May 6, 2020 – As part of Lesson Plan #6 – Technology and Heroes in the Cockpit, the following is Part 2 of a feature on Vito and Geraldine Pedone. Vito was a Pathfinder pilot on D-Day and Geraldine was a U.S. Army Flight Nurse.

Introduction and Review: In Part 1, Vito Pedone and Geraldine “Jerry” Curtis, both US Army Air Force officers serving in England, met while training for D-Day. Vito was a pilot who trained other C-47 pilots for their Pathfinder mission on D-Day. Pathfinder planes dropped paratroopers behind enemy lines to mark seven drop zones for the thousands of paratroopers who would follow.

Capt. Vito Pedone was the co-pilot in plane #1 of the 20 Pathfinder planes. Jerry Curtis was a US Army Flight Nurse officer. Vito and Jerry were husband and wife on D-Day. First Lieutenant Jerry Pedone began flying on C-47s four days after D-Day to care for wounded soldiers as they were flown to hospitals in England. Stephen, their son, has written an article about his parents that he shared with Student News Net.

The following is Part 2 of their amazing story about courage, sacrifice, and love during World War II.

D-Day begins late in the evening of June 5, 1944

Late in the evening on June 5, 1944, 20 Pathfinder C-47 aircraft departed from North Witham Air Field in England. Vito was the co-pilot in the lead C-47 aircraft. A special team of paratroopers parachuted from each of the 20 planes to mark seven drop zones on the ground behind enemy lines in France so the next wave of 821 C-47s could find their drop zones. Once on the ground, Pathfinder paratroopers, carrying 90 pounds of gear, only had 15 to 30 minutes to mark the zones before the large contingent of paratroopers would be arriving.

“Despite the many dangers, bad weather, and difficult challenges, they still ‘got the job done.’ When things did not go as planned, American ingenuity and initiative took over at all levels to save the day. They are all ‘American Heroes,'” Stephen Pedone wrote in his article.

Geraldine “Jerry” Curtis
According to the U.S. Army, on Dec. 7, 1941, there were less than 1,000 nurses in the Army Nurse Corps. By the war’s end, more than 59,000 nurses served in the Army Nurse Corps. From June 1943 to October 1944, 1,049 flight nurses were trained at Bowman Field in Kentucky.

Jerry Curtis was trained as a surgical nurse in Oklahoma. She volunteered to become a Flight Nurse and graduated in the first class of Flight Nurses in early 1943. Upon graduating, she received her gold wings. First Lieutenant Jerry Curtis reported for duty to the 9th Air Force, 806th Medical Air Evacuation Squadron (MAES), based at Welford Park, England.

Her training as a nurse and her willingness to serve her country would change her life forever. In England, she met Capt. Vito Pedone. They fell in love and married in England in 1943 continuing their D-Day training as husband and wife.

Jerry’s medical missions began four days after D-Day. The same C-47 planes that took paratroopers to Normandy were now used to evacuate wounded back to hospitals in England. The planes would deliver cargo to Normandy and then 18 wounded soldiers on stretchers were stacked three-high on side-mounted racks, according to Stephen Pedone’s article.

Four days after D-Day, C-47 aircraft began transporting wounded soldiers from France to hospitals in England. Onboard these flights were Army Flight Nurses. (Photo: Courtesy Stephen Pedone)

In April 1945, the 806th Squadron set a record by evacuating 17,287 patients in one month. As Europe was liberated and the horrors of the Holocaust became known, liberated prisoners from concentration camps were evacuated on the C-47s to hospitals.

“All of us were affected by the plight of the displaced persons and liberated prisoners we brought back.” (The Story of Air Evacuation: 1942-1989 by The World War II Flight Nurses Association, 1989, p. 78)

In July 1945, the first patients from Berlin were evacuated.

After the war
Capt. Pedone would go on to have a distinguished 30-year career in the U.S. Air Force retiring as a Colonel. Jerry separated from the military to raise their son, Stephen, named after Vito’s brother, and she also worked as a surgical nurse in Alexandria, Virginia.

Quote from Stephen P. Pedone’s article
“Vito and Jerry’s story ends at a very special place in our nation, Arlington National Cemetery, where they lie together for eternity – ‘There is no greater honor.’ Jerry is honored at the National Women in the Military Memorial, in Arlington. Vito is remembered at the 82nd Airborne Division Paratrooper Museum, in Fayetteville, North Carolina. His D-Day service is recorded in numerous books on D-Day and in several U.S., U.K., and French military museums, and he told his D-Day story in person for the History Channel.”

Vito and Jerry Pedone’s final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery (Photo: Courtesy Stephen Pedone)

75th anniversary of D-Day
Stephen and his wife, Ximena, will be in Normandy for the 75th anniversary on June 6, 2019 representing Vito and Jerry, two American heroes from the Greatest Generation. “We are forever grateful to them, and we will never forget them,” Stephen said at the end of his article.

While in Normandy, Stephen and Ximena will be present for re-enactments of WWII C-47 flights through the D-Day Squadron, the U.S. contingent of DAKS Over Normandy.

Their story of courage facing a formidable foe is one thread in a tapestry woven by the stories of millions of young men and women in the Greatest Generation. Each thread in that tapestry must never be forgotten.