The Unusual Backstory To Shouting Geronimo When Jumping

You may have heard some people yelling "Geronimo" as they jump from a high spot, or you may have even done it yourself a few times. But have you ever wondered why people do it and who Geronimo is? The history is quite interesting and dates back to the 1940s. According to Reader's Digest, a private in the U.S. Army was the first person who shouted Geronimo as he jumped off a plane — and no, his name wasn't Geronimo.

In the 1940s, the U.S. Army was still in the process of developing an effective way to deploy soldiers out of planes. One of the soldiers named Aubrey Eberhardt was part of the first units to test the feasibility of jumping from a plane with parachutes. On the eve of the first jump, Eberhardt and his fellow soldiers — who were based in Fort Benning, Georgia — decided to have a fun night in town, per Business Insider. The group went drinking, and they also saw a movie titled "Geronimo," a film about the leader of the Apache tribe who led his warriors against a battle with Americans.

The start of a tradition

It's not known how the soldiers felt about their upcoming jump the next day, but as reported by Today I Found Out, Aubrey Eberhardt told his comrades that he wasn't nervous at all. With an imposing height over 6 feet, Eberhardt wanted to show them that he was no coward. Despite his utterance of bravery, one soldier teased him by saying, "You'll be so scared, you won't remember your own name." Eberhardt then stated, "I'll tell you jokers what I'm gonna do! To prove to you that I'm not scared out of my wits when I jump, I'm gonna yell 'Geronimo' loud as hell when I go out that door tomorrow!."

The next day, the soldiers did their jump. One by one, they leaped off the plane while yelling their own names. It was finally Eberhardt's turn and as he promised, he yelled "Geronimo!" at the top of his lungs as he jumped, according to Business Insider. Other soldiers followed suit, and the tradition was born. Higher-ups in the Army weren't so happy with the behavior, but they nevertheless allowed the soldiers to keep the tradition. The very first parachute-ready unit — the 501st Parachute Infantry Battalion — was formed in 1941, and the word "Geronimo" was added to their insignia.