139th Airborne Engineer Battalion
17th Airborne Parachute Maint. Company
139th Airborne Engineer Company
411th Airborne Quartermaster Company
517th Airborne Signal Company
Military Police Platoon
389th Quartermaster Company (attached)
550th Infantry Airborne Battalion (attached)
The 17th Airborne Division was activated 15 April 1943 at Camp Mackall, North Carolina. The Engineer Battalion was designated the 139th Airborne Engineer Battalion, under the command of Lt Colonel Stanley Johnson on 31 December 1942 and was assigned to the 17th Airborne upon the 17th’s activation. After completing basic training, specialist training, and a variety of training maneuvers, the unit left with the Division for England on 17 August, 1944.
When the 139th arrived in England, the Battalion was sent to Camp Ashton Keynes, one of the 17th Airborne Division staging areas, on 26 August, 1944. Flight and tactical training continued and night maneuvers were added to the training schedule.
As part of the Division, the 139th engaged in the Ardennes, Rhineland, and Central Europe Campaigns. As part of the Battle of the Bulge, the 139th AEB supported the division in the defense of the Meuse River sector from Givet to Verdun until 1 January, 1945. During the next month, the 139th AEB moved several times within Belgium, sweeping roads for mines and locating and destroying booby traps. On 27 January the Battalion took up positions near Bockholz, Luxembourg. On 11 February, the 139th AEB returned to camp at Chalons-sur-Marne in France with the rest of the 17th Airborne Division.
Operation Varsity was the first combat glider landing for the 139th AEB. The 139th’s mission was to land north of Wesel in Landing Zone (LZ) S, a large flat area where the Issel River and the Issel Canal merge. After landing, the Battalion was to seize the crossing over the Issel and protect the Division's right flank. The 139th had the misfortune of flying over a concentration of German antiaircraft weapons. Two-thirds of the C-47's were either damaged or in flames. The pilots remained with the aircraft until the gliders were released. Many gliders unfortunately landed amid German artillery units. The German gun crews immediately repositioned their guns for direct fire. It was a tough situation for a while but the glider troops prevailed and were able to overrun the German positions.
In early April, the Battalion performed engineering duties, such as clearing road blocks, repairing roads, and building bridges in western Germany.
Military government duties began 12 April, and active contact with the enemy ceased 18 April 1945. The Battalion continued to perform engineering duties. The Division came under the XXII Corps on 24 April. It continued its occupation duties until 15 June, 1945 when it returned to France for redeployment. Many troopers were then transferred to the 82nd and 101st Airborne and for occupation duty in Berlin and Austria. Others joined the 13th Airborne Division, which returned to the US to be readied for the Pacific. The 139th returned to the United States with the remainder of the division and was deactivated on 15 September, 1945 at Camp Miles Standish, Massachusetts.