A very exciting time for
us all, we knew we about to make history – but
would it be a good or a bad history? To see all these
troopers lined up in that C47, had to make you wonder
just what it would take to overpower them. Each one
had strapped to him: a steel helmet, a weapon and ammunition,
a main chute, a reserve chute, a shovel, a canteen
of water, a bayonet, and many other essentials. They
were awesome to behold. The delay because of the weather
had not been good as it just gave them more time to
think about what was ahead.
I was pretty well loaded also. I had the steel helmet,
a belt with ammunition and a big 45 pistol. I also
wore my primary chute and, by having to fly over the
English channel, had to wear a May West of life preserver.
Because the entire trip was over enemy territory, I
had to wear my flak vest as well.
Once in formation the command headed for Flatbush,
the point at which the friendly land of England would
be left behind. As we hit Flatbush the planes dropped
to 1.000 feet and kept descending until we were 500
feet above the water, hitting a steady 140 MPH indicated
air speed in order to conform to the rigidly established
time schedule. The closest following of designated
paths, times and altitudes were important because of
the necessity of fitting the airborne operation in
with the entire invasion and because friendly gunners
might fire upon planes which varied the pattern. The
pilots were aware that the corridor – 10 miles
wide, which would lead them across the Drop Zone (DZ) – was
designed to skirt as far as possible the range of enemy
Four minutes after the formation passed Flatbush,
navigation lights and cabin lamps were extinguished,
and the planes flew on in the dark. Below in the Channel,
a naval vessel called Gallup flashed it’s green
lights, and the pilots knew they were on course. Of
course the planners of the operation had known that
the planes could not reach German held soil undetected.
The giant ears of the German radar devices, were expected
to pick up the intruders 10 to 15 minutes before we
could make a landfall and track us in. In an effort
to confuse these defenses, a diversionary force of
the RAF Stirlings parted with the C47 formation to
simulate an airborne attack closer to the base of the
peninsula on it’s West Coast.
At Hoboken, identified by another ship’s flashing
lights, the troop carrying planes swung to the left
to cut across the peninsula to the DZ. The Stirlings
went straight instead of making the turn and dropped
large quantities of “window” strips of
silver paper, which have the same effect on radar devices
as do aircraft.
Colonel Krebs and his co-pilot Lt. Colonel Howard
W. Cannon (then a major), saw the green light of Hoboken
flashing it’s long-short-long-short. The right
wing lifted up and the plane swung up to the left,
with the others of the group still in formation behind
it. They were climbing now nosing toward the 1500 feet
at which we would enter the air over France. Intense
light flak, which had come at us from the Channel Islands,
became thicker now as we reached the mainland. The
crew, most of us in combat for the first time, could
see the balls of flame coming up with deceptive laziness.
They didn’t look particularly dangerous until
they began to strike and tear planes.
Without wavering however the 45 planes stuck to the
course nosing down toward the 700 feet at which the
jump would be made and slowing in the midst of that
deadly fire to 125 miles an hour. By this time clouds
were making it difficult to see landmarks, and locating
the DZ was based largely on instrument skill. Pathfinder
troops who had jumped shortly before had laid out a “T” of
red lights to mark the location of the zone. Only a
few of the pilots however were able to see and make
use of this aid.
The land consisted of rolling fields half cultivated
and half left to pasture separated by hedges or rows
of trees. Just East of the Y of the Douve and Merderet
rivers lay an oval shaped flooded area between a double
track railway and the Carentan – Ste Mere Eglise
highway. Drop Zone “D” the target for the
440th lay South West of Ste Mere Eglise near this flooded
area and the highway.
In the planes the paratroopers were standing their
chutes hooked up for the jump. The red light flashed
in each cabin. It would only be a few minutes now.
Tense and quiet the troopers waited. Pilots and crews
were tense too. They were determined to put there fighting
men where they were supposed to go. Suddenly the DZ
was below us and the pilot ht the control which flashed
the green light. That was the signal for the paratroopers
to hit the silk and routinely the men stepped out of
the door. They went out fast very fast but without
disorder. One minute the plane was full of men the
next it was empty.
My job now was to pull in all the shroud lines of
all the troopers who had just left the plane. It was
not an easy chore. Each chute had a canvas cover which
stayed on the shroud and with the wind resistance of
the now accelerating and turning plane the footing
was treacherous. The lack of light in the cabin added
difficulty to the job. It was at this point that I
determined my five-foot-six-inches of height and weight
of one-hundred-thirty pounds was a liability rather
then an asset. I had always bragged about it when heavy
work was involved and I was not called upon. This is
what gained me the nickname “Little one”.
Charles Everett Bullard
Above is an exerpt of his tremendous book "Click
here for details.