The shoulder patch of the 13th Airborne Division is a winged unicorn on a blue shield, and it is a happy choice. Tradition associates the unicorn with qualities of courage and strength, and the elements of the 13th which fought in Europe against the Nazis, displayed these qualities in abundance.
In World War I the 13th was an infantry division, and was prepared to sail overseas when the Armistice stopped all troop movements. In World War II the Division was activated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and later was transferred to Camp Mackall, North Carolina, The Airborne Center.
Although the 13th was assigned to the First Allied Airborne Army, it was not committed to action in the European conflict. The 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment, however, which was joined to the division overseas, had had previous combat service. Operating as a combat team, the 517th fought in Italy in September 1944, and then in southern France.
In the Ardennes campaign, when the threat of the German breakthrough was at its height, the 517th fought with outstanding valor. The 1st Battalion of this rugged outfit was attached to the 3d Armored Division and went into combat around Soy and Hotten.
The 2nd Battalion, and that part of the 3d Battalion not guarding XVIII Airborne Corps Headquarters, was attached to the 30th Infantry Division. For their action in this bitter campaign the team was commended by the late Major General Maurice Rose, commanding general of the 3d Armored Division.
After V-E Day, the 13th was stationed in France, at Vitry-le-François. Later it returned to the United States and was about to embark for service in the Pacific when the war ended.
From Fighting Divisions, Kahn & McLemore, Infantry Journal Press, 1945-1946.
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