Parker A. Alford served in the 3rd Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), U.S. 101st Airborne Division, which was formed in 1942 at Camp Toccoa, Georgia. Alford was an artillery officer training in the United Kingdom when he answered an appeal for artillery observers for the airborne troops. After airborne training, Alford joined the 501st PIR and was placed in charge of keeping in contact with the navy in case the battalion should require artillery support.
As part of the 101st Airborne Division Alford took part in a major parachute jump in mid-May 1944 in front of General Eisenhower and Winston Churchill that was affected by high winds, injuring many men. Around 18 May Alford and his unit were transported to a sealed forest camp near Newbury, in southwest England. Alford’s memoirs recall how isolating the living conditions were within the staging areas set-up before departure to Normandy, France. He remembers that contact with other battalions was prohibited, noting that each battalion was ‘totally enclosed in 12ft barbed wire and each unit was separated from each other’. Alford also recalls that ‘during this entire period [the unit] had no incoming mail, no phone calls and no outside communication’. But the troops accepted their stark conditions, acknowledging that at this crucial stage of the campaign the smallest mistake could have proven fatal for the success of the whole operation.
The memoirs of Allied troops are held in the D-Day Archive. They are accessible to view on request in the Portsmouth History Centre.