
“Second Platoon! Behind that street corner, GO!”
Men from Easy Company ran as fast as their legs would carry them to find cover, forgetting exhaustion for the moment. A few rifle shots were fired off their M1s, but except for that most of Easy were still pinned down by heavy machinegun fire.
“Second Platoon listen up! Five teams of three take that block over there. Grenades in the windows. Clear all rooms. The rest of you will come with me to take those MG42s. Ok move out!”
The first team of three consisted of 1st Sgt. Bill Gaunere, Pvt. Webster, and 1st Lt. Buck.
“Clear the rooms!”
Doors were kicked down as hurried footsteps flew across the floor.
A few shots from a Thompson and the voices were silenced. The team lowered their weapons and took a few deep breaths. A few shouts were heard.
“Looks like the Kruats aren’t doing so well. Webster, set up your machinegun over there. Provide covering fire for the Captain. You’ll guard his back Guanere in case anyone sneaks up from the rear. I’ll go check the scene out.”
“Ah! I’ve been hit! MEDIC!!!”
“Sniper! Everybody find cover! Malarkey!”
“We think the sniper is hiding in that window. I want you to take your mortar and take it out. We’ll draw their fire, got it?”
The mortar team lined themselves up for a shot. Bullets wizzed over their hads as both the Germans and the Americans retuned the fire to each other. A smoke grenade temporarily stalled the sniper. But would it be enough?
“Malarkey! Hurry up! That smoke isn’t gonna last much longer!”
“Yes sir! Fire in the hole!”
A deafening blast shook the ground, and an explosion ensued. The window was destroyed….along with the sniper.
Meanwhile, First Platoon was having troubles of its own. Although they cleared most of the buildings on the first block, they couldn’t get past the courtyard. There was constant machinegun and sniper fire.
“We can’t just sit here sarge. We’re gonna have to go out sooner or later. Might as well do it now,” called out Lipton.
“Yeah, you’re right. Here’s what we’ll do. Take four of my men and go around the town to the rear of that building. We’ll provide suppressing fire. Go quick, we don’t have much time.”
“Powers! Talbert! Cobb! Gordon! You all come with me!”
“The rest of you! Get in those buildings. Kill any Germans that dare come near!”
The hustle to the buildings was immediately followed by a series of shots. Three Germans laid dead on the ground. Oops. Heavy fighting ensued as both sides tried their hardest to kill each other. Every once in a while First Platoon attempted to assault the building, only to be pushed back by heavy machinegun fire.
“Come on Lipton, where are you?”
“Come on, let ‘em have it!” yelled Buck.
Easy Company complied with a barrage of shots. Bullets flew and muzzles flashed, but Easy wasn’t getting any closer. That MG42 was too lethal.
“Ah! Crap! Stupid Kruat shot my leg…AH!!! MEDIC!!!”
“Daniel! Don’t worry, stay there I’m coming for you!”
But Fate didn’t agree, Pvt. Jerry was shot in the head mid-way.
“JERRY!!!! STUPID KRUAKS, I AM GOING TO KILL YOU!!!!!”
He let off two magazines in ten seconds, Taking three Germans with him.
“Ah crap! Damn it!” Jackson yelled as he was hit in the arm, but it was a flesh wound so he continued his barrage. Despite his heroic actions Lipton was still nowhere in sight. All I could remember was the repeated sound of machinegun fire through the windows, then a slight *thump* and a few shots and a few shouts, and suddenly that horrible machinegun sound stopped. Easy Company quickly lined up for a shot before First Platoon’s commander, Lt. Spiers yelled out,
“Hold your fire! It’s Lipton!”
First Platoon slowly lowered their weapons before erupting in wild cheers and cries.
“That you, Lipton?”
“Bet those Kruats didn’t like the smell of your ol’ Thompson!”
“Easy Company! Listen up! We still have to take the other side of town!”
Groans and moans came from the men.
“Listen! Set up fortified machinegun positions in the building facing the courtyard! Mortar team stays back to provide suppressing fire. The rest of you come with me to secure those buildings! Go!”
I was assigned set up my Johnson machinegun on a building overlooking the courtyard so I could provide suppressing fire.
Most of the rest rushed ahead.
“Find cover! Get behind those cars! Suppressing fire!!!!!” yelled Spears as German machine gunners opened fire with their MG42s.
The machinegun fire pinned down First Platoon, they couldn’t stick their heads out.
I loaded a belt of ammo and let loose with my Johnson.
“This is First Platoon requesting artillery support! We are taking heavy fire and suffering causalities! Position at the courtyard in Carentan! Over!”
“Negative First-Platoon, Carentan is out of range. Air support can arrive in 40 minutes, do you request?”
“Fine! Send them over! Out!”
“Damn it! Why the heck are they out of range!? I hoped they would give priority to important missions! Heck, the Canadians get tanks! What is wrong with the system?!” Lipton said angrily as he fired off his M1 at a German.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” asked Powered from behind a wall.
“Division messed up the ranks. Artillery is out of range. Air support in 40 minutes.”
“Forty minutes. Are you kidding me? We’re all gonna be dead by them. I’ll be lucky if this thing still has ammo.”
“Yeah I know right? I’m having a talk with a Sink after this!”
“I got someone!” yelled Frank triumphantly as he fired his M1.
“Hey Lieutenant! How much longer are we gonna be here? My friend already got killed.”
“Yeah, and where’s Second Platoon?”
Where was Second Platoon?, wondered Spears. He knew Winters was a very capable leader, he should have been here by now.
Suddenly a shout came from one of his men.
“Winters! The cavalry has arrived!”
“Yes it has! You Kruats are screwed!”
Easy Company fought with renewed enthusiasm and German positions started to collapse.
“Let’s do this!”
With the arrival of Second Platoon, the combined force of the two managed to push forward against German positions. The fighting was heavy and many were wounded, but Easy Company pushed forward at a rapid pace.
“Clear those buildings! Take out the machine gunners!”
A door was kicked down and heavy footsteps followed, along with several shots and shouts.
All this time, I just kept on firing my Johnson.
“This building’s clear!”
The tables had been turned……………….or so we thought.
“Hey Gaunere, where’s the-------” Sgt. Chuck was about to finish his sentence when someone started shouting.
“Kruat artillery! Everybody find some cover! Get in those buildings!”
Even before Lt. Spears started shouting orders Easy Company was already scrambling into the buildings and behind street corners. The artillery raced over their heads and exploded with a deafening blast. I remembered the scary sound of artillery shells racing over and the frightening explosion when they impacted their targets. They tore holes in the ground and ripped apart buildings.
“Come on Jackson! In the building! Hurry!”
Pvt. Jackson said nothing, but ran at full speed towards the building. But then he disappeared as fire engulfed him. One artillery shell, and Private Jackson was no more.
“No Johnson, stay here!” Winters struggled to keep Johnson down.
“Johnson! You will stay down! We can’t afford wasting men! Now keep you head down and don’t move until I say so.”
“Johnson, there are times when you friends will die. But you just have to live and forget. Move on, Jackson died on honorable death, I can assure you.”
Johnson was still breathing heavily, but managed to make a reply.
“That’s the spirit. No worries Private, I will personally oversee his Purple Heart citation. And then-----”
Winters suddenly realized he was the only one talking in dead silence. Did the artillery stop?
“Oh right, sorry about that, move your men up to that road and secure it. You’ll have to go through one more block though. I’m moving the machine gunners up, understood?
“Permission to speak sir?”
“Lt. Spears ordered and airstrike half an hour ago, it’ll be coming in ten minutes, should we hold position?”
“In that case, yes, tell your men to keep put until the airstrike comes. Radio First Platoon to put smoke canisters to mark the targets for the Air Force. Undestood?”
“Lt. Spears, Winters wants smoke canisters on targets to direct the Air Force, get you men on it”
“Hoobler! James! Grab these smoke canisters and put them on those buildings to the north, do it quietly, don’t make too much noise. On roofs so the Germans don’t see. We’ll draw their eyes down. You can throw it, but don’t miss. Go quick, we only have seven minutes left.”
“Come on James, get those canisters, let’s go!”
Hoobler and James climbed the stairs to the roof and made their way from building to building, sometime jumping. They marked several buildings holding German defenses with colored smoke. The rest of Easy Company was firing at the buildings, so the smoke went unnoticed.
“How much time left?”
“Two minutes, they’re still not here, I can see smoke though.”
They were interrupted by the sound of Hoobler’s voice.
“Everything ready sir.”
“Good job Hoobler, where’s James?”
“Oh, he’s over there, A Kruat almost saw us get on the roof, close call, it would have blown this entire operation.”
“One minute to bingo.”
“Just sit tight, call the men back to the buildings, let the Air Force do their work.”
“Get inside, hurry, less than a minute left!” whispered Spears as he went from men to men to avoid raising the German’s suspicions. He just managed to get back inside when the first distant roars of aircraft sounded.
The planes flew over with a deafening roar, sending machinegun bullets into the streets and bombs into the buildings. All was fire and smoke as everything exploded around them. This time, however, it was for us.
“That’s what I’m talking about!” as Easy Company laughed with each other.
But it wasn’t over yet. The Germans were not quite defeated. The airstrike had devastated them, but so had their artillery fire. Each side suffered heavy losses from these attacks. Germans were known to be hard fighters. But nevertheless Easy Company continued to push forward, spurred on by the successful airstrike.
“Come on Easy Company! We’re almost there!”
Easy Company ran forward, quickly but not without caution.
“Julian, take your team and move forward.”
I picked my machinegun and motioned for the rest of the squad to move forward. I set up my machinegun on a windowsill facing the last block of Carentan, one last block until this battle was over.
Both platoons moved forward with rapid coordination and the Germans started retreating.
“Shifty” Powers expertly took out a sniper with his M1, he was known to be the best shot in the company, maybe even the regiment.
Belts were spent and magazines were thrown, the battle was fierce, but the Germans were getting noticeably weary. There were only three colors that day, grey, gold, and red. Guns, bullets, and blood.
Easy Company ran and ran, hiding behind cover, firing off shots until, now stopping until they reached the end.
“Let’s do this! They’re retreating!”
And indeed they were, there were feeble attempts to fight back, but other than that, nothing, Easy Company was now on the offensive.
Then a voice, loud and clear, ran out in the battle, not from one of ours, but from the Kruats.
“Wir ergeben uns!”
“What is he saying?”
There were murmurs among the men.
“Sir he’s saying ‘We surrender’.”
For a split second everything was frozen. The shots stopped. Then everyone started cheering. Men stood up and celebrated.
“Tell your guys to round up the prisoners, we’re moving out,” whispered Winters to Spears.
“This is Easy Company. We have captured Carentan and are holding several prisoners. Requesting pickup.”
Colonel Sink’s voice came from the other end.
“Good job son, we’re sending the trucks over. Just sit there for a while.”
And the trucks did come, army drivers at the wheel. The survivors of the battle climbed in and the trucks headed for the command post.
“Have a good day Buck?”
That drew a lot of laughter.
“Well, they say we’re going back to England now.”
“Hope they don’t break their promise again.”
“And even if they do, remember, Currahee!”
“Currahee!” the men shouted in unison.
End of John Julian’s diary. He was killed in combat by while taking part in the capture of the town of Foy, Belgium.
Easy Company went on to participate in the failed Operation Market Garden, where they liberated the town of Eindhoven. They participated in the Siege of Bastogne where they managed to hold the front line against surrounding German forces despite running low on ammo and supplies in cold weather and be constantly pummeled by artillery fire with none of their own. Easy Company along with the rest of the 506th were disbanded at the end of World War Two, but they will forever be remembered for their heroic actions in the name of freedom.
While the 1st did possess the rapid fire of the MG-42 on their side, the sheer amount of other weapons advantages the 506th had on their side, along with superior leadership and morale pushed them over the edge.