513th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 17th Airborne Division, 'The Thirteeners'

The rank and file of the 513th PIR embraced the superstition of the unlucky number thirteen in their unit's designation. While historians have never agreed on the origins of the cultural phobia, the paratroopers didn't spend much time dwelling on it.  As private Harold Green recollected, "We were called the 'Thirteeners' and wore our parachute insignia on the opposite side of our cap than the others did.  The day we were activated ... we had 13 paratroopers jump from a plane numbered 13, at 1,300 feet at 1300 hours."

Legend has it that the first man to jump, Captain John Spears, carried a black cat out the door with him.  The daredevil feline was incorporated into the regiment's insignia, which featured a wide-eyed Disney-esque black cat with pants bloused into the top of its jump boots.  "Little Joi," as the mascot was known, was portrayed in an aggressive pose, descending under a black parachute canopy and wielding a bayonet-tipped rifle, to eliminate any doubt about the cat's ferocity.  In another nod to superstition, a monstrous number 13 dominated the background.   A favorite regimental pastime was a game called "Matching the thirteen in 513," which consisted of downing thirteen beers in a single sitting.

Four Hours of Fury - The Untold Story of WWII's Largest Airborne Invasion and the Final Push Into Nazi Germany, pp 112 - 113 (what else?)
James M Fenlon
Scribner, Copyright 2019

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