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Posts tagged: smokejumping

Smokejumpers Celebrate 75 Years of Service

Rufus Robinson (pictured) and Earl Cooley are the first two men to parachute from an airplane to fight a forest fire

Rufus Robinson (pictured) and Earl Cooley are the first two men to parachute from an airplane to fight a forest fire on the Nez Perce National Forest on July 12, 1940. (USFS Photo)

In 1940, Rufus Robinson and Earl Cooley made U.S. Forest Service history parachuting onto a fire over Martin Creek on the Nez Perce National Forest in Idaho.  This historic jump started an elite smokejumper program, a program born of necessity and innovation.

Since then, smokejumpers have played a vital role in fire suppression by providing a unique capability to deliver large numbers of highly skilled, qualified firefighters over large distances in a short amount of time. Read more »

Pioneer African-American Smokejumper Laid to Rest at Arlington National Cemetery

Gen. George W. Casey Jr., former chief of staff of the Army, talks to Lt. Col. Roger Walden during a recognition ceremony at the Pentagon on March 25, 2010. (U.S. Army)

Gen. George W. Casey Jr., former chief of staff of the Army, talks to Lt. Col. Roger Walden during a recognition ceremony at the Pentagon on March 25, 2010. (U.S. Army)

During World War II, a time when segregation was still a part of everyday life, a group of 17 brave men took the plunge to serve their country and become the first all African-American paratrooper unit known as the Triple Nickles.

The battalion’s original goal – to join the fight in Europe – was thwarted when military leaders in Europe feared racial tensions would disrupt operations. At about the same time, the U.S. Forest Service asked the military for help to minimize damage caused by balloon bombs launched by the Japanese across the Pacific Ocean with the intent to start forest fires in the western U.S. during World War II.

In the end, few of the incendiary devices reached U.S. soil, but the Triple Nickles were instrumental in helping the Forest Service fight naturally-caused fires. They became history’s first military smokejumpers who answered 36 fire calls and made more than 1,200 jumps that summer of 1945. Read more »