Drop Zones (DZ)
Over the years we’ve all read and talked about WWII
and the Drop Zones in Normandy. The
82nd DZs were DZ
O, DZ N and DZ T along with LZ W. The 101st DZs were
DZ A, DZ C and DZ D along with LZ E. This narrative
picks up after the
Pathfinders had set the lights for the main body
of the Regiment.
In 1947 & 1948 narratives were done at Ft. Benning
at the Advanced Infantry Officers Course.
Captain John T. Joseph (1st Lt at the time)
wrote one for the Pathfinders for the 507th
Parachute Regiment 82nd Airborne Division.
Captain Joseph created detailed maps
to go with his narrative. A DZ was 700 yards
long west to east (this applies to all of the DZs
for Normandy) and 350 yards north to south. Each
Battalion was assigned one of the three areas in the
DZ. Each Battalion was given 300 yards to assemble
after the jump. Since the
DZ was only 700 yards long there were overlap
between the three Battalions.
The Pathfinders were supposed to set up in the
middle of each of the three areas.
For Normandy the Flight Line was from west to east.
The planes were supposed to slow to 110 MPH which
means it flew over the DZ for 13 seconds which meant
54 years per second. The optimum height for a drop
was 600 feet.
The planes were designed to drop 16 Paratroops in 13
seconds from west to east. That meant ¾ of a second
for each Paratrooper. There were 4 Companies in each
Battalion with 8-9 planes per Line Company and 9-12
for a Company Battalion which had more soldiers.
This next paragraph is from the book Into the Valley
by Col Charles H. Young as this is the best
description I have ever seen for a Serial.
“Serials of aircraft, made up almost entirely of 36
or 45 planes, flew as nine-ship Vs on Vs in trail.
The leader of each nine-airplane flight kept 1000
feet behind the rear of the preceding flight.
Leaders of the Wing elements in each flight were 200
feet back, and 200 feet to the right or left. Within
each three-plane V, wingmen were to fly 100 feet
back and 100 feet to the right or left of their
leader. This was a tight formation at night for
aircraft approximately 75 feet long and 95 feet from
wing tip to wing tip.”
The flights were separated by 18 seconds for the 110
MPH drop. When the first Elements hit the western
edge of the DZ they started to drop their loads as
they were through the DZ in 13 seconds which means
there was 5 more seconds before the next Flight
started to drop. That means in a Serial they were
over the DZ for 52 seconds (or 65 seconds in a 45
Since this is a three dimensional problem that means
the rate of decent for the Paratroopers has to be
figured in as well. In a perfect world the math
worked out the same for all 16 soldiers. Using the
Static line means that in 3 seconds the chute had
fully deployed. That leaves 27 seconds before
They were dropped at 600’ at 110 MPH the rate of
decent was 25’ per second. So when the next Flight
came over the DZ than meant the first Paratroopers
had fallen approximately 450’. That means the
Paratroopers from the next Flight jumped directly
above the first Flight and were 18 seconds above
After landing they had to roll up their stick (a
stick is the men in one plane). If there were 16 men
that meant that #1 and #16 had to go towards the
middle two men 9 and 10. Since the distance was 700’
apart they had to meet at 350’ then move towards
their respective assembly area.
Here is an interesting aside as the bundles were
dropped before the men jumped. They had the bundles
under the plane and sometimes in the plane and they
had to go out first. This means that the western end
of the DZ was loaded with equipment. It also meant
that the first 4-5 men on the ground in the first
Flight had to watch out for bundles coming down in
the next Flight. It was the same for the men in the
next Flights. The ones jumping from 6-16 didn’t have
to deal with that issue as the bundles were dropped
This also meant that the men from Serial 26 had
their equipment dropped right on their assembly
point. It meant that the men from Serial’s 24 & 25
had to move to the western end of the DZ to collect
their equipment then carry it to their own assembly
points. Serial 24 meant then had to carry it 400
yards. The first men out in Serial 24 had to roll up
the stick then go back 250 yards and pick up their
equipment then move 500 yards east.
The first Serial’s assembly would be the eastern end
of the DZ with the second Serial in the middle of
the DZ and the western end for the third Serial. In
this case the 2nd Battalion was in Serial 24, 3rd
Battalion was Serial 25 and the 1st Battalion and Hq
& Hq Co were in Serial 26.
More math was needed to have the men into their
proper assembly area. After landing and rolling up
their stick the men from all of the Serials would
theoretical be in the middle of the DZ (350’). The
men from Serial 24 had to move to the east for 250
yards. The men from Serial 25 were right where they
were supposed to be. Serial 26 had to move west 250
years to get to their assembly area.
Then each Battalion would form up by Company and
then form up by Platoon and Squad (or section for Hq
Co men). 2100 men had to jump from 120 planes and
then in a 700 yard by 350 yard area had to from up
down to Squad level.
Serial 24 jumped at 0232, Serial 25 at 0238 and
Serial 26 at 0244. This means each Serial had 6
minutes to jump the entire Battalion. For Serial 24
they started jumping at 0232 for the first flight.
The flight had 13 seconds over the DZ and 30 seconds
to come to earth. The second Flight jumped 18
seconds later so you had 2 flights in the air at
once. The same then happened for the next two
flights for Serial 24.
Each flight of paratroopers took 30 seconds to land
and each one was 18 seconds behind the first flight
that meant by 0235 the men were on the ground. They
then had three minutes before Serial 25 jumped. When
rolling up a stick they also had to find and open
the bundles as well. So the stick was 700 yards
apart and had 3:30 before the next Serial of men
would start coming to ground. Not even counting the
bundles it would take a stick 3 minutes to roll up.
Then for Serials 24 and 26 another 2 minutes would
be needed to get to their assigned assembly areas.
In reality this was not going to occur as the
soldier with equipment would weigh 265 pounds (not
counting the equipment in the bundles which on
average contained 4 bundles at 225 for weight. This
meant another 85 pounds per man so it rose to 350
lbs per man). So between 0232 and 0250 2100 men
landed with their 450 bundles of equipment and had
to break them down by Battalion, then Company then
Squad. And Paratroopers were lightly equipped
compared to a regular Division.
If this was done during the day and there was no
wind and it was a flat DZ and there were no bundles
and no added equipment they might be able to get
this done. For Normandy this was far from the case.
It was night, the wind was also a contributing
factor and the DZ was not flat and the last 150
yards of the DZ for the 507th was in a flooded area.
There were hedgerows in the DZ which meant they
couldn’t roll up the sticks or get to there
equipment or their assembly area.
Brian N. Siddall
November 12, 2018