Col. Lahti, Edward Henry
Commander, 3rd Battalion and 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment
April 28, 1913 - September 2, 2001 (age 88)
Citations: 2x Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit, 2x Bronze Stars, the Purple Heart, three Commendation Medals, and the Air Medal. He also earned a Combat Infantryman Badge and Master Parachutist Wings with a career total of 126 parachute jumps. He was a member of the Disabled American Veterans, Retired Officers Association, American Legion, and was the honorary chairman of the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment Association./p>
Bio: COLONEL EDWARD H. "SLUGGER" Lahti, US Army, Retired
Graduate United States Military Academy Class of 1938
Edward Henry Lahti was born in Portland, OR in 1913 the youngest of the six children. His parents John Edward and Ida Allen Lahti of Finnish heritage.
Edward graduated from Benson Polytechnic High School as an honor student class of 1931. His older brother died in WWI. His brothers death greatly influenced him to pursue a military career. While still in high school, Ed joined the Oregon National Guard and at age 15 became a member of the Color Guard of the 162d Infantry Regiment, 41st Division. He enlisted in the regular Army at age 18 and as a private served with the 19th Infantry Regiment, Hawaiian Division. He attend the West Point Prep. School at Schofield Barracks then earned a prestigious appointment to the Military Academy.
After graduating from West Point he attended Parachute School at Ft. Benning in January 1943, and joined the newly-formed 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment as its battalion commander. In WW2 his unit fought during the Leyte Campaign and his battalion led the 511th Regiment and 11th Airborne Division across the island to cut Japanese supply trails and reduce their combat capability.
After this victory, Ed became the regimental XO. He made a parachute jump with the regiment on Tagaytay Ridge, 30 miles south of Manila and deep behind Japanese lines. The regiment engaged the Japanese along the supposedly impregnable Genko Line. The regimental commander was mortally wounded and Ed took command. He received severe shrapnel wounds to the upper arm but refused evacuation. Within a few days and with division assistance, the 511th eliminated the Japanese defenses. On 23 Feb 1945, Ed selected a unit from the 511th Regiment and spearheaded the liberation of 2,147 Allied internees from the Los Banos prison camp, 30 miles behind enemy lines. The raid was so successful that a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called it "the textbook airborne operation for all ages and all armies."
At the age of 31, with only six years of commissioned service, Ed was promoted to colonel due to his outstanding leadership in combat. The regiment he commanded was selected to be the first complete regiment to occupy Japan. During this occupation, COL Lahti became the military governor of Iwate Prefecture, Honshu, Japan, and subsequently, Aomori Prefecture. His men were hailed as "ambassadors for democracy" and were respected and admired by the Japanese people. In May 1991, Japan honored COL Lahti and the regiment with a TV documentary of this great peacemaking effort.
His four years as commander of a parachute infantry regiment was the longest in history.
After two years of occupational service, COL Lahti returned to the States in August 1947 to continue his military career, serving as commander of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82d Airborne Division, and commanding the Honor Guard of select paratroopers for the funeral of GEN Pershing in July 1948. After ten years service, he was assigned to the Pentagon, where he worked with the executive office of the president. Both Ft. Leavenworth and the Armed Forces Staff College gave him credit for his leadership service, and COL Lahti attended the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, PA.
During 1953—54, Operation Castle was organized for the purpose of testing the atomic bomb for the Atomic Energy Commission at the Pacific Proving Grounds on Eniwetok-Bikini Atolls, and Colonel Lahti was appointed commander of the Army Task Force and commander of the Atolls. In February 1959 he was assigned as senior advisor to the region commander at Pleiku, Viet Nam. His final assignment was chief, War Games Division, U.S. Continental Army Command.
After retiring on 1 Jun 1962, Colonel Lahti served as consultant with the Research and Analysis Corporation, the Army's primary test and research facility. He was designated a special government employee and was the expert war gamer for the Air Assault concept. At the conclusion of this phase of his career, he became a tax consultant to assist the elderly and disabled. He authored two books after retirement, an autobiography entitled The Memoirs of an Angel and the story of his regiment's occupation service, The Occupation of Japan.
Edward Lahti and his wife Lucille "Cindy" Hannah Lahti were residents of Herndon, VA, for more than 40 years. Lucille died on 6 Jun 2002. Colonel Lahti was buried with full military honors. "Duty, Honor, Country" was his lifelong personal motto.
To learn more about Big Ed's historic unit and the intrepid men who fought in it, you can order Jeremy C. Holm's new book, WHEN ANGELS FALL: From Toccoa to Tokyo, The 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War II by visiting our online store or purchasing a copy wherever books are sold.