Sunday, July 18, 2010

The famous church at St. Mere Eglise and a 82nd Airborne Division vet remembers

The famous church at St. Mere Eglise. The second combat jump of the 82nd Airborne Division. I can not remember the name of the movie but actor/comedienne Red Buttons portrayed the paratrooper that got hung up on the church.(The Longest Day-John Wayne and a cast of thousands).  It is a true story and is part of what I was forced to learn as a member of the 82nd. Airborne Infantry.  In addition to Parachute Infantry Regiments some units were designated Glider Infantry Regiments. Thank God they did away with gliders. At the 82nd Airborne Museum at Ft. Bragg they have a C-47 and several gliders in original condition. Some of the gliders still have original German antiaircraft bullet holes in them. It was not uncommon for glider infantrymen to have been shot in the ass. Hell of a way to get a purple heart and a brief stay at an Army hospital in England. One things for sure my predecessors  in the 82nd were some tough sons of  bitches.
Lastly I almost forgot the reason for the guys getting hung up in trees and on church steeples. Some general (probably Matthew B. Ridgeway the first division commander of the 82nd Airborne Division) decided to lower the altitude for combat jumps from 10,000 feet to 600 feet. What he didn't realize is that it takes almost 1000 feet for your chute to fully deploy when jumping from a static line. Thus the poor bastards that jumped into St. Mere had chutes that were barely opened and obviously although not as maneuverable as current chutes it became impossible to maneuver away from obstacles especially in the dark of night. Funny how we learn from serious mistakes. A lot of 82nd and 101st troopers bought the farm at St. Mere Eglise.

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