Tangible, physical and material, here, each month, we present to you a piece, an artifact of Fort Bragg’s past.
Pictured is a Smoke Jumper’s Protective Helmet, used by Company A, 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion in 1945.
The Triple Nickles, dubbed such for it’s 555 unit number, was activated at Fort Benning, Georgia in 1943 and then again at Camp Mackall in 1944 eventually being transferred to the 505th Parachute Infantry regiment, 82nd airborne division in 1947.
The unit was the first African American test platoon.
The 555th was trained for war, but instead was utilized to fight forest fires started by Japanese balloon bombs on the West Coast. As a reinforcement company for Operation FIREFLY, in Oregon and California, the 555th paratroopers were the nation’s first line of defense.
The Triple Nickles who were the first paratroopers to fight fires, developed many smokejumper techniques still used today. They later became the first army unit to be integrated into the Army during World War II.
This particular helmet was donated to the Airborne and Special operation Museum by Retired Lt. Col. Bradley Biggs, who was the first black officer accepted for parachute duty by the Army and later the 555th historian.
“The history of the Triple Nickles is an untold chapter in black history. The high professional standards of the men of the 555th, their skill in airborne, fearlessness in testing new concepts and effectiveness in train other service personnel marked them as black pioneers …” said Briggs in a quote displayed as part of the Triple Nickle exhibit at ASOM.