LA FIERE, France (AP) — Nearly 1,000 paratroopers dropped out of the sky in Normandy on Sunday — but this time they did so in peace, instead of to wrest western France from the Nazis as they did during World War II.
Drawing huge crowds who braved hot weather and lined the historic landing area at La Fiere, the aerial spectacle re-enacted the drama of the Normandy landings and served to cap commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
Among the planes ferrying paratroopers for the event was a restored C-47 US military transport plane that dropped Allied troops on the village of Sainte-Mere-Eglise — a stone's throw from La Fiere — on June 6, 1944. And the pilots who originally flew it took the controls again last week, 70 years later, remembering their experiences.
Sunday saw dozens of veterans escorted down a sandy path to a special section to watch the show alongside thousands of spectators — most of whom lined two sides of the field. Others took shelter in the shade as the lack of wind caused the sun to beat down hard.
Planes including the C-47 aircraft flew by loudly overhead several times, with two dozen military paratroopers — from countries including the U.S., Britain, France and Germany — jumping with each passage.
They were scenes reminiscent of the pivotal event, when around 15,000 Allied paratroopers were dropped in and around the village of Sainte-Mere-Eglise on D-Day. It became the first to be liberated by the Allies and remains one of the enduring symbols of the Normandy invasion.
Veteran Julian "Bud" Rice, a C-47 pilot who participated in the airdrops of Normandy on D-Day, watched the show.
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