The airborne community comes from a long line of historic leaders and icons. We want to honor their memory while also giving ourselves a set of standards to live up to. The first man we want to talk about is LT GEN James “Jumpin Jim” Gavin.
James Maurice Gavin (March 22, 1907 – February 23, 1990), sometimes called "Jumpin' Jim" and "the jumping general", was a senior United States Army officer, with the rank of lieutenant general, who was the third Commanding General (CG) of the 82nd Airborne Division during World War II.
Here are five facts about LTG James Maurice Gavin:
- March 1924, aged 17, Gavin spoke to a U.S. Army recruiting officer. Since he was under 18, he needed parental consent to enlist. Knowing that his adoptive parents would not consent, Gavin told the recruiter he was an orphan. The recruiting officer took him and a couple of other underage boys, who were orphans, to a lawyer who declared himself their guardian and signed the parental consent paperwork. On April 1, 1924, Gavin was sworn into the U.S. Army.
- He was known as the “Jumping General” because he was known not only to jump with his enlisted men but would jump first. Gavin told his officers that they should always be the first to jump out of an airplane and the last in the chow line, a practice that has continued in airborne units to this day.
- Studying German Airborne tactics, One of Gavin's first priorities was determining how airborne troops could be used most effectively. His first action was writing FM 31-30: Tactics and Technique of Airborne Troops. The manual contained information about tactics, but also about the organization of the paratroopers, what kind of operations they could execute, and what they would need to execute their tasks effectively. Later, when Gavin was asked what made his career take off so fast, he would answer, "I wrote the book".
- In December 1947, 8 months prior to President Harry Truman’s order to integrate, Gen. James M. Gavin, the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, issued an order incorporating the 555th into the 82nd Airborne. Colonel Bradley Biggs, the commander of the 555th PIB, referred to Gavin as perhaps the most “color-blind” Army officer in the entire military. "I knew it was time for a change," wrote Gavin in an introduction to Biggs' book. Segregation "was a serious problem, and one not to be taken lightly, for our Army had been a two-colored army for a long time."
- Made 4 combat jumps. Sicily, Salerno, Normandy, and the Netherlands.
LTG James Gavin’s life was nothing short of incredible. His ability to inspire and lead men is one thing that Airborne troops today try to emulate, as they should.
“Show me a man who will jump out of an airplane, and I’ll show you a man who’ll fight” – LT GEN James M. Gavin