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NEWS | June 11, 2024

Ramsbury honors the heroes of D-Day: A look back at the 437th Troop Carrier Group

By 1st Lt. Taylor Ferry, 628th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

RAMSBURY, U.K. – The quaint village of Ramsbury hosted a heartfelt ceremony on June 8 during the RAF Ramsbury Community Fair to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day. The event paid tribute to the 437th Troop Carrier Group of the U.S. Army Air Forces.

Members of the 437th Airlift Wing, including Lt. Col. Brad Fisher, commander of the 15th Airlift Squadron, and Maj. David Martin, commander of the 437th Aerial Port Squadron, traveled from the United States to be part of the commemoration. They honored the legacy of those who played a pivotal role in the Allied invasion of occupied France, known as Operation Overlord, during World War II.

A significant feature of the Ramsbury ceremony was the memorial dedicated to the units stationed at RAF Ramsbury from 1942 to 1946. Installed five years ago, the plaque commemorates the 437th Troop Carrier Group’s crucial contributions during D-Day and Operation Market Garden.

Fisher emphasized the importance of the event. “While the 437th was an American unit, this is not just an American story,” said Fisher. “It is only arm-in-arm with our brothers and sisters from the United Kingdom and other Allied forces that the Axis powers were driven to surrender.”

The town of Ramsbury was adorned with American and British flags, creating a festive and patriotic atmosphere. The fair featured World War II era vehicles on display, adding to the historical context.

The 437th Troop Carrier Group’s D-Day Mission

The 437th Troop Carrier Group, based at RAF Ramsbury, flew C-47 cargo aircraft and unpowered gliders to execute an airborne insertion of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions behind enemy lines in France. This mission, called Operation Neptune, was the largest airborne operation in history and a vital component of the D-Day invasion.

According to General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the C-47 was one of five essential pieces of equipment that contributed to the defeat of the Axis in Africa and Europe. In the early hours of June 6, 1944, the lead aircraft, named the Feeble Eagle, took off from Ramsbury, piloted by U.S. Army Air Forces Col. Cedric Hudgens and towing a glider.

One of the first flying squadrons of C-47s launched during the invasion was the 85th Troop Carrier Squadron, under the 437th Troop Carrier Group. These missions were fraught with risk, as the unarmed and unarmored C-47s made easy targets for enemy gunners.

Despite the perilous conditions, the 437th successfully delivered troops and equipment to the designated landing zones, facilitating the Allied advance. “The 437th was charged with the momentous task of flying C-47 cargo aircraft and unpowered gliders to execute an airborne insertion,” said Fisher. “Their fateful mission in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, was successful in large part thanks to the people of Ramsbury.”

Post D-Day Contributions of the 437th Troop Carrier Group

The 437th Troop Carrier Group’s involvement extended beyond D-Day. They participated in numerous key operations throughout the war, including Operation Dragoon, the invasion of Southern France, and Operation Market Garden.

Following D-Day, the 437th flew 84 resupply and medical evacuation missions into France, delivering 420,623 pounds of cargo and evacuating 627 medical patients. Their resilience was further tested during the Battle of the Bulge, playing a crucial role in resupplying surrounded troops in Bastogne, Belgium.

The 437th’s final major operation of World War II was Operation Varsity, an airborne assault over the Rhine River on March 24, 1945. They helped airdrop two British airborne divisions near Wesel, Germany.

The People of Ramsbury and the Enduring Bond

The ceremony in Ramsbury not only honored the past but also highlighted the enduring bond between the United States and the United Kingdom. It also celebrated the close relationship with the Royal Air Force.

Maj. David Martin expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to honor those who served. “It is a profound honor to remember the brave souls who served and sacrificed for our freedom,” said Martin. “Their legacy continues to inspire us all.”

The local community’s warmth and appreciation underscored the strong ties and mutual respect between Ramsbury and the visiting personnel. Residents of Ramsbury dressed as American World War II era paratroopers, as well as in World War I attire and other period clothing, adding to the historical authenticity of the event and creating a festive and patriotic atmosphere.

“I hope by putting on this event that we have reminded people of the importance of remembering our history and those who gave their lives for the future of others,” said Rose Howe, the event organizer and a Ramsbury resident. “I hope that everyone who attended will help to educate others and pass on the knowledge of D-Day and how important it was for peace in our village and across the world.”

The ceremony served as a powerful reminder of the courage and cooperation that shaped history. It ensured that the legacy of the 437th Troop Carrier Group will never be forgotten.

The event organizers hope to continue these commemorations, inviting future generations to remember and honor the sacrifices made during World War II. Visitors are encouraged to experience the memorial and participate in similar events to keep the history alive.