Black paratroopers reunite

June 12, 2000
White soldiers literally bet against them, wagering that the newly trained black paratroopers would refuse to jump out of airplanes. 
     The all-black, all-volunteer 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion proved them wrong, growing into a fighting force that kept its uniforms more starched and spit-shined than those of their white counterparts, for fear of soiling the battalion's hard-won dignity. 
     Next weekend, surviving members will gather in Redding to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the first smokejumpers. It's also the 55th anniversary of the summer of 1945, when the battalion was sent on a secret mission to fight a feared Japanese bombing barrage of the Pacific Northwest.