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‘We jumped everywhere we were not supposed to be’

Don Jakeway jumped out of a C-47 Skytrain troop carrier plane, plummeting through the after-midnight darkness and left hanging by a parachute from a tree limb in the French village of Ste. Mere Eglise in Normandy. Precariously, and ever so dangerously, the Johnstown, Ohio, paratrooper had dropped into the unknown and into history.
   Jakeway was an Army paratrooper with the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment with 82nd Airborne Division. “When we jumped there, we jumped everywhere we were not supposed to be,” said Jakeway, now 91. “A trip into Normandy itself was quite an experience.” The soldiers heading over the English Channel and into France were concerned about dropping into the water. Loaded with gear — landmines, a reserve parachute, ammunition, weapons, canteens, K-rations and bayonet — Jakeway said soldiers like him who weighed about 180 pounds could tip the scales at 325 pounds. “It took everything we could do just to get on the plane or to get up off the seat and jump out of that plane,” he said.
   “When I landed in the tree, of course, I was scared to death because you didn’t want to be caught in a tree,” he said. He had been issued a cricket, or noise-making device, to click in order to locate fellow soldiers. But with German soldiers lurking in hedgerows or hidden corners, he didn’t think it wise to start making noise. “Being in the dark out there by myself, I threw my cricket away,” he said. “If they want to find me, they’re going to have to find me.
  ” Dispersing the troops had one highlight, he said. “I think if we had all landed in one place, I don’t think we would have made it,” he said. Of the 12,000 soldiers with whom he parachuted in, 3,200 made it out alive, he said. “I lost seven men in my squad and I don’t know how I got out of there, but I did,” he said. “A lot of times I sit there and wonder how I made it out of there because I can tell you there were 40 times when I shouldn’t have.”
   He is in Normandy today for the 70th anniversary. He went there on a business trip decades after the war. “It’s very emotional because a lot of the places when I went back over there looked almost the same as they did during the war,” he said. “It hasn’t changed much.”

[Dayton Daily News, Dayton, OH, 06 Jun 2014, Fri, Page 6]

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