Jumping from airplanes and crossing beaches under heavy fire, men from the 315th and 437th Troop Carrier Groups and their fellow Americans were part of a June 6 event which was later considered the turning point of World War II in Europe.
The groups were among more than 100,000 Allied troops who invaded German-held Normandy 74 years ago and wrestled the French beachhead and countryside under their control.
To commemorate the bravery and human losses of D-Day, the modern incarnations of the 315th and 437th — now based out of Joint Base Charleston — are using modern-day technology to tell the story of what happened seven decades ago. The air lift wing units’ public information officers will be posting to Twitter and Facebook the events of the Normandy invasion in the real time they occurred.
The social media re-enactment was the idea of 315th Airlift Wing Public Information Officer Air Force Maj. Wayne Capps.
“We’re proud of our history so we want to explain to people what actually went on during D-Day from the eyes of the 315th and the 437th Troop Carrier Group that flew the invasion 74 years ago,” he said. “We’re going to do a whole social media re-enactment where we post and live tweet as if the D-Day invasion is happening right now.”
Capps, a self-professed World War II history enthusiast, had the assistance of two historians and the units’ declassified wing histories and battle records to compile the posts.
“We’ve put together a lot of first-hand accounts. We’ve pulled from some official records and some first-hand accounts of some things that actually happened so we’re going to try to paint the picture of the night of the D-Day invasion from the men who flew the mission’s eyes,” he said.
Some of the men who parachuted into France trained at what is now Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter.
“We just decided to try to connect our history with the modern era and maybe it will inspire some younger people to be interested in what we do,” Capps said.
A C-47 aircraft similar to the ones the troop carrier groups flew over Normandy sits in front of the headquarters at Joint Base Charleston. Capps said just as the 315th and 437th flew together from bases in England during the war, they remain flying partners at Charleston.
“This is a great way for us to celebrate our heritage,” 437th Airlift Wing commander Col. Jimmy Canlas said. “This project will give the public a glimpse of a day in the life of some real heroes that did what our nation needed them to do 74 years ago.”
The active duty’s 437th Airlift Wing flew out of Aldermaston Field in England and towed gliders for the invasion; the Air Force Reserve’s 315th Airlift Wing flew out of Spanhoe Field and dropped units of the 82nd Airborne Division near St. Mere Eglise, France.
The re-enactment begins in real time at about 11 p.m. Tuesday until about 6 a.m. Wednesday. Capps said he’s looking forward to working overnight on the posts.
“It’s going to be in real time as it’s happening,” he said.
As the 74th Anniversary of D-Day is this week, we thought you’d like to see some combat camera footage of the Greatest Generation. Be sure to check out our D-Day social media reenactment starting tomorrow on our FB & Twitter pages…. https://t.co/ZQqFuXFiRY
— 315 Airlift Wing (@315AW) June 3, 2018
If you don’t stay up all night to follow the action, you can scroll through it the next day.
“My hope is that people get something out of it,” Capps said. “We very much live in a Facebook and Twitter-type world so I hope this history actually connects with people and people think it’s interesting and want to learn a little bit more about where some of these men came from.”
Capps said he met several heroes from the 315th on a reunion trip back to Normandy several years ago.
“It was one of the highlights of my career,” he said. “I just remember sitting down and talking about the firsthand stories of these people flying D-Day. It was just amazing. . . We’re flying over this little town, I’ve got five veterans in the flight deck of a C-17. Tears are just rolling down their eyes. It was absolutely touching.”