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NORMANDY EXPERIENCES

'all you could see was airplanes'

   Normally, 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]

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