World War II Buffs Gather In Oklahoma For Historic Parachute Jumps

The men used the same tactics and almost the same equipment they used during the Second World War. Part of the team was also WSJ’s Ben Kesling and 68-year-old Jim Yost, a funeral director from Champaign, who dressed up in military uniform, went on to fly aboard an old propeller plane, at 1,500 feet above southern Oklahoma and its cotton fields.

Yost had all kinds of dark thoughts as he prepared for the big jump and after being warned of several avoidable accidents, including a ripped ear due to a bad exit, an injured finger, a snapped ankle and several others resulting from a rough landing. “We talked so much about handling malfunctions, on my first jump I was not confident,” admitted Jim Yost, whose early days of jumping with the Army ended over thirty years back.

The World War II Airborne Demonstration Team travels the world every year to attend air shows and to train new members, ever since they formed in 1996. Those interested in taking the course must be aged between 18 to 70 years old and be ready to pay $1,250 for a nine day training course, based on the same techniques used by the United States paratroopers in the Second World War. The World War II Airborne Demonstration Team spend their time traveling, jumping into a sand pit from a platform about 3-foot-tall and march before and after any activity. They sleep in dusty barracks at an old airfield, which was built in 1942, The Wall Street Journal reports.

After completing their activities and training, the team can be seen parachuting out of the “Boogie Baby,” a 1942 Douglas C-47 Skytrain, which seemed to have a few mechanical problems during last week’s activities.

Army Lt. Col. Bill Jones from Virginia Beach, Va., was assigned to KP, which is kitchen police, while Second World War vet, Army Sgt. Maj. Dayton Herrington, aged 82, is the senior drill instructor and prepares breakfast for the trainees. For hours after, the trainees have to jump off a metal platform in the middle of a sand pit.

Kaitlin Harriott, 18 years old,  is the youngest of the team and also the one who, to the envy of her fellow trainees, rolls away from each landing, without every hurting herself.

Peter Roberts is a security officer from Melbourne, Australia and he is 55 years old. He described his experience of flying out of a plane saying that “It’s like jumping into a tornado!” and when the parachute opens it feels as if a giant eagle just grabbed you by the shoulders.


Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE