The 101st Airborne Division is a unit of infantry, paratroopers, of the United States Army trained for air assault operations. They were dropped by parachute from planes, often behind enemy lines. They were formed in 1918, just nine days before the end of World War I. They played an important role during World War II, and continue to be an elite unit of the U.S. armed forces today.
In June 1944, the 101st Airborne was dropped on Utah Beach in Normandy the night before the Allied invasion force landed. The Division’s job was to secure the beach and overcome several important German positions. The 101st Airborne also had an important part to play in the liberation of the Netherlands from the Germans and in the Battle of the Bulge. They also fought in the Vietnam War as well as in more recent conflicts such as the Persian Gulf War (1991) and the Iraq War (2003).
This footage was taken on June 5, 1944, the evening before D-Day. The 101st Airborne is soon to be dropped on Utah Beach. Part of the 101st, specifically, the 2nd Battalion of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, is preparing to board its aircraft at Greenham Common Airfield in England.
They are in battle gear and are camouflaged. Before they board a letter is read to them, from General Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe. They were told ‘you are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you.’ The aircraft is called That’s All, Brother.
The officers present are Lieutenant General Louis H. Brereton, commander of the 9th Air Force and Lieutenant Colonel Louis R. Goodrich. The pilots of the aircraft are Colonel John Donalson, commander of the 438th TCG and Lt. Col. David Daniel, commander of the 87th TCS.