From THE WAR, Episode 4:
NARRATOR: The greatest invasion in history began just after midnight on June 6th, 1944 – D-Day -- as the first of 24,000 paratroopers, flown over the Channel in more than 1,000 aircraft, were dropped behind enemy lines in Normandy.
DWAIN LUCE: The German’s theory of the defense of the continent was they put, they built pillboxes along the coastline and they put their old troops in it. Then they put their, their Panzer divisions and their SS divisions and their good divisions back in central points, the theory being that when we hit the beach, they would come in from those points and drive us off. Our job was to get in between them and the beach and to have them hit us instead of the beach.
NARRATOR: Most of the men of the British 6th Airborne dropped on target, reassembled, and within an hour had achieved their objectives, seizing bridges across the Orne and Dives rivers to keep German tanks from mounting a counter-attack along the coast.
On the western flank, the 16,000 Americans belonging to the 101st and 82nd Airborne divisions were less fortunate. Low-hanging clouds blocked the moonlight and obscured the landing zones. The narrow neck of the Cotentin Peninsula was hard to hit from the air. Many paratroopers fell helplessly into the sea. Others landed in fields and river valleys flooded by the Germans – and drowned. Some were blown from the sky as German tracer bullets set off the explosives they carried. Still others were dropped so low their parachutes had no chance to open: they hit, one man remembered, with “a sound like ripe pumpkins being thrown down against the ground.”