First Lieutenant John Devitt
73rd Troop Carrier Squadron - 434th Troop Carrier Group
|<>As a C-47 flight leader, I flew two missions on June 6 towing gliders in support of the 101st Airborne Division.
<>The first, code named "Chicago", departed Aldermaston Air Base, England, at 0119 hours, towing a CG-4A glider with three 101st men (Sgt. Huffman, Pvt. Pennington, and Pvt. Pesce) and a #6 field gun. We flew on a south/southwest heading just east of the Channel Islands, then east to Normandy. At landfall we encountered moderately heavy ground fire, but tracers indicated was arcing ahead of the aircraft, possibly because of the much reduced airsped with gliders in tow. Of 50 airplanes, we suffered only one loss. However, seven C-47s and twenty-two gliders were hit by ground fire. We reached our landing zone near Sainte Mere Eglise about 0400 hours. We signaled glider release with a light gun at 500 ft. above ground. (Absolute radio silence was observed during the mission). For defense against ground fire after release, I took the plane down to near treetop level and broke out over Utah Beach shortly afterward. The massive array of Navy craft lay silent and totally blacked out at that time.
The second mission, "Keokuk" launched from Aldermaston at 1830 hours. Thirty-two C-47s towing the much larger British Horsa gliders participated. Airborne personnel of the 101st in glider L894 which we towed were: 1st Lieutenant Hugh Mack, Cpl. John Nagy, Pfc. John Gilbert, Pvt. Edward Dorniak, Pvt. James Thomas and two others whose names are obscure on the load manifest. The payload was a truck, a 37mm field gun, radio batteries, fuel and accessories. Glider release time was approximately 2100 hours (still bright daylight) and the action intense.<>Ninety percent of the gliders were destroyed, 14 glidermen were killed in landing crashes and enemy fire, 20 were seriously injured, and ten missing in action. Our Troop Carrier Group, the 434th, received the French Croix de Guerre with palm as well as the U.S. Distinguished Unit Citation."
John R. Devitt Lt. Col., USAF, Ret.
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