The 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion

by Les Hughes

by author 1985


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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Because of the length of the material that follows, I have divided it into four sections: A chronology; a narrative history; an examination of the battalion's casualties; and a discussion of the unit's insignia. Much of two of these sections first  appeared as a two-part article in the January-March and April-June 1985 issues of the Trading Post, the quarterly magazine of the American Society of Military Insignia Collectors. That article would not have been possible without the support and generous assistance of members of the 551st Parachute Infantry Association in general and Dan Morgan in particular. 

Of the two books that have been published dealing with the history of the 551st, Mr. Morgan's The Left Corner of My Heart was the first, and, in my opinion, the better. Published privately in a limited run (600 copies) and intended primarily for the 551st veterans and their families, Mr. Morgan's book reached a small audience. Wishing to see the story of the 551st and its men receive broader recognition, Mr. Morgan was generous in his support of my 1985 magazine article, and he gave me written permission to use, with attribution, whatever material from his book that I wished. Thus, the history of the 551st presented here is largely in the words of the men themselves, words that might never have been recorded for posterity had it not been for Dan Morgan. 

I have added material that was not in my 1985 article, including assessments of why the battalion was disbanded; of why it was relegated to obscurity;  and of its casualties (Roll of Honor). It became clear to me that these issues were poorly understood in the wake of the effort by the battalion's veterans, in the 1990s, to secure a retroactive Presidential Unit Citation for the battalion (an effort that met with success in 2001). I have strived for objectivity in making these assessments, and I hope that that objectivity will not be interpreted as a desire to downgrade the battalion's record. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

 

Chronology of the 551st

History of the 551st PIB

Roll of Honor

Joseph Edgerly

Insignia of the 551st PIB

Belated Recognition