75th anniversary D-Day Normandie

75th anniversary D-Day Normandie
Belgian and Dutch Hercules fly in formations during the D-Day celebrations.

On Sunday, June 9, 2019, the D-Day activities in Normandy were closed with a parajump near St-Mere-Eglise. Around 900 paratroopers were dropped from aircraft from the United States, the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Romania. Just as the C-47 Dakotas had their own "Daks over Normandy", these transport aircraft almost had their own "Herky over Normandy". In addition to a French C160 Transall, the formation consisted of various C-130 Hercules aircraft.

The aircraft were based on Base Aerienne Evreux (ICAO: LFOE) and Airport Cherbourg (ICAO: LFRC), the paratroopers all boarded the aircraft in Cherbourg. The first wave of aircraft departed in the morning at around 10 o'clock and then waited for an hour in the holding until the second wave of aircraft flew from Evreux to Cherbourg to take the remaining paratroopers on board.

After this, a "racetrack" was flown above the drop zone and each aircraft delivered the paratroopers. Due to an accident with a parachutist, the dropping was stopped for fifteen minutes, after which the last parachutists jumped down.

The contribution of the USAFE was special because the current 37 Airlift Squadron (part of the 86 Airlift Wing with the Lockheed C-130J Hercules at Ramstein Air Base, Germany), participated in the invasion by dropping parachutists at St-Mere on June 6, 1944 -Eglise. Flying at that time with the Douglas C-47 Dakota as the 37th Troop Carrier Squadron (TCS), with the squadron code ‘W7’ painted in the C-47s.

St-Mere-Eglise is known for the parachutist at the church tower. Parachutist John Steele came to hang his parachute on the church tower at night and remained silent there for several hours. Later in the day he was released from his plight. This is commemorated by confirming a doll and a parachute.


C-130s from USAF Europe, USAF ANG, USAF Reserve, Dutch airforce, Belgian airforce, French airforce; C-160 of the French airforce


1- Capt Arnett, 86 Airlift Wing/37Airlift Squadron pilot based at Ramstein, flying the Lockheed C-130J Hercules

He has some 2000 flying hours in total, with some 1500 hour on the C-130 Hercules.

This D-Day Anniversary event is non-standard than the normal exercises in flying paratroopers to exercise areas in Germany, because of the international composition of the flight, with American, Belgian, Dutch, Romanian and French aircraft combined. There was only 1 paradrop on Sunday at St-Mere-Eglise, the days before consisted of various overflights.

Capt Arnett says it is hard to describe what he sees in France. On the first day in France, he saw French and American flags everywhere. And many WW2 Jeeps driving around with people dressed as WW2 soldiers, making phonecalls on their mobile phones. He was overwhelmed by the very friendly atmosphere, it looked like one big party in Normandy.

For capt Arnett, it is a very humbling experience to be able to participate in these days.

Quote: An opportunity for all of us in the present day, to be able to reach back to the great generation and truly establish, it is really inspiring and humbling at the same time.

2- MSgt Flores , 86 Airlift Wing/37Airlift Squadron loadmaster based at Ramstein, flying the Lockheed C-130J Hercules. His role is Ramp Coordinator, to control all activities on the ramp of Cherbourg airport. The planning started almost 1 year ago, after the 74th Anniversary in 2018.

From Ramstein airbase about 100 persons participate in France for the 75th anniversary.

Quote: For Msgt Flores it was a humbling experience and it was also an honour to participate

3- Capt Forsyth, 86 Airlift Wing/37Airlift Squadron pilot based at Ramstein, flying the Lockheed C-130J Hercules. And he is the mission planner for the paradrop on Sunday 09th.

The initial setup was defined by his colleagues major Vanderneck and major Gibson; and a few weeks ago capt Forsyth became responsible for the execution of the mission.

He has a personal link to WW2 because his father was befriended with a WW2 veteran from 101st Airborne who was involved in the European liberation.

The atmosphere is very good in France and it seems there is more and more attention from people all over the world. The attention is getting bigger by the year. But it is not sure if the D-Day anniversaries will continue in the current shape, this 75th anniversary might be the last one in this format.

Quote: It is humbling to participate and to be asked to represent the USAF

4- French female pilot and french male loadmaster of “L'escadron de transport” 2/64 Anjou, based at BA Evruex. No names or ranks could be supplied for this interview.

They fly the C-160NG Transall, a 2 engined transport aircraft.

There colleagues from BA Orleans participated with a C-130.

For this exercise, there were not so many special preparations as there is a yearly participation.

The loadmaster has some 9000 flying hours and he will retire soon as his contract will finish. The pilot has some 3600 flying hours.

As the escadron 2/64 Anjou was created only after WW2, there are no links with the Normandy invasion

Quote: Proud to participate and to cooperate in this operation. All other crews envy us because we can participate this weekend.

Text: Joris van Boven and Alex van Noye 
Photos: Joris van Boven

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