What is Operation Firefly? It was May of 1945, when an elite unit made up of some of the Army’s best trained paratroopers were assigned to a remote airstrip in Oregon as part of a highly classified mission known as Operation Firefly. This first all-black paratrooper unit’s mission and service involving Washington state made quiet history and is all but forgotten. In a surprising and insightful presentation, Robert L. “Bob” Bartlett tells the tale of the “555,” paratroopers who, despite being prevented from serving in Europe or realizing some of the same privileges and rights granted white soldiers at home, served with distinction when cross-trained to become “Smokejumpers.” Trained by U.S. Forest Service Rangers, members of the 555 jumped on some 36 forest fires as first responders, including the 1945 Mt. Baker fire. In the process of helping to save our forest, they gained military fame as the first all-black “Airborne Infantry Firefighters.”
Funded project of Humanities Washington. Humanities Washington is a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.