On Aug. 16, 1940, soldiers from the 29th Infantry Division conducted the first official U.S. military parachute jump at Fort Benning, Georgia, according to Army history.
Airborne soldiers will be celebrating the 79th anniversary of that jump on National Airborne Day, which is Friday. Celebrations are planned for Friday at Fort Benning, and then on Saturday at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Former President George W. Bush proclaimed Aug. 16 to be National Airborne Day in 2001, and the U.S. Senate backed that up in Senate Resolution 235 in 2009.
“National Airborne Day is really to commemorate the Airborne Test Platoon,” Capt. Andrew Mitchell said in an Army post. He is operations officer for 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment. “Their leadership and paving the way, setting the conditions during World War II for the modern American paratrooper. Their efforts made it possible for us to be able to project power in defense of the United States in a completely new manner."
Soldiers at Fort Benning and at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, plan a series of events to mark the occasion.
The ceremony Friday at Fort Benning will feature parachute jumps as well as a graduation ceremony for the Army’s newest paratroopers from Airborne Class 30-19, part of the 1-507th PIR.
Jumps are planned to start at 9 a.m. with demonstrations from both the U.S. Army Parachute Team the Golden Knights and the official parachute demonstration team of Fort Benning’s Maneuver Center of Excellence, the Silver Wings.
After those freefall jumps, members of the Liberty Jump Team will jump from vintage World War 2 C-47 Skytrain transport planes in World War II-era reenactor uniforms.
The final jump will be by members of the training cadre at the Army’s Airborne School. They are with the 1-507th.
On Saturday, members of the 82nd Airborne Division will be celebrating National Airborne Day at Fort Bragg and at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville.
Fort Bragg celebrates National Airborne Day every year on the Saturday after Aug. 16 so the community can attend.
“National Airborne Day honors and celebrates our paratrooper lineage,” Elvia Kelly, a Fort Bragg spokeswoman, said in a release. “This yearly celebration brings together paratroopers, past and present, with our local communities for a fun, Family friendly event. This is a first-hand opportunity to experience what makes our paratroopers the best in the world.”
This year’s celebration at Fort Bragg is set to kick off at 8 a.m. and last until noon. The day will start with music and the opening of static displays of XVIII Corps and Army Special Operations Command vehicles and equipment.
It will also feature performances from the 82nd Airborne’s “All American” Chorus, a rock band performance by soldiers of the 82nd, a mock door demonstration and a high altitude, low opening (HALO) demonstration by the All Veterans Parachute Team.