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Black 555TH Triple Nickel Paratroopers

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I had acquired a grouping of a African American in a 101st Airborne uniform. There is not much on these guys but thought I would share some. I will post his pictures. They were called the Smoke Jumpers. They trained hard in 1943 but were a test project to see how well they could perform as a soldier. Evidently they performed way above expectations but were not allowed to serve in either the Pacific or Europe. When I googled smoke jumpers I was amazed at what these guys endured. Japan was sending balloons with gas across the Pacific to catch our forests on fire and a rather good job of it. These paratroopers were as brave as anyone and efficient. They were trained to drop on tree tops and drop down to the ground in heavy fires. Shovels and picks are all they had to fight those fires. I think it is way past time for their recognition in serving their country. Their insignia was a parachute with 555 at the bottom. Any additional information would be appreciated. There is supposed to be only one of these guys still living. I wonder how many there were. Please add. Bill

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Ive always admired these men and i appreciate your efforts to recognize them!.....mike :thumbsup:

Always looking for and buying 50's era 11th Airborne/ 187th ARCT/ 82nd Airborne tac mark painted jump helmets!



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"We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender!"


Winston Churchill

" Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans."

John Winston Lennon





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The 555th was never part of the 101st. When the 82nd returned from the ETO, it was attached to the 82nd at Ft Bragg.


Jim Gavin is beloved by Nickle vets because he utterly rejected, on a personal basis, any Jim Crow, segregation, racism or unequal treatment for them.


At the time of V-J day, the 555th had become a LARGE Battalion of about 1,000 men. As almost none of them got "early outs" on points, they were around for the 12 Jan 46 Victory Parade in NYC, where the 82nd was the major honored unit. They marched with the Div.

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Just curious if the picture is WW2 or post WW2.Dont often see the dark tie with WW2 shirts.I have encounterd and own a group or two where the individual bought an officers quality tie in the dark OD.Also is there a visible box or X stitch on the epaulet in the photo?Just curious as I believe later ikes eliminated the box stitch,THe collar brass domed or flat??Also it seems the collars are a bit wider on post WW2 ilkes




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  • 1 year later...

Just thought I would bring this topic to the front to inform some of the brave work the Smoke Jumpers performed. He had to earn those wings just like any of the other paratroopers. During WW2 Japan tried to attack the US through Hawaii, Aleutians, and the West Coast with gas filled balloons to create as many forest fires as they could. The 555th were as well trained as our paratroopers that served in Europe during WW2. They were not allowed the opportunity to serve there. When I bring up this brigade not many know about them. I have the soldiers family album along with his in uniform. If anyone knows anything about this family I would like to offer them if wanted? Bill

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I appreciate your tribute and allegiance to these fine Americans.


There is one thing I would like to clarify and that is that these men had to do more and endure more, to become, and as paratroopers.


If you were black during the war and wanted to become a paratrooper you had to do more than just pass all the training like the white troops.


You also needed a college education.


They made it very hard for blacks to qualify.


It was no joke, these were dedicated men.


Thanks for bringing this back up.




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Agreed. At the time America still didn't think they could qualify to serve and fight in the big one. They were mostly serving as Coastal Artillery's then. History of the Buffalo soldier's shows they fought gallantly since the Civil War. When there was war all genders and races wanted to serve America. It is important to pay tribute to Americans that had served. Bill PS. In regards to what Doyler was talking about with the ties. The above photo shows Wall wearing a beige of tan tie.

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What Doyler was saying was that the colorized photograph is of a paratrooper from the 1950's. The cut of the Ike jacket is a post WWII Ike, the dark green tie is another indicator of the timeframe being 1950's. Furthermore, as you look at the color brass and the slight doing to the collar disk, that too points to it being a 1950's photo. Finally, notice how squared the overseas cap is in appearance- this too is a post war style cap. I agree that the photo of the soldier wearing a khaki tie and an officers' style Mackinaw sure appears to be a World War II photo, but you can see those decidedly pointed tips on the overseas cap. Also, the tan tie transitioned around 1950, so this could be a post WWII photo also. To me, this man served later than only in World War II. Perhaps he ended up as a Ranger in Korea?


Interesting photos, but the timeline is a little longer than initially thought.



Never under-estimate the power of prayer.



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Thanks for the timeline of this soldier's uniform. You could be correct? I have some other pics of him standing with his brother, he is wearing a Naval uniform. I am happy that I had started this topic. It helps us learn several things. Some has gotten to learn about the 555th. And I had learned more about uniforms as well as some others on the forum. Bill

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Vette: He means the Shoulder Sleeve Insignia on his left upper sleeve of his Ike Jacket. Please look at your pictures and please show us the shoulder patch . Thanks ~ Danny




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The 555th did not exist after 1948, so it would be incorrect to link this photo with that unit. The 555th was ATTACHED to the 82nd in the post-WWII era, UNTIL is was inactivated and its men reassigned, within the 82nd. Most of them went en masse into the 3rd Bn, 505th. Others moved into the AAA/AT Bn and service units.


By the time of V-J Day, Sep 45, the 555th had about 1,000 troops, with Companies A through D, plus a provisional weapons (.50MG, Mortars and RR) Co and provisional service company. This was possible because the obstacles for blacks going Airborne had been largely removed in late 1944, and jump school was graduating dozens of blacks in most classes.

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And another of a boxing match at Bragg. 325th Gliders vs 555th


I have an additional 50 or so shots but don't have them resized for the web.



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