A Canadian's Journey Through D-Day Part 2: Day of Days


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Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force:

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months.

The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.

In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one.

- General Dwight D. Eisenhower

 

Airborne

June 5th

The time was 9:00 pm, and the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion were aboard their bomber aircrafts heading for the coasts of Normandy. They have trained for many long months for this day and were to be the very first to lead the attack. As 10:30 pm rolled by, the planes started flying over the English Channel and the 7000 Allied naval landing crafts beneath them were in sight. The men watch in great awe while also anticipating their own mission, as each of the 3 company’s A, B, and C all had to preform different roles.


A depiction of what it would have looked like flying over the English channel and heading to Normandy.

One of many objectives of the mission included landing 15km behind enemy lines to destroy and capture German guns, bridges, and any means of communication 9 hours ahead of the beach landings.

The first mission objective revolved around the Le Mesnil cross roads. Company A’s task was covering the 9th infantry brigade on their initial assault and their later push towards Le Mesnil. Company B’s task was to demolish some major bridges connected to the crossroads and to hold the Le Mesnil position until ordered otherwise. And Finally, company C was tasked with securing their drop zone as well as locating and destroying any major enemy headquarters. Along with that, company C needed to take down a radio tower and bridge before meeting the other 2 companies at Le Mesnil.

June 6th


It was now 1:00 am as the men stood nervously in single file lines awaiting their drop deep down into Nazi occupied France. As the minutes rolled by the hatches to the planes were opened and allowed the Canadians an ominous view of the landing zone below. The men watched with absolute horror as enemy anti-aircraft rounds and bullets lit up the night’s sky. Enemy 88mm Flak rounds could be seen blowing up around the aircraft and bullets could be heard ricocheting off the aircraft’s metal bodies. The men were not as protected as they hoped as some bullets were making it into the planes and taking casualties before the drop even took place. The men remained as calm as possible as they stared restlessly at the blank indication light by the hatch, waiting for its red glow to release them from this chaos.

1:30 am was approaching the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion when suddenly the red lights started alerting them of their 2 minute notice before the jump. Around the aircrafts, the men could see their fellow paratroopers being engulfed by flames as the bombers start being shot down around them, with some planes accidentally clipping soldiers sailing down from their parachutes. Alarms are set off as the indication light glows green and the men quickly start exiting the craft as fast a possible. The speed was to lower confusion and disarray as the men tried to all drop in the same zone with a 15 second exit timing. One by one the men would jump from their planes and deploy their parachutes into the blackness of night. Many thoughts were running through the soldier’s minds while they prayed not to be hit by enemy bullets or land in an unfavourable location.


Allied paratroopers dropping into France from their bomber planes.

The ones fortunate enough to land safely on the ground would swiftly remove their parachutes as they became huge targets. The men hurried to their rallying points while trying to blend into the night with 70 pounds of gear on their backs. This task was deemed much more difficult in reality as some men lost their weapons upon jumping and most if not all units lan