The twin engines of Douglas, C-47 Skytrains cut through the dead of night silence as the aircrafts journey through the sky, across the English Channel.
Mission Boston is given the green light at 1:51 a.m. on June 6, 1944 and over 6,000 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers, carried by more than 350 C-47s, jump into the dark of night, beginning their airborne assault. Several miles inland of Utah Beach, jumping into the town of Sainte Mere Eglise, the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment would have the most accurate of the D-Day airborne drops, while the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment would have the worst.
When the division was finally relieved in Normandy in early July they had already experienced over 5,000 casualties, wounded and missing.
More than 50 paratroopers from across the 82nd Abn. Div. were selected to participate in the 74th Normandy D-Day commemoration and ceremonies May 30-June 7, 2018 in Normandy, France.
First time attendee for the D-Day events, Sgt. 1st Class Kevon Campbell, an instructor and evaluator with the 82nd Airborne Division and U.S. Army Advanced Airborne School, said he feels honored to be selected to represent his unit for such an important mission. “When it comes to the commemoration its equally as important as anything else because the moment that its forgotten, their sacrifices will be in vain,” said Campbell. “They are part of our history and linage; their deeds and heroic sacrifices shouldn’t be left to fade away.” “It’s good to come out, represent our unit, represent the paratroopers so that the families can see it,” he added.
Separate from the division, but attending on behalf of the Gavin family, Chloe Gavin, youngest daughter of Lt. Gen. James M. Gavin, 82nd Airborne Division commander during WWII. Gavin said she loves watching the division paratroopers in Normandy participating in the D-Day commemoration. “My dad absolutely enjoyed his troopers and he would be so pleased to know that they were continuing to come here,” said Gavin. “What his troopers did is sort of the history for the young troopers now and their part of that and sort of in a direct line with him.”
Many of the areas in Normandy are host to monuments and structures dedicated to the paratroopers and Soldiers who fought to liberate the locals. Having the opportunity to visit those sites, Campbell described what it felt like to visit those hallowed grounds. “It’s interesting because a lot hasn’t changed with architecture; it’s held up quit a bit through the years,” said Campbell. “Getting to see what they were fighting through. You can see the terrain and see that it wasn’t easily negotiated.” “Seeing where they landed jumping; it’s not the same level of drop zones that we would normally use,” he added. Walking the areas where her father led division paratroopers like Campbell, Gavin is almost at a loss for words trying to describe her feelings. “It’s hard to imagine now, when you’re here, in this peaceful countryside; to think of what happened,” said Gavin. “I grew up hearing about Normandy so it’s sort of overwhelming and moving to be here.”
Campbell cherishes the opportunity he’s been given and feels it would be beneficial to any paratrooper. “I think it’s good to make it full circle,” said Campbell. “It helps paratroopers, build paratroopers, past, present and future.” “Letting them know where they come from, what was done, by those same units the paratroopers now serve in. It gives them something to look up to and idolize,” he added. Just as the division ensures paratroopers honor and know the legacy of their predecessors, Gavin too ensures her family understands theirs. “I brought my sons over,” said Gavin. “I’m trying to have them learn the history and understand it and I’m delighted that the 82nd stays so in touch with their history.“