In mid-November of 1953, hundreds of members of the 82nd Airborne Division prepared to jump in a mass paratrooper drop maneuver.
As they left their C119 Flying Boxcar planes, the skies above a remote section of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, filled with parachutes. But something was wrong. One of the C119s seemed to lose speed, drop out of formation and horrifically cut through the paratroopers descending to the ground.
The training accident killed 15 men, including Pvt. Arnold Baker.
Baker is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, with a simple white stone memorializing the 19-year-old Indianapolis resident. But now, he’ll be remembered with a monument at Fort Bragg as well.
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Last week, the 82nd Airborne Division Memorial Association unveiled a memorial to members of the group who have died in training. The five granite panels were erected outside the 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum, and display the names, rank and units of those who have been killed over the years, said John Aarsen, museum director.
“History has taught us that these soldiers give their lives, but they’re not as recognized on Memorial Day as those who are killed in combat,” he said. “They’ve always kind of been forgotten about.”
The monument was created through the memorial association, which had been working for the past few years for a way to commemorate training-related deaths. Work started about a year ago uncovering names and records of those who had died at Fort Bragg during training.
The 82nd Airborne Division dates back to 1942. Between then and 1975, few centralized records existed regarding those accidents, Aarsen said. The museum spent hours sifting through its documents.
Approximately 400 soldiers have been killed in training accidents, Aarsen said. So far, 225 names have been identified and included on the memorial.
With the lack of records of these deaths, and the fact that this memorial is happening in some cases more than 70 years after they occurred, Aarsen is hoping to spread the word to these soldiers’ families that their loved ones are being honored.
“Those families may not even realize that this is going on,” Aarsen said. “There are people that don’t even know that we’re doing this memorial, and their family member will be remembered outside of their tombstone.”
— Ryan Trares firstname.lastname@example.org