The 82nd Airborne Division landed at Casablanca on May 10, 1943, and trained. Elements first saw combat in Sicily, when the 505th Regimental Combat Team and part of the 504th dropped behind enemy lines, July 9 to 10, at Gela. The remainder of the 504th RCT dropped on July 11 to 12, also near Gela, after running friendly naval and ground force fire. Scattered elements formed and fought as ground troops. The elements were flown back to Tunisia for re-equipment and returned to Sicily to take off for drop landings on the Salerno beachhead.
The 504th Parachute Infantry dropped on September 13, and the 505th the following night; the 325th landed by boat. These elements bolstered Salerno defenses and fought their way into Naples on October 1. After a period of occupation duty (and combat for some elements in the Volturno Valley and Anzio beachhead), the division moved to Ireland in November, and later to England in February 1944, for additional training. Moving in by glider and parachute, troops of the 82nd dropped behind enemy lines in Normandy on D-day, June 6, before ground troops hit the beaches. Cutting off enemy reinforcements, the division fought its way from Carentan to St. Sauveur-le-Vicomte, fighting 33 days without relief. Relieved on July 8, it returned to England for refitting.
On September 17, it was dropped at Nijmegen, 50 miles behind enemy lines, and captured the Nijmegen Bridge on September 20, permitting relief of British paratroops by the British 2nd Army. After heavy fighting in Holland, the division was relieved November 11 and rested in France. It was returned to combat on December 18, to stem the von Rundstedt offensive, blunting the northern salient of the Bulge. It punched through the Siegfried Line in early February 1945, and crossed the Roer on February 17. Training with new equipment in March, the division returned to combat on April 4, patrolling along the Rhine, securing the Koln area, later moving across the Elbe on April 30, into the Mecklenburg Plain, where on May 2, the German 21st Army surrendered.
Activated: March 25, 1942; Designated an airborne division on August 15, 1942
Overseas: April 28, 1943
Campaigns: Sicily, Naples-Foggia, Rome-Arno, Normandy, Ardennes-Alsace, Rhineland, Central Europe
Days of combat: 422
Distinguished Unit Citations: 15
Awards: Medal of Honor-2; Distinguished Service Cross-37; Distinguished Service Medal-2; Silver Star-898; Legion of Merit-29; Soldier's Medal-49; Bronze Star Medal-1,894; Achievement Medal-15
Returned to United States: January 3, 1946