06JUN1944: CPT Frank Lillyman boarded his aircraft in late on the night of June 5th, 1944. In a few short hours, he would be the first American Soldier to land in France, kicking off Operation Overlord.
Lillyman commanded the Pathfinder Company of the 101st Airborne Division. His daunting task was to lead a team that would land nearly 30 minutes before the main assault and mark the drop zones for the inbound pilots. Entering enemy airspace, Lillyman's plane dropped low and at only 450 feet elevation, he and his men exited the craft into the dark Normandy sky.
Landing at 12:15 on the morning of June 6th, Lillyman and his men got right to work. Recognizing they were dropped nearly a mile from their intended target, they improvised. Finding a suitable location, he and his pathfinders went about marking the DZ in the little time that they had. A nearby church steeple caught his eye as a great location for their Eureka homing beacon. After breaking the incredible news to the priest that he had been liberated, Lillyman's team set up the beacon and began their wait.
The team then learned of an enemy 20mm antiaircraft gun near their landing zone that could devastate the incoming paratroopers. Lillyman moved to the farm where a Frenchman pointed inside to the enemy location. After eliminating the soldier, the sound of American aircraft could be heard in the distance.
Lillyman and his pathfinders turned on their lights to guide the aircraft in and at 12:57 the first wave landed, the invasion of Normandy was underway.
CPT Frank Lillyman would be called upon later that day to again mark landing zones for the much needed glider troops and their supplies. During these landings, Lillyman was wounded and sent back to England, ending his D-Day.
Lillyman would work his way back to the front lines and survived the war. He stayed in the Army retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1968 and passed away in 1971.