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Unit History: 2/503 Airborne Battle Group

2/503 Airborne Battle Group The 2nd Airborne Battle Group, 503rd Infantry was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade when it was activated on the island of Okinawa on March 26, 1963. On June 25, 1963, the battalion was redesignated the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry.

From its beginning, it proved to be an aggressive and unique unit led by (then) Brigadier General Ellis W. Williamson who established realistic training throughout the Pacific Region, THE "SKY SOLDIER," as the Nationalist Chinese paratroopers called the 173rd, made thousands of parachute jumps in a dozen different Pacific area countries.

On May 5, 1965, the 173rd Airborne Brigade became the first US Army combat unit committed to the Vietnam War. As the Pacific Command’s quick-reaction strike force the 173rd was to provide security for the Bien Hoa Base Complex until elements of the 101st could be deployed. In the end it stayed for 6 years.

The major portion of the brigade landed at Bien Hoa Airfield and found an area that had been battered frequently by enemy raids and shelling attacks. The 1st and 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment were the first army units sent to the Republic of South Vietnam along with the 3rd Battalion of the 319th Artillery. They were well supported by their own Support Battalion and Troop E, 17th Cavalry, D Company, 16th Armour and in late August 1966, the 173rd received another Infantry Battalion, the 4th of the 503rd which arrived from Fort Campbell, Kentucky. A 3rd Battalion was formed in early 1967 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and was deployed to Vietnam on October 2, 1967.

In the combat operations to follow after their arrival, the paratroopers made their superb training payoff. They were the first to go into War Zone D to destroy enemy base camps where they were the first introduced the use of small, long-range patrols. They fought the battles of the Iron Triangle, conducted the only major combat parachute jump in the Tay Ninh area, and blocked NVA incursions during some of the bloodiest fighting of the war at Dak To during the summer and fall of 1967, culminating in the capture of Hill 875.

On February 22, 1967, paratroopers of the 2d Battalion, 503d Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade, parachuted into a wide clearing in the jungle of War Zone C as part of Operation JUNCTION CITY. 2-503 conducted the only major US Airborne operation of the war while attached to the 1st Infantry Division carrying out the first major US Airborne assault since the Korean War. Their mission was to form a blocking force near the crossroads hamlet of Kantum, South Vietnam, to support a large-scale cordon and search by U.S. forces. The 780-man airborne task force was delivered in two sorties of aircraft from Bien Hoa Airbase. The personnel drop of sixteen C-130 Hercules aircraft arrived over Drop Zone Charlie at 0900. General Jack Deane, Commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Sigholtz, Commander of the 2-503d Task Force, and Command Sergeant Major Harold Proffitt led the jump from the first aircraft.

A total of 780 troopers hit the silk in two passes over the small drop zone, settled to the earth, and began assembling without any enemy opposition. Thirty minutes later, ten heavy drop C-130s arrived and dropped six 105mm howitzers, four 4.2 inch mortars, six 81mm mortars, four 3/4-ton trucks, five jeeps, six M274 "Mule" vehicles, one trailer and 3900 rounds of artillery and mortar ammunition. By 1000 all men and equipment were deployed into blocking positions and the command post and artillery firebase were established.

As unit from the U.S. 1st and 25th Infantry Divisions, the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, and the 2-503 ABN as a member of the 173d Airborne Brigade began closing the horseshoe around suspected Victcong and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) positions, Operat
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Active From: 1963 - Present

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