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Full reporting from both days of the DAKS over Duxford aspect of this event to commemorate the Airborne invasion of France on the 6th of June 1944 can be found here:
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Posted 30 January 2020 - 09:38 AM
I don't often log in here, and I've been somewhat delayed in posting my involvement in the D-Day +75 airborne operations.
I jumped with Daks over Normandy on 5 June, as the primary jumpmaster for WWII C-47 "Betsy's Biscuit Bomber", based out of Paso Robles, CA. I exited 21 jumpers over the historic "DZ K" in Sannerville, France after completing the cross-channel flight from Duxford, England. Flying across the English country side, over the cliffs of Dover, across the English Channel, and over the beaches of Normandy was an experience I'll never forget. Absolutely the coolest experience I've ever had in uniform. The icing on the cake was my brother pulled duties as my Safety (he got to exit too, we used jumping safeties).
I'm a currently serving paratrooper and not a reenactor, so I had to purchase uniforms for the event. Having never worn M42 uniforms (bought from At the Front) before, I was surprised how practically designed and comfortable they were. The M1 helmet (bought from JMurray1944) was heavy; not keeping 'chin to chest' probably would result in some nasty whiplash.. Most people were in M42s, although a few people were in Canadian or British uniforms. Generally, most uniforms were properly configured.
The parachutes used were mostly SF-10, MC1-1, and British LLP chutes. I jump a SF-10. I don't recall anyone jumping a non-steerable round.
The pilots and loadmasters for Betsy's Biscuit Bomber were great to work with. Good crew overall, excellent communication.
Since the airdrop plan was to have 2 passes, we decided against the traditional 'follow me!' jumpmaster exiting procedures. Instead, the we used a static jumpmaster on pass 1, and they exited by following the stick out on pass 2 (basically the same as current C130/C17 type ADEPT Option 1 exiting procedures). Once the JM was clear, the Safety exited. The aircrew retrieved static lines and deployment bags. For most of you, that probably is totally foreign, but it should make sense to any former paratroopers.
Organizationally, Daks over Normandy was an utter failure in planning, and a lot of guys made comparisons to it being an airborne Fyre Festival. The event organizer over promised and under delivered repeatedly. The 4 June rehearsal jump in Duxford England was never coordinated, and was doomed from the start. Neither were the demo jumps with Black Daggers, Golden Knights, and Red Devils (there wasn't even a NOTAM ever submitted or official requests filed with the CAA). As weather would have it, the jump probably would have been scratched anyways. I spent the day hanging out with guys from II Battalion, Parachute Regiment and touring the Imperial War Museum - probably the finest aviation museum I've ever seen. When I return to England in the future, I'll make an effort to visit Duxford again.
The 5 June cross channel jump barely happened, and would have certainly failed had it not been for some strong initiative on the part of some motivated JMs stepping up. 20+ guys were scratched because of losing aircraft due to maintenance; I'm sure that was very disappointing for them. Final manifest, Sustained Airborne Training (for those who even did it.. yikes), and JMPI was informal, to say the least..
Once we got wheels up and the flight crew took over, things began to improve. The cross channel flight in the C-47 aircraft formation, with fighter escort, was a once in a lifetime opportunity. We took the aircraft paratroop door off just before the Normandy coast, and I hooked up and stood in the door for close to 15 minutes while approaching the DZ.
Despite all of the problems with Daks, at the end of the day it was an absolutely incredible experience. Exiting that aircraft with aircraft and jumpers above, below, and beside me was the wildest jump I've ever had and far more chaotic than any large mass tactical jump I've ever done with DoD. The release was supposed to be VIRS with the trail aircraft releasing based on the first plane's execution, but somewhere along the way the first plane started exiting early and 9 planes of guys ended up off the DZ. True to 1944, most of my stick ended up about 2 miles from the PI, scattered across the countryside. I landed in a farmer's field with tall crops over my head, and my brother landed about 100 yards from me in a wheat field. We shared a bottle of wine on the DZ that II Para had given us (wine bottles fit into M42 cargo pockets!) before starting the long walk back to the check in point.
Not having a passport stamp or checking in with Customs while exiting England or entering France was pretty historic too, although that was probably just something else overlooked by Daks over Normandy.
Posted 12 February 2020 - 10:09 AM
Posted 14 February 2020 - 09:40 PM
Thanks for the narration, it was great to hear about your experience, something you will be telling your grand kids about. I was in Normandy that week with my son and several friends from California, and was fortunate to see this drop happen from the ground.
I know this event was a mess from the start years earlier. The DZ location was changed several times and getting to Sannerville to watch it on the ground was a real nightmare. There was supposed to be a French official on the ground stamping your passports with a commemorative stamp, and for official entry, but that never happened as far as I know. I believe you guys were also supposed to receive a special challenge coin too, did you get that? I didn't hear anything about them being given out.
The many hour delay of the drop was very frustrating for the thousands of people on the ground waiting, but I made the best of it by working my way over to the VIP tent and doing video interviews of several WWII veterans that were there.
My friend Mark, (who I originally met in Eindhoven in 2004 during the 60th anniversary of Operation Market Garden), also dropped that day, and I was fortunate to meet up with him on the DZ near the VIP tent. Below is a picture of my son and I with Mark on the DZ.
Posted 14 February 2020 - 10:11 PM
A few pictures my son took from and on the DZ...
Posted 19 February 2020 - 02:51 PM
I recognize Mark D.
We didn't get any special challenge coins or anything from the event organizer.
I did exchange unit coins, shirts, and wings with II Para. In hindsight, I should have brought a spare beret to trade as well.
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