Original U.S. WWII XVIII Airborne Corps Paratrooper Insignia Collection - 17th Airborne Division

Item Description

Original Items: Only One Set Available. This is a set of insignia which was obtained from a World War Two veteran who served in the 17th Airborne Division. He was part of the XVIII Airborne Corps and jumped as part of . XVIII Airborne Corps planned and executed Operation Varsity, the airborne component of Operation Plunder. Operation Varsity (24 March 1945) was a successful airborne forces operation launched by Allied troops that took place toward the end of World War II. Involving more than 16,000 paratroopers and several thousand aircraft, it was the largest airborne operation in history to be conducted on a single day and in one location.

Varsity was part of Operation Plunder, the Anglo-American-Canadian assault under Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery to cross the northern Rhine River and from there enter Northern Germany. Varsity was meant to help the surface river assault troops secure a foothold across the Rhine River in Western Germany by landing two airborne divisions on the eastern bank of the Rhine near the village of Hamminkeln and the town of Wesel.

The plans called for the dropping of two divisions from U.S. XVIII Airborne Corps, under Major General Matthew B. Ridgway, to capture key territory and to generally disrupt German defenses to aid the advance of Allied ground forces. The British 6th Airborne Division was ordered to capture the villages of Schnappenberg and Hamminkeln, clear part of the Diersfordter Wald (Diersfordt Forest) of German forces, and secure three bridges over the River Issel. The U.S. 17th Airborne Division was to capture the village of Diersfordt and clear the rest of the Diersfordter Wald of any remaining German forces. The two divisions would hold the territory they had captured until relieved by advancing units of 21st Army Group, and then join in the general advance into northern Germany.

The airborne forces made several mistakes, most notably when pilot error caused paratroopers from the 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment, a regiment of the U.S. 17th Airborne Division, to miss their drop zone and land on a British drop zone instead. However, the operation was a success, with both divisions capturing Rhine bridges and securing towns that could have been used by Germany to delay the advance of the British ground forces. The two divisions incurred more than 2,000 casualties, but captured about 3,500 German soldiers. The operation was the last large-scale Allied airborne operation of World War II.

Included in this set are the following items:

- Enamel pin back 17th Airborne Distinctive Unit Insignias (DIs).

- GEMSCO Sterling Silver Airborne Parachutist Jump Wings Badge (pin missing).

- Sterling Silver Airborne Parachutist Jump Wings Badge with Invasion Star (pin missing).

- Sterling Silver Ring with Airborne Parachutist Jump Wings Insignia to top and American Eagles on each side.

- WWII XVIII Airborne Corps miniature embroidered patch.

- Enamel Combat Infantryman's Badge CBI (pin present, clasp missing).

- Embroidered Combat Infantryman's Badge.

A nice little insignia collection for a veteran of the 17th Airborne Division who fought in WW2. 

The 17th Airborne Division was an airborne infantry division of the United States Army during World War II, and was commanded by Major General William M. Miley.

It was officially activated as an airborne division in April 1943 but was not immediately sent to a combat theater, remaining in the United States to complete its training. During this training process, the division took part in several training exercises, including the Knollwood Maneuver, in which it played a vital part in ensuring that the airborne division remained as a military formation in the U.S. Army. As such it did not take part in the first two large-scale airborne operations conducted by the Allies, Operation Husky and Operation Neptune, only transferring to Britain after the end of Operation Overlord.

When the division arrived in Britain, it came under the command of XVIII Airborne Corps, part of the First Allied Airborne Army, but was not chosen to participate in Operation Market Garden, the airborne landings in the Netherlands, as Allied planners believed it had arrived too late and could not be "trained up" in time for the operation. However, after the end of Operation Market Garden the division was shipped to France and then Belgium to fight in the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge. The 17th gained its first Medal of Honor during its time fighting in the Ardennes, and was then withdrawn to Luxembourg to prepare for an assault over the River Rhine. In March 1945, the division participated in its first, and only, airborne operation, dropping alongside the British 6th Airborne Division as a part of Operation Varsity, where it gained three more Medals of Honor. The division then advanced through Northern Germany until the end of World War II, when it briefly undertook occupation duties in Germany before shipping back to the United States. There, it was officially inactivated in September 1945.

On 16 December 1944 the Wehrmacht launched an offensive in the Ardennes region of Belgium, breaking through Allied lines and rapidly advancing towards Antwerp. On the afternoon of 17 December, General Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, decided to commit his theater reserve to the Ardennes in an attempt to halt the German advance; this consisted of the 17th, 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions under the control of XVIII Airborne Corps. The three divisions were to be attached to Courtney Hodges's U.S. First Army and were ordered to concentrate around the town of St Vith. However, while the other two airborne divisions were able to immediately make their way to the Ardennes as they were already stationed in France, bad weather prevented the 17th from flying in from where the division was stationed in Britain for several days. On 23 December the weather cleared and the division was finally flown to France by emergency night flights. It moved to an assembly area near Rheims. On Christmas Day, the division was attached to George Patton's U.S. Third Army and ordered to assume a thirty-mile long defensive position that ran along the Meuse River near Charleville.

By 1 January 1945 the threat to Charleville had eased sufficiently for the division to be transferred to another area of the Ardennes, being transported to an area south-west of Bastogne near the village of Morhet on 3 January; there it relieved the 11th Armored Division which had occupied the village prior to its arrival. On 4 January the division entered combat for the first time when it was ordered alongside the 87th Infantry Division to seize a number of key towns to the west of Bastogne, in order to prevent German forces from encircling the town a second time; it had been relieved by the Third Army on 26 December. With the 87th Infantry Division on its left flank, the division advanced towards German positions with the 194th Glider Infantry Regiment and 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment forming the division's assault element; the 193rd Glider Infantry Regiment and the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment moved behind these two regiments to deal with expected German armored counter-attacks against them. During its initial advance the division engaged German forces, including infantry and armor, in an attempt to secure a narrow, high-rimmed road to the north-west of Bastogne; during a battle that lasted three days the division suffered nearly 1,000 casualties attempting to hold what the division's official historian labeled 'Dead Man's Ridge'. It was during the opening stages of this battle that the division earned its first Medal of Honor. Staff Sergeant Isadore S. Jachman of the 513th Parachute Infantry engaged and destroyed two German tanks with a bazooka that formed part of an armored column attacking American positions, forcing the column to retreat but simultaneously being killed by machine gun fire. Between 19 and 26 January, the division broke through German lines and captured several towns before linking up with elements of the British 51st Infantry Division. After it had captured the town of Espeler on 26 January the entire division was withdrawn from the front and transported by truck to Luxembourg, effectively ending its participation in the Ardennes campaign.
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