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World War II Combat Jump Part Of D-Day 75th Anniversary Events In Dayton

Ken LaRock
Courtesy of NMUSAF
D-Day Doll participated in the Normandy invasion in 1944 by dropping paratroopers, towing gliders, flying supplies and evacuating the wounded.

On June 6, 1944, a C-53D Skytrooper named D-Day Doll towed gliders carrying reinforcements for troops dropped earlier in the night at Utah Beach. Paratroopers will perform a World War II combat jump from the D-Day Doll Monday over the National Museum of the United States Air Force near Dayton.

The jump is part of the museum's lineup of events and exhibits commemorating the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion in Normandy, France. It's scheduled for 10 a.m., weather permitting. After Dayton, the plane and crew will travel to Normandy for a D-Day commemoration and reenactment.

The exhibit, "D-Day: Freedom from Above" makes its U.S. debut Monday, offering visitors an interactive augmented reality experience. Using HistoPad technology (think of a tablet or iPad), visitors can experience D-Day from a first-person point of view, following along as troops from the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions liberate the French town of Sainte-Mère-Église.

"Using this HistoPad, [the visitor] will be able to experience what it was like to be a paratrooper, from the briefing that they received very, very early in the morning on D-Day through the jump and finally it ends with the aid station that was in the church in Sainte-Mère-Église," says Jeff Duford, a curator with the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force (NMUSAF).

Credit Danielle Almeter / Courtesy of NMUSAF
Courtesy of NMUSAF
This example of the HistoPad shows the inside of a C-47 with paratroopers seated inside the aircraft.

There are a handful of first-person experiences from which to choose and all are drawn from real paratroopers who made the historic jump, including some who did not survive. There's also the story of Private John Steele, whose parachute famously became entangled with the church steeple where he was stranded for two hours before being taken prisoner by German troops.

The tablet technology allows users to manipulate 3D virtual relics, view unpublished photographs and archival videos, and interact with animated maps.

"D-Day: Freedom from Above" runs through the end of 2019.

The NMUSAF is also hosting special viewings of various films, including D-Day Normandy 1944, Secret Spitfires, and others. It will open a permanent exhibit titled "Operation Overlord: D-Day" on the role of the Army Air Forces in D-Day, too.

"The role of the Army Air Forces [in D-day] is really not well known and this exhibit ... tells about this role. Basically what it comes down to is if it wasn't for the Army Air Forces there wouldn't have been a D-Day," Duford states.

"The reason is because the German air force had to be broken because if the German air force was viable then we couldn't have attempted a landing, and had we tried to attempt a landing, it would have failed because their fighters would've shot down our transports and their bombers would have hit our ships."

A C-47 flyover and wreath laying ceremony are part of the events scheduled on June 6 to commemorate the 75th anniversary.

The Air Force Museum is the world's largest military aviation museum. Duford points to its extensive collection of World War II aircraft, including every type of plane involved on D-Day. He says the collection enriches the augmented reality experience of "D-Day: Freedom from Above."

"Visitors will be able to go and experience what it was like to be a paratrooper and then they will be able to go to our World War II gallery and see the real types of equipment - the types of guns that the Germans had, the types of airplanes that we flew, uniform items and things like that," he says. "They get to have this immersive experience and then they can go look at the real thing."

Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Prior to joining Cincinnati Public Radio, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She enjoys snow skiing, soccer and dogs.