CMH - The Normandy Invasion: 70th Anniversary
Paratroopers during Operation OVERLORD
Celebrating 75 Years of U.S. Army Courage
On the eve of the operation, Dwight D. Eisenhower visited Greenham Common, an English airfield in Newbury, where he addressed the blackened face of 1st Lieutenant Wallace C. Strobel, Company E, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, and other airborne troopers.
By Dieter Stenger, Curator, US Army Center of Military History
On June 6, 1944, the U.S. Army executed one of the greatest air and seaborne operations in history against an enemy-held heavily fortified Normandy coastline, also known as the "Atlantic Wall." Codenamed Operation OVERLORD; the largest armada ever assembled brought more than 100,000 Allied fighting men ashore at Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword Beaches to confront the enemy's power on the ground, liberate northwestern Europe, and put an end to the Nazi regime. The night before the invasion, US Army paratroopers from the 82d and 101st Airborne Divisions landed by parachute and glider near the French towns of Staint Mere-Eglise and Carentan, securing the roads that led from the shoreline and obstructing enemy efforts to reinforce beach defenses."1
Shoulder Sleeve Insignia of the
101st Airborne Division.
The "Screaming Eagles" of the 101st Airborne Division were assigned three drop zones including Able, Charlie, and Dog. The 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment (less 3rd Battalion), commanded by COL Howard R. Johnson, landed in DZ Dog north and east of Carentan. Their mission with two battalions was to seize key canal locks at La Barquette and destroy bridges over the Douve River, while the third battalion was in division reserve.2 Despite low clouds, poor visibility, enemy anti-aircraft fire, highly scattered drops that were widely dispersed across the battlefront, the 501st accomplished its multiple missions that were credited to the initiative, stamina, and daring of individual parachutists. However, their achievements cost the regiment 898 men killed, wounded, missing, or captured.3
Colonel Howard R. "Jumpy" Johnson, commander of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, U.S. 101st Airborne Division.
Source: Mark Bando, 101airborneww2.com
The depicted U.S. Army .45 caliber Model 1911 semiautomatic pistol was carried by COL Howard R. "Jumpy" Johnson, commander of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, U.S. 101st Airborne Division. Howard R. Johnson was born in the District of Columbia on June 18, 1903. Gerald Devlin, author of "Paratrooper!," considered Johnson as the U.S. Army's "most flamboyant parachute officer." Devlin went on to write that Johnson had no patience for weakness of any kind among his subordinates and that he seemed to have an "insatiable desire to prove how tough and brave he was." Johnson personally made three to five parachute jumps a day, which is how he earned the nickname "Jumpy". Fearless in battle, Johnson was killed by German artillery in Holland.4 This pistol is on display at the Don F. Pratt Museum, Fort Campbell, KY.
A U.S. Army .45 caliber Model 1911 semiautomatic pistol with markings "E.E.C."; indicative of frames manufactured by the Remington - UMC Arms Company in 1918. "E.E.C." represented E. E. Chapman, Major, Inspector, U.S. Army, Remington Model 1911 .45 auto pistol 1918-1919.
Official U.S. Twelfth Army situation map for 2400 hours, 6 June 1944
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