• Last surviving member of 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion describes D-Day mission

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    Henry Parham is believed to be the last surviving member of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion.

    All the soldiers in the battalion were black, and they had an important role in the D-Day invasion.

    Parham is now 97, but he told Channel 11's Erin Clark he still remembers the feeling from that day.

    "I didn't know if I would live through it or not," he said. "I landed on the beach, and we were one of the first to set up our balloons."

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    At the time, the United States military was still segregated. The mission for the 621 soldiers in the 320th was to launch hydrogen-filled balloons to protect troops on the ground from the enemy above.

    "If the Germans flew low and hit one of these balloons, they would blow up," Henry's wife, Ethel Parham, said.

    The invasion of Normandy in many ways marked the beginning of the end of the Nazi occupation of Europe. It was a pivotal day in the fight for freedom abroad and back home.

    But when Parham returned to the U.S., segregation was still alive and well.

    "I guess it was just one of those things at that time. That's the way things were," he said.

    Today though, Parham and the rest of the 320th have been recognized for their heroic acts. He's received several accolades and medals; a book was even written about the little-known battalion.


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