All about 'the Drips Who Drop'
By Bill Sharp
Burlington — You don't have to be crazy to be a paratrooper "But' said the hard-bitten youngster solemnly "it still helps"
He and 39 of his fellows stood around, drank cold pop and gave a few pointers on paratroopers which are of especial significance as talk of a paratroop-led invasion of the Axis countries grows
The lean heavily encumbered and sun -tanned boys had just demonstrated that they not only can take it but they love to take it Scheduled to drop upon Fairchild Field here at 2:20 they arrived in Douglas transports at 2:17 on the dot flying at 600 feet. Suddenly with a rapidity which caught a crowd of 15000 completely unprepared, the sky was filled with billowing chutes hurtling men and equipment on to a space only 3500 feet long less than 300 feet wide. Only two chutists missed the mark and they landed close by.
Quickly forming ranks they advanced on the airfield hangar with
tommy-guns, mortars, grenades Firing with blank ammunition the squad quickly reduced the "strong point" and mopped it up with bayonet and grenade charge.
The spectators come to see the first flight of the new Fairchild gunner trainer plane built here, could hardly believe that such a maneuver could be executed so quickly precisely and so vigorously — especially in view of the 100-degree temperature which caused a number of bystanders to collapse,
The paratroopers didn't collapse, though they made their final dash across 700 feet at a dead run carrying full equipment.
That is because U S Army paratroopers are close to the finest
physical specimens of any group in the service All men in the 508th Regiment Camp Mackall from which this squadron came went through the tough examinations All of them have had Ranger training including below-the-belt-fight-ing All have had combat training under live ammunition.,
If you want to be a paratrooper you should love
to walk and run. Infantry the old "gravel crushers,'' makes an average of
2.8 miles an hour marching; paratroopers make 4.8. During basic
training the 508th learned to run six to eight miles — nonstop Then they are
taught to do it with 60 pounds of equipment. Parachute outfits hold all U S
records for dismounted military movements. One outfit made 125 miles in 72
hours. another marched 48 miles overnight!
"Diablo!" yell the men as they go out the door. It is the regimental battlecry; a horned red devil floating down in a parachute tommy-gun in hand makes the regimental badge (men of the 508th are "red devils"). They are proud of their ferocity as well as their toughness They have a sanguinity which can incongruously end upon a jaunty note in their unofficial ditties. The 508th has its own song too:
"We don't want to walk like the Infantry,
Shoot like the artillery.
Ride like the cavalry.
We just want to jump over Germany— We are the 508th"
Any mishap to a chute is a "malfunction" The song thus goes "Happy malfunctions to you Happy Malfunctions to etc" Parachute toast:
Height of a jump is usually 600 feet The men clear the plane at the rate of two a second and hit the ground within 45 seconds Within two minutes a squad can jump and slip out of their chutes and commence firing. Jumps have been made from as low as 350 feet which is "strictly rugged"' as one officer laconically put it.
Paratroops jump with two chutes, the main one on their backs (28 feet in diameter) and a reserve (22 feet) hooked on in front.
The reserve is released by ripcord, the main by a 15-foot long static line hooked to a cable inside the plane.
At 15 feet the static line rips off the pack cover begins drawing out the chute itself. At 43 feet the chute is fully drawn out and the fine silk "break-cord" connecting chute and static line breaks. After a further fall of around 50 feet the chute opens It should not take longer than two or three seconds In all a paratrooper usually drops around 100 feet down and 400 feet forward (momentum from the plane's speed) before his chute opens The gag is that if your chute doesn't open you can always turn it m for a new
[The News and Observer, Raleigh, NC, 04 Jul 1943, Sun, Page 25]