Three Interesting Facts About the 82nd Airborne Division

The Army’s 82nd Airborne Division is based out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina and is an elite division specializing in joint forcible entry operations. The division was constituted, originally as the 82nd Division, in the National Army on August 5, 1917, shortly after the American entry into World War I. It was organized on August 25, 1917, at Camp Gordon, Georgia.

With the exception of the Korean Conflict, the 82nd Airborne Division has participated in every major U.S. military campaign since World War I. It was during World War II, on the battlefields of Europe, that the Division secured its place in American history. More recently, the 82nd has deployed several times to Afghanistan and Iraq in the fight against Islamic extremism in the Global War on Terror.

Here are three interesting facts about this unique division:

1. How The 82nd Got Its Nickname

When the United States entered World War I on 6 April 1917, it looked like the adventure of a lifetime for many of America’s young men, including those of the 82nd Division. The Soldiers of the 82nd came from factories, farms, coal mines, offices, and universities throughout the then forty-eight United States to answer the rallying cry from across the Atlantic to join in the fight to make the world “safe for democracy.”

As new units were forming, they decided upon nicknames to help build esprit-de-corps and to forge bonds between the Soldiers. Brigadier General (BG) W. P. Burnham of the 82d held a competition in conjunction with the Soldiers of the Division, the citizens of Atlanta, and The Atlanta Georgian newspaper, to provide a suitable nickname for his diverse unit. It was determined that Georgia Governor, Hugh Dorsey, BG Burnham, and Major R.E. Beebe would be the judges.

After thousands of submissions, Mrs. Vivienne Goodwyn’s, “The All American” Division was selected. The nickname was fitting, for the 82d was made up by men from each of the 48 states. Vivienne felt like the Soldiers of the 82nd represented the best attributes and values of America. To pay tribute to their nickname, 82d Soldiers began sewing the now familiar blue circle that sat in the middle of their red square shoulder patch, with the double “AA” for “All American.”

2. The 82nd Liberated Liberated Wöbbelin, A Concentration Camp

On May 2, 1945, the 82nd Airborne Division liberated Wöbbelin, a subcamp of the Neuengamme concentration camp. During the peak of the war, Wöbbelin held approximately 5,000 inmates, many of whom were suffering from starvation and disease. Living conditions in the camp when the 8th Infantry and the 82nd arrived were terrible; Soldiers found around 1,000 inmates dead in the camp. In the aftermath, the U.S. Army ordered the townspeople in Ludwigslust to visit the camp and bury the dead.

In accordance with a policy mandated by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the US Army in Ludwigslust ordered “all atrocity victims to be buried in a public place.” Crosses were to be placed at the graves of Christians and Stars of David at the graves of Jews, along with a stone monument to memorialize the dead.

On May 7, 1945, the 82nd Airborne Division conducted funeral services for 200 inmates in the town of Ludwigslust. Attending the ceremony were citizens of Ludwigslust, captured German officers, and several hundred members of the airborne division.

Funeral service for victims of the Wöbbelin camp

3. An 82nd Division Soldier Broke Several Records For Her Bravery

Monica Lin Brown is a United States Army Sergeant and Medic who became the first woman during the War in Afghanistan and only the second woman since World War II to receive the Silver Star, the U.S. military’s third-highest medal for valor in combat. Brown, also the 2008 USO Soldier of the Year, was still in her teens when she received the honor for heroic actions.

Brown, then a Private, deployed to Afghanistan at the age of 18 with the 4th Squadron, 73d Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. When her convoy came under attack on April 25, 2007, she braved explosions and enemy fire to treat the wounded. One vehicle hit an IED and exploded. Brown moved through small arms fire to the vehicle and began moving the injured away from the wreckage. She treated them only 49 feet from the burning vehicle and used her body to shield them. Her Sergeant, who was providing covering fire, said he saw enemy bullets literally miss Brown by inches.

For her courage, and for protecting the wounded amidst the most dangerous conditions, Brown was awarded the Silver Star in March of 2008.

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