In 1940 the United States Army started making its first steps towards an operational parachute regiment at Fort Benning. In this process several parachute techniques were developed by fifty volunteers. During this development the first paratrooper traditions and legends were born.
Among all training activities the aspiring paratroopers also frequently visited the cinema. Especially the new movie at the time, “Geronimo” attracted a lot of attention. One of the main roles in this movie was an Apache chief called “Geronimo”. The protagonist in this film was also known from an earlier film, playing a role known as Chief Thundercloud.
As a result of a bet, a paratrooper coined the phrase “Geronimo” to be shouted as he jumped with his parachute. Shouting Geronimo during a jump became more popular, and the call made clear to others that the troopers jumped without fear. As of mid-1940, the link between paratroopers and Geronimo was a fact. As time progressed, the number of parachutists increased rapidly, the paratroopers got their own identity and the organization shaped accordingly. Shouting Geronimo became a paratrooper tradition.
New units were allowed to design their own emblem or symbol. The first official paratrooper battalion called 501, took its chance and made Geronimo a slogan in their emblem. The emblem combines the parachute with the face of the Apache chief “Geronimo” and lightning of the chief “Thunder Cloud”. Because the cry of “Geronimo” in the very beginning of the history of paratroopers, the slogan was also reflected the logo of the 509th Parachute battalion, but their link with the Apaches was less clear.
By the actions of the paratroopers behind enemy lines Geronimo has become synonymous with heroism and perseverance. Today this slogan in America is still used in this context.