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Reenactor relates his D-Day airborne invasion

Derek Cincotta, from Milford Mass., was one of many reenactors who parachuted into Normandy on June 5, 2019, during 75th anniversary observances.

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By ALISON BOSMA | Milford Daily News, Mass. | Published: June 15, 2019

NORMANDY (Tribune News Service) — Derek Cincotta was in the open hatch of a World War II warplane, fighting the wind and looking down at a quilted French countryside thousands of feet below.

"I get the command to stand in the door," Cincotta remembered. "I'm like 'all right, this is it. We're here. Three years of planning, and all I gotta hear is one word.'"

The man running the drop yelled "Go!" and the immediate rush, as Cincotta leapt from the plane and focused on his body positioning, resolved into calm once he pulled his parachute. In a video Cincotta took of the jump, the view is serene, with clouds rolling over green fields and far away buildings and traffic. His plane recedes in the distance with a low buzzing, and the parachutes of his fellow jumpers bloom and then float as green and black dots against the landscape.

The peacefulness of the experience was dramatically different compared to the moment Cincotta and his fellow paratroopers were re-enacting – the Allied airborne invasion on D-Day in 1944.

"Some of my fellow jumpers, their dad, their grandparents jumped on D-Day, or came up on the beach during the invasion," Cincotta said. "To be part of that with them, to stand next to them, was really neat. It was humbling."

Around 200 people from a handful of countries, many of them military or former military, like Cincotta, participated in the event last week. Organized by Daks Over Normandy, the day commemorated the 75th anniversary of D-Day with an airshow, paratroopers in World War II uniforms, and dozens of the original planes involved in the June invasion.

"All the roads had cars stopped, parked, and there were just thousands of people watching us ... fly over the channel," Cincotta said, remembering his view as the planes crossed the English coast. "Seeing that makes the event a little more special. We were giving them a show, and doing something the world hasn't seen in 75 years."

A few news organizations reported on 97-year-old World War II veteran Tom Rice, who was part of the 1944 airborne invasion, and re-enacted his own experience in a tandem jump during the event.

Cincotta jumped from a Douglas C-47 Sky Train nicknamed "That's All Brother" that was the first plane in the main invasion in 1944.

"It was a dream," he said.

This was far from the Milford resident's first jump. Cincotta was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army until his discharge in 2006. That's the same division that dropped from the skies in Normandy 75 years ago.

Members of the division are taught about its storied past, he said.

"There's a lot of history they teach the soldiers," Cincotta said. "To be able to be part of an event that helped recreate it, and jump into an original drop zone was amazing."

Cincotta took his wife and two young children with him for the re-enactment, he said.

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