|Troops from the 101st Airborne with full packs and a bazooka, in a C-47 just before take-off from RAF Upottery Airfield to Normandy, France for “Operation Chicago. June 5, 1944.|
In the process, units would also disrupt German communications, establish roadblocks to hamper the movement of German reinforcements, establish a defensive line between the beachhead and Valognes, clear the area of the drop zones to the unit boundary at Les Forges, and link up with the veteran 82nd Airborne Division.
Operation Chicago was the 27th serial of the airborne assault and was flown by the troop carrier C-47 Skytrains of the 434th Troop Carrier Group at RAF Aldermaston. 52 aircraft acted as tugs for an equal number of CG-4A Waco gliders carrying 155 troops, a bulldozer, sixteen 57-millimeter (6-pounder) antitank guns, and 25 small vehicles. 2.5 tons of ammunition and 11 tons of equipment were also transported, including an SCR-499 radio set for the division headquarters command post.
|Glider Waco CG-4A “Hadrian” in flight. US National Archives.|
|A damaged Waco glider on LZ “E”. US National Archives.|
The landing zone was a triangle-shaped area a mile in width at its mile-long base along the road connecting les Forges (a hamlet south of Sainte-Mère-Église) and Sainte-Marie-du-Mont. The zone was 1.5 miles in-depth and its eastern edge ran through Hiesville, the division command post two miles west of Ste. Marie-du-Mont. In addition to its central locality, the fields within the zone were on average twice the length of most others in the vicinity. Many of the fields, however, were bordered by trees 40 feet in height and not hedgerows, a fact that did not show up well on aerial reconnaissance photographs.
Paratroops from 101st Airborne were dropped beginning around 01:30, tasked with controlling the causeways behind Utah Beach and destroying road and rail bridges over the Douve River. The C-47s could not fly in a tight formation because of thick cloud cover, and many paratroopers were dropped far from their intended landing zones. Many planes came in so low that they were under fire from both flak and machine gun fire. Some paratroopers were killed on impact when their parachutes did not have time to open, and others drowned in the flooded fields. Gathering together into fighting units was made difficult by a shortage of radios and by the bocage terrain, with its hedgerows, stone walls, and marshes. Some units did not arrive at their targets until afternoon, by which time several of the causeways had already been cleared by members of the 4th Infantry Division moving up from the beach.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.