he 13th Airborne Division was activated at Camp Mackall, North Carolina
on August 13, 1943 - Friday the 13th - under the command of Major General George W Griner. However, that
December General Griner was replaced by Major General Eldridge Chapman.
(pictured left) General Chapman, one of the U.S Army's early airborne pioneers,
was head of Airborne Command at Camp Mackall and had seen action in the Mexican Border incident and World
At the beginning of 1945 the 13th Airborne Division, embarked for Europe and arrived in February.
They billeted in the small towns southeast of Paris. The division's major units when they arrived in France
were the 515th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) commanded by Colonel Harvey J Jablonsky; the 88th Glider
Infantry Regiment (GIR) commanded by Colonel Samuel Roth and the 326th GIR commanded by Colonel
William Poindexter. To strengthen the division for the final push into Germany the 517th Parachute
Regimental Combat Team commanded by Colonel Rupert Graves was also assigned as a permanent unit.
The 517th were veterans of Italy, Southern France, Belgium and Germany and chafed under the
untested leadership of the 13th Airborne officers. The officers combat leadership would remain untested as potential
aiborne objectives were continually overrun by advancing ground troops. Another operation code-named
"Arena" called for dropping four to six Allied airborne divisions 100 miles east of the Rhine. It would be
the largest airborne operation yet but General Eisenhower was unconvinced of its necessity and cancel it.
Operation Varsity was the first airborne invasion over the Rhine into Germany itself. But General Ridgway gave the nod to the 17th Airborne based on their combat experience in the Ardennes. The
13th Airborne would be kept in "strategic reserve".
After the German surrender on May 7, 1945 the 13th and 101st Airborne Divisions were notified of their reassignment to the Pacific. However, the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan in August, 1945 again dashed the 13th Airborne's chance to prove themselves. That same month the 13th Airborne was shipped home and deactivated, which gave some soldiers the opportunity to pursue their education. Unfortunately, an online university did not exist at these times, which would have provided more flexibility for travelling soldiers wanting to get an education.