Through their eyes. The jump into Normandy.

Through their eyes. The jump into Normandy.

Ken Russell: “I saw something I never want to see in my life. I looked to my right, I saw a guy, and instantaneously, there was just an empty parachute coming down. A shell of some kind must have hit one of his Gammon grenades. He was blown away.… I was trying to hide behind my reserve chute because you could hear the shells hitting. We were all sitting ducks coming down. One guy landed in the fire [at Sainte-Mère-Église]. I heard him scream one time before he hit the fire. I saw him land in the fire. It was the heat from the fire that was drawing all these parachutes towards the fire.”

Tom Alley, 101st: “I saw the fire near the square at Sainte-Mère-Église. I don’t know if it was a house or a barn. I slipped my chute to the right, as hard as I could do so safely to avoid landing in the fire. The machine-gun tracers were so thick it was like you could walk down them to the ground.”

Guerdon Walthall: “I saw a tracer go through the fellow below me, and I really started sweating out getting hit before I reached the ground.” 

Robert Flory, 101st: “I remember the sky was criss-crossed with tracer bullets and flak. The noise was terrible. I looked down and immediately went into a state of shock. I was over water. My first thought was that the SOB pilot had dropped us over the English Channel. I looked to my right and saw a herd of dairy cows grazing.”

Edward Isbell, 82nd: “The bullets were cracking all around me. I could see the flash of their rifles as we were coming down and knew that I was going to land in their laps. I went limp, dropping my arms as if I had been hit.”

Frank Brumbaugh, 82nd: “I couldn’t see much of the ground—it was more or less of a blur—but I watched all these tracers and shell bursts and everything in the air around me. A stream of tracers, obviously from a machine gun, looked like it was coming directly at me. Intellectually, I knew I could not be seen from the ground under my camouflage chute, but the stream of tracers still came directly at me. It was obviously a futile, but normal, gesture, I guess. I spread my legs widely and grabbed with both hands at my groin as if to protect myself. Those machine gun bullets traced up the inside of my leg, missed my groin but split my pants, dropping both my cartons of Pall Mall cigarettes onto the soil of France.”

Roy King, 82nd: “I was fascinated by the sight of the tracers flying around everywhere when I saw a huge explosion blossom directly below me.… A plane between me and the ground. No, it was not in trouble, I was! I was above the stream of airplanes that had just dropped their troopers and equipment. My immediate concern was that I could be chopped to pieces by the propellers of the oncoming planes. I was trying furiously to turn and face the oncoming planes in order to be able to see how to safely maneuver through them. I dropped safely through them in spite of my near-hysterical struggles.”

William Dunfee, 82nd: “Looking around, I spotted Jim Beavers next to me and our equipment bundle off to one side. Then, looking down, I saw C-47s flying below us. That scared the hell out of me, and I started cussing them. I didn’t want to be turned into hamburger by our own air force.… While descending, I regained my composure, since it appeared we were going to make it down in one piece.”

Guerdon Walthall, 101st: “When my chute popped open, I thought it was torn in half. I felt a wrench at my leg. When I looked down, my leg pack was gone…. All I could see were tracers racing from every corner of every hedgerow and the boom of mortars and 88s on the field below.”

Jim “Pee-Wee” Martin, 101st: “I stepped out to meet a ladder of flak and tracers. Thank God, I missed all the rungs on the way down.”

Burt Collier, 101st: “I was trying to hang onto my musette bag because I found a broken strap on it on the flight over and had been wondering the whole time whether I could reach under my pack with one hand and hang onto it.… I accidentally pulled one of the cords for that side of my Mae West [an inflatable flotation device that went around the neck and chest], which was under my harness. When it inflated, I couldn’t breathe until I hit the ground and found my switchblade and stabbed it.”