82nd Airborne Div. Leading up to
- Doubts are beginning to arise about the feasibility of a
US Airborne assault. Latest Intelligence indicates that German
91st Infantry Division is moving into the Cotentin Peninsula. Air
Marshal Leigh Mallory is having last minute fears that the
landing behind Utah beach may be a disaster.
He writes to General Eisenhower
his concerns and suggests that to land the airborne troops in countryside
which has now been flooded by the Germans could lead to very heavy
personnel. Eisenhower consults General Bradley. He rejects the
concerns. He states that without the airborne element to the operation,
would be a complete non-starter. The commander of 82nd AD, General
Ridgeway, agrees with this statement. He says that his division
is ready and well up
to the job in front of them.
- Air Chief Marshal Leigh
Mallory goes personally to see General Eisenhower to press his
objections further about the proposed Utah air-drop. He
says it will be a a "futile slaughter" of both the 82nd & 101st
After consideration Eisenhower telephones Mallory.
He says that although the
risks are indeed high,
the Utah air-dop must still go ahead. However, in view of the changing
situation, with increasing numbers of Germans around Cotentin,
the paratroopers will now be landing Ste Mere
Eglise and the river Merderet. instead of landing
near St Sauveur-le-Vicomte
and the River Douve. Their new objective is to take the road
junction and the bridges on
river, after which they will move towards the Douve.
Captain Stagg reports that some better weather is about to break.
However it is forecast to become much worse by June 6th. Winds of
up to Gale
force 5 are predicted. This
raises real doubts about the whole D-Day operation.
At best it will mean a both very dangerous sea crossing and no
airborne assault at
Captain Stagg reports no change in the weather from yesterday’s
predictions. In fact conditions in the channel are deteriorating.
Winds are getting
up and cloud is dropping to as low as 500 feet in some places.
General Eisenhower provisionally postpones D-Day for 24 hours and
for an 04:00hrs
meeting to re-assess the position.
- 04:00hrs - Group Captain
Stagg reports to General Eisenhower that there
is still no sign of the weather lifting.
Eisenhower confirms that D-Day will definitely
be postponed for 24 hours. The invasion, which
was scheduled for tomorrow, is now being re-cheduled
to take place on Tuesday June 6th but only if
there is a major improvement in the weather
within the following 12 hours.
- 17:45hrs - at the weather
briefing Group Captain Stagg reports encouraging
news. There is to be a “window”
of more settled weather between the Monday evening
and daylight on Tuesday 6th. Far from the longer
period of good weather that the planners had
wished for, it does at least provide some opportunity.
Air Chief Marshal Leigh Mallory however expresses
continued concern for the airborne operation
due to the possibility of low cloud.
- 18:00hrs - Gen. Eisenhower
decides that Operation Overlord is “go”.
The invasion fleet will sail to France on the
early morning tide.
- 21:50hrs - The first US
airborne troops take off from Berkshire in C47
aircraft, bound for the area behind Utah, close
to Ste Mere Eglise. These are the pathfinders,
who will land ahead of the main assault paratroopers,
to locate and identify suitable drop-zones for
- 22:30hrs - second wave of
82nd AD pathfinders take off from Lincolnshire.
- 23:15hrs - The 82nd AD main
assault force takes off with almost 6,400 troopers
- 23:30hrs - 101st Airborne
assault force takes off with 6,600 paratroopers.
Between the two airborne divisions there are
900 planes in the sky.
- 00:30hrs - The pathfinder
planes run into trouble with low cloud formation
which is covering most of the Cotentin peninsula.
Some pilots fly above the cloud and drop their
pathfinders without knowing exactly where they
are. Those who fly below the cloud run a very
high risk of being shot down. The mission is
not a success. Only one of the 18 groups of
US pathfinders actually lands in the proper
place. This leaves many of the drop-zones unidentified
for the assault troops which are coming only
half an hour behind them.
- 01:00hrs - The first of the
C47s transport planes arrive over Cotentin with
the 82nd and 101st on board. As soon as the
planes cross the coast of the peninsula things
start to go badly wrong. Most of the drop-zones
remain unmarked. Many of the pilots are getting
lost in the thick clouds. Heavy flak coming
from the enemy beneath causes the formations
to scatter. Too many planes are being shot down.
The paratroopers have to jump from their planes
whenever possible, often over the optimum speed.
The result is that troops are dispersed much
more widely than planned and few know where
they are when they land. Some paratroopers land
in the English channel. Others come down right
into the town centre of Saint Mere Eglise. Some
are sucked into the flames of burning buildings.
Others are illuminated by the flames as they
became entangled on wires and telegraph poles.
They are shot on sight. The luckier ones spend
a large part of the night wandering around lost
but eventually sort themselves into groups and
set about the task in hand.
The Allied Assault is now fully committed and
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