Cave Junction in Josephine County, Oregon — The American West (Northwest)
Heroes in the Sky
Formed in 1943, the all-Black 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion was the first opportunity for African officers and enlisted men to become paratroopers in the segregated US Army during World War II.
Racial Segregation Ended
The "Triple Nickels" returned to their home base to North Carolina in 1945. At the request of Lieutenant General James Gavin, the 555th was assigned to his previously all-White 82nd Airborne Division in 1947. A year later, President Truman's Executive Order officially ended racial segregation in the US military.
Balloon Bomb Blazes
In 1944-45, Japan launched balloon bombs eastward across the Pacific to set US west coast forests ablaze and cause civilian panic. In May 1945, the military ordered the "Triple Nickles" on a classified mission, code named "Operation Firefly," to counter this threat. Detailed to the US Forest Service, the 555th jumped on and fought Pacific Northwest forest fires.
The "Triple Nickles" trained at Pendleton Field in northeastern Oregon. Army Ordnance personnel instructed the 555th in bomb disposal while Forest Service "smokejumpers" trained them in parachuting on wildland fires and how to fight them. That summer, the "Triple Nickles" jumped on 15 fires and fought on at least 28.
555th Parachute Infantry Battalion
Malvin L. Brown enlisted in the US Army late in 1942. After qualifying as a paratrooper in the all-Black 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, Brown trained as a medic. On August 6, 1945, “Triple Nickles” paratroopers based at Pendleton Field responded to a fire in Oregonís Umpqua National Forest near Roseburg. PFC Brown volunteered to replace an ill medic on the jump list. His parachute caught in a tall tree and he fell more than 150 feet to his death. Fellow paratroopers carried his body several miles to the nearest road. PFC Malvin Brown left a widow and daughter. He is buried near his hometown, Baltimore, Maryland, and was the first smokejumper to die on a fire jump.
Caption 1: Many of the first volunteers for the 555th came from the 92nd Infantry Division (nicknamed Buffalo). The name “Triple Nickles” symbolizes a combination of the Buffalo Division, the pre-WWII era “Buffalo Nickels,” and the 555th unit number.
Caption 2: Homemade wire-mesh face masks, tight landing zones using military parachutes with limited maneuverability in the air, reaching the ground from 200 foot trees with 50 foot ropes. The “Triple Nickles” did their bit to win the war, with ingenuity, adaptability, skill and courage.
Erected by Oregon Travel Experience.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Oregon Beaver Boards marker series.
Location. 42° 6.234′ N, 123° 40.887′ W. Marker is in Cave Junction, Oregon, in Josephine County. Marker is on Smokejumper Way. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Cave Junction OR 97523, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 3 other markers are within 7 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Smokejumper Tree (within shouting distance of this marker); Fort Briggs (approx. 4.1 miles away); Kerby(ville) 1850's to Present (approx. 6.7 miles away).
More about this marker. Marker located at the Siskiyou Smokejumper Base Museum at Illinois Valley Airport
Regarding Triple Nickles. This smokejumper base is listed in the National Register of Historic Places
Also see . . . Oregon Travel Experience - Triple Nickles. (Submitted on January 11, 2018, by Douglass Halvorsen of Klamath Falls, Oregon.)
Additional keywords. Triple Nickels 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion smokejumpers
Categories. • African Americans • Air & Space • War, World II •
Credits. This page was last revised on January 14, 2018. This page originally submitted on January 10, 2018, by Douglass Halvorsen of Klamath Falls, Oregon. This page has been viewed 64 times since then. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on January 10, 2018, by Douglass Halvorsen of Klamath Falls, Oregon. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.