SAINTE-MÈRE-ÉGLISE, France --
The 352nd Special Operations Wing and the Special Operations Command in Europe parachute-jumped into Normandy, June 9, 2019, in commemoration of the 75th D-Day anniversary, to honor the airborne operation conducted by Allied forces and the Battle for La Fiere Bridgehead, near Sainte-Mère-Église, France, June 6-9, 1944.
“It was an absolute honor to come out here on the 75th anniversary to commemorate what the men did before us,” said a (U.S. Air Force) Master Sergeant with the 752nd Special Operations Group, which falls under the 352nd SOW. “What a sight to see! I was able to go down to Omaha Beach, and tried to visualize what those guys went through on that day. Nothing we can do today will ever match what they had to go through.”
Nineteen aircraft from multiple nations and more than 1,100 parachute jumpers from Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Romania, United Kingdom and the United States air-dropped civilians and service members in front of thousands of spectators.
“I always get a little nervous,” said a (U.S. Air Force) Captain with the 352nd SOW, “You jump out, and you’re more-or-less riding a wave, and then you’re falling next to your fellow jumpers. It’s a thrill!”
D-Day gave birth to modern-day multi-national operations and forged partnerships and bonds that U.S. forces in Europe highly value and continue to benefit from to this day. More than 1,000 aircraft and 5,000 ships transported 160,000 Allied troops into action on June 6, 1944.
“It’s really humbling to be able to do the same thing, just to re-enact it, to live it a little bit ourselves,” said (U.S. Air Force) Lt. Col. Jake Miller, 752nd SOG deputy commander. “We jumped from 6,500 feet, hopefully gave the crowd a little show what it’s like to do a military free-fall operation, and then came over the Iron Mike drop zone to land in front of the crowd.”
The Iron Mike Ceremony is an annual ceremony immediately following the Commemorative Airborne Operation. This memorial, and the statue where it occurs, honors the 254 U.S. service members who were killed, and the 525 wounded during the Battle for La Fiere Bridgehead, following the Allied liberation of Omaha beach.
“While walking the footsteps of some of the brave people that came before us, it was certainly a great opportunity to be able to experience this,” said a Captain with the 352nd SOW, who had the opportunity to jump from an MC-130J Commando II.
The 75th Anniversary has been particularly important, because it may be the final year for some of the surviving World War II veterans who fought will be able to attend. The selfless actions by all allies on D-Day continue to resonate 75 years later.
“We’re very fortunate to have the opportunity to celebrate all the folks who fought during the Allied invasion and through World War II,” said (U.S. Air Force) Lt. Col. Martin Weeks III, 67th Special Operations Squadron commander. “Being able to walk the beaches, walk in some of the towns, really helps to put into perspective what you might read in the history books.”