Behind the lines
. . . As for my rapid descent, it ended with a bang. For the first time in eleven jumps I landed right on my ass. I fell on my back and lay there as my green camouflage parachute settled around me. It did not cover me, so I was able to see all around. "Man, I sure hit the ground hard," I thought to myself. "That was a fast trip to the ground!"
My first moves were reflex actions based on many hours of hard training. Self-preservation is the key word in the first minutes of a combat jump. I reached down to my right jump boot for my dagger-like trench knife, just in case I would have to fight from here, on my back, even before I could get out of my harness. Then I got ready to use my weapon. Mine was around my neck and stashed under my reserve chute, across my chest . . .
My weapon was not going to be usable quickly enough to suit me. My next best tool was a hand grenade. I found one on me someplace and held onto it with one hand. I put my trench knife between my teeth, I guess to hold it so I could get to it if I needed it. I was still not out of my chute, nor was I ready to get up off my back.
I could hear small-arms fire coming from all directions. I thought I'd better see if anybody was nearby. Without standing up, I moved my head from side to side. Nothing came into view, but I could not see behind me because I didn't want to make undue movements that might give away my position until I was out of my harness and had my weapon to fight with. Seeing no one moving toward me, I laid my hand grenade on my chest and unsnapped my leg harness, then both chest snaps. All of these were difficult and seemed to take too much time. Free from my harness at last, I felt safe. Because of this feeling and because the opportunity presented itself, I took a foolish chance.
Call it young stupidity, youthful boldness or whatever. I decided I needed a personal souvenir from this jump. My paratrooper friend from back home, Junior Dreisbach, who was also making this same D-day jump but with the 507th Parachute Regiment, told me not to forget to bring back my rip cord from my reserve chute. It was a metal ring-like gadget with a cord tied to it. When pulled off the chute, it ripped the cord away, and the chute would spill open. Thus the name "rip cord"
. . .
(above text taken from Chapter 3, "Normandy")
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(The reserve chute rip cord brought back from Normandy)
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