Gavin, James “Slim Jim”, born 22-03-1907 in New York, also referred to as Jumpin Jim, because of his practice of taking part in combat drops with the paratroopers whom he commanded. Gavin was the youngest U.S. Major General commanding a division during World War II. During combat, he was known for his habit of carrying an M1 Garand
as opposed to the pistols traditionally carried by officers. His men respected him a great deal, affectionately referring to him as “Slim Jim” due to his athletic figure. Gavin fought against segregation in the U.S. Army, which gained him some notoriety. Gavin spoke with a US Army recruiting officer. Since he was under 18, he needed parental consent to enlist in the Army. On 01-04-1924, Gavin was sworn in to the US Army, and was stationed in Panama. Gavin began training at the Airborne School in Fort Benning in July 1941 and graduated in August 1941.
Gavin became the commanding officer of the 505th
Parachute Infantry Regiment in August 1942. In February 1943, the US 82nd
All Americans Airborne Division , consisting of the 325th
Glider Infantry Regiments and the 504th
Parachute Infantry Regiment, was selected for the Allied invasion of Sicily. Gavin was part of Mission Boston on D-Day. This was a parachute combat assault conducted at night by the U.S. 82nd
Airborne Division on 06-06-1944 and part of the American Airborne landings in Normandy. Lieutenant. General Omar N. Bradley
decorates Brig. General James M. Gavin (Asst Cdr 82d Abn Div), Lieutenant Colonel Edward C. Krause
(CO 3d Bn, 505th PIR) and Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin H. Vandervoort
(CO 2d Bn, 505th PIR).
The command of the gliders had Major General, Chief of Staff, 82nd Airborne, Matthew Bunker Ridgway
They were to capture the town of Sainte Mère Église, a crucial communications crossroad behind Utah Beach.
John Marvine Steele
hanging on the churchtower
For the first time General Gavin would lead the 82nd
Airborne into combat. On Sunday, 17-09-1944, Operation Market Garden took off. Market Garden, devised by the British General, Bernard “Monty” Montgomery
On 20-09-1944 James Gavin was the commander during the famous Waalcrossing, an action to capture the bridge from behind. Third Battalion of the 504th
, H & I Company of the Third Battalion 504th
, H& I Companies of the 82nd
Airborne Division were the first to cross the Waal River in small canvas/wood boats. First battalion crossed after 11 of 26 boats returned. The Germans artillery was able to mow them down as they crossed.
Inspite of heavy casualties, 48 men died in the crossing, the men of the 504 Parachute Infantry Regiment prevailed and captured their objective, the North end of the Bridge at Nijmegen.
One of the crossing survivors was Lieutenant Colonel Jim “Maggie” Megellas
a regular visitor on his 1944 war fields, who commanded a platoon in Company “H” of the 3rd Battalion.
would stay in Holland, (see About
) until 13-11-1944 and had during WWII the next casualties: 1.619 killed in action, 6.560 wounded in action and 332 died of wounds. After the war Gavin also played a central role in integrating the U.S. military and retired in March 1958 as a Lieutenant General.
Death and burial ground of Gavin, James Maurice “Slim Jim”.