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17th Airborne Division

No American division ever made a more spectacular or hazardous entrance into combat than did the 17th Airborne.

Comfortably billeted in England one day, 17th troopers were in the battle zone near Reims the next, ready to throw their power against Rundstedt’s best in the Battle of the Bulge.

With Rundstedt’s troops grinding forward, the Allies needed all men available. Under cover of darkness, and in treacherous flying weather, the 17th boarded transport planes and was flown to the battle zone.

The men who wear the grasping eagle’s claws against a black background on their shoulder patch were given a terrific assignment their first time out. They relieved the 11th Armored Division, south of historic Bastogne, and went into the line between the 101st Airborne Division and the 87th Infantry Division.

Their mission was not to hold, but to attack. And attack they did. Scorning a fanatical foe, swirling snow, roadblocks, and thousands of mines, the 17th drove forward. The troopers slashed into Cetturu, and on to Bouitet, Steinbach, and Limerle, cutting vital highways.

By the end of a month of bitter fighting the men of the 17th broke into Germany near the town of Wiltz.

In February the Division was engaged along the Our River, its job being to hold a bridgehead south of Cleveaux, Luxembourg. In a pre-dawn attack it was one of the units which crossed the Luxembourg-German border along a 22-mile front, and pushed into the Siegfried Line. The men forded the Our River just east of Clerf. Fighting alongside the 6th Armored Division, the 17th captured Dasburg and established a supply line across the Our River.

In March came one of the most successful airborne operations of the war, a feat that helped set up the final drive to Berlin and Nazi capitulation. As part of the First Allied Airborne Army, the 17th helped in the crossing of the Rhine just below the Netherlands border. In dropping across the Rhine the division employed 3,000 gliders without the loss of one due to enemy action. The landing of troops in this dramatic thrust by the First Allied Airborne Army began northeast of Wessel, Germany, and the big march was on. Dorsten fell, then Haltem, followed by Diilmen, Appelhausen, and Münster.

From Fighting Divisions, Kahn & McLemore, Infantry Journal Press, 1945-1946.

Order a DVD with combat footage of the 17th Airborne Division in Operation Varsity.

Watch the 17th Airborne & Troop Carrier Combat Footage.

 17th Airborne Division

The division insignia is a golden talon on a circular black background. The black background signifies surprise. The talon signifies the seizing of golden opportunity through surprise.


Commanding General

25 Aug 44 Maj. Gen. William M. Miley

Assistant Division Commander

25 Aug 44 Brig. Gen. John L. Whitelaw

Artillery Commander

25 Aug 44 Brig. Gen. Joseph V. Phelps

Chief of Staff

25 Aug 44 Col. Willard K. Liebel

Assistant Chief of Staff G-1

25 Aug 44 Lt. Col. Lewis R. Good

Assistant Chief of Staff G-2

25 Aug 44 Lt. Col. Lyle N. McAlister

Assistant Chief of Staff G-3

25 Aug 44 Lt. Col. Edwin J. Messinger

Assistant Chief of Staff G-4

25 Aug 44 Lt. Col. Charles W. Koester

Assistant Chief of Staff G-5

29 Sep 44 Lt. Col. Richard A. Norton

Adjutant General

25 Aug 44 Lt. Col. Gabe W. Lewis, Jr.

Commanding Officer, 507th Parachute Infantry

25 Aug 44 Col. Edson D. Raff

Commanding Officer, 513th Parachute Infantry

25 Aug 44 Col. James W. Coutts
9 Apr 45 Lt. Col. Ward Ryan

Commanding Officer, 194th Glider Infantry

25 Aug 44 Col. James R. Pierce



Activated 15 April 1943
Arrived ETO 25 August 1944
Arrived Continent (D+201) 24 December 1944
Entered Combat 25 December 1944
Days in Combat 45

Casualties (Tentative)

Killed 564
Wounded 1,473
Missing 129
Battle Casualties 2,166
Non-Battle Casualties 854
Total Casualties 3,020
Percent of T/O Strength 23.2


  • Rhineland
  • Ardennes
  • Central Europe


Individual Awards

Distinguished Service Cross 4
Legion of Merit 8
Silver Star 177
Soldiers Medal 5
Bronze Star 695
Air Medal 16

Prisoners of War Taken 17,344


  • 507th Parachute Infantry [assigned 1 Mar 45 reorganization]
  • 513th Parachute Infantry
  • 193d Glider Infantry
  • 194th Glider Infantry [disbanded 1 Mar 45 reorganization]
  • 17th Parachute Maintenance Company
  • 139th Airborne Engineer Battalion
  • 224th Medical Company
  • 155th Airborne Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion
  • 17th Airborne Division Artillery
  • 680th Glider Field Artillery Battalion
  • 681st Glider Field Artillery Battalion
  • 464th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion [assigned 1 Mar 45 reorganization]
  • 466th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion
  • Special Troops [Headquarters activated 1 Mar 45 reorganization]
  • 717th Airborne Ordnance Company
  • 411th Airborne Quartermaster Company
  • 517th Airborne Signal Company
  • Military Police Platoon
  • Headquarters Company
  • Reconnaissance Platoon [assigned 1 Mar 45 reorganization]
  • Band


17th Airborne Division World War II Missing in Action

There are 13 soldiers of the 17th Airborne Division World War II still listed as missing in action.

Private John V. Cox 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment 01/07/1945
Second Lieutenant Benjamin Danziger 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment 06/20/1944
Technical Sergeant John W. Early 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment 02/07/1945
Private Wilbur M. Guyton 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment 06/12/1943
Private First Class Henry Hoffman 194th Glider Infantry Regiment 03/24/1945
Private Norbert J. Holland 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment 10/25/1945
First Lieutenant John V. Hopkins 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment 06/06/1944
Staff Sergeant Nelson F.J. Hornbaker 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment 06/11/1944
Private First Class Louis N. Karich 139th Airborne Engineer Regiment 03/24/1945
Staff Sergeant Wayne Leichliter 139th Airborne Engineer Regiment 03/24/1945
Private Howard M. McLaughlin 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment 01/08/1946
Private Sylvester F. Sokol 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment 06/07/1945
Private First Class Dennis M. Stockholm 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment 01/07/1945

 17th Airborne Division

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17th Airborne Division World War II patch, front view

17th Airborne Division World War II patch, front view


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