On the right flank of the Allied D-Day landings on June 6, 1944 the 13,000 the young paratroopers of the U.S. 82nd (All American) and 101st (Screaming Eagles) Airborne Divisions had several tasks. Among them was to capture the western exits of the roads off UTAH beach . The roads had effectively become causeways through the fields deliberately flooded by the Germans and if they were held the men of US VII Corps would be trapped.
The other task was to ensure that the bridges around Carentan to the south were secured to allow the VII Corps to break out south and east and link up with the men of V Corps landing at OMAHA.
The airborne divisions were delivered by 12 troop carrier groups of the IX Troop Carrier Command and to achieve surprise, the aircraft flew in from west to east over the Cotentin Peninsula. Though there had been rehearsals this was the first operational mass parachute drop at night and consequently, 45% of units were widely scattered and unable to rally.
Pathfinder teams had jumped ahead of the main body to mark the drop zones (DZ), but many of the Rebecca/Eureka transponding radar beacons used were damaged or ineffective and failed to guide in the C-47 Skytrains to the DZs. Three regiments of the 101st Airborne were dropped between 00:48 and 01:40, followed by the 82nd Airborne's drops between 01:51 and 02:42. Each operation involved approximately 400 C-47 aircraft. Two pre-dawn glider landings brought in anti-tank guns and support troops for each division. On the evening of D-Day two additional glider landings brought in two battalions of artillery and 24 105mm Pack Howitzers to the 82nd Airborne. Additional glider operations on 7 June delivered the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment to the 82nd Airborne, but some of the stores delivered in two large supply parachute drops that date were recovered by the Germans.
After 24 hours, only 2,500 troops of the 101st and 2,000 of the 82nd had rallied and were under the control of their divisions, this was approximating a third of the force that had dropped. Though the American airborne troops were scattered this confused the Germans who were unable to identify objectives and formations. Small groups of paratroopers continued to roam and fight behind enemy lines for days. Many consolidated into small groups usually were a mixture of different companies, battalions, regiments, or even divisions that had rallied around NCOs or junior officers. Ironically Germans' defensive flooding also helped to protect the Americans' southern flank during the early stages of D-Day. After a tough fight the men of the 82nd had occupied the town of Sainte-Mère-Église early in the morning of 6 June and so it has the proud claim of being the first town liberated in the invasion