The World War II Veterans Committee began with the production of the award-winning radio documentary series, World War II Chronicles, commemorating the 50th anniversary of World War II. This program, hosted by the late, great “Voice of World War II,” Edward J. Herlihy, aired on over 500 stations nationwide between 1991 and 1995 on the Radio America network. In the years since, the World War II Veterans Committee has produced dozens of radio documentaries and series, in an effort to bring the history of the Second World War to the American public.

The Committee’s tradition of quality radio programming continues with the weekly series, Veterans Chronicles, hosted by Gene Pell, former NBC Pentagon Correspondent and head of Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. With Veterans Chronicles, listeners are taken back in history, and told the story of World War II by the men and women who fought, and won, the war. The series is broadcast on the Radio America network and past shows can be heard at In this issue, we print an excerpt from a recent episode.

Donald Burgett was one of the first airborne troops to land in Normandy early in the morning of D-Day as a member of the 101st “Screaming Eagle” Division. He would later parachute into Holland, fighting for 72 days behind enemy lines. During the Battle of the Bulge he and the 101st successfully held out against nine German armored divisions in the siege of Bastogne. He subsequently fought through the Ruhr Valley, the Black Forest, Bavaria, and Austria. He was one of only eleven men out of 200 in his company to survive from Normandy to the end of the war.

The D-Day landings were originally scheduled for June 5th, but foul weather in the English Channel, low visibility, and heavy seas forced Eisenhower to postpone for 24 hours. The following morning—June 6th—Burgett was once again on a plane which would drop him behind enemy lines.

I was in one of the lead flights, and we circled around England. I always liken it to a comet; we circled over England, adding planes to the tail, which got longer and longer as we circled. All the planes couldn’t take off at one time, so we continually circled as more planes would come up to rendezvous with us, and fall into the comet tail which grew longer and longer.

We were coming into Normandy from the backside; we were heading back toward England when we jumped. That is why you read of cases when the stick dropped too late, they landed in the English Channel and they drowned. So we had a small window in which you had to start jumping, otherwise you are going to land deep in enemy territory if you jumped to early or you were going to land in the channel if you jumped too late. As we came over Jersey and Guernsey, we were ordered to stand and hook up. We removed the door from the plane and as we came over the coast of France, we could see the fires on the ground. There were bombers that preceded us in, so they knocked out key anti-aircraft positions. At the same time, it gave the Germans the impression that this was a bombing run—they didn’t expect that there were a lot of paratroopers coming out of that plane.

We ran into a cloudbank, and only the lead plane of each flight had a directional finder which was compatible to the pathfinders who had jumped in on their drop zones an hour before we were to drop. When we entered the cloudbank, many of the planes had to divert from each other, since they could not see. Without the guidance system, which only the lead plane had that we could not see, our flight fragmented. But it was not the pilot’s fault.