Happy 76th to the ‘Forgotten 551st’

The 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion (551st PIB) was formed 26 November 1942 at Fort Kobbe in the Panama Canal Zone, drawing its cadre came from Company C of the 501st Parachute Infantry Battalion and fleshed out with new recruits, formed initially to storm the Vichy French Caribbean island colony of Martinique. With the Vichy government folding before that could happen, the 551st was sent to Europe, dropping as part of the provisional 1st Airborne Task Force into Southern France in August 1944.

Over the next five months, the 551st would be bled white.

Attached later to the 82nd Airborne, they were wiped out at the Battle of the Bulge and the 110 remaining officers and men were folded into other All American units and the 551st quietly disbanded 27 January 1945 without ceremony at Juslenville, Belgium.

The official motto of the 551st, seen on the early unit patch above, “Aterrice y Ataque” is Spanish for “land and attack.” The insignia depicts an eagle on which is superimposed a shield bearing a palm tree and a machete. The green palm tree represents Panama, where the 551st was activated and began training in late 1942. The machete represents jungle warfare and the 551st original mission to invade Martinique. The red lightning bolt is symbolic of the battalion’s rapid insertion, quick-strike capability.

Long all but lost to history, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism during the Battle of the Bulge to the unit during an official ceremony at the Pentagon on 23 February 2001.

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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as Guns.com, University of Guns, Outdoor Hub, Tac-44, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the U.S. federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

One response to “Happy 76th to the ‘Forgotten 551st’”

  1. bklynphil says :

    Chris – Thank you for reviving and restoring this part of our history.
    More info here

    Phil, Bklyn

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