An elite airborne infantry division of the United States Army, the 82nd Airborne Division was first constituted on August 5, 1917 during WWI in the National Army. It was formally activated on August 25, 1917 at Camp Gordon, Georgia.
Consisting entirely of newly conscripted soldiers, the citizens of Atlanta held a contest to give a nickname to the new division. “All-American” was selected by Major General Eben Swift, the commanding general, to describe the unique composition of the 82nd Airborne because it was comprised of soldiers from all 48 states. This is the basis of the “AA” patch.
Specializing in parachute assault operations into denied areas, the division served with distinction on the Western Front in the final months of WWI. The division later served in WWII, where it was reconstituted as the first airborne division of the U.S. Army in August 1942 and fought in numerous campaigns during the war gaining an excellent reputation.
The bulk of the division was comprised of two infantry brigades, each commanding two regiments. The 163rd Infantry Brigade commanded the 325th Infantry Regiment and the 326th Infantry Regiment. The 164th Infantry Brigade commanded the 327th Infantry Regiment and the 328th Infantry Regiment. The 157th Field Artillery Brigade, also in the division, was composed of the 319th, 320th and 321st Field Artillery Regiments and the 307th Trench Mortar Battery; a divisional troops contingent, and a division train. It sailed to Europe to join the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), commanded by General John Pershing, on the Western Front
Some sources consider the 82nd Airborne Division the most highly trained light infantry division in the world. Based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the 82nd Airborne Division is part of the XVIII Airborne Corps – the U.S. Army’s most strategically mobile division. Most recently the 82nd Airborne has been conducting operations in Iraq. The 82nd Airborne has been assigned to advise and assist Iraqi Security Forces.
Famous soldiers of the division include: Senator Strom Thurmond (325th Glider Infantry Regiment in World War II); Senator Jack Reed; Sergeant Alvin C. York; General James M. Gavin; General of the Army Omar Bradley; General “Henry” Hugh Shelton (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1997 to 2001); R&B singer Lou Rawls; former Syracuse University football coach Ben Schwartzwalder; actor William Windom; country music singer Craig Morgan; fashion critic/choreographer Bruce Darnell; The Honorable Patrick Murphy (Under Secretary of the Army); Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards; and Colonel Chris Gibson, former commander of the 2d Battalion, 325th Infantry Regiment, and later commander of the division’s 2d Brigade Combat Team, now a New York Congressman.