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This sculpture was fashioned after a paratrooper from the Airborne divisions who fought in WWII. In addition to being a talented artist, Terry is an avid historian. Featured below is an essay written by Rick Terry, the sculptor: June 6th, 1944, D-Day. The Allied invasion of Hitler's "Fortress Europe," found members of the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions dropping at night into German occupied France. The jump was chaotic due to the turbulent weather and German gunfire. Jumping too fast and too low further complicated their mission by scattering the troops miles from their assigned drop zones. This mission was to relieve some of the pressure from the amphibious assault troops landing at Utah Beach.
D-Day was just the beginning for most of the troops as they battled across Europe, eventually bringing about the defeat of Germany.
Of course, it wasn't just the Airborne Divisions or the American forces that won the war, and it wasn't only the Germans in Europe we were fighting. World War II was immense in scope with so many stories to tell. As a sculptor, my job was to simplify into a symbolic form, a small, but significant part of that history.
The "Screaming Eagle" patch on this Paratrooper's left shoulder signifies that he is a member of the 101st Airborne Division. He is equipped for the D-Day jump in to France. The base is symbolic of the hedgerow country found in Normandy. The sign and the broken chains are meant to convey the liberation of St. Marie du Mont, which represents one of the many objectives of the 101st.
To pay homage to other Airborne troops, the sides of the base are adorned with the Airborne unit symbols, that of the 11th, 101st and the 1st allied Airborne units are on the right. On the left side are the symbols of the 13th, 17th and 82 Divisions. The front of the base has the Parachutist Badge flanked by two Combat Jump Stars.
While researching this subject, I was struck by the enormous amount of equipment that these individuals carried. There is quite a bit of detail specific to D-Day, most notably the chemical protection devices. On his right upper arm is a Gas Detection Sleeve, which changes color in the presence of chemical gases. In this event he is carrying a Gas Mask in a watertight bag. Smaller than usual gas masks, this one is designed for assault troops. Other distinctive D-Day gear is the M-1942 jacket and pants, if you look carefully you will see the reinforced elbows and bottom pockets of the jacket. The trouser pockets, also reinforced, had straps to help secure their load. These clothes were specially treated for protection from chemical weapons.
As a means of identifying members of the same unit, brass "Crickets" were used along with the recognition words "Flash" and "Thunder." This trooper has the Cricket around his neck. On the rear of the helmet, tied to the netting, is a luminous marker, which glowed in the dark. The helmet is an early M2 with fixed D-ring chinstrap holders. Normally, in battle, the chinstrap would not be buckled because of artillery concussion; the paratrooper chinstrap, which was attached to the helmet liner, would not have been used after hitting the ground. However in an effort to convey a "Ready for Action" attitude, I left both straps buckled. Also on the helmet, as a means of camouflage, are burlap strips woven into the netting.
An elaborate system of carrying equipment starts with the M-1912 pistol belt and the M-1936 suspenders. With felt pads, to help support the weight for the M-1936 canvas field pack (called a "Mussett Bag"), the M-1911A1 .45 caliber automatic pistol, M-1942 pistol magazine pocket, canteen, first aid pouch and M-1943 entrenching tool (adjustable shovel) are all suspended from this rig. Attached to the front of his suspenders is an airborne first aid packet. Not seen but suggested, in the pocket of his jacket, located at the throat, is the switchblade...
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