My Dad, John G. “Birdie” Hopkins
82nd Airborne, 508th RCT
He is sitting front row, 2nd from the right of the group picture below.
The back of the group photo reads:
Texas 1952 (April) – Just before jump at “Operation Longhorn”. 3rd Platoon, K Co., 508th RCT, 82nd Airborne Division
(The article below is copied from the “508th AIRBORNE CHAPTER, 82nd Airborne Division Association NEWSLETTER” dated MARCH-APRIL, 1992)
Story behind the jump
MEMORY Tuesday, April 8, ’52..the climactic day of the 508th’s RCT’s participation in Exercise Longhorn, the largest Airborne Heavy Equipment drop to that point in time. The drop was to be observed by several four star and three star generals who had gone to TX to see the 508th ARCT – one of the “hottest outfits in the Army” – jump. Generals Vandenburg, Collins, Clark and Devers all went – but did not see the drop!! LTG Hoge, the exercise CO ordered the jump canceled because of ground winds approaching 20-25 mph in the early hours before daylight. The word never got down to the two CO’s of the AF and Army involved, the 516th Troup Carrier Wing and Col. Joe S. Lawries’ 508th ABN RCT. The troopers had left their assembly area in the dark wee hours of morning and marched to the airfield against gusting, dust filled winds of 20-25 mpg, only to be sent back to the assembly area with the word, that the jump was canceled. No sooner had the begun to settle down, when orders came to saddle up — they were going to jump! Back to the airfield to the 96 waiting C-46 Aircraft. The 46’s were loaded up and away they went, heading for the RED and BLUE DZ’s that straddled the Colorado River near the town of Lampasas. At 0715 the first troopers began hurtling into the air! Though the drop had been canceled by the CG at 0500 back at Exercise HQs, word never got down to the units, who were more than surprised when messages were coming in that the 508 troopers 3120 strong were floating earthward into ferocious ground winds roaring across the plains! Winds that were well above the safety factor for Airborne ops. When it was over one trooper was dead, 232 were injured, 196 of whom were hospitalized. A veteran officer of three combat jumps, was slammed so hard into the ground, that he wandered dazed for 30 minutes before collapsing under a tree. Later he commented “that was the wildest!” An SFC, 9 years service, over 230 jumps said it “was my toughest.” Col. Lawrie said it “was the roughest, but best Airborne operation I’ve ever seen.” The Heavy Equipment drop that was to have followed the troopers, 18 C-82’s and 16 C-199’s, was halted while they were enroute to the DZ’s. They returned to base and were held there until Thursday, the 10th, when they made their drop. General J. Lawton Collins, Army Chief of Staff, who did not see the jump, said he was satisfied with it adding “It is dangerous, that is why the Paratroops are made up of volunteers. That is why they get extra pay.” — AMEN!