Sue Urda’s brother, James K. Schell, was a machine gunner in Company I, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. He wrote an essay for a college English I course entitled “My Greatest Experience,” in which he describes the role he played in the D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6th, 1944. He tells in great detail of the atmosphere around the troops as the invasion loomed, and he elaborates on the events of the invasion itself. He parachuted out of a plane in the early hours of the morning on June 6th, landing in the shoulder-deep water and knee-deep mud of the flooded Merderet River. He had to cut himself out of his parachute and trek to a nearby location to meet up with other “troopers.” They then “cut communication wires and started fighting almost immediately.” He concludes his essay by telling of how fortunate he is to have come through the battles that he did, and that the operation in Normandy was the toughest experience of his life. When he was in England, he played on a football team, where he came across another boy from his hometown simply by chance during a match. After the war, he returned to Pennsylvania where he owned a lumber company. He attended Muhlenberg College on a football scholarship. He died at age 56 of cancer.

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Description of James Schell

My brother was… he has deceased, so we are no longer getting stories from him, but this was one of his essays for class at Muhlenberg College. And, uh, it tells us what he went through when they jumped in Normandy. He died of cancer at the age of 56 after surviving all those jumps in the war… He didn’t talk much about the war, he didn’t want to tell stories, but he wrote that for his class, obviously, and, uh, it told us a lot about what they felt like when they were making a jump. He used to send letters to mother and dad, air mail letters, I remember that they cherished hearing from him, and I remember the morning of the Battle of the Bulge, my mother had a bad dream, and she woke up crying. She thought something happened to Jim. But fortunately, he got through it all, got home safely. And his brother was in the Pacific, so they had a lot to worry about. I’ll never forget the day he came home. Oh my gosh. [laughs]. He came with a lot of baggage and he just dropped those bags and came in the house and it was, everybody was very happy.