The TV show Band of Brothers brought us a little closer to American airborne landings in Normandy. Produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, it follows the story of “Easy” Company of the 101st Airborne Division. Working with veterans who were there, this collaboration has shown us some of the most realistic depictions of what it was like to fight during World War II.
Right before US troops landed on Normandy Beach for D-Day, 13,100 paratroopers dropped in behind enemy lines the night before.
In a single night on June 6th, 1944, twenty-one C-47s were shot down. This is what the clip we pulled up will depict. These kinds of losses would never be acceptable by today’s standards, but it was World War II, and that’s the history we’re trying to keep alive.
The American airborne landings in Normandy were the first American combat operations during Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy by the Western Allies on June 6, 1944, during World War II.
Around 13,100 American paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions made night parachute drops early on D-Day, June 6, followed by 3,937 glider troops flown in by day.
As the opening maneuver of Operation Neptune (the assault operation for Overlord) the two American airborne divisions were delivered to the continent in two parachutes and six glider missions.
The assault did not succeed in blocking the approaches to Utah for three days. Numerous factors played a part, most of which dealt with an excessive scattering of the drops.
Despite this, German forces were unable to exploit the chaos. Many German units made a tenacious defense of their strong-points, but all were systematically defeated within the week.
Aircraft losses and casualties
Forty-two C-47s were destroyed in two days of operations, although in many cases the crews survived and were returned to Allied control. Twenty-one of the losses were on D-Day during the parachute assault, another seven while towing gliders, and the remaining fourteen during parachute resupply missions. Of the 517 gliders, 222 were Horsa gliders, most of which were destroyed in landing accidents or by German fire after landing. Although a majority of the 295 Waco gliders were repairable for use in future operations, the combat situation in the beachhead did not permit the introduction of troop carrier service units, and 97 percent of all gliders used in the operation was abandoned in the field.
D-Day casualties for the airborne divisions were calculated in August 1944 as 1,240 for the 101st Airborne Division and 1,259 for the 82nd Airborne. Of those, the 101st suffered 182 killed, 557 wounded, and 501 missing. For the 82nd, the total was 156 killed, 347 wounded, and 756 missing.
Casualties through June 30 were reported by VII Corps as 4,670 for the 101st (546 killed, 2217 wounded, and 1,907 missing), and 4,480 for the 82nd (457 killed, 1440 wounded, and 2583 missing).
German casualties amounted to approximately 21,300 for the campaign. Fallschirmjäger-Regiment 6. reported approximately 3,000 through the end of July. Divisional totals, which include combat against all VII Corps units, not just airborne, and their reporting dates were:
91. Luftlande-Infanterie-Division: 2,212 (June 12), 5,000 (July 23)
243. Infanterie-Division: 8,189 (July 11)
709. Infanterie-Division: 4,000 (June 16)
17 SS-Panzergrenadier Division: 1,096 (June 30)