As anxious editors waited in
newsrooms throughout the country for updated bulletins on the
Normandy invasion, a picture slowly materialized over the photo
It was a photograph of an unidentified young paratrooper standing in the
doorway of a transport plane anticipating the green light to jump.
Intense and appearing slightly apprehensive, he gripped the strap
of his helmet fastened under his chin. Moments later, he and a plane
load of others leaped into thin air — in a training jump at Fort
Benning, Ga. That moment came to symbolize the real thing over
Normandy, France, shortly after the invasion got under way.
No photographers were on the plane over Normandy as this unidentified
paratrooper jumped for real into the night sky with a hail of
machine gun fire ripping into the plane.
The training picture soon flashed across the country on front pages of
newspapers to depict the jump by paratroopers.
picture was published again 50 years later in the book 7 Remember Normandy"
by the historian of the Memorial
Museum in Caen, France. The photo had also served for years as the
central focus of a 10-foot high mural of the D-Day diorama on
display at the American Airpower Heritage Museum in Midland, Texas.
this young paratrooper? Nobody at the museum in Texas seemed to
know, not even the museum director. The photo had come from the
picture appeared again — in the November 1996 issue of the
in an article about the Confederate
Air Force. William L. Terry, a Little Rock lawyer and wartime
crewmember on a B-17 bomber, took one look at the photograph and
instantly recognized his longtime friend, Samuel C. Rowland II, a
Little Rock insur-
and business leader who died in 1995.
widow, Betty Rowland Wittenberg, has provided a copy of the letter
Terry dashed off to the magazine identifying Rowland as the unknown
paratrooper — a member of the 508th Infantry Parachute Regiment who
dropped into Normandy behind Utah Beach. Rowland, as Terry noted,
had served in the Normandy campaign and had fought in the Battle of
letter mentions a visit he and his wife took with the Rowlands to
Normandy in 1993. One result of their visit was publication of the
same photograph in a French publication on the 50th anniversary of
that the American Air Power Heritage Museum would be interested in
the identification of the photo in its display," he wrote, "and
accordingly am furnishing the museum a copy of this letter."
local chapter of the Air Force Association at Little Rock Air Force
Base is named for Terry's deceased brother, Col. David D. Terry
Jr., who commanded the 33rd Fighter Group of the 10th Air Force
during the war in Burma-Assam.)
written by Mrs. Wittenberg — quoted in the museum's newsletter —
mentions that Rowland's transport plane was off course at the time
of the drop, and the paratroopers landed in six feet of water in a
field the Germans had flooded. Rowland's gear was entangled with
his parachute lines, but he managed to free himself and join
several other members of his unit.
she wrote, they sat on a hill overlooking Utah Beach and watched the
landings. Rowland's division spent 38 days in the Normandy area
chasing after fleeing enemy soldiers."
visit to Normandy with her husband and the Terrys, as Mrs.
Wittenberg recalls, they retraced Rowland's war steps, guided
Gipari, a young woman whose
father had served with the Free French fighters. A
moving experience for all, she said, noting that Terry
had flown on bombing raids over Normandy in preparation for the
at Caen asked Roland for pictures and information about his
pre-invasion training. He included a print of his famous picture.
The pictures and his story fill a full page in a book authored by
the museum director.
told Mrs. Wittenberg about the mural at the museum in Midland, she
contacted its director, Tami O'Bannon, and sent a copy of a letter
her late husband had written to his stepfather after his 38-day tour
at Normandy. The museum placed the letter beside the famous photo
under a belated identification of the 21-year-old paratrooper where
lived his last 50 years in Little Rock. Rowland's name is listed on
the museum's Wall of Honor. And his famous picture graces a brochure
Backward Glances appears Tuesdays and Thursdays in Style. He has
been a reporter, writer and editor for the
Democrat-Gazette, March 26, 1998]
[Article courtesy of the LeFebvre Collection]