JUMPING INTO SOUTHERN FRANCE



I believe it was sometime in 1960 that B Company, 505th made
a parachute jump in Southern France near it’s border with
Spain in the Pyrenees Mountains.  I also believe that our
drop zone was a French Army artillery range on or near Camp
Pau.  Our aircraft were flown by Air National Guard or Air
Force Reserve crews, I forget which.  When I left the plane,
it was like running full speed into a brick wall.

The wind slammed me back against the side of the plane and
my chute was really twisted.  When I finally unwound and
could look up to check my canopy, I thought, “My God, look
at all of the damned patches!”  My chute was literally
covered with patches of all sizes and shapes.  When the
edges of all those “patches” started fluttering in the wind,
I knew they weren’t patches: they were holes.

There were three very big holes in my chute and my shroud
lines crossed just above my head, but I was not twisted.  I
cursed, “Damn! I’ve got another Mae West.”  Looking around,
I compared my descent against that of the other jumpers in
the air and decided that I was safer with what I had, than I
would be if I pulled my emergency chute.  Sometimes the
reserve gets entangled with your main chute and then you
have no chute.  Fortunately, I was right.  After I collapsed
my chute, I inspected it and counted over forty holes in it.
The three large holes were big enough for me to walk
through.  It hadn’t been a Mae West: my chute had completely
inverted and in doing so, the friction had burned all of
those holes in the canopy.  [We learned later that plane was
flown by USAF NG folks and they had been flying way too fast
for dropping troops.]

Artillery bombardments had churned the ground up so bad
there were several bogs in the drop zone.  One of our more
chickenshit officers in the 505th landed in one of those
bogs and began to sink out of sight.  Unfortunately for him,
troopers from his unit were the only ones that were close to
him and they were in no great rush to rescue that son of a
bitch.  They stood nearby in deep discussion about exactly
how they should go about rescuing their fearless leader
while he continued to sink into the bottomless mire and was
screaming his head off.  Finally, when he was up to his
armpits, they grabbed his chute and tried to pull him out,
but to no avail.  Just before the poor dumb bastard went
under, a jeep drove up and they hooked the chute onto the
jeep and used it to drag him out of the mire.  He had gone
in up to his chin by that time and had stopped cursing them
and was begging and praying for their help.

Don "Val"  Valentine