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17th Airborne Division

World War II

Activated: 15 April 1943.

Overseas: 17 August 1944.

Campaigns: Ardennes-Alsace Rhineland, Central Europe.

Days of combat: 45.

Distinguished Unit Citations: 4.

Awards: MH-3 ; DSC-4; DSM-1 ; SS-179; LM-15; SM-6 ; BSM-727 ; AM-21.


Maj. Gen. William M. Miley commanded the division throughout its entire life in World War II.

Returned to U. S.: 15 September 1945.

Inactivated: 16 September 1945

Reactivated: 3 July 1948.

Campaign Chronicle

The 17th Airborne Division was stationed in the United Kingdom from 25 August to 23 December 1944. From 23 to 25 December, elements of the Division were flown to the Reims area in France in spectacular night flights. These elements closed in at Mourmelon. After taking over the defense of the Meuse River sector from Givet to Verdun, 25 December, the 17th moved to Neufchateau, Belgium, then marched through the snow to Morhet, relieving the 28th Infantry Division, 3 January 1945. The Division entered the Ardennes campaign, 4 to 9 January, at the Battle of Dead Man's Ridge. It captured several small Belgian towns and entered Flamierge, 7 January, but enemy counterattacks necessitated a withdrawal. However, constant pressure and aggressive patrolling caused the enemy to retreat to the Ourthe River. On 18 January, the Division relieved the 11th Armored Division at Houffalize, pushed enemy remnants from the Bulge, and seized Wattermal and Espeler, 26 January. Coming under the III Corps, the 17th turned toward Luxembourg, taking Eschweiler and Clervaux and clearing the enemy from the west bank of the Our River. Aggressive patrols crossed the river to probe the Siegfried Line defenses and established a limited bridgehead near Dasburg before being relieved by the 6th Armored Division, 10 February. A period of reequipment and preparation began. Taking off from marshalling areas in France, the 17th dropped into Westphalia in the vicinity of Wesel, 24 March. Operation Varsity was the first airborne invasion over theRhine into Germany itself. On the 25th, the Division had secured bridges over the Issel River and had entrenched itself firmly along the Issel Canal. Moving eastward, it captured Haltern, 29 March, and Munster, 2 April. The 17th entered the battle of the Ruhr Pocket, relieving the 79th Infantry Division. It crossed the Rhine-Herne Canal, 6 April, and set up a secure bridgehead for the attack on Essen. The "Pittsburgh of the Ruhr" fell, 10 April, and the industrial cities of Mulheim and Duisburg were cleared in the continuing attack. Military government duties began, 12 April, and active contact with the enemy ceased, 18 April. The Division came under the XXII Corps 24 April.


It continued its occupation duties until 15 June 1945 when it returned to France for redeployment.

Assignments in the ETO *

12 August 1944: XVIII (Abn) Corps.
1 January 1945: VIII Corps, Third Army, 12th Army Group.
26 January 1945: III Corps.
6 February 1945: First Allied (Abn) Army, but attached to the III Corps, Third Army, 12th Army Group.
10 February 1945: First Allied (Abn) Army.
15 February 1945: XVIII (Abn) Corps.
24 March. 1945: XVIII (Abn) Corps, First Allied (Abn) Army, but attached to the 12th Army Group.
30 March 1945: XVIII (Abn) Corps, First Allied (Abn) Army, but attached to the Ninth Army, 12th Army Group.
31 March 1945: XIII Corps.
4 April 1945: First Allied (Abn) Army, 12th Army Group, but attached to the XIII Corps of Ninth Army.
6 April 1945: XVI Corps.
7 April 1945: XVI Corps, Ninth Army, 12th Army Group.
25 April 1945: Ninth Army, 12th Army Group, but attached to the Fifteenth Army.
27 April 1945: XXII Corps.


Nickname: Thunder from heaven. Shoulder patch: Circular patch in black with stretching claw in gold and arc with word "Airborne" above. Publications: History of the 17th Airborne Division; by unit members; and Pictorial Review; by unit members; Albert Love Enterprises, Atlanta 2, Ga.; 1944.

* See footnote, 1st Infantry Division.


[Nota Bene: These combat chronicles, current as of October 1948, are reproduced from The Army Almanac: A Book of Facts Concerning the Army of the United States, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1950, pp. 510-592.]

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