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Thursday, May 6, 1999 Published at 23:30 GMT 00:30 UK


UK

D-Day hero dies

The D-Day invasion turned the tide of WWII

Major John Howard, whose D-Day success was portrayed in the film, The Longest Day, has died at the age of 84.

Major Howard commanded the airborne assault that captured Pegasus Bridge from the Nazis in the early hours of 6 June, 1944. It was a strategically vital victory for the D-Day forces.

He was later awarded the DSO and the Croix de Guerre avec Palme. General Sir Michael Gray, chief of the Airborne Services Normandy Trust, described Major Howard as "a real warrior", chosen to lead the Pegasus mission because he was "a brilliant trainer and a hard man".


[ image: Major John Howard:
Major John Howard: "A real warrior"
The 180 members of the 6th Airborne Division under his command crept silently into Normandy on gliders, taking the Germans by surprise. They held the bridge until they were relieved by troops making their way inland from the beachheads.

"He trained his men meticulously beforehand with dedication, and left nothing at all to chance," said General Gray. "The fact that the operation was so precise and successful was fundamentally down to his training."

Major Howard returned to the UK soon afterwards following a serious road accident. He retired from the Army in 1945 and worked in agricultural sales, living in the village of Burford, near Oxford.

But he never forgot his part in the greatest airborne invasion in British history. Each year he went with his wife and daughter to the Caen Canal, near the site of the attack.


[ image: Major Howard was a regular at Normandy reunions]
Major Howard was a regular at Normandy reunions
And he made regular pilgrimages with old colleagues to Normandy, where he was fond of recounting his experiences from that day. "He was much loved and extremely well known both in France and here. He was a legend in his own lifetime," added General Gray.

In 1962, his actions were immortalised in the film, The Longest Day. His part was taken by Richard Todd, who had himself been among the first parachutists to land in Normandy. On Thursday he remembered Major Howard as "a very gallant chap".



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D-Day 50th Anniversary

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