On June 6, 1944, Allied forces led by General Dwight D. Eisenhower stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, on "D-Day," beginning the liberation of German-occupied Western Europe during World War II.
Ed Manley, 91, jumped into Normandy just after midnight on the June 6, 1944. He joined 770 KTTH's David Boze Show on the anniversary to talk about the experience. Manley credits a speech from General Eisenhower with helping him make it through.
"This thing saved my life I believe," says Manley. "At the end of his little spiel, the general mentioned the fact that they had heard that the Germans were booby trapping the homes in Normandy. So in my ridiculous way, I said to myself, 'well if I don't go in a home, I don't have to worry.' So that's precisely what I did."
Manley tells Boze he was in the third flight of paratroopers and they jumped from 400 feet because their flight leader saw planes at the assigned height of 600 feet being hit by enemy fire.
"At 400 feet we went out, and it takes 175 for the chute to open, so you can imagine," says Manley.
With little time to adjust his descent, Manley tells Boze he came down in an apple tree and immediately found himself under fire.
"I went into it up to my waste," says Manley. "Fortunately, I wasn't hanging in the tree because an MG 42, this is like 1,400 rounds a minute, he opens up, figuring there's a man at the bottom of the shoot."
Another fighter was able to knock out the machine gun, and Manley says they then focused on regrouping. He says they were spread over about an 8 mile area, but managed to come together.
"The first thing the sergeant says, there was a little hamlet, he said, 'Let's go to those homes over there.' I knew damn well they were going to go in if they went over there. So I'm standing in the middle of the group and I said, 'I'm not going,'" says Manley. "The other 10 guys left and I'm standing there on the road exactly where we grouped and they all went and I have never seen them since."
Manley says he's never been able to find out what happened to his buddies that day. "I figure I saved my life by that little spiel because until my dying day, I won't realize what happened to my buddies. I can't imagine."
Having been trained as a paratrooper, Manley has participated in commemorative jumps since D-Day. At age 91, he says he's still open to it if his fellow paratroopers want to do it again.
"There's a reunion here in Oregon in August," says Manley. "If I can find somebody else that's going to jump..."
Manley will be speaking more about his experience at Flood the Sound in Olympia on Friday at 6 p.m.