by Randolph Hils
It is hard to imagine today what a mass parachute jump might look like in action. The following six photographs taken in sequence during a practice mission is a rare illustration of the power of the Airborne Troop Carrier forces.
The photos were probably taken on the Alliance Airbase at Alliance Nebraska. One pilot commented, That it is a credit to the German soldier that he stood his ground in the face of the impressive sight of thousands of paratroopers descending upon him.
C-47s begin to discharge their lethal cargo of elite paratroopers. Flying the V of V's formation, peculiar to Troop Carrier airborne operations, 3 flights of three aircraft each made up a nine plane V. Each "flight" of 3 aircraft also flew in a V formation. Flying from 400-700 feet off the ground, moving at 90-120 mph with a wing span of nearly 100 feet, the c-47s presented an easy target for German anti-aircraft flak cannon, machine guns and small arms fire. Flying ahead of the C-47s on a combat drop, fighter bombers, usually P-47 Thunderbolts would attempt to suppress enemy fire with strafing and bombing runs on nests enemy anti-aircraft guns.
A standard 45 plane formation, is commonly refereed to as a "serial." As flown by the 440th for OPERATION NEPTUNE , the Normandy Invasion, the serial would occupy airspace about one mile long and 1,000 feet wide.
Each 9 plane V was about 1000 feet wide. Each "flight," a 3 aircraft V, occupied an airspace 140 feet in length and about 335 feet wide. Spacing between each aircraft could vary from 25 to 100 feet. Spacing between following 9 plane V formations was about 1000 feet.
With each aircraft carrying an average of 18 paratroopers, in just a few minutes, a 45 plane serial could put over 800 paratroopers into the sky.
A carefully executed drop in good weather could deliver paratroopers in compact groups.
The best result, was a safe landing.
Sources: Statistical information provided by Captain Donald M. Orcutt, Flight Leader, 95th Squadron. Photos courtesy of the 440th Troop Carrier Group Association archives collection of Group SGT. MAJ. Ruel Rucksdashel