82nd Airborne Division to induct third hall of fame class at Fort Bragg
By RACHAEL RILEY | The Fayetteville Observer | Published: July 8, 2020
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — The 82nd Airborne Division will induct its third Hall of Fame Class on Thursday.
The ceremony will be at 9 a.m. and shown on Facebook.
The Hall of Fame started with 21 inductees in 2018 during All American Week, which celebrates past and present paratroopers.
Last year, 21 inductees were added, and this year another 12 will be added to include paratroopers involved in conflicts dating back to World War II.
"The 12 distinguished paratroopers in the All American Hall of Fame Class of 2020 embody the honor, valor and courage that defines service in America's Guard of Honor," said Lt. Col. Michael Burns, a spokesman for the division.
This year's class includes the Hall of Fame's two chaplains, two command sergeant majors, two Distinguished Cross recipients and two Silver Star recipients.
Here are this year's inductees:
— Col. Julian A. Cook participated in multiple World War II missions including jumping into Sicily in July 1943 followed by Salerno. Cook was the battalion executive officer for the 1-504th Parachute Infantry Regiment during the Italy campaign and returned to Holland for his third combat jump, Operation Market Garden. He commanded and led the Waal River crossing initiative Sept. 20, 1944, which earned him the Distinguished Service Cross.
Although his boatload suffered heavy casualties as a result of enemy fire, he guided the barge safely ashore and remained on the river bank to direct the remainder of his battalion coming ashore. He reorganized the remainder of the battalion during the 4,000-yard attack, until the Nijmegen bridge was reached and seized.
Cook commanded the 3-504th during the Battle of the Bulge and recommended capturing the town of Herresbach to surprise German forces. He led troops across the Siegfried Line into Germany, participating in the capture of Aachen — the first large German city captured by the Allies.
— Col. William Alexander Cunningham Jr. served during World War I and earned the Distinguished Service Cross, after he was wounded in the face by shrapnel but continued to lead his battalion through heavy shellfire near Sommerance, France, on Oct. 12, 1918. Cunningham later served as the professor of military studies at Clemson University from 1943 to 1946 and retired as a colonel in 1946.
— Col. Delbert A. Kuehl was the chaplain for the 3/504th Parachute Infantry Regiment for more than two years, which included participating in three World War II combat parachute assaults. He assisted the wounded while providing ministerial services to paratroopers in Sicily and disregarded his own safety by jumping driving a Jeep to stranded paratroopers when noticing a company suffering casualties under enemy fire at the Anzio beachhead.
Kuehl participated in Operation Market Garden and earned the Silver Star for voluntarily accompanying his regiment during the Waal River crossing, where he helped paratroopers under enemy fire for more than four hours. He was wounded by enemy shrapnel and assisted in the evacuation of 35 paratroopers to safety.
— Capt. John R. Manning was an assistant operations officer for the 319th Glider Field Artillery Regiment in September 1944, when Germans attacked an outpost part of the E Company, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment. Manning, who was inspecting his unit's forward observer positions, found the company's paratroopers under enemy fire with no officer in command.
Manning called in artillery fire from both the 319th and 320th Glider Field Artillery Battalions nearby. After repeated German attacks, casualties, Manning stayed at the position for the rest of the night. His actions led to him earning the Silver Star.
— Retired Staff Sgt. Travis Mills served with the 82nd Airborne Division for seven years, which included three combat tours to Afghanistan and earning the senior rated jumpmaster status.
During his third combat tour to Afghanistan, Mills was injured during an improvised explosive device blast, causing him to become a quadruple amputee. After he was wounded, Mills made it his personal goal to recover and be able to stand at Green Ramp to welcome his unit back from that deployment. Mills established the Travis Mills Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps wounded soldiers.
— Retired Col. Keith M. Nightingale, who previously served two tours in Vietnam, was the assault force commander during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada, leading 2-505th PIR through the mission. He also participated in planning Operation Eagle Claw and was involved in the creation of the Joint Special Operations Command in the early 1980s.
Nightingale coordinated efforts to curtail the drug trade in Central and South America, before retiring from the Army in 1993.
— Brig. Gen. Ernest "Rick" Eric Porter was the adjutant general for the U.S. Forces in Grenada. Although not directly assigned to the division, he was one of the first officers to deploy with the division to Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada. After the operation, he was selected to command of the 82nd Adjutant General Company, which had 320 paratroopers in it at the time.
As company commander, barracks and dining facilities under the company were recognized. Porter is credited for ensuring personnel readiness in the division and publishing handbooks and guides that clearly defined every personnel and administrative requirement necessary for units to affect a smooth transition.
He directed the personnel reorganization of the Division's aviation assets to an Aviation Brigade, and coordinated the personnel fill for the first Apache Attack Helicopter Battalion formed away from Fort Hood.
— Command Sgt. Maj. Ron Rath spent most of his 30-year career serving with the 82nd Airborne Division. In 1965, he served with the 307th Engineer Battalion. In 1975 he served with 1-325th Infantry, and later served with 2-508th Infantry, deploying with that unit to the Multinational Force and Observers (Sinai).
In 1985, he was the command sergeant major of 2-504th Parachute Infantry Regiment and deployed with them to Multinational Force and Observers (Sinai), Golden Pheasant, Just Cause, and Desert Storm. In 1991, he became the regimental sergeant major for the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
— Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Ron Regan deployed with the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment to conduct combat and stability operations in support of Operation Power Pack in the Dominican Republic as a young paratrooper in Company B, 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment.
In 1983, he served as the first sergeant for Company B, 4th Squadron, 68th Armor, the world's only airborne tank battalion. After it reflagged as the 3rd Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, in 1985, Regan became the squadron's command sergeant major until 1988.
Regan has trained and mentored senior noncommissioned officer leaders including the first and third senior enlisted advisers to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, retired Command Sgts. Maj. William J. Gainey and John W. Troxell. He is also the honorary sergeant major of the 73rd Cavalry Association.
— First Lt. John Samuel Thompson was a platoon leader for Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment during the seizure of the Grave Bridge on Sept. 17, 1944, in the Netherlands as a part of Operation Market Garden. Thompson led a small group of paratroopers under enemy air defense gunfire to secure the bridge.
The bridge's securing is credited to maintaining open lines of communication with the rest of the 82nd Airborne to the north and allowed the British Ill Corps to advance north of Grave.
— Retired Sgt. 1st Class Obie Boyd Wickersham served during World War II and the Korean War. As an assistant squad leader for the C Company, 307th AEB, he led paratroopers across the Rhine River on April 7, 1944, to rescue fellow paratroopers. Once ashore, German soldiers ambushed the patrol, separating Wickersham from his unit. He was able to destroy an enemy machine gun nest before swimming back across the Rhine River to friendly lines. Wickersham ferried infantrymen across the river three times, while under German gunfire and artillery.
For his actions that day, Wickersham received the Silver Star. Wickersham elected to return to the front lines and join the rest of his unit that was attached to the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. After World War II ended, Wickersham departed from active service and joined the Army Reserve. He returned to active service under the 2nd Infantry Division with the onset of the Korean War.
— Maj. George "Chappie" Bartlett Wood Jr. participated in four combat parachute assaults during World War II — Sicily, Salerno, Normandy and Holland. Wood served as the first Protestant chaplain of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment and later as the 82nd Airborne Division's chaplain during World War II. He would conduct services in the cemetery while under enemy fire and wrote the "Airborne Prayer" while recovering from a sprained ankle sustained during a jump.
Wood continued to serve, being involved in the Ddvision museum's groundbreaking ceremony in August 1956. After the Army, he served for 24 years as rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He also served as the 82nd Airborne Division Association's third president and established an educational fund that continues to provide funds to family members of fallen Division paratroopers.