Seventy years ago the C-47 cargo plane named Whiskey 7 (W-7) took off as the lead ship of the 37th Troop Carrier Squadron to drop elements of the 82nd Airborne Division behind enemy lines, on D-Day, near St. Mere Eglise, Normandy, France. Thirteen thousand Airborne troops took off in the dark of night on June 6, 1944 to do their part in the monumental efforts of that day, and W-7, the C-47 Dakota converted cargo aircraft, would deliver its compliment of paratroopers to begin the final efforts of WWII to defeat the Nazi war machine, and to end its tyrannical conquest of Europe.
Tremendous efforts were taken to restore her and to fly her back to Normandy on the seventieth anniversary of the Normandy landings. The ship was flown there from the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo, NY to be a major feature of the memorial events. It was actually flown over Normandy and dropped a contingent of paratroopers to commemorate those who jumped into the hell of that day seven decades ago. That paratrooper drop can be seen in the video below.
It actually carried one other passenger as well, a 92-year-old man, who actually jumped from W-7 that dark morning. The plane was piloted by a Vietnam veteran of the 101st Airborne Division and his son, a career Army officer with the 82nd Airborne Division, who is a veteran of the Iraq war one of the paratroopers who participated in the jump.
The Normandy invasion, that began that terrible, bloody day more than seventy years ago, changed the world and began the last chapter of the worst war of the 20th century, WWII. On that day thousands of young men from the U.S., Canada and England swept ashore under heavy fire to begin the effort to take Europe back from the Nazis. The paratroopers who had jumped earlier that morning behind the lines from hundreds of other C-47s were already struggling against the enemy and trying to achieve their objectives. The beaches would be taken at a heavy cost and the paratroopers who landed behind German lines that morning would pay a heavy cost as well as they met the enemy and liberated the first towns.
There are not many men still alive from that war. And there are fewer still who actually went ashore or parachuted behind enemy lines that day. Their generation did more for freedom for more people during the war and after than any generation before or after. We must not forget them or the monumental sacrifices they made for human liberty and prosperity. We thank them by remembering them. They are truly the Greatest Generation.
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.