Monday, July 23, 2012

Normandy - 56 Years Later

Normandy - 56 Years Later
By:  SMSgt Michael G. Lander (164th Operations Support Flight)
This article was originally published in "The River City Flyer" (a newspaper of the 164th Airlift Wing, Memphis, TN) in October 2000. 

Photo Collage Credit:  SMSgt Ron Brotherton
Over half a century has passed since the D-day invasion that took place on June 6, 1944.  On this day, brave and courageous soldiers were part of an Allied Force that stormed the beaches of the Normandy coastline in France in a liberation operation that was given the name of "Overlord" in World War II.
During the first week in June of this year, members from the 164th Airlift Wing deployed to Normandy to participate in commemoration ceremonies as part of the 56th Anniversary of the historical event.
After arriving in France, members of the 164 AW flew the unit's C-141C aircraft from a city called Cherbourg, France to a drop zone named "Iron Mike."  From there, the 164th Airlift Wing airlifted Army paratroopers from the 507th Infantry and Ranger Brigade who jumped from a static line at 1000 feet while other paratroopers jumped from a High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) at 10,000 feet.
Although the circumstances were much different than in the original invasion, the mission with Army paratroopers as slightly reminiscent of what had occurred over fifty-six years ago when the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were dropped south and west of Utah Beach in the first few hours of June 6, 1944.
For most of the aircrew from the 164th, the mission was one of the best that they have ever had the opportunity to go on.  Aside from being a part of this event, the crew was able to tour many of the places where the fighting in WWII had occurred, along with several museums, and the town of St Mere Eglise, which was the first place that was liberated by the Americans after the invasion had taken place.
In addition to this, they also visited the cemeteries where thousands of brave soldiers were laid to rest after having made the ultimate sacrifice that not only saved the world from Nazi terror, but helped to bring about peace and freedom to countless generations of other people.
Among the many impressions that this trip had on its crew, most expressed how awestruck they were with the formidable terrain and other obstacles that these soldiers had to overcome.
"It almost seemed impossible to me that any of them could have ever made it through it," TSgt Donnie Russum said.
One of the 164 AW pilots, Maj J.D. Miller, said that he seemed particularly impressed with the people who live in and around Normandy.  "Even after all these years since the invasion took place, these folks haven't forgotten and are still very appreciative of the sacrifices that were made," he said.
All in all, the 164th Airlift Wing not only contributed to this commemorative event, but it also left an indelible and long-lasting mark on all those who went.

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