During World War II, the United States Army had four Airborne Divisions. Today, only the 11th Airborne Division, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska and the 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Liberty, (Ft. Bragg) North Carolina are active. The 101st Airborne Division of Fort Campbell, Kentucky is an Air Assault unit. The 82nd Infantry Division, nicknamed the “All Americans” in 1918 by General Eben Swift. He chose “All American” to reflect the soldiers from all 48 states in the Union. Alaska and Hawaii had not yet been ratified. In May 1918, the division joined the American Expeditionary Forces commanded by General John Pershing. The division participated in several major battles during World War I. August 15, 1942, the 82nd Infantry Division was redesignated as the 82nd Airborne Division. Under the command of Major General Ridgway, the 82nd paratroopers sailed into North Africa. The plan was to invade Sicily. The division had two combat operations on September 13, 1943, with the parachute assault into Sicily. The next combat operation would be the amphibious assault into Normandy where the unit gained its first Medal of Honor. The fourth and final combat jump occurred on September 17th, 1944, capturing objectives between Grave and Nijmegen. Upon the divisions return to the U.S., they found their permanent home at Fort Liberty (Ft. Bragg) in November 1948.
This week we salute Leo “Dick” DeCock. Dick served in the U.S. Army from December 1959 to September 1962. He was assigned to the Signal Corp and went to Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at Fort Eisenhower (FT Gordon) and trained as a pole lineman. While at FT Eisenhower, Dick attended the crypto signal course. He went to Ft Bragg to attend jump school. Dick was an airborne paratrooper with the 82nd and had over thirty jumps. While with the 82nd, Dick’s unit trained in field maneuvers at Elgin, Air Force Base in Florida. He’s jumped from C19s, C123, C130 and a few helicopters. One memorable event happened when President John F. Kennedy visited his unit in 1961. Dick stated his unit spent three weeks preparing for the visit. For a while, Dick worked as the unit clerk, seeing a lot of soldiers go AWOL (absent without leave). He left service in September 1962 as a Sergeant, Dick grew up in Rosebud county, is a rancher and married with three adult children.