Novelty or Old News
Apparently Associated Press writer Phil Davis doesn't read or watch too many movies.
By PHIL DAVISAs interesting as what Professor Gannon and former Congressman Gibbons are telling, it is actually very old news. The movie and the book, The Longest Day, depicted the use of these crickets. Why is this suddenly news 63 years after the war and 45 years after the movie was shown? Is it that slow a news day in Florida?
TAMPA, Fla. (June 3) - Capt. Sam Gibbons knew his mission was in trouble when he hit the ground in the early hours of the D-Day invasion 63 years ago. The future congressman's 101st Airborne troops were scattered far from their intended drop zone. And the only nearby soldiers he could see where German.
"People are always talking about behind enemy lines. Hell, there ain't no lines in combat," said Gibbons, who was 24 when he parachuted into Normandy on June 6, 1944. "We jumped right on top of the Germans."
On the ground, in the dark, the scattered American soldiers relied on a children's' novelty toy to sort things out.
Gibbons, now 87 and retired after serving 17 consecutive terms in Congress , is one of the few Operation Overlord paratroopers who held onto his military-issued "cricket," a brass and steel version of the cheap tin prize from a 1930s Cracker Jack box. The soldiers called the signaling devices "crickets" because of the sharp "crick" sound it made when pressed.
The crickets were lifesavers for American paratroopers scattered in the dark on a morning when using a flashlight to check a map or shouting in English meant instant death.
"The cricket was a stroke of genius," said Michael Gannon, a retired University of Florida history professor. "How else would you know who you bumped into in the dark? If you came across somebody, you clicked. If he responded in kind, you were friends. If he didn't, you shot him."
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