The 17th Airborne Division was an airborne infantry division of the United States Army during World War II, commanded by Major General William M. Miley. It was officially activated as an airborne division in April 1943 but was not immediately sent to a combat theater, remaining in the United States to complete its training. During this training process, the division took part in several training exercises, including the Knollwood Maneuver, in which it played a vital part in ensuring that the airborne division remained as a military formation in the U.S. Army. As such it did not take part in the first two large-scale airborne operations conducted by the Allies, Operation Husky and Operation Neptune, transferring to Britain only after the end of Operation Overlord.
When the division arrived in Britain, it came under the command of Maj Gen Matthew B. Ridgway‘s XVIII Airborne Corps, a part of the Maj Gen Lewis H. Brereton‘s First Allied Airborne Army, but was not chosen to participate in Operation Market Garden, the airborne landings in the Netherlands, as Allied planners believed it had arrived too late and could not be “trained up” in time for the operation. However, after the end of Operation Market Garden the division was shipped to France and then Belgium to fight in the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge. The 17th gained its first Medal of Honor during its time fighting in the Ardennes, and was then withdrawn to Luxembourg to prepare for an assault over the River Rhine. In March 1945, the division participated in its first, and only, airborne operation, dropping alongside the British 6th Airborne Division as a part of Operation Varsity, where it gained three more Medals of Honor. The division then advanced through Northern Germany until the end of World War II, when it briefly undertook occupation duties in Germany before shipping back to the United States. There, it was officially inactivated in September 1945, although it was briefly reactivated as a training division between 1948 and 1949.
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