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All American Division @82ndABNDiv
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We're in it, folks! This is our D Day Reenactment. For the next 17 hours we'll bring you an "as it happened" play-by-play of The Division's actions during D Day.
Follow along, ask questions, comment.
We're typing this as we go cuz we want to interact w/ u
Let's set the table here for our #AADDayReenactment. We'll be recounting events in Eastern Standard Time as they happened in Central European Time.

We'll be bringing you cool tidbits, maps, stories, and personalities.

Throughout it, we want to hear from you
Here is (in part) the 82nd's D Day mission: "Land astride the Merderet River. Seize, clear, & secure the general area w/in its zone. Capture Ste-Mere-Eglise, seize & secure crossings of the Merderet River at La Fiere & Chef-du-Pint & destroy the crossings of the Douve River."
As we start the action, our boys are prepositioned at seven airfields in the British Midlands from which they would depart:

Cottesmore, Barkston Heath, Folkingham, North Witham, Ramsbury, Welford, & Spanhoe
We start at Royal Air Force North Witham Airfield in Lincolnshire (pictured here)

The first group of Paratroopers from The Division and the 101st - the Pathfinders - were staged and prepared to don parachutes and equipment and load C-47s.
Did you know that Ridgway was supposed 2 go in the lead glider serial but changed his mind early on June 5th.

He had not yet jumped in combat (Ike was worried about him jumping at age 49).

Ridgway knew if he didn't parachute in w/ the boys, he'd always regret it.
We're trying to balance between information overload and providing context. There will be periods of up to 10 minutes when we will not have updates. We'll be going until noon Eastern tomorrow. Once we get into the drops, we'll provide a more traditional "play-by-play" of events
As we post pics of our Paratroopers loading aircraft on the night of June 5th, you may say "what is this shit? These pics are in daylight." Well, you gotta remember that back then France was on DOUBLE daylight savings time, so sunset in 1944 was close to midnight.
Another note here: we're going to bring you the action from the 82nd Airborne Division ONLY. Don't ask us about the 101st on D Day: they have their own Twitter account. And it’s not very good.
7:25 PM - Short Stirling Bombers, acting as glider tugs, line the runways across the British Midlands
Just kidding, of course. Those guys do a phenomenal job. They are deployed and kicking ass right now. Our commanders and staffs are every close, very good friends, and that unit is the best.
7:30 PM - All of these aforementioned airfields were absolutely full of C-47s on top of C-47s.
If you asked a question, we are going back & answering them during the lulls in action during the night. Someone asked about the hashtag. Like a bunch of idiots, we developed a too long hashtag #AADDAYREENACTMENT and we can't employ it because we'll need all the character space
8:04 PM: The Division's Pathfinder teams begin to don parachutes, strap on weapons, equipment, radios, and lights. They would be the first All Americans to land in Normandy.
A note on sources: we're doing this live, in real-time, based off the recorded load/departure/drop times, the official post-D Day AAR, the recorded narratives after D Day, the 3rd party reporting from Normandy and from the British Midlands, and the memoirs of the participants
We're going with hashtag #AADdayreplay (thanks @Blisterfoot73) but we'll only use it when answering questions.
Bit of a long break in the action coming up, so let's go over the timings.

After the Pathfinders, the Paratrooper force would go in at 1:20 AM. This was "Mission Boston"

Mission Boston was the Paratroopers and everything they needed to fight dismounted. We'll get into....
...this later, but Ridgway decided to drop most of the artillery via door bundles vs. glider. That meant taking apart the artillery piece for door bundle & then assembling it on the DZ (a 4-hour process)....
Anyhoo...behind that, at 4AM was Mission "Detroit." This was our ADA / Anti-tank guns, jeeps, comms equipment, and a hodgepodge of HQs personnel. Remember, Ridgway was supposed to go in w/ this element but decided against it at the last minute
Finally would be a second glider landing (equipment needed beyond the first 24 hours of fighting) would come in the night of the 6th. That third, final element, was Mission "Elmira." We won't get to it in this reenactment because it went in on the evening of the 6th.
Mission Elmira was largely reinforcements. After that, the next group of Paratroopers went in on the 7th. But for this fight - the initial D Day fight on the 6th, our boys just had what they jumped in with, what they door bundled, & what went w/ the first set of gliders
We cannot find the question, but someone asked how many C47s with Mission Boston (how many that dropped the initial 6,420 Paratroopers on the morning of D-Day). Answer is 369.
For these timings and numbers, & as we proceed tonight and tomorrow, we are comparing the times and numbers on the planned air loads w/ the recorded departure times & drop times.
Here's something interesting: Did you know the 508th had a jump refusal on D Day?
It's recorded on the Troop Carrier Wing's post-drop records.
Here's the story as it's recorded: "One trooper returned to Base stating he tripped on floor mat & his gun struck him in groin. He said her was unable to jump on recovery due to speed of the aircraft." The Paratrooper is not named.
While the rest of our boys were preparing to load aircraft, most elected not to blacken their faces with charcoal. We know that most of the Paratroopers from the 508th - staged at RAF Folkingham - did blacken their faces, but most of our Paratroopers did not. #AADDAYREENACTMENT
So why didn’t we blacken our faces like the 101st? Same reason we didn’t carry the stupid-ass cricket? It was ineffective. We know this from Gavin's memoir "On To Berlin." We blackened our faces for Sicily but not for Normandy. The 508th was the only unit that did these.
Remember, thee 508th did not jump into Sicily
This was the first jump of the war for the "Fury from the Sky" regiment, so they hadn't learned the lessons from Sicily and Salerno.
Just want to part out here that we often take good-natured shots at the 101st, but it's all in fun. They are an important part of our D Day legacy and we have tremendous respect for their entire organization.
. @PGrasmehr asked a question about the artillery bundles (how many were recovered?). We're not ignoring it but we answer this later in the thread during the actual door bundle drops and want to stay in sequence. We're going to slow it down a bit now and provide updates..... events happen. Feel free to drop off because you can pull up this entire thread and read through it after we're done at noon tomorrow. That said, we're still answering questions the entire time.
10:11 PM - Force "A" (the first 82nd element to go in behind the Pathfinders) starts to load C47s on Cottesmore. Force A (Div HQ, 508th PIR, 507th PIR, 505th PIR, 307th ENG BN) was a total of 378 C47s and 6,396 Paratroopers led by Gavin. Element carried 2 x 75mm Pack Howitzers.
10:15 PM: German forces in and around Normandy intercept messages from the Allies regarding the impending Allied invasion. Most German leaders felt this was inaccurate and ignored it.
10:28 pm: 9 C-47s carrying battalion pathfinder teams from the 504th, 507th, and 508th take off from their airfield at North Witham bound for Normandy. The pathfinder teams were to operate w/ security elements in overwatch while pathfinders marked DZ w/ lights. It’s on!
10:42 PM - Spanhoe Airfield: A negligent discharge hits a gammon grenade in the pocket on of our Paratroopers inside a C47 carrying Force "A" Paratroopers. The grenade detonates. 3 troops and the radio operator of the aircraft are killed. 15 more are wounded. The plane burns.
The first of these 3 men to die in this bizarre incident is Cpl Kenneth Alwyn “Bill” Vaught. This is his tombstone at the Cambridge American Cemetery. Caught, assigned to the 505th, is the first Allied Soldier to die in the D Day invasion.
Let's talk about gliders, folks. We had two types, the Waco CG4A and the Horsa. We came in mostly in Horsas, which could carry more Troopers (29). The CG4A could carry 13 Troopers but it was easier to unload. Therefore, most CG4As carried jumps and equipment & only 2 troopers
Prior to D Day, Ridgway decided that the Division would drop almost all artillery "under canopy" rather than via glider....even though you had to take the 75mm howitzers completely apart and drop them in 9 bundles.
It took four hours to put together a 75mm howitzer and put it into action after recovering it from the drop zone. #AADDayReenactment
So why would Ridgway want to drop the 75mm via parachute vs. glider (if you put it in a glider you didn't have to take it apart)? Cuz if you brought the 75mm in via glider, you'd have to find where the glider dropped and potentially fight your way to it!
If the drop got scattered (like in Sicily), our Paratroopers generally couldn’t even find the fuc^ing howitzer!!!
This is exhausting. We’re never doing this again.
At this point, gliders are being loaded with vehicles and equipment.
A total of 437 troopers would load a total of 52 gliders. This was Mission "Detroit," the only element of gliders that would land in D Day on the morning of June 6th.
Remember that our 325th Glider Regiment would not go in until D Day Plus One for Mission "Galveston." The 325th went in the morning of June 7th.
The Pathfinders, The Division's first element in on D Day, lands in Normandy in "DZ O" on this map (just north of La Fiere).
The second serial of our Pathfinders drops into Drop Zone "N" (south of Amfreville)
The first element of "Force A" (2 Bn - 505) drops into Drop Zone O, just north of La Fiere. Jim Gavin is with this serial.
The first of our gliders (52 x Waco CG4A) take off from Ramsbury airfield.
Wake up call for the 325th Glider troopers on Ramsbury Airfield. Remember that the 325th did not go in until June 7th, so they had wake up now to start the process of loading the gliders.
Our Pathfinders mark have by now marked their drop zones: DZ "O" north-west of Ste-Mère-Eglise for the 505th PIR, DZ "T" north of Amfréville for the 507th PIR and finally DZ "N" north of Picauville for the 508th PIR.
2:30 AM - The 507th starts to jump in to Amfreville, France. Once on the ground, the Paratroopers of the 507th realize that almost all of their bundles went into the swamps and were destroyed. They had no equipment & had to fight with what they individually jumped in with.
*should read: OTHER than what they individually jumped in with
2:44 AM: The last serial of “Force A” arrives in Normandy. All of Force A (all of our Paratroopers) are now in Normandy.
The Merderet River was 4 times its usual size because (unbeknownst to us) the Germans had opened the locks at Carentan at high tide to flood the peninsula, resulting in the deaths of many paratroopers who landed in the water and were dragged down by the weight of their equipment.
Lt. Colonel Charles Timmes, commander of 2nd Battalion, 507th, lands in the Merderet River. He is dragged across the river before cutting himself free of his parachute harness.
Of the 6,396 Paratroopers that jumped in with Force A, 36 drowned in the flooded areas inland on insertion. Another 63 were abandoned to the enemy as a result of jump injuries.
4 AM - The first gliders are in! 42 x Waco CG4A Gliders carrying our Air Defense guns, along with 6 x CG4A gliders the Division staff and 4 from Division Arty and signal Co, begin to land on Drop Zone O.
4:11 AM - 3rd Battalion, 505th PIR under Lt.Col. Edward C. Krause captures Sainte-Mere-Eglise
4:21 AM - ALl 42 gliders have landed!!!
3/505 under Lieutenant Colonel Krause, flies the first American flag in Normandy. Ste-Mere-Eglise is the first town liberated in France.
At this point, all of our Paratroopers and equipment for the D Day invasion are in. The next element to come in is gliders carrying medics, commo equipment, headquarters personnel, and artillery. They don't start coming in until the night of June 6th.
Many of our gliders crashed on landing, but they did their job and the equipment and troopers in them survived. Only 3 Troopers were killed in the glider crashes and 23 injured. One of the injured: Colonel Ralph Eaton, the Division Chief of Staff.
Surprisingly, very little of the equipment (jeeps and anti-tank guns) that came in by glider was damaged beyond report
One Paratrooper on the ground by now is this guy: AA Hall of Fame, Kenneth "Rock" Merritt. A Corporal with the 508th, he lands in a briar patch at around 2:30 AM. He is surrounded by hedgerows along the countryside. He is alone. He is not afraid.
Rock didn't know where he was. "I prayed to God to live 'til daylight" he told me. When daylight came a few hours later, he found individual Paratroopers and started organizing them in a group & finding others until they had about 40 w/ him.
5 AM: Among those injured in the parachute landings was Lt. Colonel Ben Vandervoort, commander of 2/505, who started gathering his troops for movement to Sainte-Mère-Église despite a broken ankle. Vandervoort was famously played by John Wayne in the 1962 film "The Longest Day"
I can’t believe we still have seven hours of this left
Who signed us up for this?
The sun begins to come up over Normandy.
Day breaks. It is grey, cold and rainy.
There are approximately 350 AA Paratroopers in Ste-Mere-Eglise along w/ a 75 mm howitzer. The town’s residents come out of hiding and realize they are free.
Let's go back to June 5th PM. As our Paratroopers were boarding, they were read a letter from Ike. It read, in part: "You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you."
But, there's another letter that Ike wrote. On July 5th, Ike drafted this speech in the event that the D Day invasion failed. "My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do."
6:35 AM: It is not until this time that the six 57mm antitank guns of the 80th Airborne AntiAircraft BN that came in by glider were recovered. The crews are furiously working to put the guns into position to fire (they would not get into position until about 5 PM on June 6th)
So, that morning the sun opened on a free Ste-Mere-Eglise. The 82nd AIrborne DIvision would forever be part of history.
We love this iconic pic. This is actually taken on June 7th. A 508th Paratrooper pulls security just outside of St. Mere Eglise.
OK, we’re getting tired. Ask us some questions.
Some of y'all are asking about the drop pattern (actual drop locations vs. planned drop zones). This map shows how scattered our Paratroopers are all over Normandy. Only ~ 10% of all Paratroopers landed on their designated DZs
This scattering actually helped our Paratroopers: when the sun came up on the 6th, German forces thought there were American Paratroopers everywhere (in reality, Germans greatly outnumbered our Paratroopers)
Someone asked about Mission Boston. Mission "Boston" was the entire Force "A" (the parachute drop led by Gavin), Force "B" (the gliders), & Force "C"(the seaborne elements that came into Utah Beach.
Don't be confused by Mission "Albany": that was the 101st drop.
It's about this time on June 6th that are Paratroopers realized they were faced with some difficult terrain for which they were not prepared: the Normandy hedgerows.
The Normandy hedgerows were impassable thorn bushes and tangled trees divided the countryside into sections and could actually prevent combat units from hearing or seeing one another, even in adjoining sections. Here's what they look like today.
The higher-ups in the D Day planning (including Ridgway) knew about the hedgerows but out of operational security concerns this was not passed on to our Paratroopers. So, they were surprised on the morning of the 6th when they realized they had to fight through this stuff.
So, it's 8AM on D Day. How had our boys done so far? Well, they had 3 missions: 1. East of Merederet River, captures St Mere. (Done, thanks to the 505th). 2. West of the river create a defensive line about three miles further to the west. 3. l/u with 101st
Well, they had not done 2 or 3. The scattered drops + hedgerows + f'ed up radio comms prevented this. All over the Merderet area, men sloshed across swamps, thrashed through thorny hedgerows or moved warily along darkened roads, vainly looking for landmarks and each other.
Nonetheless, the Germans were just as confused. Our boys created chaos: they cut German comms wires, and moved quickly in pairs creating the impression of larger forces.
Also adding to the German confusion: we dropped thousands of "Ruperts": dummy paratroopers packed w/ explosives that detonated on impact. If you've ever seen the movie "The Longest Day," the depiction of the Ruperts is pretty accurate.
By this time John Steele is in German hands. Having been cut down from the church rooftop after hanging and playing dead for most of the early morning, he was now a prisoner. Here is Steele revisiting the church in 1964. He died of throat cancer 5 years later.
More on the "Rupert" dummies - here is a pic of them in action on D Day. Hundreds were dropped (not sure how many exactly). The doll was made from cloth and filled with sand.
Even if their size was considerably smaller than the size of a man, if spotted from the ground they looked lifelike, especially when dropped by night
The Division HQ gets only one of the three SCR 193 radios (pictured here) operational. We never got the other two working.....cuz the commo guys suck...Just Kidding, Comms! We have the best G6 team in the Army
8:37 AM: An early success! 1-505 reports that they are holding the eastern end of the La Fieree bridge against heavy enemy fire from the western approaches
9:15 AM - La Fiere Bridge is the scene of sporadic fighting thus far. Remember, the 505th is holding the eastern end of the bridge. Well, at around 9:15 AM, German forces drive the 507th from the western end of the bridge. Here is thee bridge as it looks today.
9:22 AM: LTC Ben Vandervoort (2-505 CDR) is tasked to screen Sainte Mere Eglise against an attack from the north. Vandy puts a platoon under LT Turner Turnbill (pictured here) at Newvulle-au-Plain (a township just north of St Mere
9:34 AM- German forces launch a counter attack from the south on LT Turner Turnbill's position at Neuville-au-Plain.
This fight w/ Turnbill's platoon at Neuville-au-Plain would go for another 8 hours. It was a small action that had a significance which Turnbull did not realize at the time.
You see, this fight kept the enemy in the north at arm's length while our boys at Ste. Mere-Eglise beat off a simultaneous attack from the south.
The cost of the platoon's gallant stand was heavy. Only 16 of the 42 men who had gone to Neuville-au-Plain w/ Turnbill survived to be withdrawn late in the afternoon to rejoin their battalion". Lt. Turnbull received the Silver Star for this. He survived but was killed next day
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