Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Mission Albany and Drop Zone C

T/4 J Gorenc. Boarding C-47 on 5th  June 1944

On the late evening of 5th June 1944, the men of of the 101st (Screaming Eagles) Airborne Division, began to board the C47 transport aircraft to take them to Normandy, France. The American 101st with the 82nd Airborne Divisions along with the British 6th Airborne Division were to form the, the airborne element of Operation Neptune. Neptune being the invasion plan for Northern France, part of the grand design which was Operation Overlord.

The two American Airborne Divisions were tasked with securing the west flank of the invasion beaches, and land behind Utah Beach. Mission 'Albany' referred to the delivery of the 101st Div..

The Screaming Eagles were the first to land at approximately 0100 to 0130hrs on Tuesday 6th June 1944. (N.B. Pathfinders had landed at approx. 0015hrs to mark the landing zones). Unfortunately due to dense cloud and then anti-aircraft fire on route to the drop zones the tight formations were scattered. This resulted in few of the paratroopers landing on their designated Drop Zones (DZ), of which there were three allocated to the  101st Div.; Drop Zones A, C and D.

The 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) which made up part of the 101st Div, was allocated to two DZ's. The 1st and 2nd Battalion (Bn) to land at DZ C (nr. St Marie du Mont) along with Regimental HQ and 3rd Battalion to land at DZ D (nr. St Come Du Mont). The 2nd Bn's objectives were to seize Causeways 1 & 2  the Exits off Utah Beach. The 1st Bn was to protect rhe rear of 2nd Bn from any German counterattack. 3/506th was to seize two bridges over the Douve River.  

Of 81 planes tasked with carrying the elements of 101st A/B Div. to DZ C, only 10 dropped there 'sticks' over the drop zone. These ten contained mainly of the Reg. HQ., though minus the communications platoon who landed some twenty miles away near Cherbourg. Consequently Col. Robert Sink had no way of contacting other divisional units but had landed near to the site chosen for the Regimental command post at Culoville.

Col. R Sink

Throughout the night more men of the 1st Bn joined the HQ staff. With no 2nd Bn men in the area and no way of contacting them, the 1st Bn was ordered to seize the beach exits. As for 2nd Bn the majority had landed nearer to DZ A, towards St Mere Eglise. Amongst them was 1st Lt Richard (Dick) Winters, the Executive Officer of Easy Company (E. Co.), 2/506th PIR.

Dick Winters
Winters having collected together a small band of paratroopers some from 2nd Battalion 506th, joined up with Lt.Col Robert Cole of 3/502 PIR as they moved towards Exits 3 and 4 off Utah Beach. When the 502nd neared their objective the 506th men moved off South East towards Exits 1 & 2. Enroute they encountered more men from 506th PIR, and as the column entered Le Grand-Chemin it came to a halt due to heavy artillery fire to its front. Lt. Winters and the other ten men of E. Co settled down to rest.      

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