Remembering D-Day, ‘Three minutes over Normandy’

By David Fleet
Normandy — From the open door of a C-47 Brendan Quisenberry recalls the Normandy countryside about 800 feet over the Village of Azeville, France. The “static line” attached to the aircraft would initiate the opening of his round canopy parachute as the soldier stepped forward for the brief descent to the now placid grassy field.
Eighty-years earlier that designated landing area near the French town of Azeville, was an active German artillery battery. The paratroopers were among the first to land on Nazi occupied French soil as thousands of Allied forces were to follow in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944.
“These kids must have been terrified,” said Quisenberry, a Brandon Township resident and 2004 Clarkston High School graduate who enlisted in the Army after high school. “It’s the fear of the unknown. You’re thousands of miles from home and you’re jumping into the dark to what you think is the drop zone with bullets zipping past you as you fall into the wrong landing area. They were overwhelmed and scared.”
Quisenberry’s early June experience over Normandy was through the Round Canopy Parachuting Team, a nonprofit organization to honor the history of Allied Airborne Forces. The group performs round canopy to increase awareness and educate the public about the paratroopers from WWII. Quisenberry’s connection with military paratroopers is grounded in a remarkable career.
Fore more than two decades, Quisenberry, served in the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, including 11 Bravo U.S. Army Military Occupational Specialty, 17 combat deployments, Green Beret with the 20th Special Forces Group National Guard and the 7th Special Forces Group.
“The military is all I’ve known since high school,” said Quisenberry, who will retire this fall. “I’ve been Airborne status my entire career with the Army.”
With a strong interest in military history not to mention more than 7,000 jumps with Airborne, Quisenberry had attempted to participate in two previous D-Day reenactments. However, both times the event was canceled.
“I wanted to be a part of history and walk in the footsteps of those heroes who jumped in early June to see what it was like,” he said.
Brendan and wife Nikki along with their children flew to Paris on May 31 then traveled west about 170 miles to the Normandy Beach area. The family stayed in an Airbnb just outside Cherbourg, France and the next six days the French area welcomed visitors to recognize the 80th anniversary of the Allied Invasion.
“The towns are littered with American, Canadian and British flags for the anniversary,” he said. “These are French people who still pay respect for their liberty and freedom after four years of German occupation. They pay homage to the Americans and all the Allies that participated. The French school children and locals share the legacy and pass the history down to the next generations of natives. Many of the French people knew a lot about the WWII military operations like the Americans do today. They respect what happened.”
Quisenberry recalled visiting Pointe du Hoc on the Normandy coast, the location of a series of German bunkers and machine gun posts.
“You feel like you’re walking on the moon,” he said. “The landscape still remains littered with craters from bombs exploding.”
For Quisenberry the connection with his fellow paratroopers coupled with the experience of looking out the window of an original C-47, one of the planes that actually flew on D-Day was amazing.
“Preparing to jump from one of the ten C-47s flying in formation flying over the actual D-Day drop zones gave me goose bumps,” he said.
The 80 year old C-47 named ‘Placid Lassie’ had patches over several bullet holes in the aluminum skin of the plane where German guns fired upon during the invasion. The parachutes were not from the 1940s, however, the military uniform was the same and the drop zone was one of the same 80 years earlier.
“Consider 18 or 19 year old kids jumping out of an airplane was a new concept for military operations,” he said. “They were the greatest generation.”
Following retirement Quisenberry will now strive to assist others returning to civilian life
Quisenberry is now the Co-Founder of the Transcend Foundation and serves as the Executive Director. The Transcend Foundation was created in 2022 to treat veterans and first responders’ physical and mental health needs by treating the source of the symptoms using preventative medicine and hormone replacement therapy

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