Colonel Edson Duncan Raff (November 15, 1907 – March 11, 2003) was a United States Army officer and author of a book on paratroopers. He served as Commanding Officer (CO) of the first American airborne unit to jump into combat, the 2nd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, near Oran as part of Operation Torch during World War II. His book, We Jumped to Fight, was based on his experience in that operation and was published in 1944.
We Jumped To Fight (1944)
- When people ask me what it feels like to jump out of a plane with a parachute, I say in all seriousness, "It's just like getting out of bed in the morning. You know how it is. Some mornings you hate to get up. Other times, when you have something important to do, you bound out with no thought of the hardships involved. Well, that's the way it is with parachuting. It all depends on what's on your mind."
- p. 3
- To begin with, being a parachutist comes as naturally to some people as being a sailor does to others. Modern young men look to the sky for adventure, whether it be riding the air in a plane, in a glider or on a parachute. Only a fraction of the last generation looked skyward; yet all of the next generation will. They won't all be parachutists, of course. It's the idea of descent that makes parachuting a wartime activity only, or a limited peacetime sport at best. People, as a general rule, want to feel something under them besides air. The instinct of self-preservation and "Safety First" makes parachuting a slight mental hazard to the uninitiated. By the greatest stretch of the imagination, I can't visualize the air-age John Citizen stepping out of a plane to jump into his front yard rather than ride five miles further to the home-town airport. Heliocopters will land in the front yard without the ever-present jumping risk of breaking a leg. But that's only one side of being a paratrooper.
- p. 3
- One day in August, 1940, an article in the New York Times caught my eye. It was the announcement that a test platoon of American parachutists had been formed at Fort Benning, Georgia, and had gone into training there. The possibility struck me that our army might be developing parachute troops similar to those known to be in the Russian and German armies. Not being sure if a First Lieutenant of Infantry having a C.A.A. commercial pilot's license and a yen for adventure possessed the necessary qualifications, I, nevertheless, decided then and there to be a parachutist.
- p. 4
- When we passed over a certain spot on the ground, Lieutenant Walkers, the jumpmaster, said, "Number One, stand up!" The first man stood on his feet. Walters looked him over, then gave the command, "Hook up!" "Number One" snapped the static line attached to his parachute to the steel anchor cable running down the center of the transport. Next came the command, "Stand in the door!" The student obeyed; for a few tense seconds he stood there ready for the leap into space. Then Lieutenant Walters said "Go!" Out went the tyro on his first trip to mother earth. The rest of us watched him gradually lose altitude and disappear far to the rear of the plane. Before I knew it, Numbers Two, Three, Four, Five and Six had gone. Then came Number Seven. "Captain Raff, stand up!" yelled Lieutenant Walters. "Hook up." I hooked up. "Stand in the door!" There I stood, looking out at the earth moving slowly by 1500 feet below. My hands lightly touched the metal fuselage, ready to make the push off. The propeller wash (we call it the "prop blast") came through the door in intermittent gusts. Thus, on the threshold of a new world, I waited for the fatal "go." I felt a tap on my right leg. Walters was saying, "Go! Go!" and out I went. Deep down a submerged voice seemed to be counting, "one thousand, two thousand, thr-" but before I could finish "three thousand" there was a jerking on my shoulders and I knew the chute had opened. It was a peculiar pain, strangely exhilarating. In spite of frequent shoulder bruises from the opening jar the real joy of having that chute open knows no bounds!
- p. 12
- Rumors in military organizations are rampant at all times. They spread rapidly.
- p. 16
- The Douglas C-47 flown by these pilots is a worthy workhorse, far better than any other plane in its class, Allied or Axis. Even with relatively new pilots flying it, the craft behaves as any faithful workhorse should- perfectly. In a couple of cases unheard-of overloads have been placed aboard the plane with the only obvious change being the increased distance of take-off and landing. We paratroopers get to love the brutes because they can be slowed down and their tails are out of the way when we jump. Their pilots and crew chiefs have a deep, far less mercenary fondness for them which increases with the passage of time.
- p. 24
- Germans- businessmen who know their business. They have the finesse of experience. Watch out for deception when fighting them. To try the same ruse twice against them is fooling yourself. A possum game they love to play will cause you to underestimate their strength. Their equipment is excellent. Tanks and 88-mm guns are part of a team. When you meet them separately, consider yourself lucky, as a rule, you won't. Forget the words "air superiority" as long as there is one Nazi plane around. It will smack you night and day when you think you're safe. Mines and booby traps are the nastiest type of Nazi specialties.
- p. 201
- Italians- good fighters with Germans calling the signals; otherwise, bush-leaguers.
- p. 201
- American troops- with more battle experience and basic instruction in (1) laying and lifting mines, (2) booby traps, (3) night combat, Americans will be the superior soldiers they have been in every war. There are too few junior leaders who are sufficiently tough to lead the men. It seems that only through the useless spilling of blood will American soldiers realize that good discipline saves lives on the battlefield.
- p. 201-202
- Let members of your staff know what's going on. Otherwise give them rifles. They would rather fight.
- p. 202
- Be simple in your every act, word, and deed. Your men will like it and you'll get results, not excuses.
- p. 203
- Improvise to be sure, but remember, though a wrench may be used to drive nails, it will not drive them as efficiently as a hammer.
- p. 203
- If the enemies facing you are Germans, they are just as nervous as you are. If they are Italians, they are twice as nervous.
- p. 203
- You will never win a war at the command post. It is just as safe and more inspiring for your men to see the commanding officer around whatever your rank may be.
- p. 204
- Airborne operations must be preceded by subterfuges in terms of diversions, ruses, rumors, and decoys. The enemy observer must cry "Wolf!" so often that when the real operation takes place no one listens to his cries.
- p. 204
- Lastly, forget good sportsmanship on the field of battle. War is not a refereed football game but the dirtiest game yet devised by human minds. And, if for one moment you feel soft towards that Nazi shooting at you, remember he's trying to kill you and, if he had the chance, he'd drive your dad into slavery, cut your mother's throat, rape your wife, sister, sweetheart, or daughter. You'll get no quarter from him. Give him none!
- p. 204
Quotes about Raff
- Colonel Raff is an American, proved as a commander on the field of battle. This is his book.
- Hanson W. Baldwin, in the Foreword to Edson Raff's We Jumped to Fight (1944), p. xii