Weather was the deciding factor. The jump was scheduled for 1 p.m. June 5 at the Iron Mike drop zone. The day started out with low clouds and a slight breeze from the north. Exactly 105 paratroopers boarded five C-130s and headed out over the English Channel enroute to St. Mère Eglise, France. The last 10 minutes of the 50-minute flight followed the same heading as 61 years prior. We were all very anxious.
We understood this was a privilege to jump with the U.S. Army. It’s really their story and their turf. And the first time French and German paratroopers were jumping together.
It took several hours before we made the first of five passes. After three failed attempts at 1,000 feet above ground level and with limited visibility, we became the lead aircraft and dropped down to 800 feet. When the green light came on, we were given 30 seconds and we knew it was time. The aircraft released its precious cargo. It was the fastest exit in 13 seconds over the drop zone that we’ve ever seen.
We recall being watery eyed as we approached the door, knowing that the Soldiers who preceded us in 1944, had a two to four chance out of 10, at surviving, and they did it fearlessly. And unlike them, we were jumping over hallowed ground.
Canopies filled the air, along with the clouds and rain.
When we landed, it was soft, deep grass, and it was wet and drizzly, but several children rushed-up asking for jump wings from the jumpers. Most of us were “jumping-in” personal items such as wings, badges and flags and things to pass on to families that represent this historic event.
We heard and saw the crowd over the periphery, applauding. The World War II veterans and distinguished visitors sat in a white tent. 1940s music played over the loud speaker.
We could feel the history and excitement as our stick gathered, to march to the U.S. Parachutist Memorial of Iron Mike, across the famous La Fière causeway bridge that was so heroically defended that same day in 1944.
The 786th Security Forces Squadron members chose to march from the statue to St. Mère Eglise to celebrate the moment in U.S. Air Force style.
The jump wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the persistence and patience of the aircrews, from the 86th Airlift Wing and the Air National Guard. As an Airman seeing it from the Army viewpoint, a good airlift is a blessing still, 61 years later!