Being a former member of the 82nd Airborne Division (Scout platoon 2/505th Inf), I have always been familiar with the story of "Jumpin' Jim". MG Gavin was the youngest Major General in WW2, and the commander of the 82nd Abn Div. He had an interesting Military career , I was surprised to see that he was stationed at the Camp outside of Douglas, Arizona for 3 years after his graduation from West Point.
Below you will find some info via Wikipedia, As usual, Im too lazy to write about him myself.
Tomahawk - Scouts Out!
Early lifeJames M. Gavin was born in Brooklyn, New York on 22 March 1907. His precise ancestry is unknown; his mother was possibly the Irish immigrant Katherine Ryan, and his father James Nally (also of Irish heritage), although official documentation lists Thomas Ryan as father; possibly in order to make the birth legitimate. The birth certificate lists his name as James Nally Ryan, although Nally was crossed out. When he was about two years old, he was placed in the Convent of Mercy orphanage in Brooklyn, where he remained until he was adopted in 1909. His adoptive parents were Martin and Mary Gavin, a coal mining family from Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania.
Gavin took his first job as a newspaper delivery boy at the age of 10. By the age of 11, he had two routes and was an agent for three out-of-town papers. During this time, he enjoyed following articles about World War I. In the eighth grade, he moved on from the paper job and started working at a barbershop. There he listened to the stories of the old miners. This led him to realize he did not want to be a miner. In school, he learned about the Civil War. From that point on, he decided to study everything he could about the subject. He was amazed at what he discovered and decided if he wanted to learn this "magic" of controlling thousands of troops, from miles away, he would have to continue his education at West Point.
His adoptive father was a hard-working miner, but the family still had trouble making ends meet. Gavin quit school after eighth grade and became a full time clerk at a shoe store for $12.50 a week. His next stint was as a manager for Jewel Oil Company. A combination of restlessness and limited future opportunities in his hometown caused Gavin to run away from home. In March 1924, on his 17th birthday, he took the night train to New York. The first thing he did upon arriving was to send a telegram to his parents saying everything was all right with him, to prevent them from reporting him missing to the police. After that, he started looking for a job in New York.
Enlistment and West PointAt the end of March, 1924, Gavin spoke with a US Army recruiting officer. Since he was under 18, he needed parental consent to enlist in the Army. Knowing that his adoptive parents would never consent, Gavin told the recruiter he was an orphan. The recruiting officer took him and a couple of other underage boys who were orphans as well, to a lawyer who declared himself their guardian and signed the parental consent paperwork.
On April 1, 1924, Gavin was sworn in to the US Army, and was stationed in Panama. His basic training was performed on the job in his unit, the US Coast Artillery in Fort Sherman. He served as a crewmember of a 155 mm gun, under the command of Sergeant McCarthy, who described him as fine. Another person he looked up to was his First Sergeant, an American Indian named "Chief" Williams. Panama was not a comfortable posting for soldiers, because of the high temperatures and the malaria-causing mosquitoes. Despite these adverse conditions, Gavin remembered his time in Panama with fondness.
Gavin spent his spare time reading books from the library, notably Great Captains and a biography of Hannibal. He had been forced to quit school in seventh grade in order to help support his family, and acutely felt his lack of education. In addition, he made excursions in the region, trying to satisfy his boundless curiosity about everything. The First Sergeant, "Chief" Williams, recognized Gavin's potential and made him his assistant; Gavin was promoted to Corporal six months later.
He wished to advance himself in the army, and on the advice of Williams, applied to a local army school, from which the best graduates got the chance to attend West Point. Gavin passed the physical examinations and was assigned with a dozen other men to a school in Corozal, which was a small army depot in the Canal Zone. He started school on September 1, 1924. After one month of schooling, they were required to pass another exam to be allowed to follow the four-month main course, which he did. In order to prepare for the entrance exams into West Point, Gavin was tutored by another mentor, Lieutenant Percy Black, from 8 o'clock in the morning until noon on algebra, geometry, English and history. He passed the exams, and with the help of Black was allowed to apply to West Point.
Gavin arrived at West Point in the summer of 1925. On the application forms, he indicated his age as 21 (instead of 18) to hide the fact that he was not old enough to join the army when he did. Since Gavin missed the basic education which was needed to understand the lessons, he rose at 4:30 every morning and read his books in the bathroom, the only place with enough light to read. After four years of hard work, he graduated in June 1929. In the 1929 edition of the West Point yearbook, Howitzer, he was mentioned as a boxer and as the cadet who had already been a soldier. After his graduation and his commissioning as a Second Lieutenant, he married Irma Baulsir on September 5, 1929.
Various postingsGavin was posted to Camp Harry J. Jones near Douglas, Arizona and the US-Mexican border. This camp housed the 25th Infantry Regiment (one of the entirely African-American, Buffalo Soldier regiments). He stayed in this posting for three years.
Afterwards Gavin attended the United States Army Infantry School in Fort Benning, Georgia. This school was managed by Colonel George C. Marshall, who had brought Joseph Stillwell with him to lead the Tactics department of the school. Here Gavin found the army he was looking for: an army actively seeking new innovations and possibilities.
Marshall and Stillwell taught their students not to rely on lengthy written orders, but rather to give rough guidelines for the commanders in the field to execute as they saw fit, and to let the field commanders do the actual tactical thinking; this was contrary to all other education in the US Army thus far. Gavin himself had this to say about Stilwell and his methods: "He was a superb officer in that position, hard and tough worker, and he demanded much, always insisting that anything you ask the troops to do, you must be able to do yourself." In Fort Benning, Gavin learned to develop and rely on his own style of command.
The time spent at Fort Benning was a happy time for Gavin, but his marriage with Irma Baulsir was not going well. She had moved with him to Fort Benning, and lived in a town nearby. On December 23, 1932 they drove to Baulsir's parents in Washington, D.C. to celebrate Christmas together. Irma decided she was happier there, and remained to live with her parents. In February 1933 Irma became pregnant. Their daughter, Gavin's first child, Barbara, was born while Gavin was away from Fort Sill on a hunting trip. "She was very unhappy with me, as was her mother" Gavin later wrote. Irma remained in Washington during most of their marriage, which ended in divorce upon his return from the war.
In 1933 Gavin, who had no desire to become an instructor for new recruits, was posted to the 28th and 29th Infantry Regiment in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, under the command of General Lesley J. McNair. He spent most of his free time in, as he called it, the "excellent library" of this fort, while the other soldiers spent most of their time partying, shooting and playing polo. One author in particular impressed Gavin: J.F.C. Fuller. Gavin said about him: "[He] saw clearly the implications of machines, weapons, gasoline, oil, tanks and airplanes. I read with avidity all of his writings."
In 1936 Gavin was posted to the Philippines. While there became very concerned about the US ability to counter possible Japanese plans for expansion. The 20,000 soldiers stationed there were badly equipped. In the book Paratrooper: The Life of Gen. James M. Gavin, he is quoted as saying "Our weapons and equipment were no better than those used in World War I".
After 1½ years in the Philippines he returned to Washington with his family and served with the 3rd Infantry Division in the Vancouver Barracks. Gavin was promoted to Captain and held his first command position as Commanding Officer of K Company of the 7th Infantry Regiment.
While stationed in Fort Ord, California he received an injury to his right eye during a sports match. Gavin feared that this would end his military career, and he visited a physician in Monterey, California outside the Fort. The physician diagnosed a retinal detachment, and recommended an eye patch for 90 days. Gavin decided to rely on the self healing capacity of his eye to hide the injury.
West Point againGavin was ordered back to West Point, to work in the Tactics Faculty there. He was overjoyed by this posting, as he could further develop his skills there. With the German Blitzkrieg steamrolling over Europe, the Tactics Faculty of West Point was requested to analyze and understand the German tactics, vehicles and armaments. His superior at West Point called him "a natural instructor", and his students declared that he was the best teacher they had.
Gavin was very concerned about the fact that US Army vehicles, weapons and ammunition were at best a copy of the German equipment. "It would not be sufficient to copy the Germans", he declared. For the first time, Gavin talked about using Airborne forces:
"From what we had seen so far, it was clear the most promising area of all was airborne warfare, bringing the parachute troops and the glider troops to the battlefield in masses, especially trained, armed and equipped for that kind of warfare."
He took an interest in the German airborne assault on the Fort Eben-Emael in Belgium in May 1940, which was assaulted and conquered at night from the sky by well equipped German paratroopers. This event, and his extensive study on Stonewall Jackson's movement tactics led him to volunteer for a posting in the new Airborne unit in April 1941.
World War II
Constructing an Airborne army503rd Parachute Infantry Battalion. Gavin's friends William T. Ryder — Commander of Airborne training - and William Yarborough - Communications officer of the Provisional Airborne Group - convinced General William C. Lee to let Gavin develop the tactics and basic rules of Airborne combat. Lee followed up on this recommendation, and made Gavin his Operations and Training officer (S-3). On October 16, 1941 he was promoted to Major.
One of his first priorities was determining how Airborne troops could be used most effectively. His first action was writing FM 31-30: Tactics and Technique of Air-Borne Troops. He used information about Soviet and German experiences with Paratroopers and Glider troops, and also used his own experience about tactics and warfare. The manual contained information about tactics, but also about the organization of the paratroopers, what kind of operations they could execute, and what they would need to execute their task effectively. Later, when Gavin was asked what made his career take off so fast, he would answer: "I wrote the book".
In February 1942 he followed a condensed course at the Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas which qualified him to serve on the staff of a division. He returned to the Provisional Airborne Group and was tasked with building up an Airborne Division. In the spring of 1942 Gavin and Lee went to the Army Headquarters in Washington D.C. to discuss the order of battle for the first US Airborne Division. The US 82nd Infantry division (stationed in Camp Claiborne, Louisiana) was selected as the first division to be converted into an Airborne division. Lesley McNair's influence led to the 82nd Airborne division's initial composition of two Glider Infantry Regiments and one Parachute Infantry Regiment, with organic parachute and glider artillery and other support units.
Gavin became the commanding officer of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment in August 1942. He was promoted to Colonel shortly thereafter. Gavin built this regiment from the ground up, seeing this as the best way to reach their vision and goals. Gavin led his troops on long marches and realistic training sessions, creating the training missions himself and leading the marches personally. He also placed great value on having his officers "the first out of the airplane door and the last in the chow line". This practice has continued to the present day in US Airborne units; for example, during Operation Urgent Fury the commanding officer of the 1st Ranger Battalion was the first man out the door.
After months of training, Gavin had the regiment tested for one last time:
"As we neared our time to leave, on the way to war, I had an exercise that required them to leave our barracks area at 7:00 P.M. and march all night to an area near the town of Cottonwood, Alabama, a march about 23 miles. There we maneuvered all day and in effect we seized and held an airhead. We broke up the exercise about 8:00 P.M. and started the troupers back by another route through dense pine forest, by way of backwoods roads. About 11:00 P.M., we went into bivouac. After about one hour's sleep, the troopers were awakened to resume the march. [...]In 36 hours the regiment had marched well over 50 miles, maneuvered and seized an airhead and defended it from counterattack while carrying full combat loads and living off reserve rations."
Preparations for combatIn February 1943, the US 82nd Airborne Division — consisting of the 325th and 326th Glider Infantry Regiments and the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment — was selected for the Allied invasion of Sicily. This selection came as a surprise for the division; most members thought that the US 101st Airborne Division would be selected, as that division was led by the "Father" of the Airborne idea, William C. Lee. Not enough gliders were available to have both glider regiments take part in the landings, so the 326th Glider Infantry Regiment was relieved from assignment to the 82nd on February 4, 1943 and replaced by Gavin's 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment effective February 10, 1943. The 326GIR was later assigned to the 13th Airborne Division but never saw combat.
Gavin arranged a last regimental-sized jump for training and demonstration purposes, before the division would ship to North Africa. An accident during this demonstration killed 3 soldiers, and lowered morale somewhat. On April 10, 1943 Matthew B. Ridgway explained what their next mission would be: Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. Gavin's regiment would be the first ever in the US to make a regimental sized Airborne landing. Gavin declared: "It is exciting and stimulating that the first regimental parachute operation in the history of our army is to be taken by the 505th."
On April 29, 1943 Gavin left the harbor of New York on board the Monterey. The convoy taking them to North Africa consisted of 23 troop transport ships, 8 destroyers, an aircraft carrier and the battleship USS Texas. The convoy arrived in Casablanca on May 10, 1943. They proceeded by land to Oujda, a city in the desert where temperatures could reach 140° Fahrenheit (app. 60° Celsius). To make things worse, the camp was repeatedly visited by burglars and thieves. During the waiting period in Oujda, the men had almost no entertainment and morale worsened. Gavin wrote a letter to his daughter, Barbara, almost every day during the waiting period in Oujda.
A conflict arose between the commanders of the British forces and the American forces about who would supply the paratroopers and who would supply the planes to transport them. General Dwight D. Eisenhower intervened and had the Americans put 250 planes in the air and the British 150. Both sides felt miffed by this decision. Ridgway selected Gavin's regiment for the operation. General Patton suggested performing the invasion at night, but Ridgway and Gavin disagreed because they had not practiced night jumps. After mounting casualties during practice jumps, Gavin canceled all practice jumps until the invasion.
The regiment was transported to Kairouan in Tunisia, and on July 9 at 10:00am they entered the planes that would take them to Sicily. Their mission was to land 24 hours before the planned day/time of major combat initiation ("D-day") to the North and East of Gela and take and maintain control of the surrounding area to split the German line of supply and disrupt their communications. One hour before scheduled combat they should link up with the US 1st Infantry Division and help them take control of the airfield at Ponte Oliveto. Gavin was the commander of the combat team, consisting of the 505th, the 3rd Battalion of the 504th, the 456th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, B Company of the 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion, a signal platoon, and some attached units (for example, naval gunfire observation teams). The Axis had 16 divisions in Sicily (two German and the remainder Italian), 14 of which were combat ready. Among these divisions were the Herman Goering Fallschirm-Panzer Division and the German 15th Panzergrenadier Division.
Operation HuskyGavin sat quietly in the airplane and stayed in a separate compartment. A soldier informed him that the windspeed at the landing site was 56 km/h (about 34 miles per hour). During the planning phase, 24 km/h (about 14.5 miles per hour) had been assumed. After one hour of flying, the plane crew could see the bombardment of the invasion beaches. Gavin ordered his men to prepare for the jump, and a few minutes later was the first paratrooper to jump from the plane. Due to the higher than expected windspeed, he sprained his ankle while landing. After landing, he went to look for his men and shortly found his S-3, Major Benjamin H. Vandervoort, and his S-1, Captain Ireland. After a short while he had gathered a group of 20 men. He realized that they had drifted off course and were miles from the intended landing areas. He could see signs of combat twenty miles onwards; he gathered his men and headed towards the combat zone.
With a small band of eight 505th paratroopers Gavin began to march toward the sound of the guns. “He had no idea where his regiment was and only a vague idea as to exactly where he was. We walked all night,” said Major Vandervoort. The paratroopers did not pose a real threat as a fighting force but their guerilla tactics were nevertheless very effective – just as they would be in Normandy in June 1944. They aggressively took on enemy forces, leaving the impression of a much larger force. At one point the morning of July 10 Gavin’s tiny band encountered a thirty-five man Italian anti-paratroop patrol. An intense firefight ensued and the Italians were driven back. Several paratroopers were wounded before Gavin and his men were able to gradually disengage. Gavin was the last man to withdraw. “We were sweaty, tired and distressed at having to leave [our] wounded behind,” said Vandervoort. “The colonel looked over his paltry six-man command and said, ‘This is a hell of a place for a regimental commander to be.’”
At about 8:30 a.m. on July 11, as Gavin was headed west along Route 115 in the direction of Gela, he began rounding up scattered groups of 505th paratroopers and infantrymen of the 45th Division and successfully attacked a ridge that overlooked a road junction at the east end of the Acate Valley. It was called Biazza Ridge. Gavin established hasty defenses on the ridge, overlooking the road junction, Ponte Dirillo and the Acate River valley. Although he had no tanks or artillery to support him, he immediately surmised the importance of holding the ridge as the only Allied force between the Germans and their unhindered exploitation of the exposed left flank of the 45th Division and the thinly held right flank of the 1st Division. Against Gavin that day was the entire eastern task force of the Hermann Göring Division: at least 700 infantry, an armored artillery battalion, and a company of Tiger Tanks.
The German objective was nothing less than counterattacking and throwing the 1st and 45th Divisions back into the sea. Although the attacks of July 10 had failed, those launched on July 11 posed a dire threat to the still tenuous 45th Division beachhead. For some inexplicable reason the Germans failed to act aggressively against Gavin’s outgunned and outmatched force. Even so, the afternoon of July 11 a panzer force attacked Biazza Ridge with full fury. Both sides were determined to succeed: the German panzer force to push Gavin off the ridge and into the sea, the Americans to deny them control of the ridge. The two sides exchanged fire throughout that terrible day as Gavin’s force somehow held out despite terrible pressure and steadily mounting casualties. To his men the commander made clear that: “We’re staying on this goddamned ridge – no matter what happens.”
The defenders of Biazza Ridge managed to capture two 75-mm pack howitzers, which they turned into direct fire weapons to defend the ridge. One managed to knock out one of the attacking Tiger tanks. Somehow the Americans continued to hold. By early evening the situation had turned grim when six U. S. M4 Sherman tanks suddenly appeared to the accompaniment of loud cheers from the weary paratroopers who had been joined by others, including some airborne engineers, infantry, clerks, cooks and truck drivers. With this scratch force and the Shermans Gavin counterattacked and in so doing deterred the Germans from pressing their considerable advantage. They broke off and the battle ended with the Americans still in control of Biazza Ridge. Thanks to the valor of Gavin and his men on July 11 the beachheads were finally secured. For his feats of valor that day Col. Jim Gavin was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.