503RD PARACHUTE INFANTRY REGIMENT, US ARMY
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2

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visits since 18 July 2003

 

The 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) was activated at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA on 24 February 1942. The 503rd moved to Fort Bragg, North Carolina in March 1942.

The 1st Battalion and 3rd Battalion of the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment moved from Fort Bragg to San Francisco between 9 to 16 October 1942. “A” Company of the 504th Parachute Infantry (82nd Airborne Division) attached itself to the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment on the night of departure and travelled on the train with the 503rd but retained its original designation at that time. On arrival in San Francisco they all boarded the MS Poleau Laut and departed on 20 October 1942  travelling via the Panama Canal Zone where the 501st Parachute Battalion, less "C" Company boarded the ship also.

They arrived in Townsville, in north Queensland in Australia at 11:30 pm on 1 December 1942.  They arrived in Cairns, north of Townsville at 8:45 pm on 2 December 1942. They were then transported to their Camp at Gordonvale. They were the first US airborne regiment to arrive in the Southwest Pacific Area in WWII.

The non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and members of the Company participated in jump-master training from 31 May to 24 July 1943, They spot-jumped on White Field, at Gordonvale.

“A” Company of the 504th Parachute Infantry which had joined up with the 503rd on the train from Fort Bragg to San Francisco was redesignated as “D” Company of the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment. The 501st Parachute Battalion which had boarded the ship at the Panama Canal was redesignated as “E” and “F” Companies of the 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment. The original 2nd Battalion of the 503rd had been deployed to England and later redesignated as the 509th.

General Douglas MacArthur visited the Higgins Boat Assembly Plant in Cairns on the afternoon of Friday 25 June 1943 having arrived in Cairns at 3:25pm. On the same day he watched a parachute jump by 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment (503 PIR) and awarded a Purple Heart to a soldier killed in this jump. He then attended a cocktail party at Hide's Hotel in Cairns followed by a conference with Colonel Smith, M.C. at 8:00 pm.

After completing their intensive training the 503rd PIR began to move to Port Moresby in New Guinea on 7 August 1943 with the final units arriving in Port Moresby by 22 August 1943.

The 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment under the command of Colonel Kinsler along with two Short 25-pounder guns and 31 Gunners from the "Light Section" of 54 Battery of the 2/4th Australian Field Regiment parachuted into the Markham Valley behind Lae in New Guinea on 5 September 1943 to capture the airfield on the Markham River at Nadzab. Approximately 1,700 paratroopers of the 503rd had been loaded into 91 C-47's and the 54 Battery Gunners and their two 25-pounder guns into another 5 C-47s.

 


Photo:- via Eunice Doucette

Allied Parachute jump in the Markham Valley under the cover of a smoke screen on 5 September 1943

 

 
You Tube Video

503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment jumping at Nadzab

 

On 8 January 1944 the 503rd was alerted of a move to new station. On 25 January 1944 the Regiment left Port Moresby for Australia. The last elements of the 503rd Regiment arrived in Brisbane on 17 February 1944 and moved into camp at Camp Cable south of Brisbane.

Whilst camped at Camp Cable the 503rd carried out a practice parachute jump on a Brisbane Golf Course, after taking off from the Brisbane airport. Richie Geutter, a 503rd veteran, said that the civilian golfers were peeved off because the golf course was closed for the day. This could have been either the Indooroopilly Golf Club at Meiers Road, Indooroopilly or the Brisbane Golf Club across the other side of the river at Tennyson Memorial Avenue, Yeerongpilly.

 


Photo:- Richie Geutter'

Richie Geutter, a 503rd veteran

 


Photo:- Richie Geutter'

Practice Parachute Jump over the Brisbane Golf Club

 


Photo:- Richie Geutter'

Practice Parachute Jump from C-47 Dakotas over the Brisbane Golf Club

 


Photo:- Richie Geutter'

Practice Parachute Jump over the Brisbane Golf Club

 


Photo:- Richie Geutter'

Practice Parachute Jump over the Brisbane Golf Club

 


Photo:- Richie Geutter'

Troopers from the 503rd jump over the Brisbane Golf Club

 


Photo:- Richie Geutter'

Hoping for a safe landing on the Brisbane Golf Course

 


Photo:- Richie Geutter'

On no!!

 


Photo:- Richie Geutter'

One trooper came down in a tree, but he was successfully "salvaged".

 


Photo:- Richie Geutter'

Plenty of open space for their practice jump on the Brisbane Golf Club

 


Photo:- Richie Geutter'

Troopers of the 503rd making a safe landing

 


Photo:- Richie Geutter'

Parachutes everywhere at the Brisbane Golf Club

 


Photo:- Richie Geutter'

Relaxing in what looks like the Brisbane Botanical Gardens in the city

 


Photo:- Richie Geutter'

Possibly the Brisbane Botanical Gardens in the city

 


Photo:- Richie Geutter'

Richie Geutter in the Brisbane Botanical Gardens

 

The 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment was eventually expanded into a Regimental Combat Team with the assignment of the 462d Parachute Artillery Battalion on 29 March 1944 and then the 161st Parachute Engineer Company on 13 September 1944.

The 503rd Regimental Combat Team left Camp Cable for Oro Bay, N.G. on 5 April 1944 on board U.S. Army Transport "Sea Cat" which departed Brisbane at 0815 hours on 6 April 1944. The 503rd arrived Oro Bay, in New Guinea 0730 hours on 14 April 1944. They disembarked on DUKW's and headed to their new camp at Sudest Bay.

The 503rd Regimental Combat Team carried out another combat jump on 3 July 1944 on the island of Noemfoor in Geelvink Bay. The Japanese  had been developing a major airfield and troopship way station. The 503rd acted as the tactical reserve during the invasion of Leyte in October 1944. Then on 15 December 1944 they took part  in the amphibious invasion of Mindoro Island, north west of Leyte. On 16 February 1945 they took part in the airborne assault on Corregidor. It was in this brazen assault that they earned the 503rd their title of ‘The Rock Regiment’. 

 


Photo:- Richie Geutter'

Japanese POW's

 

 
You Tube Video

The 503rd Regimental Combat Team take part in a combat jump on Corregidor

 


Photo:- William Brennen 5 July 2010

The uniform blouse of Richie Geutter, a 503rd Veteran

 


Photo:- William Brennen 5 July 2010

Richie Geutter's uniform blouse

 

Richie Geutter was awarded the Bronze Star. William Brennen is trying to obtain a copy of Richie's military record so that he can get all the ribbons and medals that Richie is entitled to and put them on display it in a shadow box at Bill's American Legion Post along with the proper awards.

 


Photo:- Richie Geutter'

Richie Geutter with a captured Japanese sword

 

Richie Geutter back in the USA in 1946

 


 

Frank Pyne from Townsville contacted me on 2 October 2005 and told me that during his childhood his family lived at Edmonton which is about seven miles from Gordonvale. His parents, like many other families in the area, "adopted" a number the young men who were so far from home with the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment. Frank's parents and his older sister continued to correspond with one of the paratroopers, Joe Cubbage, after the war. Frank's parents and his sister are now deceased and Frank had been unable to find anything to help him re-establish contact for many years. Apparently Joe must have lied about his age in order to enlist because he celebrated his 18th birthday with Frank's family at Edmonton.

I was able to track down a Jospeh M. Cubbage within a few minutes using "Zaba Search". I gave Frank the details and a few weeks later he contacted me to say that it was the Joe Cubbage that he was looking for. Joe then travelled to Australia and caught up with Frank Pyne. Joe tried to do one more parachute jump while he was in Australia but was not allowed to due to his age and fitness.

 

Do you know anything about the 503rd Parachute Infantry regiment?

 

503rd PRCT Heritage Battalion Online

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank William Brennen, Richie Geutter and Frank Pyne for their assistance with this web page.

 

REFERENCES

"I Didn't Know That - Cairns and Districts Tully to Cape York 1939 - 1946 Service Personnel and Civilians"
by Vera Bradley

The 503rd P.R.C.T. Heritage Battalion Online

 

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This page first produced 18 July 2003

This page last updated 10 July 2010