Airmen see D-Day reenacted

Capt. Tracy Page
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, American forces landed
gliders and dropped troops out of C-47s to secure the French
countryside before the major beach landing in Normandy.

Sixty-two years later, the small town of St. Mere Eglise, France,
welcomed two C-130s out of Ramstein and multinational paratroopers for
a formal reenactment of the historic D-Day troop drops.

Two full crews and maintenance personnel from the 37th Airlift Squadron
and 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flew the historic route to
Normandy and participated in a wide range of events held last week in
remembrance of World War II, said Lt. Col. Bill Ward, 37th AS commander.

Ramstein Airmen have been involved in the Normandy re-enactments since
the fifties, Colonel Ward said, but this is the first year that
paratroopers from Germany jumped alongside the Americans and French.

Participating in the reenactment was a once in a lifetime opportunity
for the men and women who traveled to Normandy from Ramstein Air Base.

“The universal response was–this is amazing, there is no way I could ever duplicate this experience,” Colonel Ward said.

“It was the best TDY I’ve been on in 12 years!” said Tech. Sgt. Dave Morse, a loadmaster who went to Normandy with the 37 AS.

This year, Colonel Ward said the leadership decided to spend more time
on the ground in Normandy than in years past. Participating Airmen got
a chance to stay for a few days instead of the quick down and back air

Colonel Ward said that interacting with the veterans from the original
air drop was a very important professional development opportunity for
his crews.

“These were the men from the greatest generation,” Colonel Ward said,
“some of them had tremendous stories, some of them were real
characters, some of them appeared to be just folks that had endured,
but it meant enough to them to cross several time zones and take an
international flight to come back.”

Another memorable event was a dinner with a French host family. Each
military member was matched up with a French family from the town of
St. Mere Eglise or a nearby village. The host families invited the
troops into their home to share an evening meal, he said.

“We experienced nothing but hospitality and gratitude,” Colonel Ward said,
“The French still like Americans and are grateful for what the Allies accomplished in World War II.”

Sixty-two years may seem like a long time, but it is fresh in the minds
of the people from the Normandy area, and it is still relevant today.

“It still matters to them generations later. It matters because if we
hadn’t made those beach landings, who knows what would have occurred.
It wasn’t immediately apparent at the time,” Colonel Ward said.