Supported by

The Atlantic Selects

One of the Last Surviving D-Day Paratroopers Gets the Chance of a Lifetime

May 28, 2018 | 831 videos
Video by Michael Ayjian and Stephen Skeel

At 92, Les Cruise is one of the last surviving D-Day paratroopers. “He is like a celebrity to a lot of people in the military community,” said Michael Ayjian, who, along with Stephen Skeel, co-directed a short documentary about Cruise.

In All-American, produced by 7 Wonders Cinema, Cruise recalls the momentous operation at Normandy, during which he watched his close friend die by his side. “It’s always been with me,” he says. “There is no real freedom, in a sense.” Cruise goes on to explain how his values were informed by the struggles of his childhood, which he spent largely in an orphanage. The veteran remembers that when he returned from the war, “there was no family to come back to.”

Nearly 74 years later, the film follows Cruise as the National Warplane Museum grants him the opportunity to fly once again on Whiskey 7, the very same plane from which he jumped on during WWII. This time, however, the Cruise’s children and great-grandchildren are there by his side.

“In the end, All American is a story about family,” Ayjian told The Atlantic. “The war impacted [Cruise] immensely, but his true allegiance is to his family above all else. Seeing him fly on the plane with his family meant everything to him, and was an incredible moment to be a part of.”

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to

Author: Emily Buder

About This Series

A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.