For many the idea of leaping from an aircraft is absurd, leaping from a mechanically sound aircraft seems downright crazy. None the less, 72 years ago some brave souls took the plunge at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia, and changed warfare and recreation drastically. Fayetteville in particular has been affected by airborne operation, being the home of the 82nd Airborne Division, and so it comes as no surprise that the history is celebrated here.
This holiday honoring airborne troops was established in 2002 by President George W. Bush, and recognized by the Senate in 2009. It is however, the 72nd Anniversary of the first parachute jumps taken in Ft. Benning, Georgia that is being celebrated — as well as the museums 10th anniversary. Paul Galloway the executive director of the Airborne Special Operations Museum explained this by saying, “It’s in honor of all the paratroopers and special operations soldiers that have come before us. It came about because of the 40 soldiers that first jumped out of the airplane for the army, and it’s important not to forget those guys.”
Airborne Operations were integral in the Allied victories in WWII, (like D-day) and there is a tremendous sense of pride amongst all airborne soldiers. To honor these soldiers, and those who have fallen in these operations, there will be a ceremonial wreath laid at the feet of the iconic Iron Mike statue. That is not the only memorial to paratroopers as ASOM has a memorial to the original 40 jumpers. “We have a monument on site, outside of the museum, that has all their names on it,” Galloway says. The day’s festivities include free-fall parachute demonstrations for the public to enjoy, executed by the Golden Knights, the U.S. Army Parachute Team, the Black Daggers of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, and the 82nd Airborne Division’s All American Freefall Team. This demonstration will give spectators a taste of the excitement and joy felt by those who opened the doors to these possibilities by taking the very first plunge from an aircraft.
Fort Bragg will also provide soldiers to set up both modern and WW II equipment for visitors to explore and learn about how much technology has changed over the years. Further highlighting the changes the Army has experienced, re-enactors will be walking around amongst the current soldiers wearing uniforms from WWII. Galloway acknowledges the Army’s role in this celebrations by saying, “It’s an Army event, not a (Airborne Special Operations Museum) Foundation event, and they always lay a wreath in honor of all the army paratroopers and special operations soldiers that have died from today to the past.”
The event will be taking place on Aug. 18 from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum located at 100 Bragg Boulevard. For more information visit the museum’s website www.asomf.org or call 910-643-2766.
Photo: Airborne Operations were integral in the Allied victories in WWII, (like D-day) and there is a tremendous sense of pride amongst all airborne soldiers.