THE FIRST BLACK PARATROOPERS UNVEIL MONUMENT
The legacy of the trailblazing all-black paratrooper unit is a long overdue story…these historic Black soldiers persevered, against all odds, paving the way for African-American military members today. The unit was recently immortalized with a memorial stone.
Washington, DC --Members of the 555th Parachute Infantry, the first all black, all volunteer, parachute infantry unit unveiled a memorial stone February 8th at 9:30 a.m. at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum, Fayetteville, North Carolina. The 23 names etched on the stone honor the men of the Black Test Platoon who received Silver Parachutist Wings during the February-March timeframe, 59 years ago.
“I never thought this day would come to pass,” said Trooper Command Sergeant Major (Ret.) Sydney Brown, President of the Elester Garner Chapter, Clarksville, Tennessee. “I’m so proud that these men’s achievements are finally being recognized. I just never thought I’d live to see it.”
Despite the cold morning air, nothing could dampen the excitement and bursting pride of the more than 500 soldiers, civilians and retirees gathered at the entrance of the Airborne and Special Operations Museum (ASOM), downtown Fayetteville. All braved the chill and wind to witness the historic ceremony, with its guest speakers, music provided by the 82 Airborne Division Band and the parachute jumps.
As the ceremony opened, the guests were awed as five parachute demonstration teams sequentially filled the sky and glided to earth flawlessly as the troopers hit their targets in front of the museum. Leading the groups was the 555th Parachute Infantry Association Team, followed by teams from the 82nd Airborne Division, the 101st, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Team and the Green Beret Team.
After the jumps, and various noteworthy speakers that included the Mayor of Fayetteville, the unit’s memorial stone was unveiled. “This is a monumentous occasion,” said Mr. Joe Murchison, the 555th PIA National President. “We’ve waited a long time for this day. And because this is the first and the only black parachute unit in the history of the world, we are here to give long overdue homage to the great men whose names are chiseled in that stone we are about to unveil.”
The monument, which is the second largest on the museum complex, was unveiled in its location-adjacent to the museum's entrance on the right side mirroring the stone placed on the left that honors the original Test Platoon. After the ceremony, the group held an educational forum in the museum’s theater that concluded with a question and answer period. Speakers included four of the original test platoon members, succeeding platoon members, and comments and reflective insight from the audience.
About the 555th Parachute Infantry Association (Triple Nickles [sic]) The birth of Army Airborne began in the summer of 1940 when an all white unit was tasked to create a foundation of parachute units to use in the event of American military involvement in Europe. Not until 1944 were African-American soldiers given the opportunity to attend Airborne school. In the winter of 1943-1944 twenty young African-American enlisted men were selected from hundreds of applicants and sent to Fort Benning, Georgia to be trained as parachutists. Seventeen graduated to earn the coveted parachute infantry badge. Six black officers were next assigned to the battalion. The courage of the members paved the way for the integrated military and civilian societies that all Americans enjoy today. The 555th Parachute Infantry Association was formed as a vehicle designed to pay homage to brave troopers who led the way and to maintain their memory by doing good works
for the society. The 555th took as its nickname “The Triple Nickles,”' choosing the odd spelling as one more sign its members were unique. The symbol is a grouping of three buffalo-head nickels that signify the “buffalo soldiers”'-paying homage to the black soldiers who served in the U.S. Cavalry after the Civil War, thus paving the way for them. To find out more about these historic, visit our website at <www.triplenickle.com> . “Triple Nickles” Membership is open to all without regard to race, gender, or ethnicity.
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