About Those White Devils


You could see the poor little anchorette's eyes bug out when she read that the 82nd Airborne's "white devils" had initiated Operation Valiant Strike in Afghanistan. The news release from the unit's HQ in Bagram evidently didn't explain the background of the nickname—or no one bothered to read it.

Malcolm X or any racial element has nothing to do with it. Think flag, not race. Then go all the way back to the 82nd's formation in 1917 when it got the "All Americans" nickname, ostensibly because every state in the union was represented in its ranks. That also explains the 82nd's distinctive "AA" shoulder patch.

With the division "All Americans" it was only natural for its component regiments to get red, white, and blue nicknames. Jump to WWII where the paratroopers of the 504th regiment fighting at Anzio earned the nickname "devils in baggy pants" from the Germans. Put it all together and you get white devils, along with red devils, and blue devils.

This etymology shows how military units build up an identity over the years quite apart from civilian culture. Morale and unit cohesion are greatly improved by the sense of being part of a distinct unit tradition. So it is black and Hispanic troopers are proud to go to war as white devils even if stateside news anchors—and probably some in the audience—are bewildered by it all.


NEXT: "A good deal of anticipation"

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. When I first heard this, it gave me a moment’s pause. Knowing the military has a vast variety of interesting names for its groups and subgroups, I figure this was just an odd coincidence (given that they are seeking out members of an extremist Muslim group, quite odd). Thanks for the history lesson.

    I have also noticed that recently, some of the heads (I believe it was on Fox) have been calling them just “devils”. Brings new meaning to the term, PC wars.

  2. Thanks for explaining that. Very cool.

  3. Very cool- of course, like “Crusade” and “Infinite Justice”, I’m glad we’re looking for other ways to describe them publicly. (Of course, they should be allowed to call themselves whatever thay like..)

    Maligned though “PC” is, tact is tactical.

  4. some facts about those white devils!
    they are the most elite of the 82nd airborne.they are 98% white males.they are some of the best marksmen in the military.they love to be called *white devils* because they are white! they are aware of their race and are proud young white warriors.some grew up in poor homes some are from the south,all are racially aware and take pride in their white race, as all other races do.why is that a problem? every other race has racial pride , why is it that everyone freaks out, if white males are proud and profess their pride in their white race.embrace diversity also means white diversity as well.

  5. i was in the unit for a while. actually the unit is only about 80% white males, but there are quite a bit of blacks and hispanics in 2nd battallion 504th parachute infantry regiment. also people need to quite being so damn sensitive. everything is not out ot get them, everything that doesnt benefit you is not done due to you being whatever race, or any shit like that. the name better not change, or it will piss off a lot more people than it does now, and their being pissed off is a lot more understandable than these over sensitive paranoid fockers that make a big deal out of everything. and they were calling the unit devils referring to all the soldiers in task force devil (3rd and 2nd battalion 504th and 3-505) i am disturbed about how people are offended by the name at all, and dont forget that name has been around for over 50 years now, so shut the F up and stop crying, you paranoid dillusional “its just because im *********” people.

  6. My loving boyfriend is a “White Devil” but he’s hispanic. I think the name gives these men an extra touch. I agree that these paratroopers are the most elite in the 82nd. They’re all just one big happy family. It doesn’t have to do with wether you’re white or any race. It has to do with your ability to suceed in the division. Especially right now that the “White Devils” are in Afghanistan, we must let them no that they’re missed and that “Those devils in baggy pants” are doing what they’re good at.

  7. EMAIL: nospam@nospampreteen-sex.info
    URL: http://preteen-sex.info
    DATE: 05/21/2004 02:55:26
    Don’t worry that other people don’t know you; worry that you don’t know other people.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.