August 16, 2020
ROBBINSVILLE-EAST WINDSOR-HIGHTSTOWN, NJ (MERCER)—Today is Airborne Day and it is a special day to honor the US Airborne Forces and the first parachute jump of 48 members of the US Army Parachute Test Platoon on August 16, 1940 during World War II.
A roadside monument sits along Route 130 in the Windsor section of Robbinsville Township honoring the US Army Parachute Test Platoon that worked there during World War II. Two towers left over from the World’s Fair were brought to the location and used for the tests located at Route 130 and Voelbel Road formerly known on maps then as parachute road.
Active members of current Airborne and Special Forces Airborne units, Airborne Association of NJ and Special Forces Association New Jersey Chapter held a ceremony to commemorate the day. Since the weather was not cooperating at the test site the ceremony was move from the outdoor location to the American Legion about half mile up the road.
According to the 82nd Airborne Association North Jersey Chapter Chairman Vic Balint the day is to honor the Airborne soldier and the original parachute test platoon. In 1918 Brigadier General William Lendrum ”Billy” Mitchell or the US Army Air Corps suggested to General John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing was air service advisor and should employee airborne troops in World War 1, and like the idea but the war ended in November 1918 and the idea never happened.
In 1939 General Gorge C. Marshall US Army Chief of Staff directed U.S. Army General George A. Lynch to “Make a study for the purpose of determining the desirability of organizing, training, and conducting tests of a the small detachment of air infantry with a view to determine whether or not our army should contain a unit or units of this nature”
Many in the military disagreed with this philosophy and argued that the airborne force was not needed for America during World War II.
Despite this thinking General Marshall gave his approval on July 25, 1940 to immediately establish a parachute test platoon to test the development of airborne troops.
The original test platoon was 48 paratroopers 2 officers and 46 enlisted. The platoon started training and developing equipment and policies that would be used by future airborne forces. Many of the techniques developed then are in use today.
During the original testing during the test platoon’s third week they were sent to Safe Parachute Company, Hightstown, NJ (Robbinsville former Washington Township) because there were two 150-foot towers left over from the 1939 World’s Fair. The original test platoon spent 10 days in New Jersey before returning to Georgia.
After additional testing and successful demonstrations by the test platoon the war department activated the 501st Parachute Infantry Battalion, on October 1, 1940 and located at Fort Benning Georgia.
Lawrence Taylor, Sr. President of the Special Forces Association, Chapter 19 for the State of New Jersey continued and stated that Amelia Earhart was the first one to jump off of a 115 foot tower in Jackson, NJ on June 2, 1935.
In 1934, Stanley Switlik and Amelia’s husband, George P. Putnam formed a partnership and created the first parachute jump tower in the US. The tower was located where Great Adventure is today. Switlik Parachute Company formed in 1920 and is still operating in Trenton and Hamilton Township, NJ