D-Day

[National Archives and Records Administration]

In the middle of May,1944, Tom Alley and other paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division were taken to an airfield in England where they were finally told what they would be doing. As they studied aerial photography and practiced their roles in an upcoming mission, they learned that they would be jumping into enemy territory along the beaches of Normandy, France. The D-Day invasion was about to begin. It was well planned, Alley says – down to the smallest detail. But once on their way to Normandy, things didn’t go quite as planned. Just before his planeload of paratroopers careened into the night skies over France, the lead officer was badly wounded. Then, when Alley jumped – amidst a hail of tracer bullets – he landed way off course, at St. Mere Eglise, where he immediately encountered German soldiers. When that initial encounter was over, Alley says he sat down and shook – keenly aware that it wasn’t practice anymore.

“Shells were exploding all around us. I saw in the distance in front of us fires burning. There was a church bell ring…in the middle of town. I still didn’t know where I was. Turned out I was coming down over Sainte-Mère-Église [Church].” – TOM ALLEY, on jumping into Normandy on D-Day

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In this excerpt, Tom Alley, from Charlotte, NC, describes jumping into Normandy on D-Day.