9.24.2014

WHY PARATROOPERS YELL GERONIMO!

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World War II paratrooper Aubrey Eberhardt was the first to scream "Geronimo!" while jumping from great heights. Retired First Sergeant Ed Howard explains how it happened in his essay entitled "Paramount's 1939 Western Geronimo...A Forgotten Movie With a Giant Legacy." In 1940, the United States' first Parachute Test Platoon was formed. It consisted of 50 volunteers who trained in the sweltering heat of Georgia's Fort Benning.

 
 Geronimo

The days were mighty hot, so the paratroopers wanted to stay cool in the evening. One night, Private Eberhardt and three friends watched the movie about the courageous Apache leader, Geronimo at a local (air conditioned) theater. After the film, the group discussed the jump they were to make the following morning. According to Howard, one paratrooper asked Eberhardt if he believed he could jump "without fear." Eberhardt, eager to prove his toughness, said he'd show everyone he wasn't afraid by yelling "Geronimo!" as he jumped. Eberhardt believed that if he had the presence of mind to remember the word, it would prove he wasn't scared.
 
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Questionable logic perhaps, but we're going with it. Long story short, Eberhardt jumped, yelled "Geronimo!" as promised, and the shout quickly caught on with his fellow paratroopers. Some time later the phrase was outlawed because officers felt it would draw unwanted attention to paratroopers landing in hostile territories. That said, the "Geronimo" motto is still seen on certain military insignias, so Eberhardt's legend lives on.


"Geronimo" Battalion was an Infantry Battalion of Paratroopers, 101st Airborne Division, deployed to join the 173d Airborne Brigade in Vietnam on June 6, 1966.

I was part of that Battalion along with nearly 1,000 other young soldiers. In June 1967 those of us who survived returned home changed men: in short, we spent the next 40 plus years trying to forget. In June 2008 the "C" Company Commander, Jack Tarr, spearheaded a reunion of our Battalion which became a convention of healing as we shared our memories, losses, traumas, and struggles since returning to civilian life.

In the fall of 2008 I wrote the words to this song in an effort to capture the nuances of passion, pain and healing that I witnessed and experienced in the presence of my beloved "brothers-in-arms". My co-writer, Larry Pearson, wrote the music in October 2013, and we began recording the "Ballad of Geronimo Battalion". Dr. Joe Anderson produced the video.

My hope is that our collaboration will speak to the hearts of all soldiers of war. James M. (Mike) Adams

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