Trenton parachute company remembers unique role in D-Day

A Trenton company is recalling its unusual D-Day connection on the 75th anniversary.

Switlik Survival Products makes life jackets and military products.

But they used to be known for parachutes.

In the factory's archive room is a treasure trove of military artifacts from 99 years of business.

And as company officials tell it, Switlik played a unique role in a tactical diversion in the days leading up to the Normandy invasion in 1944.

"Switlik, under secrecy, made the dummies and the parachutes as part of the D-Day plan and supplied those," explained Sarah Switlik, vice president of sales and marketing, and fourth generation family employee.

On June 5-6, dummies were dropped with parachutes in various locations in Northern France to throw off German forces, drawing them away from the beaches.

"The dummies were called 'Rupert,'" Switlik said. "It was under Operation Titanic and we made about 500 of them to be strategically dropped."

The parachutes are made out of silk, and that's where they got the name for an exclusive group called the Caterpillar Club.

"If you had to bail out of a plane and use a parachute to save your life, you are eligible for application within this club," explained Danielle Connelly, Consumer Marketing Manager for Switlik.

The company keeps thousands of records for Caterpillar Club members, including some who jumped on D-Day.

"A lot of them go into a lot of detail about their experience," said Connelly. "They were shot down by flak, had to bail out."

Switlik doesn't make parachutes anymore, but they say looking back at the past inspires them for the future.

"That's really motivating," said Switlik. "To continue the efforts going forward, that we make things that help people and that save people and that make a real difference."

To apply for membership to the Caterpillar Club, or to inquire about records of a loved one, call Switlik Survival Products at (609) 587-3300.
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