'all you could see was airplanes'
21-tyear-old Frank Circelli weighed 162 pounds, packed on a flat
frame. But, when his lumpy uniform was lifted, shoved and
grunted aboard a C-47 (DC-3) after traveling by truck from the 82nd
Airborne Division's garrison outside Nottingham, England, the scales
would have put him closer to 300.
Each paratrooper of the 92nd and 101 U.S. Airborne Divisions in the
Normandy drop carried ammunition, rations, grenades, etc. he could
expect for days to come. Weapons heavier than rifles, Tommy
guns and the like were packaged, fitted with lights --- red, blue,
green, etc. for identification --- and often were last seen when
pushed from the aircraft. Combat drops at night weren't then
--- and aren't today --- an exact science.
A member of Headquarters Cp., 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute
Infantry, Pvt Circelli played poker in the early evening of June 5
with other soldiers of his outfit. When sergeants broke up the
game, Frank was a few bucks ahead. it took him the best part
of an hour to get dressed and inspected. He recalls that he
wore only one parachute.
'All you could see was airplanes as we crossed the English
Channel," Frank says. "They were above and below and
alongside. When we hit land, we started getting ack-ack and stuff
thrown up at us aid it got very bumpy."
(The 82nd's drop called for an approach from the south and west
coast of the Cotentin (Normandy) Peninsula , then north to an area
behind Utah Beach, midway to the peninsula. The general
mission was to prevent effective German response to the seaborne
invasion or exit from the peninsula, secure bridgeheads across a
broad, marshy area and cause all possible havoc among the German
garrison --- ed.)
"Our plane was bouncing like a popcorn pan but we got the red
light. I was with the S-2 (Intelligence) in battalion
headquarters. But, it all happened so quick. When we
came out of the plane, we came down so damned fast you didn't know
what was happening.
"We were getting tracer among us, like the Fourth of July, when if
landed in marshland. I was about knee deep in water.
instead of unbuckling, i cut off my 'chute and assembled my rifle, I
was all alone, couldn't hear anybody. So I crawled through the
muck and water until I heard a 'click-click.'"
*Each trooper had a mechanical "cricket,
a child's toy for identification purposes in the dark.)
I met up with one guy and, in 15-20
minutes there were six or seven of us. By daylight, we had
15-20 together. We didn't know where the hell we were at.
About 10-11 o'clock we ran across Capt.. Adams of A Company and he
formed us up; during the afternoon, we ran into a hell of a lot of
Germans as we went from hedgerow to hedgerow. We shot some and
chased some but we found more and more of the airborne guys.
We didn't see any other Americans for five days.
The day before that, Pvt Circelli was wounded as he carried plasma
to the 2ned Battalion. Hit in the mouth and both arms, he ws
placed in a slit trench that night and was sent to the hospital when
the seaborne invaders met his isolated group of paratroopers.
[The Miami News (Miami, Florida) · Fri, Jun 6, 1969 ·
Other Editions · Pages 1 and 11]