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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 sized Serial).

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 landing.

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 them.

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 first.

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


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