Young Lincoln lawyer goes to France WWII reenactment to honor his grandfather Jim Moriearty

 Send a link to a friend  Share

[October 08, 2019] 

Jim Grimaldi had a story to tell at the Elkhart Historical Society Dinner Lecture on Friday evening. It was about his personal commitment to honor the memory of the paratroopers who jumped into France on D-Day hours before the main landing on the beaches of Normandy.

Grimaldi also emphasized that he wanted to honor the memory of his grandfather Jim Moriearty, a World War II veteran and long time Lincoln insurance agent.

Grimaldi called his presentation “On the shoulders of giants.”

How did this commitment begin? Grimaldi, a lawyer in Lincoln, and wife Jennifer were talking about taking a trip to France with their kids to attend the World Cup Soccer Tournament. As they delved into planning the trip, he came across an article about 2019 being the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing on June 6, 1944.

D-Day was the turning point of the war in Europe. The Normandy landing was a massive operation. Part of the force included paratroopers who jumped into France behind enemy lines in the dark of the morning on June 6th.

According to the article, the anniversary observation would include the Liberty Jump Team, a WWII commemorative paratrooper group, who would recreate the event by jumping into France from vintage aircraft on June 6, 2019 to honor the brave soldiers of that conflict.

Jim felt the tug of history calling out to him to join this endeavor. Jennifer agreed saying, “If you don’t do this, you will regret it the rest of your life.” World Cup Soccer on hold, paratrooper drop into France on the 75th Anniversary of D-Day a go! The whole family including their four kids was on board for this alternative trip to France.

To make this matter even more of a wonderful coincidence, it turns out that Jim Grimaldi was himself a paratrooper, having earned his Airborne Wings in the Army in 1997. Do you see how this plan seemed destined to happen? He reached out to the Liberty Jump Team and soon became a member.

There was one important matter to take care of though. “I had not made a parachute jump since my army days, almost twenty years ago,” he said. So, he was off to jump school all over again. “I had an idea that was running around in my head. I called a friend from my army days, someone I had not seen since leaving the army, and he jumped at the opportunity to join up too,” he said.

The Liberty Jump Team brought them up to jump status in no time, using parachutes that are much like the ones used in WWII.

“Jumping as a paratrooper is a completely different experience from skydiving. Skydivers go to ten thousand feet and have a long period of free fall before opening their chute. Paratroopers jump from 1,200 feet or less, sometimes as low as 500 feet. We want to spend a minimum time in the air where we are most vulnerable to avoid being shot at. Remember, paratroopers are dropped behind enemy lines, an extremely dangerous battle front,” he said.

[to top of second column]

And another difference is what paratroopers carry when performing their mission. “Our rig weighs about 48 pounds, parachute and reserve chute. To that you have to add another 50 pounds of weapons, ammunition, food, water, and anything else we would need to be on our own behind enemy lines,” he said. The Liberty Jump Team does not add the extra weight, just the appropriate uniform and parachutes.

The Grimaldi family and the Liberty Jump Team headed to France as June 6th, 2019 approached. They toured former battlefields that still had German bunkers in place, and the towns that were closest to the D-Day landing sites.

On the big day, the Liberty Jump Team suited up, climbed into a World War II era C-47 aircraft and headed to the site on the Normandy coast where the actual paratroop landings occurred. “This was my first jump from a C-47. I was really excited,” he said.

Jim Grimaldi, lawyer from Lincoln, Illinois, became Jim Grimaldi paratrooper jumping out of a plane on the 75th anniversary of D-Day over the actual site of the original jumps. “I felt so privileged to be performing in this event, to honor those who came before us, and who exhibited untold courage in the face of the enemy,” he said.

“On the shoulders of giants” is Grimaldi’s way of honoring those paratroopers who came before him. “I can’t do anything without looking back at who came before me, who showed us the way. My grandfather Jim Moriearty was part of the World War II military, and I honor him every time I jump,” he said.

What does the future hold for Jim Grimaldi? Commemorative paratrooper teams have been jumping over Normandy on D-Day since 2002. “I made the jump on the 75th anniversary, and plan to jump every year at the event until the 100th anniversary,” he said. That will be his time to pass on the tradition to another generation of paratroopers, to let them “Stand on the shoulders of giants.”

Jim Grimaldi mentioned one final event that took place on the 75th Anniversary Commemoration of D-Day. A member of the Liberty Jump Team traveled to France with his fiancée. Their plan was to get married after the parachute jump on the actual battlefield where they all landed surrounded by their team mates.

The couple’s plan seemed to run into an insurmountable road block as they could not find anyone qualified to perform the service.

Well, as it turns out, Grimaldi is ordained and performed the wedding ceremony just as the happy couple had planned it. An amazing ending in one of the most unlikely places!

[Curtis Fox]