The Joint Task Force Normandy conducted a commemorative airborne drop to honor the historic airborne operation conducted by Allied forces on June 6, 1944, just outside of Sainte-Mère-Église, France, June 9, 2019.
The commemorative airborne operation provided an opportunity for multinational forces to both honor the past and work to secure the future.
Training in the very location where the liberation of France, and then Europe, first began 75 years ago exemplified the Allied partnerships and bonds forged long before D-Day.
Multiple airborne demonstrations were held throughout the day including jumps from U.S. military static-line paratroopers, U.S. military free-fall teams and civilian parachutists. These paratroopers and parachutists landed in the Iron Mike drop-zone in front of thousands of U.S. service members, Allied service members and civilians who spent the day spectating the events and listening to the stories of World War II veterans, also in attendance.
In total, over 900 military paratroopers and 110 civilian parachutists from seven countries participated in what is known to be the second largest airborne operation since WWII.
After descending from the skies and landing in the bumpy fields of the Iron Mike drop-zone, just as Allied forces had on June 6, 1944, one U.S. paratrooper felt overcome with emotion.
“It’s incredibly overwhelming,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Heath Jr., 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, Chosen Company mortar section leader. “As you know, everyone is jumping here today to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of France and Normandy. Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be a paratrooper — I was always studying and reading about World War II and the fact I’m jumping here today is absolutely mindblowing.”
To achieve his childhood dream of becoming a paratrooper, Heath credits one individual for helping him see it through.
“I just want to thank my brother who always believed I could do it when other people said I couldn’t,” said Heath.
After the last paratrooper had dropped for the day, the commemoration was concluded with the annual Iron Mike Ceremony. The ceremony honored the 254 U.S. soldiers who were killed, and the 525 wounded during the Battle for La Fiere Bridgehead from June 6-9, 1944.
The following countries were represented in this multinational commemorative event:
53 paratroopers from Belgium
120 from France
55 from Germany
60 from the Netherlands
20 from Romania
57 from the United Kingdom
780 from the United States
Participating U.S. military units in the commemorative airborne operation included the:
82nd Airborne Division
75th Ranger Regiment
173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne)
4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team
4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division
Army Ranger Training Brigade
1st Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment
503rd Airborne Military Police Battalion
U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command