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Honoring our last Paratroopers

Honoring our last Paratroopers

By Michael T. Naya, Jr. - Young Historians

Photo of Lyndse Costabile, executive director of D-Day Squadron, with Dan McBride

On the night of June 5, 1944, paratroopers from the 101st and 82nd airborne prepared to board C-47’s to make the drop into Normandy. They had been trained, knew the battlefield, and were ready to make the drop into German occupied territory. As they boarded the planes some men prayed, others smoked, many thought about the conflict ahead. One young man about to jump was Daniel McBride, Company F, 502nd PIR, 101st Airborne Division. Now at the age of ninety-seven McBride shared his memories of the Invasion ahead of the 77th anniversary,

“For two years we trained for the Invasion of Normandy. We had different scenarios and covered everything that we could think of. We covered what our objective was going to be with sand tables to point out where we were supposed to land. Training was intense and went on for two years. We had military training at Camp Walden, Texas and later Fort Benning, Georgia for paratrooper training.

On the night of the jump, we were getting ready to go. We were getting our faces blacked, when Eisenhower approached me and asked me where I was from. I said “Ohio.” He asked if I was afraid, and I said “no!” Eisenhower said, “After talking to you guys, I can’t help but feel sorry for the Germans.” It was 10:25 PM on June 5, when we took off.

After getting above France, we were all hooked up ready to go. Our pilot was going too low and too fast. The Lt. disappeared, our sergeant disappeared, and I went out. I missed the switch as I went out and I summer-salted and the chute opened. When the chute opened the first thing you did was check the chute. When I looked up the ground was up, and my feet were tied around the chute. The second I saw what it was, I bent over and tried to fix it when I hit the ground and the lights went out.

When I woke, I started moving off on this wet grass. It was completely overcast, and I had lost my compass in the jump. I took a guess and started heading north. My left hip hurt and after about forty-five minutes I heard someone walking through the grass. In my imagination it was the Germans, so I ducked down. I pulled out my clicker and the German said, “Moo.” It was a whole stampede of cows, not Germans! That kept up for hours and it was very lonesome. I came up through the hedgerow and there was a branch hanging down. I pulled this branch and suddenly bullets started spraying. I pulled out my clicker and clicked it and when I did a burst of fire came again. I realized it wasn’t our men and it was the Germans. I backed up and tossed a grenade which went off right next to him. I took his gun, an MP-44 and started heading off. I walked through the grass and saw a parachute, after clicking my clicker he answered. Here was my buddy and he hadn’t seen anybody either. Daylight was coming on and we started heading out when we heard “Flash.” We said, “Thunder,” and there was a Lieutenant from the 82nd Airborne. I said, “Lieutenant, where are we?” He said, “Well, after studying my map and our surroundings I think we are somewhere in Europe.” That narrowed it down!”

After connecting with some paratroopers from the 506th McBride and the others made their way to Sainte-Mère-Église where he regrouped with his unit. Today McBride remains active as ever. He was a fixture at Jim “Pee Wee” Martins 100th birthday celebration. Recently, McBride along with surviving paratroopers Jim “Pee Wee” Martin, Tom Rice and Vincent Speranza were all made honorary members of the D-Day Squadron. In July, McBride as well as David Hamilton, the last surviving pathfinder pilot from the Normandy Invasion, will be guests on a live broadcast for the D-Day Squadron. More details will be announced in the weeks to come so be sure to tune in!

Would you like to join our Young Historians Program (YHP)? We have student membership to our DC-3 Society, which is also an opportunity to participate with the YHP. Email us here: younghistorians@ddaysquadron.org

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