The 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion was activated at Fort Benning, Georgia in 1942. The potential paratroopers went through Jump School at the end of 1942. Elements of the 1st Battalion of the 551st Parachute Infantry Regiment were activated November 26, 1942 at Fort Kobbe, Panama Canal Zone.
The battalion was sent to Fort Kobbe, Panama Canal Zone in expectation of an assault on the Island of Martinique. The proposed mission of the battalion was to capture the island of Martinique, which was being held by the Vichy French. It was feared that Martinique might assist the Nazi's and their U-Boats during the War of the Atlantic. The invasion was scheduled for May 13, 1943, but the mission was called off when the French surrendered. It was in Panama that the Battalion's motto was born, "GOYA". Some would have it thought that it meant "Great Young Americans". While they were, that's not what it meant. GOYA stands for "Get Off your Ass". On August 20, 1943 the battalion left Panama bound at first, some believed, for combat duty in the Pacific. However, their destination proved to be Camp Mackall, South Carolina where they remained until March of 1944.
The battalion left Camp Mackall and arrived in Italy in April 1944 for two months of training at an Airborne training center located at Camp Kurtz. On August 15, 1944, Operation Dragoon began. At 1800, the 551st jumped into combat. Their jump, which was codenamed Operation Canary, was the first daylight combat jump in United States history. Many believe that the airborne component (Garden) of Operation Market-Garden was the first daylight jump, but the GOYA's jump was the first. August 15th marked the beginning of a long stretch for the GOYA's. They were to see continous combat until November 17th, 1944. This marked another milestone for the 551st. This period marked the longest stretch of combat by any US Airborne unit in the European Theatre of Operations (ETO).
On August 29, the battalion liberated the city of Nice. The battalion was then assigned to protect the right flank of the US 7th Army in the Maritime Alps. On November 18, the battalion was relieved and December of 1944 found them in Loan, France, where they would see little of their much needed rest.
On December 21, 1944 the Battalion arrived in Ster, Belgium with a strength of more than 800 officers and enlisted men. The battalion was first attached to the 30th Infantry Division, and reinforced the 30th ID's positions around Ster. They were subsequently attached to the 82nd Airborne Division and tasked with supporting the 508th PIR. They took heavy losses advancing through the Ardennes and then on January 7, 1944, the battalion was ordered to take the small town of Rochelinval, Belgium. Col. Joerg protested, saying that his men were tired and frostbitten, but his protests fell on deaf ears. No one knows who Col. Joerg talked to but whoever it was, their refusal to reconsider the order, sealed the fate of the 551st. The fighting was fierce and by the time the town had been taken, the 551st PIB had lost over 70 percent of it's complement.
On January 27th, 1945, General James Gavin informed the men that the battalion was being inactivated and all remaining troopers would be transferred to the 82nd Airborne Division. The GOYA's were officially no more, but the troopers would remember and carry on the proud legacy of the 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion, no matter where they were assigned.