Introduction
The 101st Airborne Division of the US Army was activated August 16, 1942 at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana and placed under the command of Major General William C. Lee. In one of his first speeches, Lee said "The 101st Airborne Division... has no history, but it has a rendezvous with destiny."

The 101st Airborne Division is currently formed of three brigades plus Artillery, Support Command, two Aviation Brigades, Corps Support Group and several separate commands. The 101st has made its home in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, since March 1956. Their shoulder patch depicts an American Eagle on a shield with the word "Airborne" written above it in yellow lettering. The presence of the Eagle led to their nickname, the Screaming Eagles.

Inception and Early History
The 101st was originally activated on July 23, 1918 as part of the mobilization for World War I. However, due to manpower and supply problems, the 101st was never truly active and did not see combat. After the war, the 101st was demobilzed. In 1921 the 101st was reactivated as part of a buildup of reserves, but still existed mostly on paper, with little in the way of real units.

Then, in 1940, the US Army began testing the viability of parachute infantry units. After successful tests were conducted at Fort Benning, and after the British Army successfully used paratroopers in combat, the US Army authorized the creation of two Airborne Infantry Divisions: the 82nd Airborne and the 101st Airborne.

Airborne Rangers had a grueling training process, especially since it was an entirely new type of infantry unit. After months of this arduous training, The 101st was certified as ready for combat, and was sent to England late in 1943 to continue training for their eventual involvement in the D-Day invasion.

Combat Campaigns & Tactics
Three methods were used during World War II to land troops: parachutes, transport gliders, and transport planes. All three methods were used in the war, though it was found that the last method was ill-suited for the initial capture of enemy territory from the air; paratroopers (because they make it possible to drop very large numbers of troops at the same time within a specific area) and gliderborne troops (because they could land their whole load in one place) were better suited for such a mission.

During World War II, the 101st Airborne Division led the way on D-Day with a night drop of paratroopers and gliderborne troops. Their mission was to prevent German troops from reinforcing those stationed at Utah Beach (where allied forces would be landing by boat). Of course, things didn't go exactly as planned, and troops were scattered everywhere, but the desired outcome was achieved.

The battle hardened 101st went on to participate in Operation Market-Garden and the Battle of the Bulge. When surrounded at Bastogne and given an opportunity to surrender, Brig. General Anthony McAuliffe issued the short, now infamous, reply: "NUTS!" and the 101st fought on, successfully holding Bastogne. For the heroic defense of Bastogne, the 101st Airborne Division was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation, the first ever to be awarded to an entire Division. The 101st's expoits in WWII were honored in the Band of Brothers mini-series that aired on HBO and BBC in the fall of 2001.

In the mid-1960s, the 101st was deployed to Vietnam. In almost seven years of combat in Vietnam, parts of the 101st participated in 15 campaigns. They successfully fought for the city of Hue when the NVA launched the Tet Offensive. Following Tet, the 101st participated in several counter attacks including Operation: Somerset Plain and Operation: Nevada Eagle. In addition, the 101st provided technical training to the South Vietnamese forces (this was known as "Vietnamization").

In 1968, the 101st was reorganized to become an airmobile division, meaning that they became capable of being transported (usually with a helicopter) from one site to another within a combat zone. Today, the 101st stands as the Army's only air assault division with excellent strategic and tactical mobility.

In January 1991, the 101st deployed in Iraq during the deepest combat air assault into enemy territory in the history of the world. The star of Operation: Desert Storm was the AH-64 Apache helicopter, which performed remarkably. Amazingly, the 101st sustained no casualties during the 100-hour war and captured thousands of enemy soldiers. 101st soldiers went on to support humanitarian relief efforts in Rwanda and Somalia (they were part of the force fighting in the Battle of Mogadishu, in which two Blackhawk helicopters were shot down; also see the book/movie Blackhawk Down), then later helped with peacekeeping missions to Haiti and Bosnia.

The most recent rendezvous with destiny puts the 101st in Kandahar, Afghanistan, to replace Marines who have been there since late November.

Aircraft
As previously mentioned, the 101st was designated as an air assault division, indicating that the helicopter became the primary means of transportation for the division. The following is a list of aircraft flown by the 101st Airborne Division:
  • AH-64 Apache: This heavily armed advanced attack helicopter is flown by nearly all of the division's attack units and can reach speeds of 200 mph. It was the primary vehicle used by the 101st during the Gulf War
  • UH-60 Black Hawk: The workhorse of the division, the Black Hawk is primarily used in a transport capacity, reaching speeds of 180 mph
  • OH-58D Kiowa Warrior: Used mostly as an an armed reconnaissance vehicle, it can be heavily armed and it has a 90-knot cruise airspeed.
  • OH-6A  Cayuse: A small tactical helicopter is flown by units of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, it was developed in the mid-1960s and can cruise at speeds of 150 mph.
  • Hughes 500M Little Bird: This is essentially a more heavily armed and newer derivation of the old OH-6 "Cayuse."
  • CH-47 Chinook: This unique aircraft was put into action in 1965 in Vietnam as a transport helicopter. It employs a unique two-rotor design that works in tandem to lift the aircraft. It can lift 8 tons and cruise at speeds topping 150 mph.

Sources:
http://www.campbell.army.mil/
http://www.grunts.net/army/101abn.html
http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/matrix/101/101-Matrix.htm
http://www.chesapeake.net/~fuzz/
http://www.militarynews.ru/echech.asp
http://avstop.com/History/WWII/3.htm
http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/books/Vietnam/Airmobility/airmobility-fm.html
Aircraft: http://www.campbell.army.mil/copters.htm

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