Paratroopers of D-Day
It’s roughly 1 AM. A C-47 Skytrain plane drones over Nazi-occupied Normandy. A man aged 21 kisses the crucifix on his neck, as he believes today’s invasion could be his last. He takes a final deep breath and jumps out of the plane.
This man was one of 13,000 U.S. Paratroopers who stormed Normandy, France on June 6th, 1944 in order to liberate it from the Nazis. It was a World War ll turning point known as Operation Overlord or D-Day. In total, 1.5 million U.S. troops were deployed to Normandy that day between Air Force bombers, Naval Battleships, and Army Infantrymen.
First, the Special Air Service struck with a bit of clever trickery. C-47 Skytrains dropped thousands of human-shaped dummies, “para dummies,” filled with TNT over the opposite end of Normandy. Upon seeing these para dummies, Germany believed that an invasion was beginning in this area and ordered many ground troops to the location, only to be struck by the TNT. While Nazi troops clamored in this part of Normandy, the real Paratroopers headed for the coastline & peninsula.
A fleet of brave 82nd & 101st Airborne Paratroopers were then deployed in various locations, tasked with taking control of roads, railways, bridges, and waterways – six hours before the Army’s beach invasion. As with all allied forces, they were met with a slew of deadly, unforeseen obstacles.
A thick cloud cover prevented the C-47 planes from flying in a tight formation, causing many paratroopers to drop far from their intended landing zones. They were also forced to fly below the cloud covering, which was an unsafe altitude. Many planes came in so low that they were under machine gunfire. Some paratroops didn’t even have time to open their chutes, falling to their deaths.
Worst of all, hundreds of the paratroopers drowned. Nazi commander Erwin Rommel flooded several hundred miles of Normandy fields by damning up two major rivers. He had predicted Airborne attacks months beforehand. The Paratroopers, packed with over 100 pounds of gear, sank like stones. The only survivors were those who quickly removed said gear – unfortunately, removal of U.S. paratrooper harnesses was a laborious multi-step process at the time.
Incidentally, our scattered dispersal had the positive effect of confusing the Germans and fragmenting their response.
Today – June 6th, 2018 – marks the 74th anniversary of Operation Overlord. Despite setbacks, our Airborne Paratroopers laid the groundwork for our eventual victory over German forces. D-Day was, and still is, the largest invasion of its kind of all time. If you know a man from this operation, he deserves your thanks and a free meal today. Regardless, strike up a conversation with your family or friends about D-Day…lest it be forgotten.