Lt. Clifford Allen stands in front of a C-47

An African American man stands smiling in front of an olive drab airplane.

Lt. Clifford Allen of Chicago, Illinois, stands in front of a C-47 preparing to drop the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion. The 555th was the only African American parachute unit and was not ready in time to deploy to Europe. Instead, as incendiary Japanese balloon bombs were launched towards the U.S. in mid-1945 in hopes of starting large fires in the Pacific Northwest, the 555th was assigned to jump on fires to extinguish them as part of “Operation Fire Fly.” The unit made 15 such jumps. Note the 150-foot rope for descending from tall trees; the plastic helmet and catcher's mask were protection against branches and brambles.