When 11 paratroopers dressed in vintage World War II uniforms jumped from a low-flying C-47 aircraft today, the scene brought back memories for former pilot Ted Machen, a member of the 317th Troop Carrier Group.
“It reminded me of old times,” Machen said.
Machen and 11 other members of the group called Jungle Skippers joined more than 130 family members, friends and supporters to celebrate the group’s 70 anniversary at Fort Benning’s Fryar Drop Zone.
After receiving training at Fort Benning in 1942, pilots were sent to the South Pacific where they transported paratroopers and supplies to New Guinea, Corrigidor, Luzon, Leyte in Philippines and Guadalcanal in the Solomons.
Machen said he was a 21-year-old first lieutenant when he was dropping paratroopers into combat. “I often wondered what the paratrooppers thought of me,” he said.
He recalled five drops in New Guinea and soldiers at times were facing the Japanese just 200 yeards away after hitting the ground. “This is what I’m talking about 200 yards off the strip,” Machen said.
On one close call, Machen said an enemy fighter plane flew right in front of his aircraft but didn’t fire on it. “He went by me and threw his hand up,” Machen said. “He could have shot me down.”
After landing on Fryar Field, members of the World War II Demonstration Team gave members of the 317th Troop Carrier Group a scarf cut from a World War II parachute.
Former Staff Sgt. Don Lowe of Marysville, Ohio, was left speechless after he was handed a parachute scarf. Lowe, 87, joined the Jungle Skippers in New Guinea in 1944 and was part of the operations group dropping paratroopers into Corrigidor.