Prior to the Invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, Abington resident Tony Zanzinger was there first.
The World War II paratrooper with the 501st Parachute Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division will share his experiences jumping behind enemy lines at a Lansdale Historical Society community program at 7:30 p.m. at Lansdale Parks and Recreation Building.
"Tales of a World War II Paratrooper" will have Zanzinger, a staff sergeant, recount how he parachuted into Normandy and then, six weeks later in England, trained for Operation Market Garden. This operation had him jump 25 miles behind German lines in Holland.
He was supposed to be there for 72 hours — he was there 72 days.
The 501st returned to France for rebuilding of the unit, but it was suddenly called up for emergency defense of Bastogne. There, Zanzinger and his fellow soldiers fought for six weeks — until being surrounded by the enemy and forced to surrender after five days.
Zanzinger's commanding officer, General Anthony McAuliffe, said a famous response when prompted to surrender: "Nuts."
Zanzinger also participated in the final combat operation of the 101st Airborne — the capture of Hitler's retreat home in Berchtesgadern.
At the event this evening, Zanzinger will bring a portion of his collection of World War II memorabilia.
Introducing Zanzinger this evening will be reitred Penndale Middle School history teacher Bob Righter. Righter was the recipient of the Edwin G. Holl Historic Achievement Award in 2010.
The free event opens at 6:45 p.m.