Paratroopers are a Special Lot

Sainte Mere Eglise, Normandy, this past June for the D-Day anniversary events. 

Paratroopers are a special lot. They are known for an unusual delight in death defying antics and absurd feats. Mr. Dan McBride is no exception. Just surviving jump school (the first time he jumped his chute didn't open and he pulled the emergency as he reached tree level. A little stunned, he assumed that was normal), his first combat jump was into Normandy, on June 6, 1944. 

“I was loaded down with eight grenades, two antitank mines, ammunition, a full field pack, four blocks of TNT, an entrenching tool, a bayonet and a carbine. I weighed 300 to 400 pounds. We had to have someone help us climb into the plane. The formation began to break apart as pilots tried to avoid the AA fire. They were banking and diving and turning. Well, on one particularly steep banking turn, being closest to the open door waiting to get the signal to jump, I fell out the door."

Tangling himself in the parachute lines, he landed on his head, which knocked him out for a good while. The adventures that followed were numerous; and told in his dry-wit style, become quite hilarious. Not too long after D-Day, on a night patrol, a soldier came up and spoke to him. It was a German."I pulled up my rifle, and he pulled up his. We both shot, and we both hit — but I hit more." Wounded in his arm, it would be the first of 3 purple hearts he would receive in 1944. The next one would be in Holland after he was blown off a dyke by mortar shells, crushing his ankle. "The medic stuck a needle through my boot. I had to walk out of there, and I could hear the bones grinding." His third Purple Heart came in Bastogne when he was hit in the knees from tank shrapnel. He would take part in four of the major battles in Europe: Normandy, Holland, Bastogne, and Southern Germany. Today, at 91 Mr. McBride is still one tough hombre with plenty of chutzpah. "I live in New Mexico close to the border. One time I was in the parking lot of Walmart and this guy came up to me with a pocket knife and said, 'give me your money'. I pulled out my [handgun] and told him, 'you can either leave now, or in a body bag. I don't care which.' Boy did that guy go running... (he laughs) yup, that was about two months ago."