When Scott Freund jumped out of the C-47 in Normandy on Wednesday, he said it was one of the most incredible experiences ever — reliving history.
“Remembering what happened here, what sacrifices were made 75 years ago,” Freund wrote in an email.
The plane he jumped out of is called “Drag ‘em Oot.” According to Aero Legends, the C-47 was flown during D-Day in 1944 and dropped 18 paratroopers of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, behind the Normandy beach heads.
Aero Legends also said the plane participated in the paradropping operation in history: Operation Market Garden. This operation was to secure the River Rhine crossings.
The plane still has 30 bullet holes from those missions.
This isn’t Freund’s first jump over the drop zones, though. He is part of an organization called the Liberty Jump Team, a professional airborne demonstration team. Most of the team consists of veterans, and they also have active-duty service members along with civilians. Men and women make the jump.
“Most are retired veterans from all branches of the service,” Freund said.
They have been doing the commemoration jumps since it was established in 2006. The team also trains all the time to ensure the members have valid jump status.
The LJT website reports the group conducts “an annual airborne school to teach new jumpers the skills and accuracy needed to jump safely and conduct a refresher course for active-duty or retired military members that have not jumped in several years.”
For D-Day, the team made a jump on the Pathfinder drop zones, in which Freund said they are the first to jump on since June 6, 1944.
Additionally, the jumpers wore M42 jumpsuits that the paratroopers donned on D-Day. The jumpsuits have slanted bellows pockets and snaps secured by two snaps on each flap.
“The team has built an incredible relationship with the mayors so that we can recreate the jumps from C-47 on the actual drop zones used during D-Day,” Freund said.
The LJT also brought four WWII veterans with them on the trip. They have a program called the Liberty Jump Team Veteran Affairs. The mission of this program is to bring physically-abled WWII veterans back to the battlefields in Europe and other locations such as Iwo Jima.
“They are treated like kings by the French people of Normandy,” Freund said.
The LJT will make more jumps on June 7 to 10, as well as participate in ceremonies in the towns and villages hosted by the Normandy residents and mayor.
According to the National World War II Museum, there were 28,811 living WWII veterans in Texas in 2018. The nation as a whole has an estimated 400,000, with 348 of them dying a day.
The museum’s site said the WWII veterans would die out after 2029.
For more information on joining the LJT, visit www.libertyjumpteam.com.