Combat Jump by Ed Ruggero

Combat Jump by Ed Ruggero is an intriguing story of the formation and first combat jump of the 505th PIR (Parachute Infantry Regiment) of the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II.

The book basically covers the formation of the first airborne units in the U.S. Army (including arguments for and against the formation) and then details the training and preparation that the paratroopers went through to get ready to battle the Germans and Italians. Most of the book details the 505th’s drop into Sicily.

One of the book’s strengths is the detail that Ruggero provides about the soldiers and officers who served with the 505th during the Sicilian Campaign. For instance, Ruggero traces the career path of James Gavin – an officer who helped form the first paratroop unit – as he is promoted from a captain at West Point to a lieutenant colonel in command of the 505th. As a result of getting to know the soldiers and officers from the background that Ruggero provides, you are more closely connected to the men as they live and die in the fighting for Sicily.

Ruggero describes the events surrounding the 505th’s participation in the Sicilian Campaign from the perspective of the paratroopers, not from a dry, objective history of the Campaign. Although this writing style can have its problems (many believe that just writing down the soldiers’ stories can be historically inaccurate because of failed memories or misunderstandings), the events described are often more entertaining.

Ruggero writes about the triumphs and the defeats that the 505th encountered in their jump into Sicily. There is no doubt that the paratroopers were well trained and battle ready – they relentlessly attacked their foes in concrete bunkers and tanks and tried to grab the initiative from the start. However, not taking anything away from the paratroopers’ accomplishments, many of the Italian troops that they encountered were willing, if not waiting, to surrender at the first opportunity.

As Ruggero points out, the jump into Sicily was far from a resounding success. Because the planes dropping the paratroopers were poorly led by inexperienced pilots, scattered by the winds, or forced to detour around heavy flak, most of the men were dropped nowhere near their drop zones. As a result, the men fought in separate, disjointed battles. Ruggero rightly gives credit to the individual soldiers and officers for making the best of a bad situation.

Overall, Ruggero spins a great story about one of the first airborne units in World War II.

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