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Jumping into Normandy

Badger man makes parachute jump marking key WWII anniversary

-Submitted photo
Steve Larson-White, center, of Badger, stands with his son, Jacob, and wife, Teresa Larson-White, after parachuting into Carentan, France, on June 2 to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy during World War II. He is wearing a replica of a U.S. Army paratrooper uniform from World War II.

While still dangling from his parachute far above the ground, Steve Larson-White picked out a nice landing spot in the field beneath him.

The Badger man was in the middle of an exciting parachute jump earlier this month.

But he wasn’t coming down on an Iowa field or any other spot in the United States for that matter.

Larson-White was preparing to hit the ground in Carentan, France, not far from where American paratroopers landed 80 years ago to begin the Allied invasion of Normandy.

He was wearing a replica of the uniforms those World War II paratroopers had worn.

-Submitted photo
A C-47 Skytrain is seen through the open door of another aircraft. The C-47 is a World War II vintage plane, but some are still flying. Steve Larson-White parachuted out of a C-47 called “Placid Lassie” when he jumped into Carentan, France, on June 2.

And he had jumped out of a plane called a C-47 Skytrain that actually flew during the invasion of Normandy.

“Just the rest of the day, I was on a high,” Larson-White said.

On June 6, 1944, the paratroopers landed in the middle of the night after flying through a storm of German anti-aircraft fire.

On June 2, 2024, Larson-White and his fellow re-enactors landed in daylight before a crowd that he estimated at 2,000 people.

“In that area, they are so appreciative of the United States to this day,” he said.

-Submitted photo
Steve Larson-White poses in front of a biplane during parachute training in advance of his June 2 jump into Normandy.

There were French people, he recalled, who wanted to have their photos taken with him. And he said he was greeted by a “90 something” woman who was a young girl during the Nazi occupation of France.

But most important to him was the presence of his wife, Teresa Larson-White, and his son, Jacob. They accompanied him to Europe. Before he jumped, he was able to tell them what plane he was in and what group he was in. He said he came down about 150 meters from his wife and son.

While it may have been his most memorable parachute jump, it was not the first one for the Army veteran who was a paratrooper.

Larson-White, who grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, enlisted in the Army in 1983. In 1984, he went to what paratroopers call jump school.

Assignments to Fort Richardson, Alaska, and Fort Bragg, now called Fort Liberty, in North Carolina, followed.

-Submitted photo
A man holding an American flag and wearing a replica U.S. Army World War II uniform stands on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. Omaha Beach was one of two beaches where American soldiers came ashore during the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion. The man is facing the English Channel and saluting.

He made 27 parachute jumps during his active duty Army career.

He acknowledges being nervous before every jump until the jumpmaster announced the plane was one minute from the drop zone.

“When they say one minute, any apprehension I have leaves my body and then adrenaline takes over,” he said.

Soon after that one minute announcement, he was out of the plane.

“That’s just the prettiest thing in the world to look up there and see your chute fully deployed,” Larson-White said.

Following active duty, he went on to serve in the Tennessee Army National Guard, from 1986 to 1995. Then he served in the Army Reserve until he retired in 2012 with the rank of sergeant first class. He is a veteran of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In recent years, he reconnected with old Army buddies via social media.

One of those men told Larson-White about making a parachute jump into France to mark the 75th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy.

That inspired him.

In August 2023, he signed up for the 80th anniversary jump, despite the fact that he had not made a parachute jump in 38 years.

Last January, he went to the Round Canopy Parachute Team in Palatka, Florida, to make his return to parachuting. He said that organization primarily consists of veterans of all ranks.

He made three jumps there.

In March he returned to Florida for more jumps.

On May 29, he and his wife and son flew to France. On May 31, he took a ferry to Britain.

On June 2, the day of the jump, he boarded a C-47 Skytrain named “Placid Lassie.”

“That thing sounded like a Cadillac to me,” he said of the two-engine aircraft.

The World War II paratroopers were so heavily laden with gear that they had to almost be lifted into the planes. The crew that jumped on June 2 traveled much lighter. Larson -White had his parachute, his reserve parachute and a bag containing three American flags and the flag of his employer, Decker Truck Line Inc.

Once safely on the ground and after all the hugs, cheers and congratulations had wound down, Larson-White had one more task to perform. French authorities had set up a temporary customs station near the drop zone and he had to stop there to get his passport stamped.

He and his family spent a couple more days in France, visiting Omaha Beach and Paris, among other places. They returned to Iowa June 8.

He plans to return to France for future World War II commemorations.

“I will be back over there again,” he said.

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