James Maurice Gavin, born 113 years ago of yesterday, would rise to become the youngest Major General to command a division in World War II. He led the 82nd Airborne during the D-Day invasion, Operation Market-Garden and the Battle of the Bulge.

He was known “The Jumping General” or “Jumpin’ Jim,” as he would jump into combat with his men, carrying an M-1 rifle, just like the infantrymen did. He was the only officer to make four combat jumps during the war. 

Early Years and Military Service

Gavin was born in Brooklyn, New York. Soon afterward he was placed in an orphanage by his birth mother, an Irish immigrant. He was adopted in 1909 by Martin and Mary Gavin from Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania and given the name James Maurice Gavin.

His father was a hard-working miner, but young James wanted no part of that. As a young man, he was fascinated by and read everything he could about the Civil War. He worked an assortment of odd jobs to help his family make ends meet, but due to a shortage of opportunities, he ran away from home to New York City at the age of 17.