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The Triple Nickles


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In the frosty Georgia mornings, in the skies over Fort Benning, of 1943 and 44 soldiers and officer candidates travling to and from the fort often saw the sky filled with white parachutes. Most of them assumed that the faces beneath the were also white but some were black.The black soldiers of the United States Army drove the trucks, waited on the white soldiers in the mess halls and rode together in the back of the bus when traveling off the fort. They even had their own clubs on the fort.

These troopers had traveled a long road. One of their sergeants had seen the morale of the black troops sagging because of the menial jobs they had been relegated to and bargained with some of the officers on the paratrooper physical endurance course to allow his black soldiers the opportunity to work out when the white soldiers were not using the course. This practice continued for several weeks until Sergeant Walter Morris, the ennovator of this physical program had a message to report to General Lear's office. Fearing he was in trouble he approached the general fearing the worst. His heart lightened when he was told by the general that Washington had ordered him to start training black soldiers to become paratroopers. In 1944 the first black paratroopers graduated and earned their silver jump wings. They were first assigned to the 505th Airborne Infantry Regiment, but later as the cadre of black troopers expanded, the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion was established. The "Triple Nickles".

The choice of name is obvious. First the triple fives. But the old Buffalo nickles of the pre-war time denoted the famed Buffalo Soldiers of the late 1800's .

I recently met one of these old airborne warriors at a resturant. He had a baseball cap with the three fives on it and U.S. Airborne wings. We had a very pleasant visit and he followed me to my home where I took him for a ride in my restored 1943 GMC 2 1/2 ton truck . One of the heros of a time past had graced me with his presence and my old WWII truck also.

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  • 1 month later...

It might also be apt to remember the 99th Fighter Squadron (the Red Tail Angels) who flew Mustangs. They were an all afro-american squadron.

The personnel fought long and hard to become accepted within the USAAC / USAAF.

Initially, most of other squadrons shunned them. Integration was unknown. They were considered to be poor pilots and cowards.

Soon, however, bomber groups began to request them as fighter escort.

At the end of hostilities, the Red Tail Angels never lost a bomber they escorted.

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  • 3 months later...
In the frosty Georgia mornings, in the skies over Fort Benning, of 1943 and 44 soldiers and officer candidates travling to and from the fort often saw the sky filled with white parachutes. Most of them assumed that the faces beneath the were also white but some were black.The black soldiers of the United States Army drove the trucks, waited on the white soldiers in the mess halls and rode together in the back of the bus when traveling off the fort. They even had their own clubs on the fort.

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I have met quite a few triple nickle gents at the many Airborne Reunions I attend. They are a fine group of soldiers. Then again, most Paratroopers are a more elite form of soldier. It takes a gung ho type of attitude to jump from a perfectly good airplane, so soldiers in an Airborne unit have tremendous enthusiasm, a high level of esprit de corps, and have a high need for achievement.

I served in B co. 2/508 ABN INF, 82nd Airborne 1983-1986.

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