By Patrick J. Chaisson Colonel Ed Raff kept glancing at his wristwatch while trying to control the growing sense of dread inside him. At any moment, he knew, dozens of American cargo gliders were due to arrive overhead. Yet well-armed enemy infantrymen and machine gunners dominated the gliders’ designated landing fields. Unless those soldiers were defeated, chaos would prevail. Keeping one eye to the skies and another on his watch, Raff worked furiously to organize an all-out assault on the foe’s stronghold. At 2053 hours, the far-off throbbing sound of aircraft engines told him he had run out of time. Minutes later they appeared: 75 twin-motored Douglas C-47 Skytrain transport aircraft, each towing a giant Horsa or Waco glider. The C-47s’ flame dampeners glowed white-hot against the gathering dusk as they approached their release point. The low-flying air armada was too big a target to miss. As Colonel Raff looked on helplessly, a sheet of machine-gun fire erupted skyward from the enemy positions. Mortally wounded tug planes and gliders alike began spiraling down to crash land among the hedgerows. Those men able to crawl out of their wrecked aircraft stumbled dazedly around the battlefield, often falling prey to a sniper’s bullet. This incident, which took place near the road junction of Les Forges, France, was only one of many small-unit actions to occur on D-Day, June 6, 1944. It was a desperate attempt to link up the massive U.S. force landing across Utah Bea


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