Training along these lines was supplemented by additional work with map and aerial photograph reading, physical training, and assembly problems. Colored TE-122 flashlights were used in conducting Pathfinder assembly problems. Red, amber, and blue lights were employed, each designating the assembly point for one team. The center team (the team commanded by the Regimental Pathfinder Leader) was always designated as the base team to which the other teams reported upon assembly. The Assistant Team Leader for each Battalion was equipped with a light that was raised 15 feet into the air and aided the main elements in assembling. This light, known as the McGill Light, was set up at the battalion assembly point as soon as the battalion serial approached the drop zone. This greatly facilitated the assembly problem, for the light could easily be seen for several miles. A red light indicated the 1/507-PIR area, an amber light the 2/507-PIR area, and a blue light the 3/507-PIR area. This type of training continued up to the time of the invasion. After Pathfinders jumped on and set up drop zones, the main elements of the regiments followed them in to carry out complete tactical problems. The Pathfinder teams attained a high proficiency in organizing jump areas. Under favorable conditions twelve minutes were all that was required to organize a field from the time the first Pathfinder left his plane until the last light or Eureka was set up.
During the later part of the training period it was decided to provide Pathfinder teams with security elements. For this purpose, one officer and twelve enlisted men from the 504-PIR, all combat veterans, were attached to the 507-PIR and 50S-PIR Pathfinder teams. Inasmuch as the 505-PIR had had previous combat experience they provided for their own security. This meant that each Pathfinder team had four security men. The officer in command of the security detachment accompanied the Regimental Pathfinder Leader.
Three weeks prior to the invasion of Normandy the Regimental Pathfinder Leaders from the 505, 507, and 508-PIRs were ordered to return from North Witham (England) to their respective units to be briefed for the coming operation. The mission of the 82nd Airborne Division was to land by parachute and glider during the early morning hours of D-Day west of St-Sauveur-Le-Vicomte (France); to seize, clear, and secure St-Sauveur-Le-Vicomte and the bridge over the nearby Douve River; to block all movement north of the Prairies Marecageuses (swampland); and to block all roads leading to the east coast of Normandy. The mission of the Pathfinder teams was to organize the drop zones and landing zones; to assist battalion commanders in assembling their units, and to deliver to their respective commanders all information about the enemy situation that they had been able to obtain. The 505-PIR Pathfinders team was to use green-colored halophane lights, the 507-PIR, red-colored halophane lights, and the 508-PIR amber-colored halophane lights. Two Eurekas were to be put in operation by each team fifteen minutes prior to the designated time of arrival. The 505-PIR Pathfinder team had the additional mission of setting up the landing zone for the 325-GIR. (See Map A for drop zones and landing zones)
Aerial photographs of the drop zones were studied at great length, with particular attention given to anti-airborne obstacles. A study of new photos, day by day, revealed that the terrain was very suitable for use as a drop zone. However, small black specks began to appear in the photos. As days passed and new photos were studied, more and more black specks were detected. These specks, which formed an irregular net over the field} were finally identified as poles spaced 75 to 100 yards apart. Identified also were weapons emplacements and parking bays for vehicles. The parking bays indicated that the area was organized as a permanent installation. The 82nd Airborne Division G-2 reported that the German 243.Infantry-Division was in the vicinity of the drop zone and that the area was further strengthened by the movement of the German 91.Infantry-Division to the vicinity of St-Sauveur-Le-Vicomte.
On May 26, eleven days before the invasion, the mission of the 82nd Airborne Division was changed. This came as a welcome relief to the Pathfinder Leaders, who had become increasingly concerned about the extensive anti-airborne organization of the first area. Later, upon ground inspection of the area (Hill 110) after its occupation by Allied troops, this was verified. Hill 110, from which both coasts of the Cherbourg Peninsula could be seen on a clear day, was honeycombed with barbed wire and booby traps in addition to poles. The perimeter was thickly spotted with camouflaged gun emplacements and observation posts from which prepared concentrations covering the entire area could be fired and observed. The Germans expected Allied Airborne troops on Hill 110 – and were prepared for them. This last-minute change in plans for the 82nd Airborne Division mission moved the operation to approximately ten miles east of St-Sauveur-Le-Vicomte along the Merderet River. The mission was to seize, clear, and secure the general area outlined by Neuville-Au-Plain, Ste-Mère-Eglise, Chef-Du-Pont, and Amereville, to destroy the crossings at Etienville and Beuzeville-La-Bastille on the Douve River to protect the northwest flank of the VII Corps within the Division zone, and to be prepared to advance to the west on Corps Order.
The mission of the 507-PIR was to seize, organize and defend the northern section in the Division zone west of the Merderet River, in the vicinity of Amfreville, to assist the 505-PIR in securing crossings of the Merderet River at La Fière and be prepared to advance west to the Douve River. (Map B) The drop zones of the parachute regiments were approximately 2500 yards long and 800 yards wide, and composed of small fields marked off by hedgerows. Some of the fields were spotted with orchards. The eastern sector of the 507-PIR zone was adjacent to the Merderet River swamps, a large area that formed a serious hazard. The other two regimental zones were comparatively free of obstacles. No gun emplacements or anti-airborne devices could be detected through the study of aerial photographs. However, small troop concentrations were known to exist in the vicinity, with an estimated company of infantry located at Ste-Mère-Eglise. The Standing Operating Procedure developed for the Pathfinder teams did not change for the new mission.
On June 3, the remaining members of the Pathfinder teams were thoroughly briefed on their mission. Aerial photos and maps were examined again and again until the men ‘knew every blade of grass’ on the drop zone and surrounding terrain. The following day the Pathfinders were informed of the take-off times for Normandy on June 4. The 505-PIR Pathfinder Teams were scheduled to take off at 2226 and jump on DZ-0 at 0121 on June 5; the 508-PIR Pathfinders Teams would leave the field at 2243 and jump on DZ-N at 0138; and the 507-PIR Pathfinder Teams would follow at 2305 and jump on DZ-T at 0138. (Map B) However, due to unfavorable weather conditions, the operation was postponed for 24 hours. Pilots of the Pathfinder ships had been seasoned by extensive combat experience. They had worked closely with Pathfinder personnel during the entire training period in England. A healthy atmosphere of mutual confidence existed between plane crews and Pathfinder teams. Jumpers were secure in the knowledge that navigators and pilots would work together to drop them at the right place on time.
The Troop Carrier flight plan for the combat elements was the most complex one that had been attempted up to this time. It involved the use of 117 planes per regiment in addition to 423 tow planes for gliders and 378 planes for resupply missions. In the flight plan, the 507-PIR using 117 planes was broken down into three serials, as follows:
Serial 1 – 2/507-PIR – 36 C-47s
Take-Off Time: 0017 – DZ Time: 0232 – Jump Altitude: 600 ft
Jump Speed: 100-110 MPH – DZ Sector: Center
C-47 – 43-15330 – Shalk #14; Pilot: 1/Lt David Hamilton; Co-pilot: 2/Lt Stanton F. Bierwith; Navigator: 2/Lt Carl R. Jones; Crew chief: T/Sgt Melvin Doherty; Radio: S/Sgt Samuel Carlley.
Pathfinder Team 2/507: 1/Lt Ralph S. McGill, Fox Co, 2/507/82-A/B; 2/Lt Charles R. Ames, Easy Co, 2/507/82-A/B; Sgt Jerome Shapiro, Hq Co, 2/507/82-A/B; Sgt John A. Turner, Fox Co, 2/507/82-A/B; T/4 Rolland J. Duff, Hq Co, 2/507/82-A/B; Cpl Russell B. Dillard, Hq Co, 2/507/82-A/B; Cpl Eddie A. Tamplen, Fox Co, 2/507/82-A/B; Cpl Peter J. Weathers, Fox Co, 2/507/82-A/B; Pfc Robert J. Beaudine, Fox Co, 2/507/82-A/B; Pfc Otto Eichelberg, Easy Co, 2/507/82-A/B; Pfc Ronald B. Nicholson, Hq Co, 2/507/82-A/B; Pfc Louis C. Waldorf, easy Co, 2/507/82-A/B; Pvt Curry M. Adderton, Geeorge Co, 2/507/82-A/B; Pvt Ray A. Embree, Easy Co, 2/507/82-A/B; Pvt Edward W. Endsley, Hq Co, 2/507/82-A/B; Pvt Michael Evanick, George Co, 2/507/82-A/B; Pvt Roy E. Norris, Hq Co, 2/507/82-A/B; Pvt William L. Robbins, Easy Co, 2/507/82-A/B; Pvt Bernard C. Shipton, Charlie Co, 1/507/82-A/B; Pvt James O. Wallis, Easy Co, 2/507/82-A/B.
Serial 2 – 3/507-PIR – 36 C-47s
Take-Off Time: 0029 – DZ Time: 0244 – Jump Altitude: 600 ft
Jump Speed: 100-100-MPH – DZ Sector: Western
C-47 – 42-108884 – Shalk #13; Pilot: Capt Paul Minor; Co-pilot: 2/Lt Henry Maxfield; Navigator: 2/Lt Robert Keyser; Crew chief: T/Sgt Frank Welden; Radio: S/Sgt Nelson S. Renold.
Pathfinder Team 3/507: 1/Lt John T. Joseph, George Co, 3/507/82-A/B; 1/Lt Claude V. Crooks, Item Co, 3/507/82-A/B; 1/Lt James H. Goethe, Able Co, 1/507/82-A/B; Sgt William E. Consolvo, George Co, 3/507-82-A/B; T/5 Loyd F. Durfee, How Co, 3/507/82-A/B; T/4 Paul B. Thore, Item Co, 3/507/82-A/B; Cpl Roy E. Neideffer, Item Co, 3/507-82-A/B; Cpl Alexander F. Turlo, George Co, 3/507/82-A/B; Pfc Robert E. Kelley, How Co, 3/507-82-A/B; Pfc Milton F. Nielson, Hq Co, 3/507/82-A/B; Pfc Edward G. Miller, Item Co, 3/507/82-A/B; Pfc Thomas L. Rodgers, George Co, 3/507/82-A/B; Pvt James S. Carper, Hq Co, 3/507/82-A/B; Pvt Arthur Caton Jr, George Co, 3/507/82-A/B; Pvt William L. Gray, Hq Co, 2/507/82-A/B; Pvt Melvin E. Marshall, George Co, 3/507/82-A/B; Pvt Thomas J. McCarty, Hq Co, 2/507/82-A/B; Pvt James M. McCormick, Hq Co, 3/507/82-A/B; Pvt John G. Saris, How Co, 3/507/82-A/B.
Serial 3 – 1/507-PIR + (Hq & Hq Co) – 45 C-47s
Take-Off Time: 0029 – DZ Time: 0244 – Jump Altitude: 600 ft
Jump Speed: 100-110 MPH – DZ Sector: Eastern
C-47 – 42-92706 – Shalk #15; Pilot: 1/Lt Edward B. McIntosh; Co-pilot: 2/Lt Robert E. Hoffman; Navigator: 2/Lt Fred S. Peter; Crew Chief: T/Sgt Vito Bonasoro; Radio: S/Sgt Lloyd F. Klein.
Pathfinders Team 1/507: 1/Lt George R. O’Brien, Hq Co, 1/507/82-A/B; T/5 Vincent Brophy, Hq Co, 1/507/82-A/B; T/5 Robert C. Mitchell, Hq Co, 1/507/82-A/B; T/4 William O. Armstrong, Charlie Co, 1/507/82-A/B; Pfc Fred L. Burns, Charlie Co, 1/507/82-A/B; Pfc Walter E. Chaney, Hq Co, 1/507/82-A/B; Pfc Amos R. Cundiff, Baker Co, 1/507/82-A/B; Pfc John Despot, edic Co, 1/507/82-A/B; Pfc John D. Dickenson, Charlie Co, 1/507/82-A/B; Pfc Donald C. Hansen, Baker Co, 1/507/82-A/B; Pfc Warren H. Jones, Charlie Co, 1/507/82-A/B; Pfc John C. Mortzfeldt, Charlie Co, 1/507/82-A/B; Pfc Thomas E. Munden, Able Co, 1/507/82-A/B; Pfc Robert E. Olsen, Able Co, 1/507/82-A/B; Pfc Paul E. Pachowka, Charlie Co, 1/507/82-A/B; Pfc William R. Wolf, Charlie Co, 1/507/82-A/B; Pvt John R. Bergendahl, Hq Co, 1/507/82-A/B; Pvt Zigmund Hojnowski, Able Co, 1/507/82-A/B; Pvt Thompson J. Morris, Able Co, 1/507/82-A/B
All Troop Carrier groups were to be provided with fighter escorts to and from the drop and landing zones. Each Troop Carrier unit was to assemble over its own airfield. At a predesignated time it was to join its flight serial. On the ground and on the English Channel the route was to be clearly marked by visual navigational aids, giving the planes ‘clear sailing’ to the coast of Franceq. One ‘Rebecca’ operated in each nine-ship flight of the main elements. No planes were to take up evasive action prior to dropping their troops on the Cherbourg Peninsula. Preparations for the ‘pay-off’ were made in high spirits. The Pathfinders joked, cheeked equipment, wrote letters, rechecked equipment, posed for pictures, cleaned Tommy guns, sharpened knives, sat and waited, then joked some more. In addition to pathfinder equipment, the man carried field bags and gas masks strapped on their legs, Tommy guns placed underneath chest straps, grenades inserted in pouches on their pistol belts, and .45 caliber ammunition and miscellaneous equipment wherever they could cache it. Eureka operators were armed with pistols only. Gammon Hand Grenades were carried for use against mechanized vehicles. In spite of the inevitable nervousness prior to the operation, morale could not have been better. The big test, the goal of all the diligent training of the past weeks, was now at hand.