Cruise still remembers being squashed between other paratroopers seated on pan seats as the plane left England's Cottesmore Airdrome. He was weighed down with probably 100 pounds of gear, including an M-1 rifle that was carried in three pieces, 30-caliber rifle ammo, a first-aid pack, grenade, K-rations and his New Testament in his left pocket, over his heart.
"We could hear the louder roar as each plane following the leader accelerated down the runway and lifted into the air," he wrote in an account of the mission. "Our turn came and the quivering craft gathered momentum along the path right behind the plane in front."
The airplane's engines were so loud he had to shout even to talk with the paratrooper next to him, he said, and the scenery through its square windows looked like shadows in the dark. Over the English Channel, a colonel pointed downward.
"In the partial darkness below we could make out silhouetted shapes of ships and there must have been thousands of them all sizes and kinds," Cruise wrote. "If we had any doubts before about the certainty of the invasion, they were dispelled now."