DECEMBER 22, 1942
HYDE PARK, Monday—Some friends who stayed with us not long ago, read me an account written to them by a young boy who belongs to our paratroops. They took him home one day when they found him lonely and at loose ends at a USO club near their home, and ever since he has written them from time to time.
The lady of the house wrote and told him that she could not imagine how it would feel to come to the moment of the take-off in an airplane, and actually have the courage to go out of the door. You could have no idea of what you would find when you landed on the ground, if you were able to land in the way you had been taught to do, and you had no mishap which made life even more complicated for you. You would be lucky, but were you sure of your luck?
The letter he wrote is such an honest and simple one, I have asked permission to quote it here for you:
"I am not strictly at the top of my form tonight, but I'll try to tell you what a parachute jump is like anyway. First we go down to the packing sheds and draw our chutes; inspect the brake-cords on the static and start sweating the jump out. Maybe you've had the feeling —probably not. It feels more like a swarm of butterflies in your stomach than anything else, not that I've eaten a swarm of butterflies to find out for sure. When the time comes to get into the plane, we check our reserve chutes to see that the ripcord isn't fouled, make sure that our rifle is firmly fastened, strap our helmets on good and tight, so that one of the connector links won't bat us behind the ear when the chute opens, and climb in. By this time most of the butterflies have turned to canaries.
"In the plane, as we rise from the ground, everyone is usually silent. Soon someone breaks the silence and, before you realize it, everyone is talking too much, laughing too loud. Probably a mild form of hysteria —awfully mild though. We fly for fifteen minutes to half an hour. Someone in the rear of the plane starts to sing, too loudly and a little off key. Some of the fellows join in, the rest laugh at them too loudly. As we circle the field we are to jump in the first time, the singing dies away. You suddenly notice that you're tense all over. You laugh too loud and you try to relax. It doesn't work. Soon the plane is almost over the field again. 'Stand in the door!'—'Go!' At the word 'go,' the first man bails out, followed by the rest."
I shall have to continue this letter in tomorrow's column because of lack of space.