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In the tradition of Steven Ambrose's "D-Day" and "Band of Brothers, The First Men In" tells the remarkable story of the American paratroopers who took on one of the most important and dangerous missions of World War II. On the eve of D-Day, the 82nd Airborne Division parachuted into key positions along the Normandy coast, spearheading the assault on Fortress Europe. Using extensive firsthand interviews with the men of the 82nd, Ed Ruggero vividly brings them to life. This "first-rate story-teller" ("Denver Post") weaves their improbable achievement into an unforgettable narrative.
Only one unit of the 82nd -- the 3,000 men of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment -- had previously been tested in battle. These heroes of the brutal 1943 invasion of Sicily -- whose story was brilliantly told in Ruggero's "Combat Jump" -- were given one of the toughest assignments, that of securing the critical crossroads town of Ste. Mere Eglise, the gateway to Utah Beach, through which half of the U.S. invasion force had to pass. Within hours of landing in Normandy, the 505th had accomplished its mission and seized Ste. Mere Eglise, the first town in Europe to be liberated. But as the sun rose on June 6, 1944, and as the assault waves struggled ashore on fire-swept beaches, the airborne commanders realized that most of the nearly 14,000 paratroopers dropped on the extreme right flank of the Allied invasion area had missed their targets.
The scattered troopers fought in small groups, cut off from one another by the dense Norman hedgerows and cleverly dug-in German defenders.Putting themselves between the vulnerable landing beaches and repeated enemy assaults, the lightly armed paratroopers fought for no-name crossroads and isolated fields on the first few miles of the long road to Berlin. Their training, courage, and leadership paid off; with their blood, they purchased the critical hours the Allies needed to get ashore. Often outnumbered and frequently outgunned, the men of the 82nd accomplished every mission, held every piece of ground they gained, and thus helped secure the success of the greatest amphibious invasion in history.
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