The 70th anniversary of the D-Day allied landing at Normandy brought back vivid memories for one veteran who, rather than landing at Normandy, jumped into it.
Richard McCollum, now 92, was a young paratrooper on June 6 1944 when the 101st airborne parachuted into occupied France. "Stand up (in the plane), hook up, stand in the door, pop on the rear end and out you go," he recalled. "You don't know where you're going to land."
McCollum said the scene was often chaos as he and hundreds of other paratroopers tried to get back together with their units and join the fight. "It's like being in a burning house or something," he said. "You just try to find some way to get out. But at that same time you're there for a purpose so you try to take care to cover that purpose for which you're there."
McCollum admitted to being grateful for some of that chaos where he and soldiers all around him would be firing and bullets spraying in all directions. "If I killed anybody, I don't know it," he said. "There were a lot of hedgerows and bushes over there and so forth. You fire. If there's some movement, you fire at the movement. If somebody falls, they fall. Maybe the guy next to you got him."
McCollum said he still wears his 101st Airborne hat frequently and is thrilled to meet people who thank him and want to hear his stories. He did wish he had a chance to talk with General Dwight Eisenhower who saw the troops off before the D-Day invasion "He said, ‘this is the hour of destiny,' or something like that," McCollum said with a laugh. "I said, ‘we'll do what we can, brother. We'll do what we can. We're going to win. We're going to win this battle. We're going to drive them out of Europe.'"
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