© Copyright CJ Magro, Paratroopers of the 50's

The Following pages consist of
Most of the Stories are Humorous and Some What Dangerous but nothing
that most of us who have jumped more than 25 times haven't encountered.
However, what we did was dangerous and that explains why we received
$55.00 per month (in the 50's) hazard duty pay.

11abn caught in air


Charles J. Magro

If you have read this story, then click here for more "Worst Jump" Stories

I would like to share one of my worst days ( March 1, 1957 ) as a young soldier stationed in Germany, with the 11th Airborne Division . This was a day I will always remember and it was a very long , long day for me.

I had been selected to be trained as a Jumpmaster at the Division School. A tremendous honor for a young (18 years old) specialist third class.

My company's sergeant was also assigned to be in the same Jumpmaster class. His name was Sergeant Boykins. I don't remember his first name; he was senior to me in grade, and I can't remember calling him anything but Sergeant or Sergeant Boykins; never by his first name.

The following story is about my first jump in Jumpmaster School,
and the value of a good leader and friend.
On the right is a  picture of Sgt. Boykins and I .

If I could send him a copy of this story, I would say :
"I'm the good looking one Standing behind the BIG ugly guy" just to PO him.  But since I can't I will say :
"That's me standing behind one of the nicest tough guys you will ever meet. He was one Hell'va man. "
He had a terrific sense of humor, was a lineman on the Division Football Team and , and he was damned strong. 
When I say he was a strong man, I mean he was strong, very strong.
I was not a weak person, matter of fact quite strong for my size but Boykins could literally hold me with one arm and I could not break free. One of the strongest men I ever met. 
He was a man you did not want to mess with, and yet he had a gentle side that I admired.

We gravitated toward one another and formed a good working relationship.  We liked to joke with one another and in a short time we became good friends. 
During the mid 1950s, there was racial strife going on in various parts of the country, including my home town of Birmingham, Alabama. Sometimes , when we were in a group , Sergeant Boykins would refer to me as the "KKK guy from Alabama" just to create a reaction and cause tension but then he would burst out laughing.
It was a relief to everyone when he started laughing ; then we would all start laughing
but always after he did.
We were friends until my discharge. I assume he made a career out of the service.
Enough on background, now to the story.
On the first jump, you were the stick leader . Your assignment was to position yourself at the open door, prepare an imaginary stick of paratroopers to get ready to jump , find the check points, call them off and lead your imaginary stick  out of the plane  as you entered the DZ (Drop Zone) area. 

Since the plane had doors on both sides, two students would go through their assignment at the same time. The other students waiting their turn would be seated watching the ones at the doors. An instructor would be on the plane grading you, while another instructor would be on the DZ grading you. 
It came my turn to do my bit, and Sergeant Boykins is watching me real close. 

I was so caught up in the moment and trying to recall what I'm supposed to do,  that I forget to hook up my static line.  You would think that once you standup a Paratrooper would know that you "Hook Up" to the cable running the length of the plane to the exit door. 

Not Magro; I walk to the door with the freaking static line and hookup buckle in my hand. 

Well I'm at the door, and I notice Sgt. Boykins going  "APE ", giving me all kinds of signs, and pointing in a way that the instructor can't see him. Now, this really confuses my dumb ass.
I'm looking at Boykins trying to figure out what's wrong, now I'm starting to forget the commands I was supposed to yell. 

Meanwhile, the instructor was just siting there without saying a word, continuing to write on his grading sheet.

GP bag
You had to jump in full combat
gear with a General Purpose
(GP) Bag weighing over 100 lbs.

Project Dudddd in the Door!!

Well, I finally start yelling commands to my imaginary stick: "GET READY!", "STAND UP!", "HOOK UP!"  AND THEN  I then look into my hand and there's my  static line unhooked!!!

Had the plane hit an air pocket or had I lost my balance with all that combat equipment I could have fallen out of the plane unhooked and would have had to pull my reserve awful fast,...
A Paratrooper free falling  from 1200 feet is only 8 seconds from DEATH. 

I could feel my neck beginning to flush red as I looked at Boykins and saw him smiling and nodding  me a: "That's what I was trying to tell you, stupid." 

Now , in a somewhat cracking voice I yell: "CHE CHE CHECK YOUR EQUIPMENT!" as ........ I nonchalantly  hook up!!!!

Totally shaken, wondering what the instructor had seen, I leaned out the door and started trying to locate the designated landmarks leading to the DZ. 

 The first landmark was a highway, and so I leaned in and yelled it out;  I found the second check point (can't remember what it was), leaned in yelled out the second landmark; and now I looked for the last one , a coal pile, that would tell me we were only seconds from  the DZ . 

Well, the wind had been blowing  hard toward my side of the plane, and the pilot had moved the plane over to correct for this. In doing so, the coal pile  was now on the other side of the plane making it impossible to see from my side of the plane. 

Well, HELL, I was leaning out clean to my frigging waist hunting for that DAMN coal pile... but it was nowhere in sight!  About this time,  I saw a Parachute opening to the rear of the plane.  The other student jumpmaster on the opposite side had exited the plane!  I looked up to the boom of the C-119, and the light was GREEN: meaning jump.  So, I leaned back in and began hollering all in one continuous flow of words: 


and  fell out of the aircraft with a 100 plus lb GP bag. 

I didn't feel it,  but Boykins swore that all he and the others could hear was me  ricocheting along the fuselage of the plane, a kind of:    BAM! WHAM! BAM! BAM!, and then silence. 

To this day, I still ain't believing I hit that plane !!

CJ Door
Was that a Coal pile , Rock Pile or Junk Pile??
Out Door O'shit  the Green light
Now this would be the end of the story for most people, BUT not for our HERO, CJ. 

While John Paul Jones said: "We have just begun to fight", our HERO, CJ, said "I have just begun to screw up". 

Here I was with all this hernia creating equipment, and  an additional 100 plus pound GP Bag and all I could think of  was, 
"Boy, did I screw up. "

Needless to say, on the way down I was very depressed in the knowledge that I had screwed up big time. But, I figured that if my preparation and exit from the plane was pitiful, at least I could try and make a good descent and PLF (Parachute Landing Fall). 

I'm sure most of you have jumped a GP (General Purpose) bag. If you haven't, it has a 20 ft strap that you are supposed to drop from your body at about 200 feet from the ground. Then you ride it on in. 

GP Bag
You normally unsnap it and hold it between your legs at about 400 feet and ride it down to 200, while making sure no one is under you so it can be safely dropped or lowered by the strap to hang 20 feet below you. 
Well, in my sorry state of mind, I was riding this baby down saying to myself that's not low enough better hold it a little longer. I then started thinking about my screw up back in the plane. 
I then looked down .....HELL, I was damned near on the ground!

I quickly dropped the bag, and it hits the ground before the slack is run out of the 20 ft strap. I must have only been 15 feet off the ground and falling at 20 feet a second . 

Trust me, there was no time to prepare for a PLF.

I hit on my heels, then on my butt,  I then bounced at least 10 feet into the air coming down on my head, and I actually busted my helmet liner.
We had a good wind that day, and as I laid there spread eagle, gasping for air, trying to get my breath back, anchored by my GP bag at one end and my chute at the other  and then.....to add insult to injury and pride, this Bird Colonel walked over, looked down at me and asked:
"Son,  you OK?",  to which I feebly answered "Yes" ; never did put a "Sir" to it... He just shook his head and said ,
"I been in the Paratroopers for 10 years and have never seen anyone hit the ground that hard!!" And as the old poem goes, 
That evening as we prepared for our night jump,  I was really down on myself,  I felt I had let my outfit down.  I felt lower than whale shit .  I just knew I was going to flunk Jumpmaster School ,  was going to let my outfit down,   was an embarrassment to mankind, etc. etc. etc.

Sergeant Boykins, that, strong hulk of a man listened to me, and then placed his big arms over my shoulders and assured me that  was only one jump , just the beginning, that there was a jump tonight  and another jump tomorrow and I had just had a bad day .

His words were words of consolation.  They were words of assurance and comfort from a man who believed in me when I didn't believe in myself.

Then in a very FIRM voice, he told me I had better shake it off , suck it up and get my shit together for this up coming night jump .

But the thing that impressed me the most and really got my attention was when he said:

On a  much happier note, I did great on my remaining jumps and graduated a full fledged JUMPMASTER.

I now know it was because of Sgt. Boykins' kindness , understanding and his threat to kick my ass, that  I can now show off an :

11th Airborne (click to see) Jumpmaster Certificate that has CHARLES J. MAGRO on it.

Sgt. Boykins was one HELL'VA man!

A month after I got out of  Jumpmaster School  April 10, 1957 to be exact , my Company gave me the  HONOR of  being the stick leader  for our plane .

As I gave the commands , my buddies booed , while giving me an obscene gesture,
( the finger ) and then laughed. It was a great day. We were jumping Gablingen DZ  in Germany.


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