History of the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team
The 173rd Airborne Brigade has a long and distinguished history of over 45 years of service spanning for 100 years.
The Brigade originally activated 1917 as the 173rd Infantry Brigade and assigned to the 87th Infantry. The Brigade deployed to France as part of the Division, but did not see any major combat action. The Brigade was demobilized in January of 1919 at then Camp Dix, New Jersey.
The Brigade went through a series of re-designations and reorganizations, culminating in the re-designation in February 1942 as the 87th Reconnaissance Troop, 87th Division.
The Brigade experienced extensive combat in Europe as part of General George S. Patton's Third Army to include the battle of the Bulge and the Rhine river crossing. In 1945, the Brigade was briefly activated as the 87th Mechanized Cavelry Reconnaissance Troop, deactivating again in December 1951.
The Greatest chapter of the Brigade's history began in 1963. The 173rd Airborne Brigade was activated on the island of Okinawa on March 16, 1963. The "Sky Soldier" as the nationalist Chinese paratroopers called the 173rd, made thousands of parachute jumps in a dozen different pacific area countries. The Brigade was the first Army unit sent to the republic of South Vietnam in May 1965.
Noted for its roles in Operation Hump and Operation Junction City, the 173d is best known for the Battle of Dak To, where it suffered heavy casualties in close combat with North Vietnamese forces. Brigade members received over 7,700 decorations, including more than 6,000 Purple Hearts. The brigade returned to the United States in 1972, where the 1st and 2d Battalion, 503d Infantry, were absorbed into the 3d Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile), and the 3d Battalion, 319th Field Artillery was reassigned to Division Artillery in the 101st. The remaining units of the 173d were inactivated.
Since its reactivation in 2000, the brigade served five tours in the Middle East in support of the War on Terror. The 173rd participated in the initial invasion of Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, and had four tours in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2005–06, 2007–08, 2009–10, and 2012–13. The brigade returned recently from a deployment stretching from late 2013 to late 2014.
The 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team has received 21 campaign streamers and several unit awards, including the Presidential Unit Citation for its actions during the Battle of Dak To during the Vietnam War.