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LSUA to Sponsor WWII Airborne Division Symposium

Released: 09/24/2008

A public symposium on the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions in World War II – both of which were formed at Camp Claiborne in Rapides Parish – will be held at the Alexandria Museum of Art at 5:15 p.m. on Oct. 3. Tom Czekanski, director of collections and exhibits at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, and Dr. Jerry Sanson, professor of history at LSU at Alexandria, will be featured speakers.

The Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences at LSUA is sponsoring the second annual “66th Anniversary Airborne Celebration and World War II Symposium” to commemorate “Central Louisiana’s rich military heritage and traditions,” said Dr. Greg Gormanous, department chair. The hour-long symposium, which will be followed by a reception, is free and open to anyone with an interest in World War II history.

The event will feature a color guard dressed in World War II uniforms from Fort Polk and literature from the Airborne and Special Operations Museum, Mississippi Armed Forces Museum, Pratt Memorial Museum at Fort Campbell, Ky., and Louisiana Military Maneuvers Museum. Dr. H. Rouse Caffey, a former LSUA chancellor who served in the 82nd Airborne Division, and Chad Daniels, director of the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum, will be present. There also will be a World War II display from the LSUA Archives.

Czekanski, who specializes in weaponry, equipment and uniforms, said the airborne divisions were “born” a day apart. “The 82nd Airborne, which came from the 82nd Infantry Division in World War I, was activated on Aug. 15, 1942. The next day the 101st Airborne was activated, and half of the 82nd Airborne was funneled to the 101st,” he said.

“Airborne: It’s Not Just the Infantry” is the title of Czekanski’s lecture. He will discuss the creation and composition of each division.

Czekanski said each division consisted of approximately 14,000 soldiers at their peak. In the 82nd Airborne 1,951 troops were killed, and 6,228 were wounded.