BROOMFIELD, Colo. (KDVR) — Aug. 16, 1940 was the day of the first official Army parachute jump at Fort Benning, Georgia. In 2002 President George Bush, with the help of Congress, declared this date National Airborne Day.

They were considered the elite of the elite, the United States airborne forces.

“The creation of airborne forces can be attributed to the Germans. They were really the forerunner of developing the doctrine of troops to be dropped behind enemy lines,” military historian Flint Whitlock told FOX31.

The idea was straightforward: Train soldiers to jump out of perfectly good airplanes, then drop them behind enemy lines just before the largest military invasion in world history. 

What could possibly go wrong?

“They were scattered all over the place. Sometimes soldiers would be isolated, captured or killed by the Germans. Sometimes they would meet up with other paratroopers from a different unit,” Whitlock said.

Whitlock is a military historian who has written 15 books, is a Vietnam veteran and earned his jump wings in 1965.

“I kind of picture this as my most valuable piece of jewelry because of what I went through,” Whitlock said of the jump wings.

Nowadays, Whitlock is on the board of directors at the Broomfield Veterans Museum, which honors those who served in wars ranging from the Spanish-American to Afghanistan.

Truth be told, Whitlock was unaware of the fact that Aug. 16 has been National Airborne Day since 2002.

“I think it’s very important to have a national airborne day because it commemorates, especially this year, the 80th anniversary of the founding of the first American airborne divisions, the 82nd and the 101st,” he said.