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Normandy Thoughts
John P. DeLury (Co H)


I'll have to start in England to put my thoughts on Normandy together.

A Lt. Denver D. Albrecht was giving the platoon a talk on the then very new Radar School. It was later labeled Pathfinder's School. He said they needed volunteers to jump before the main body of troops, to guide the planes to their objective with radio signals and a series of lights. A few of us agreed to volunteer, but when all the talk was over, I think Fayette O. Richardson and me were the only two from our Company who went.

We made a few night jumps and did extensive training. Early evening we had a truck that left the airfield and took us to a snail English town where we made our Pub calls and did our thing. Our regular route took us past an Italian War Prisoner Compound. The prisoners used to sit out behind the barbed wire in their chocolate colored uniforms and sun themselves. One afternoon we were all standing in the back of the uncovered truck going to town riding past the Compound, when all of a sudden they started to throw potatoes at the American paratroopers, which as we all know, was a big Italian no-no. The following day as our truck neared the Prison Compound, all of us had large rocks in our throwing hands, and the unsuspecting Italian sun worshipers got a big surprise. Needless to say when the truck went by the Compound thereafter, there were no sunbathers outside the building.

The aforementioned truck played a large part in my future destiny. While in town one night I missed the truck by minutes going back to the airfield, and I had no way of getting there. The town was twenty four miles from the base, so I decided to walk. Well, I walked all night and just missed morning roll call by minutes, The Table of Organization called for twenty three paratroopers, and there were twenty five. There were two extra in case of injuries. So before Normandy two had to be sent back to the Regiment at Nottingham, and since I did not make roll call that morning, I was one of the two sent back. Personally, I [think that I] should have gotten a commendation for walking all night.
The casualties incurred at Radar School were two killed and one almost. I was the almost. It was a night jump simulating the upcoming Normandy Drop, I went out the door of the plane and my descent was arrested by what felt like a normal opening shock. I had no feeling of falling faster than usual. But to my consternation little white ice-cream cone shapes seemed to be rising all around me quite rapidly. I looked up at my chute and all the risers, instead of supporting me from the circumference of my parachute, were lain across the center, and both halves were spilling air very rapidly; in the airborne vernacular of the day, it was referred to as a Mae West. I pulled my reserve in time, got a second opening shock and hit the ground with such force that I was nearly knocked unconscious.. Another trooper was not so lucky. His chute failed to open and he was killed. And on a day mission we set up orange smoke pots to bring in a formation of troop carrying gliders. A glider pilot from the first group of planes to land was running across the airfield when a glider from the following echelon severed his head with a wing strut. Someone placed his head in a canvas musette bug while the operation continued.

Well, when I got back to Company H, I had another surprise. The Company had to send two paratroopers for a Divisional exercise simulating the flight pattern and troop dispersal for D-Day. Being as I was already technically detailed to Radar School, they just swung me over to the other detail without any disruption in any of the squads. Well, away I went again to another strange airfield for a few days. The operation consisted of a single plane with a single paratrooper representing a Battalion of troops and the necessary planes to transport them. It was going to be a night jump somewhere in Southern England. I was instructed when I hit the ground to go to the nearest house, find out just where I was, mark it on the map I carried, then call a special telephone number and someone would pick me up (if I was whole), bring me to an airfield and fly me back up to the Nottingham area.

It looked very good on paper, but as usual it was all fouled up, I was in the plane for an hour or so flying through the English night with the door off. I had a jump master who was formerly a student pilot in the Army Air Force, and he buffed [sic] the two pilots up front during the flight, so I had the whole black plane all to my lonesome with the engine roar slamming through the door opening and the engine sparks streaking by. Finally the jump master, who was a 1st Lt. Parachute Officer, came out of the cockpit area and told me to stand up and hook up which I did. Since I was the only one jumping, I had to stand in the door. Well, I must have stood there five minutes; it seemed like five hours. Finally he again returned from up front and told me to sit down. The whole operation had been scrubbed. Some planes were too high and too far dispersed to have any semblance of an orderly pattern if they let the troopers jump, which was exactly what happened on D-Day. Many of us were scattered miles from where we were supposed to be.

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