82nd Airborne Division, June 1944.
In the predawn hours of June 6th, 1944, the Allies launched Operation Overlord, the invasion of France. The mission was to assault a 45 mile stretch of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s Atlantic Wall along France’s Cotentin Peninsula. The beachhead was divided into five assault zones, code named Gold, Sword, Juno, Omaha and Utah. Supporting the landings was a fleet of more than 5,000 vessels ranging from monstrous battleships down to assault landing craft. Spearheading the invasion of Hitler’s Festung Europa was the 82nd Airborne, one of three airborne divisions assigned to drop in advance of the landings to seize vital objectives and prevent German reinforcements from reaching the beaches.
Point of No Return depicts the D-Day night jump of the 82nd Airborne, code-named Operation Boston. The artwork features an American paratrooper, his chute deploying behind him, as he exits a mortally wounded C-47 somewhere over Normandy, France. He and his fellow troopers have a vital role in the success of Overlord. Dropping behind Utah, the only available beach on the upper flank of the peninsula, the 82nd Airborne has been ordered to capture Sainte-Mère-Église, seize and secure crossings of the Merderet River at La Fière and Chef-du-Pont, and destroy the crossing points on the Douve River at Beuzeville-la-Bastille and Étienville.
Leading the division into Normandy is Force A, consisting of approximately 6,400 men from the pathfinders, the three parachute regiments, the artillery battalions and combat engineers. Commanded by General Jim Gavin, Force A will be followed a few hours later by the gliders of Force B, while the rest of the division will come ashore on the beaches.
After a 24-hour delay due to inclement weather over the English Channel, the 378 transport aircraft of the 82nd Airborne lifted off from multiple airfields in England. The veteran 505th Parachute Infantry regiment—this will be their third combat jump—is in the vanguard, followed by the 508th PIR and 507th PIR, both on their first combat mission.
The nine pathfinder C-47s crossed the coast a little after midnight, with the plan for the 505th PIR to drop on DZ-O at 01:15 AM, the 508th PIR onto DZ-N at 02:08 AM followed by the 507th PIR onto DZ-T 30 minutes later. Unknown to the main echelon of Force A, their pathfinders, with the exception of those from the 505th PIR, have largely been misdropped or are engaged in firefights and unable to set up their navigation equipment. The lack of navigational beacons, combined with unexpectedly thick banks of clouds and the intense German antiaircraft fire that erupts as the formations pass into occupied France, wreak havoc on the Troop Carrier formations. The armada of C-47s, their pilots climbing or descending to avoid collisions and accelerating to avoid the relentless flak, are soon scattered all across the Cotentin Peninsula.
The jump caution light is flipped to green and the troopers surge forward, tumbling out into the night sky, not knowing what to expect when they hit the ground. For the paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne and for the Allies as well—who have gambled everything on this “Great Crusade” against Nazi Germany—June 6, 1944 is truly the point of no return.
Behind the Art
Tools of the trade
Embracing the maxim, “Better to have and not need, than to need and not have,” the paratroopers have loaded themselves down with as much as they could carry. Festooned with rifles, sub-machine guns, pistols, grenades, explosives, mines, bayonets, fighting knives, and even brass knuckles in some cases, the troopers have armed themselves for any eventuality. Trained and expected to perform in isolation on the battlefield as necessary, each soldier knows that once he hits the ground, he will have to rely on himself until he can assemble with his unit. For some of the paratroopers in Normandy, that will be several days.
Ideally the C-47s would descend to 650 feet and slow to 110 mph for the drop, however the conditions over Normandy are anything but ideal. When the green light goes on, the paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne find themselves jumping at all altitudes and airspeeds, but almost to a man they are thankful to be out of the flak magnets transporting them to their drop zone.
Despite hoping secrecy and the cover of darkness would provide the airborne mission with the element of surprise, Rommel’s troops react swiftly. Aided by powerful search lights, the sky is soon criss-crossed with antiaircraft fire from heavy-caliber 88mm canons and quad-barreled 20mm flak guns firing almost 800 rounds per minute. Waiting on the ground are several German divisions, among them the 91st Air Landing Division, a motorized infantry unit specializing in anti-airborne tactics.
Faithfully reproduced from the original artwork, Point of No Return by Matt Hall, depicts paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division jumping into Normandy, France on June 6, 1944.
- 500 Artist Proofs
- Each print is hand-signed by the artist
- Each print includes a Certificate of Authenticity
- This limited edition lithograph is printed on acid-free, archival quality, 120 lb. stock
- Print size: 32″ x 22.5″
- Images size: 28″ x 16.5″
- All prints are sold unframed
- Print color may vary from screen color