News, WW2

Search is on for 30 Missing 101st Airborne Troopers From D-Day

“When writer Cornelius Ryan wrote the film The Longest Day it became a massive hit and it changed the way the world looked at our WW2 veterans. I wanted to read their accounts in their own words and look at the many documents that did not get used in the film.”

It’s amazing to think that the US Archives are still producing Airborne D-Day revelations after all these years – and this time the evidence comes not from US documents, but from period German interviews stored in Ohio.

The Longest Day & 101st Airborne

The US archives contain huge amounts of wartime paperwork and although they are historically fascinating, many of their pages remain unread even now. So says historian Paul Colombaccio, who is on a mission to find the names of the 30+ missing men of the 101st Airborne Division who landed in Normandy on D-day.

His story starts with a research trip to the Ohio State University:

When writer Cornelius Ryan wrote the film The Longest Day it became a massive hit and it changed the way the world looked at our WW2 veterans. I wanted to read their accounts in their own words and look at the many documents that did not get used in the film.”

Read More: The Longest Day: John Wayne ‘punished’ Darryl F. Zanuck for Publicly Insulting him

Allied Intelligence map covering the Eastern side of the Vire Estuary where the paratroopers landed. It is dated April 1944.   The mystery facing historians is knowing what happened to the paratroopers next?

Just after WW2 Cornelius Ryan collected thousands of photographs, diaries, and historical documents. He also undertook hundreds of interviews with D-Day veterans from all sides. Not all Ryan’s paperwork made it into the film and many of the documents are still sat waiting to be read.

Germans and men of the US 101st Airborne

Ryan was able to construct a compelling history of D-Day using eyewitness testimonies and on his death his whole collection was placed into the safe hands of the Ohio State University. Over the years it has been carefully catalogued and now made available to historians both online and in person in Ohio.

If you would like to support us then please visit our shop!

During his research Colombaccio came across an original account of D-Day combat between the Germans and men of the US 101st Airborne written in the words of the German officer who captured them. After further research it became clear that this large group of men and their battle had not been recorded in the 101st Airborne Division regimental archives.

Read More: Point du Hoc – The Lost Battlefield

Maisy Battery

Colonel Werner von Kistowski was a German officer in charge of an anti-aircraft unit who was stationed in a small French village called Maisy, situated on the Normandy coast between Omaha and Utah Beaches, just as the D-Day landings began. His testimony was not used in the 1962 film and was instead left forgotten in the Ohio archives.

101st Airborne
General Dwight D. Eisenhower visits men of the 101st Airborne on June 5, 1944. Note insignia has been censored. (Photo courtesy US Army Signal Corps)

The following is an extract from Ryan’s 1954 interview when he asks Kistowski about his D-day experience: “At about 1:48 am I received a telephone call that the first prisoners of war – US paratroopers had been taken. Four had been captured between Maisy and Gefosse Fontenay… this was immediately followed by another seventeen near Maisy.

He happened to look out to sea and there to his amazement he saw the fleet on the horizon steadily steaming towards the coast.

Read More: American Fatalities in the Bloodiest US Wars


Based in a trench where he was able to “follow the path of the gliders as they passed over Grandcamp”, Kistowski goes on to describe the carnage being inflicted on his men during the terrible naval and aerial bombardment of the area while remembering to note down the number of Allied planes his men were destroying.

Colombaccio is convinced the lost story of these forgotten soldiers needs to be reconstructed:

“I did some further research and found that these Airborne men have been completely ignored by historians. Despite the vast amount of US Airborne research printed in books over the years these men have all been missed. In some books I think that the authors simply said that their planes were ‘lost at sea’ – as their fate was unknown.

Cornelius Ryan's The Longest Day
Cornelius Ryan’s The Longest Day book and a copy of some his notes referring to the Maisy Battery.

Putting the Record Straight

Now we know where they landed we need to correct those books and find out who these men were, what were their objectives and what happened to them all. And most important, their families need to know that the 101st Airborne Division has not forgotten them.

They have been written out of the D-Day Airborne history books – so now is the time to correct that.”

Read More: Luger from WW2 Handed into the Police

According to Colombaccio: “we can now prove that at least two planes or two gliders full of Airborne troops fell on the Grandcamp side of the Vire estuary on D-Day”.

As he continues his research he intends to fill in this lost piece of the D-Day story and he is asking for your help. If you can offer potential names or unit details for any of these paratroopers please contact him via    [email protected]

The Cornelius Ryan Archives are accessible within the University of Ohio or online via: Cornelius Ryan Collection of World War II Papers

A big thank you to the guys of the 502nd PIR, Company B – 101st Airborne Reenactors group for the fantastic lead image. You can also find them on Facebook