American warplane and parachutists mark D-Day landing

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IT WAS 69 years ago today when thousands of Allied troops parachuted on to Normandy beach on D-Day.

But yesterday it looked as though no time had passed as 21 men, dressed as wartime American paratroopers, boarded a DC-3, or C47 Skytrain, at Daedalus airfield, in Lee-on-the-Solent, bound for Normandy.

RESPECT Don Lincoln, Ben Van Buren and Aaron Williams in front of a Douglas DC-3 Dakota on a stand at Daedalus airfield. Picture: Allan Hutchings (131515-669)

RESPECT Don Lincoln, Ben Van Buren and Aaron Williams in front of a Douglas DC-3 Dakota on a stand at Daedalus airfield. Picture: Allan Hutchings (131515-669)

They flew across the English channel and followed in the footsteps of those thousands of brave men, making static line jumps from 1,200ft on to the beach.

The only Americans on the plane were E5 Sergeants Ben Van Buren and Aaron Williams, along with Major Don Lincoln, of the 173rd Special Troops Battalion Airborne Brigade Combat Team.

Between the three of them they have more than 100 jumps but yesterday’s, which was done 600ft higher than those in the war, was particularly poignant.

Sgt Williams said: ‘My grandfather was in the Second World War, he was a part of the 3rd Armoured Division, my father was in Vietnam and my brother in Iraq.’

‘I’m airborne in 173rd and to recognise where our history came from, where it all started with the paratroopers is amazing for me to participate.

‘I’ll do it again next year and the year after until I stop jumping.’

The plane was built in 1943 and served in the United States Army Air Force, taking part in two missions on D-Day.

In September 1944 she was transferred to the RAF and saw service in Operation Market Garden over Holland.

She still has the bullet marks she earned during service and is now painted as she was during the D-Day landings.

The international parachutists who leapt from her were part of the Round Canopy Parachuting Team.

Peter Braun is their jump master and technical director.

He said: ‘It is the commemoration of everything that happened during June 6 1944, not just the landings.

‘We do this for the veterans, for the guys who gave their all, not just the airborne troops.

‘The memory of what happened during those six fateful years should remain.’

More members will perform further commemorative jumps this week.

Mayor of Gosport Cllr John and Mayoress Christine Beavis met the team ahead of the jump and talked about Gosport’s important role in D-Day.