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Thomas J. Gintjee - HQ 1st

We made our 13th jump at night in England because we had not jumped since the states and also I suspect to get that unlucky number behind us.

We were finally sent to our airfields in early June and housed in hangars. The people of Nottingham sensed that this was something more than just an exercise, as many towns’ people lined the streets waving flags as we got on the buses.

Our briefings, to my mind, were devised by some seriously unbalanced people. We were shown maps with names of towns and villages cut out for security reasons, which rendered it a sheet of paper with a bunch of lines. (i.e., no reference points.)  At the eleventh hour when the complete map was shown, it became clear.

Next came an order that we were to drop with our weapons broken down or otherwise unloaded, the theory being that if we were only using knifes and bayonets, any firing could be assumed the enemy. (Any fool could have figured that out.)  Some heeded the weapons order, but most ignored it.

Our regiment, being green in a veteran division, was dropping further inland in Normandy to straddle key approaches and stop anything with mines. So each of us carried a landmine which is about the size of a six-inch car hubcap.

Besides the mine addition, we carried bandoleers of extra ammunition, smoke grenades, and extra socks. Grenades and other things were carried in our musette bag. Any one carrying exposed grenades in a paratroop jump is someone to avoid at all cost.

We also carried a gammon grenade, this was a British concoction which was a plastic explosive wrapped around a detonator and bound with black tape. It looked like a water canteen, more so because you twisted off the cap to activate it.

Our jump suits were anti-gas impregnated which made them look like something dipped in a light coloured mud. They were stiff and wrinkled and hot.

We earlier had an opportunity to write last letters to be mailed only in the event of you being killed. I declined; otherwise my mother would have gotten it when later I was reported killed in action. (KIA.) in Normandy on the first day.

We bordered the planes on the night of 5th June, 1944 at about 11.00 pm. Dusk was falling and we took off.

The mood was sober and sombre as on any other routine jump, as we had all learned to mask our private fears. The only diversion on this flight was when someone on this long flight had to relieve himself, usually at the last minute.The bulk of our equipment and the simple mechanics of relief would require the greatest or desperate urgency beyond belief.

The ride then began to get a little turbulent and some low clouds came into view, thickening at times to obscure the other planes. I could see something through the clouds, like a light show, far ahead of us on the horizon.

I quickly resumed my jump position (No. 3) assuming that we would jump before or after all that light.The ride seemed to be more turbulent and the plane appeared to bank to the left, then levelling off.The "Go" (Green.)  Light came on and we hit the door.

The opening shock of my parachute was the hardest that I have ever encountered. I quickly and automatically checked my canopy overhead.

But that wasn’t my immediate problem; things were going Zip, Zip, Zip.

I had no time to study the terrain or try to pick out any landmarks as my attention was focused on the light show below me. All kinds of tracer bullets were arcing around me, coming up as lazy fireflies and then Zipping past.

Two guns did finally isolate on me as I was coming down on a field about 50 by 100 yards, each straddling a corner of the field and holding me in a shallow crossfire. I came down between both guns which continued to fire at me.

Just then another paratrooper was coming down in the field and the guns were turned on him, he simply blew up in the air. They must have hit his landmine or gammon grenade for that kind of explosion.

The field suddenly lit up with what I thought was a flare, but it was a plane overhead on fire, and for the first time I saw "Rommel's Asparagus" planted in the field. These were wooden stakes to break up glider landings, but also to catch unwary paratroopers.These had mines placed on top of the wooden stakes.

Everything was then dark again.

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