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Thomas W. Porcella - H Co.

Stand up and hook up! The silence was broken and we jumped up and snapped our hooks on to the wire.

Then the sergeant called, "KEEP YOUR HAND ON THE D-RING WHEN YOU LEAVE THE PLANE. Sound off for equipment,"

Check, I shouted.

"17 O.K.," the next man shouted, "16 O.K.," the countdown continued until 1 O.K.

"STAND IN THE DOOR", my heart was pounding and I [said] a prayer to myself.

I shouted "WHAT TIME IS IT?"  It was 02.30, although I don’t know who answered.I don’t know why I asked for the time, but I suppose it relieved the tension.

I felt I was all alone, and continued to pray.

The first man held his position in the doorway and we all shuffled up tightly and kept the pressure on him until we heard, "ARE YOU READY?"

All together we yelled, "YEAH!".

"LETS GO!"  With the roar of the engines in my ears I was out the door and into the silence of the night. I realized I had made the jump into darkness.

As the chute popped open my head snapped forward and my feet came up, my helmet was pushed slightly over my face. The jolt of the opening of the chute made everything a reality. I looked up at my chute to make sure it was o.k., and then looked down and couldn’t see anything but blackness.

I unfastened the main belt, unsnapped my reserve and let it drop to the ground. I opened the chest strap, now all I had to do on the ground was remove the leg straps and I would be free from my parachute.

For a few seconds on the way down, I looked and saw red and green flares. The brightness of tracers flying through into the sky and the firing of machine guns seemed to be all around me. I thought [it was] just like the 4th of July.

Looking up at the chute and then down at my feet, I had the shock of my life. I plunged into water.

My heart was pounding and my thoughts were running a mile a minute.

"How deep is the water?"

"Can I get free of my chute?"

"Am I too heavy?"

"Will the weight keep on the bottom?"

I hit the water in a standing position, and when my feet touched the bottom I was slightly forward.I straightened and kicked up for air. The water was not as deep as I expected so I held my breath and tried to stand. The water was just above my nose.

Quickly I stood on my toes and gasped for another gulp of air. My heart was beating so rapidly that I thought it would burst. I pleaded, "OH GOD, PLEASE DON’T LET ME DROWN."

Below the water I went and tried to remove the leg straps. They were to tight and wouldn’t unsnap.

Needing more air I jumped up, and as soon as my head was above water I began splashing around. I started to pray, standing on my toes with my head barely above the water, my heart was beating faster.

After a few seconds I calmed down and decided to cut the straps.


Going down in to the water again, I felt for my right boot.

YES, THE KNIFE IS STILL THERE!"  I slipped my hand through the loop and tightly gripped the handle. With a fast upward motion I removed the knife from the sheath.

Quickly I jumped up for more air and stood still for a while thinking now I have a chance.

Holding the knife tighter as I went below the water, I slipped it between my leg and the strap, working back and forth in an upward motion, nothing happened.

In a panic I came up for another breath of air and thought my heart would burst from fright. I wanted to scream for help but knew that could make matters worse.

I told myself I must think, think why I cant cut the strap. My knife is razor sharp.

As I was gasping for air I kept saying Hail Mary’s. It seemed an eternity before I realized I had the blade upside down.

"THAT’S IT, I, M USING THE BACK OF THE BLADE!"  I touched the sharp edge and made sure it was in an upright position.

Taking another gulp of air, I went down again to cut the leg straps. With a few pulls of the knife on each strap I was finally free from my chute.

Getting rid of the chute calmed me down a little, but the weight of the musette bag and a land mine was still holding me down. With a few rapid strokes of the knife I cut loose the land mine. Then I unfastened the straps of the musette bag and let it fall.

I adjusted the rifle and bandoleers of ammo into a more comfortable position. Then I cut away the gas mask and removed the hand grenades from my leg pockets and put them into the lower jacket pockets. Reaching up I unfastened the chinstrap of the helmet and let it fall into the water.

After taking another deep breath, I bent down to retrieve the musette bag. Except for the wool cap, the entire contents were disposed of, and the bag was then thrown over my head to hang behind me.

I became conscious of the rifle and machine gun fire in the distance and I was gripped by fear.All the training I had received had not prepared me for a landing like this – in the water. The equipment I carried was heavy, and I was terrified I would drown because of it. I hesitated to move for fear of walking into deeper water.

I needed to find a spot where the water was a little lower so I could get off my toes and rest. Moving slowly, inch by inch the water became shallower. When it was chest high I stopped and rested, trying to decide which way to go.

My eyes strained to see a landmark but I could see nothing in the darkness.

I was cold and began to shiver.

We had been told at the briefings to go in the direction of the next plane coming in if we were separated from the squad. Suppose there are no more planes – then what should I do?

The water seemed to be getting colder now. My shivering got worse and my teeth were chattering.

I must keep moving then I wouldn’t feel the cold so much.

The water was now at waist level and I believe I was walking to higher ground. I kept moving but the water became deeper. I turned and returned to the waist high water.

In the distance to my left I could hear the sound of airplane engines coming in my direction and getting louder. All hell broke loose as rifles and machine guns began firing and I watched the tracers flying into the air.

Suddenly there was a huge burst of orange flame coming from both engines of a plane. As the plane came down it sounded like the scream of human beings about to die.

I could not believe what was happening. I just stood still, seeing, hearing.

Suddenly I realized the plane was heading straight for me, in a ball of flames and screeching for help. As fast as could I moved to the right, trying to get out of its path.


In a panic I tried to run the other way. The flames lit up the darkness and with screaming engines the plane crashed.

It was dark again and became very quiet.

As I stood shaking in the cold water I wondered if the troopers had bailed out before the crash. I’ll head in that direction and maybe I will join up with some of them?

I have to get out of this water before daylight; if I’m spotted by the Germans they’ll use me for target practice. I was still shoulder high water and was pushing my way through some reeds.

"No I couldn’t be!"

"Did I hear a voice?"

Pushing the reeds away as I walked, I heard the password, FLASH; I recognised the voice to be Dale Cables. Pushing the reeds from side to side, my right arm hit against a hard object and I heard the click of a trigger.

Cable hollered FLASH, again while he cocked the bolt of his weapon and put a round in the chamber. Immediately I replied, THUNDER, he recognised my voice and proceeded to give me hell for not answering the first time.

His rifle was a few inch’s from my face.  

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