173d AIRBORNE BRIGADE LINEAGE

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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, Operation JUNCTION CITY became a series of small unit firefights for the paratroopers.  On February 28th, the "Sky Soldiers" of the 173rd overran the Vietcong Central Information Office, a key enemy propaganda facility.  As the multi-divisional attack continued through mid-May, major battles raged around the horseshoe with three Vietcong Regiments and one Regiment of NVA regulars.  Operation JUNCTION CITY succeeded in driving major enemy forces from War Zone C across the border into sanctuaries in Cambodia.  The operation was terminated on May 14, 1967.

                    On November 1-6, 1968, the 2-503rd ABN deployed to DAK TO in the central highlands with the mission of conducting search-and-destroy operations in conjunction with other US forces in Operation MACARTHUR  that included the infamous Battle for DAK TO.  The final major and most decisive action of the Battle for DAK TO was initiated on November 19th when the 2nd Battalion engaged elements of the 174th North Vietnamese Infantry Regiment on Hill 875.  Joined by the 4th Battalion during the engagement, the 173rd fought for 96 grueling hours resulting in 298 enemy killed rendering the 174th North Vietnamese Infantry Regiment combat ineffective.  The 2-503rd was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for its valorous actions during the Battle of DAK TO.

                    The Brigade and the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry was relieved of assignment to the 173rd Airborne Brigade on January 14, 1972 and assigned to the 101st Airborne Division at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky.  On October 1, 1983 it was relieved of assignment to the 101st Airborne and assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea on December 16, 1986 where it remained until it deactivation on September 29, 1990.        

 

  On December 16, 2001 the 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade and reactivated on January 25, 2002 in Vicenza, Italy.  Today the ROCK stands ready to accomplish any mission with the espirit and e`lan that it has demonstrated in the past.

 

 

 

         

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