In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, Private Robert C. Hillman became one of over 13,000 American paratroopers to leap out of a plane over Normandy as part of the “D-Day” invasion of occupied France — one of the largest offensives of World War II. A member of the legendary 101st Airborne Division, Private Hillman was a native of Manchester, Connecticut who joined the army after graduating from high school in 1942.
As he and his fellow paratroopers were flying in a C-47 plane over France, Hillman made a final inspection of his gear, including his parachute. As it happened, Hillman’s parachute was manufactured, packed, and inspected by the Pioneer Parachute Company, located in his hometown of Manchester — but the coincidence didn’t end there.
According to Wright Brown, a war correspondent for the NBC radio network who was riding in the same plane, Hillman turned to him and voiced his confidence in the safety of his particular chute. When Brown asked Hillman why he was so sure, Hillman replied, “Because my mother works for the Pioneer Parachute Company, and her initials are on my chute!”
“Manchester, Conn. July-Aug., 1942. Cheney brothers and Pioneer Parachute Company mills,” Library of Congress Photo Collection
Ted Glanzer, “South Windsor Company is a Parachute Pioneer,” Journal Inquirer