A little after noon one day last week, the scrub-pine forest that covers most of the military reservation at Fort Bragg, N.C. resounded to a distant roar. Soon the air trembled with it; across the bright blue sky rumbled 33 of the shiny, potbellied transport airplanes that the Air Force calls Flying Boxcars. The planes were low—at only a thousand feet—and in tight Vs of three. As they passed slowly over "Drop Zone Holland." a two-mile clearing in the dull green forest, they began spawning paratroopers.

Within a few minutes a thousand men of the 82nd Airborne Division dangled...

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