Normandy Invaded Again in Final D-Day Salute
1K paratroopers dropped on beach as 70th anniversary winds down
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 8, 2014 10:57 AM CDT
Paratroopers, watched by the crowd, are dropped from a US Air force Hercules C130, near Sainte Mere Eglise, western France, Sunday, June 8, 2014, as part of the 70th anniversary of D-Day.   (Remy de la Mauviniere)

(Newser) – Nearly 1,000 paratroopers dropped out of the sky in Normandy today—but this time they did so in peace, instead of to wrest western France from the Nazis as they did during World War II. Drawing huge crowds who braved hot weather and lined the historic landing area at La Fiere, the aerial spectacle re-enacted the drama of the Normandy landings and served to cap commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Among the planes ferrying paratroopers for the event was a restored C-47 US military transport plane that dropped Allied troops on the village of Sainte-Mere-Eglise—a stone's throw from La Fiere—on June 6, 1944. And the pilots who originally flew it took the controls again last week, 70 years later, remembering their experiences.

Today saw dozens of veterans escorted down a sandy path to a special section to watch the show alongside thousands of spectators—most of whom lined two sides of the field. Planes including the C-47 aircraft flew by loudly overhead several times, with two dozen military paratroopers—from countries including the US, Britain, France, and Germany—jumping with each passage. Veteran Julian "Bud" Rice, a C-47 pilot who participated in the airdrops on D-Day, wasn't entirely impressed. "It's good to see 800 paratroopers jump here today, but the night that we came in, we had 800 airplanes with 10,000 paratroopers that we dropped that night, so it was a little more," he said.

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Jun 8, 2014 1:55 PM CDT
When I turned 25 in 1985 I did a static line jump (where the chute opens automatically as soon as you jump, like with the paratroopers). Fortunately for me, no one was shooting at me at the time. You came down really hard in those old, round army chutes. Nothing like the rectangular chutes of today. These boys really were the greatest generation!