S/Sgt. Maurice E. “Speedy” Smith

A radio operators D-day story

 

Maurice Smith flew, at age 19,  as a radio operator in the 37th Troop Carrier Squadron, one of the four squadrons of the 316th Troop Carrier Group.

In the early hours of D-day, he flew with a C-47 to Normandy to deliver paratroopers on the Cotentin peninsula.

 

The 316th Troop Carrier Group was to fly troops of the 505th PIR, 82nd Airborne Division to Normandy. The first serial of the Group (Serial 17) was flown by the 44th and 45th Troop Carrier Squadron of the 316th TCG.

Serial 18 was flown by the two other squadrons, the 37th TCS and 36th  TCS. This last serial carried troopers of the 3rd Battalion of the 505th PIR. Commanding officer of the paratroopers was Lt.-Col. Edward C. Krause.

 

Lead plane was C-47 # 43-30652. This plane carried chalk number 37. The plane was leading in this 36 plane serial.

Crew of the C-47 was:

 

Lt.-Col. Leonard C. Fletcher (P)

Capt. Warren D. Rayburn (CP)

Capt. Frank B. Waters (N)

T/Sgt. Wilbur E. Evans (CC)

S/Sgt. Maurice E. Smith (RO)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The crew after the first flight to Normandy. Left to right: Sgt. Evans, Capt. Waters, 1st Lt. Rayburn, Sgt. Smith and Maj. Fletcher.  

 

Maurice Smith:

Around the first of June 1944 the field got its first word of the up-coming invasion. All leaves and passes were cancelled. Everybody was restricted to the base. Then a few days later paratroopers of the 82nd started arriving. Something was definitely going on. Then we finally got the official word that the D-day invasion of France was on for the following morning, the fifth day of June, and we would be jumping paratroopers over Normandy, France on that day before daylight as part of the invasion.

Sometime during the day we were informed that the invasion had been postponed for 24 hours.

On D-day we got an early morning breakfast. It was hurry up and wait. I was impatient and wanted to go. Loaded the plane with paratroopers and were well on our way towards the Cherbourg peninsula of Normandy, France before daylight. As we neared the Normandy shores we flew over hundreds of ships that would light up the night firing their guns at the Nazis on shore.

Overhead you could see tracer bullets from machine guns firing at the planes going in ahead of you. Then all at once it looks like all the tracers were coming up right at you and you would think, “those poor paratroopers have to jump through all that machine gun fire.”

Then they are all gone and you are pulling in the static lines and getting out of there. We flew across the peninsula and then headed back to our home base just as the sun was coming up.

It had been a long day already but our day was only half over. We flew back to base, landed the plane, and loaded the plane with bags of supplies. A parachute and static line were attached to a cable inside the plane so we could throw out the supplies. The parachute would open up and the bag would float down.

Our whole squadron returned to where we had dropped the paratroopers and dropped the supplies to them. Only this time we did not have the element of surprise and it was not dark. We took a whole lot more flak and machine gun fire, but none of the planes from our squadron was shot down, some just had holes in them.

 

And thus ended the D-day flights for the 37th Troop Carrier Squadron. Like all other Troop Carrier outfits, the 37th TCS became involved in evacuating wounded, bringing in supplies. And new airborne operation in the future.

 

According the the after action reports, chalk 37 dropped right on the spot.

C-47 # 43-30652 is a survivor. Today the plane is still flying.  Owned by 1941 Historical Aircraft Group Museum, the plane flies at air shows.

Photo on right courtesy Eric Dumigan.

Airborne Troop Carrier - Normandy