[General James] Gavin+ likes to claim credit for "inventing" Pathfinders, pointing to bad drops in Sicily as the cause. Let us set the record straight: The 509th, the world's most experienced bad drop specialists, first saw the need for them. Pathfinders were separate teams of "advance men" who jumped in ahead of main forces to set up beacons and other guides to incoming aircraft.
The 509th's Scout Company was the first specialized Pathfinder group. In the U.S. Army, it started the training and experimentation necessary to develop the concept at Oujda. With fragments of practical knowledge from the British Airborne, company commander Captain Howland and his XO 1st Lt. Fred E. Perry worked hard to develop usable techniques. Perry recalls: "Everyone knew through hard experience that the Air Corps needed help to drop us on the correct drop zone. We organized the Scout Company for this purpose. This was later made into a Scout Platoon under my command, consisting of 10 enlisted and myself. We were equipped with a British homing radio and U.S. Navy Aldis lamps, which radiated a beam to guide planes. We trained on this procedure until the invasion at Salerno.
In the meantime, the 82nd Airborne Division+ arrived from the States on May 10 and camped near the 509th at Oujda. We were attached to them. The 82nd would not buy our Scout Platoon idea, but they sure found out in a hurry after Sicily that we really had something that was needed.
At the time, Major General Matthew Ridgway and his "All-American" staff thought they knew it all. Impressed with themselves, although they were not jumpers or experienced glider troopers, they airily dismissed the 509th and its fresh combat experiences, as well as any nonstandard/Limey concept. They would learn the hard way.Charles H. Doyle and Terrell Stewart. "Stand in the Door!: The wartime history of the 509th Parachute Infantry." Phillips Publications, P.O. Box 168, Williamstown, NJ 08094
|Pathfinder (military)+ A pathfinder is inserted or dropped into place in order to set up and operate drop zones, pickup zones, and helicopter landing sites for airborne operations, air resupply operations, or other air operations in support of the ground unit commander.|