I believe it was in 1953 that we had a huge multi national exercise
dropping paratroopers and equipment in Southern France.
The 60th Troop Carrier Group stationed at Rhein Main AFB, Frankfurt,
Germany consisted of the 10th, 11th, and 12th Troop Carrier Squadrons.
The entire group flew to Brise Norton airfield in England where they
were loaded with supplies, and American , English, and French paratroopers.
I believe they were called Rangers at the time but I'm not quite sure of
| We flew C-119s.
(Editor's Note: After Viewing Holt's Site,
I believe they took them home at night and shined them as much as we did
our Jump Boots ! )
|We had the privilege of having theU.S.
Rangers come aboard our airplanes. They arrived in trucks
and as they unloaded and came towards my airplane (I
was standing in the front loading door) I looked at them and my
heart really went out to them, I felt so sorry for them. With all the equipment
these fellows were loaded down with, it was hard
to believe they could walk.
||They had to carry everything with them for survival and some of
these guys had stuff strapped to their legs, their backs and their behinds
and even stuff taped to their helmets. When they got to the door of my
plane (it was a three step up) to board none
of them could make it so, I set myself in the doorway and helped them.
I would grab a hold of their harness on their front parachute pack and
pull them up as hard I could to help. It was an honor to do it ; but I sure felt sorry for them.
||When we got them all on aboard, I went upstairs and cranked up the
engines. The whole group taxied out to our pre-flight warm up spot. Out
of the three squadrons there was approximately 60 airplanes.
After the pre-flight we all pulled out to the runway in a staggered
formation waiting for our takeoff orders. When the lead aircraft took off
each one followed in 10 second intervals. As it got down to the one in
front of us we all watched the clock on the instrument panel very closely
and then in 10 seconds I would firewall everything on the instrument panel
(just push the throttles forward) and the
pilot would fly the airplane off. We climbed out on a certain heading and
then made a turn and the group came together with all 60 airplanes. We
then headed south across the channel to France.
|As we did our pre-flight , I could imagine what it was like downstairs
with the troopers sitting there with the two back doors open and these
huge engines running beside making all the noise that a piston engine can
make. The airplane would rattle and shake and rock-n-roll
like it was trying to lunge off the ground. It must have been kinda
terrifying to some of them if they were new paratroopers.
The most thrilling part of the entire trip
was flying at treetop level to avoid any radar contact. Overhead
we had the English Vampires, Meteors, and American F-86's as air cover
for us. As we crossed over into France, the French took over with
a lot of their fighters.
(Editor's note: you can always count on
the Italians for entertaining combat ! )
As we got closer to the southern part of France, believe it or
not but the Italians came up with old WWII
F-51s and the P-47 thunderbolts. I guess we gave them to Italians
after the war. It was enjoyable to see them; old
WWII Mustangs and Thunderbolts flying along with us . They did rolls around
use and generally just played with us .
|I would go downstairs and check on the fellows but there was nothing
that I could possibly do for them. They were 100% self sufficient. They
took care of themselves.
(Editor's Note: View of C119 as you step down
from Pilot's compartment)
|As we neared the DZ, (drop zone) we
climbed to 1,500 feet or so. My
job then was to go downstairs to the back between the two clamshell doors
and assist the Jumpmaster. I had learned from previous experience
what I should and shouldn't do and what I shouldn't'
do was stand very close to any of the Rangers that were getting ready to
There wasn't much chatter or talking going on you could see they were
really focused on what they had to do. I was extremely
impressed by how they worked together as one unit; each one relying on
each other to make sure everything was done right.
||The reason was, because they would like to
try and grab you as they exited the plane. Just to have a little fun with you. I guess they were pretending,
( I sure hope they were )
Well just in case, what I would do was take one
of our tie down ropes and tie it around me and then tie myself to
the center post between the two clamshell doors.
||About 15 minutes before we got to the drop zone, they stood up,
hooked up their static lines and started checking each others equipment.
They would check the one in front of them, checking their lashings
on the parachutes and all their equipment. If any
of them had any fear of this jump, they sure didn't show it ; looked like
they were enjoying it.
When we got about 10 minutes from the DZ they got into a tight single
file on each side of the plane, in what Paratroopers called
"Sticks". They stayed that way until we got to the 5 minute warning.
|Then they started chanting,
I don't know what they were saying,
and started marking time in place with their
boots, stomping hard on the floor.
What a sound. It made my hair stand up on end and goose pimples all over me to see these young guys getting ready to do what they were trained for.
Then as we came up to the DZ the green
light came on and I have never seen a bunch of guys
go out of an airplane as fast in all my life. These fellows ran
out that door. They just absolutely disappeared. It was really beautiful.
The jump master was the last to go. After he jumped, it was up to
me and my assistant to get the static lines back inside the airplane.
With all the static lines hanging out the back doors in one big bunch
and at the speed we were flying it was hard to do.
I had put many hours as a flight engineer in the C-119 and I was terrified
to think of ever having to bail out, and here these guys were looking and
acting like they were enjoying it.
Being a flight engineer we didn't have to go through the extreme physical
training or the mental training that Paratroopers had to go through. So
when you see one of those retired paratroopers, give him the respect
he's due and by all means they are due that respect, for what they went
I love them all and God
|We finally got them in and as we gained altitude and I looked out
the door the sky was absolutely full of parachutes.
I felt so proud, that I had taken
part in this exercise. I was so proud of our guys and the guys we had dropped
; thinking what they were now going through and the rough training they
had went through.
To this day, I have never forgot those fellows
and still have the deepest respect for all of them.
Editor's note: Bill is most gracious to all
of us Paratroopers in his closing paragraphs and we would not only be
un-gracious to not express our appreciation
for the Great Job he and all the Guys in the Air Force did , we would be
"TOTALLY WRONG". So Bill, here's a big:"WE
LOVE YOU MAN "
Bill, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your
outstanding contribution to Paratroopers of the 50's site and the use of
your pictures and graphics .
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