August 16, 1940 is the first established Army Parachute jump. In August of 2002, President George W. Bush put forth the proclamation for August 16th to honor the Airborne Forces, annually.
The idea of men jumping out of planes was not a new one, it was tossed just after World War I by General William (Billy) Mitchell. The General tested this out in San Antonio, Texas as a demonstration. Although the jump went well, the theory did not catch on here in America. During World War II, Germany started to use paratroopers in 1940 to quickly invade and surprise the enemy behind their own resistance. Triggered by the success Germany’s Fallschirmjäger , the US Military branches began a full-scale production to develop this type of warfare. In April of 1940, the War Department approved a test platoon of Airborne Infantry under the Army’s Infantry Board, this was set up at Fort Benning 29th Regiment.
In July of 1940, First Lieutenant William T. Ryder volunteered and was designated the Platoon Leader. Because of the rigid physical and health standards set, only 48 were elected out of 200 volunteers. Lieutenant Colonel William C. Lee, a staff officer for the Chief of Infantry, was intently interested in the test platoon. He recommended that the men be moved to the Safe Parachute Company at Hightstown, NJ for training on the parachute drop towers used during the New York World’s Fair. Eighteen days after organization, the platoon was moved to New Jersey and trained for one week on the 250-foot free towers.(http://freepages.military.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~douglas/Creeds_Histories/abnhistory.html)
Because the towers worked so well the Army purchased brought them to Fort Benning. In less than 45 days, on August 16, 1940, out of a Douglas B-18 over Lawson Field the first drop was held. Out of these 48 men, they held a lottery to see who would go after Lieutenant Ryder and Private William N. (Red) King. On August 29, 1940, the platoon made the first mass jump in the United States. Less than 45 days it took these dedicated men to be ready for their first jump. That is crazy-brave.
The traditional paratrooper cry “GERONIMO” was originated in the 501st by Private Aubrey Eberhart to prove to a friend that he had full control of his faculties when he jumped. That cry was adopted by the 501st and has been often used by paratroopers since then.
The First all black 555 Parachute Infantry Company is remembered as the Triple Nickel. Another landmark is in December 1973, when Privates Joyce Kutsch and Rita Johnson became the first women to graduate from the Basic Airborne Course.