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More than 30 Douglas C-47 Skytrain and Dakota will retrace their flights from Britain to the original D-Day Drop Zones in Normandy, France. Two thirds will be coming from North America.
On Jun. 5 2019, a big flyover will take place in the skies over Normandy, France, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
On that day, seventy five years since the Allied Invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe began its then-uncertain journey to free an enslaved continent, more than thirty Douglas C-47 Skytrain and Dakota transport planes will retrace their flights from Britain to pass over original D-Day Drop Zones in Normandy, France and release paratroopers, each dressed in period uniform and operating an authentic, WWII-style parachute. This airborne armada will be part of Daks Over Normandy, a historic salute to the Greatest Generation, the Allied citizen-soldiers who fought and bled for the freedom of their fellow countrymen, and for those of other nations then under the iron boot of fascist rule.
Here’s how we described the C-47 Skytrain in a previous article about this legendary aircraft:
WWII Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Most vital to our success in Africa and Europe has been the jeep, the 2½-ton truck and the C-47 Dakota.”
The Douglas C-47 Dakota is perhaps the most mundane, least exciting but quietly elegant and ruggedly stalwart aircraft of the last century. Simple and utilitarian, the aircraft was quickly designed in 1935, even more quickly manufactured in numbers exceeding 10,000 planes across a staggering 72 different versions. She flew roles as varied as attack aircraft, electronic warfare, intelligence gathering, transport, VIP flight and nearly every other mission an airplane can perform short of breaking the sound barrier.
Most of the C-47’s that flew in WWII wore a flat olive drab cloak of paint hastily applied at an assembly plant that churned out Dakotas as quickly as they could. They were airborne pick-up trucks. In late May and early June of 1944 almost all of them in Europe sprouted wide, garish black and white stripes on their wings and fuselage; invasion stripes in anticipation of D-Day.
C-47s and Dakotas will be arriving from across Europe to take part in Daks Over Normandy, but the largest contingent will be coming from North America, flying the same ‘Blue Spruce’ ferry route used to cross the North Atlantic during WWII. All of these aircraft will be flying together for mutual support under the banner of The D-Day Squadron, which is coordinating the effort to bring these American-based Douglas transports to Europe.
Many details about the effort to prepare the 75th Anniversary event, are included in an article by Richard Mallory Allnutt titled The D-Day Squadron:
“The D-Day Squadron is a part of the Tunison Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charity which owns and operates a Douglas C-47 Skytrain, amongst a number of other WWII-era aircraft. The Tunison Foundation’s C-47, nicknamed Placid Lassie, was built in 1943 in Long Beach, California by the Douglas Aircraft Company. The aircraft was Army Air Force order number AC- 20669 and cost $109,683. The contract number (or serial) number was 9926. On Jul. 26, 1943, it was turned over to the U.S. Government and assigned the military registration number 42-24064, the serial number used by the aircraft in U.S. Army service during WWII. Ed Tunison, the Foundation’s namesake, was Placid Lassie’s radio operator for much of the war, including two flights on D-Day when they flew from RAF Aldermaston in UK with the 74th Troop Carrier Squadron in the 434th Troop Carrier Group. Placid Lassie’s first sortie of June 6, 1944, took place in the early hours before dawn. They towed a CG-4A glider filled with troops and equipment to ‘Landing Zone E’. The second, much later op’, was for them to bring gasoline to the French coast. They actually landed on a temporary airstrip laid out by field engineers earlier in the day!”
Placid Lassie will be one of roughly two dozen immaculately maintained C-47s joining the D-Day Squadron for the flight from America to Europe to take part in the week-long Daks Over Normandy celebration during the spring of 2019. Daks Over Normandy will kick off in England at historic Duxford Airfield in Cambridgeshire, where the Skytrains and Dakotas will be based from June 2nd through June 5th. On June 5, the fleet will then head across the English Channel to recreate the airborne D-Day Crossing. They will land at Caen Carpiquet Airport in Normandy, France, where they will remain until June 9. Each day will be filled with special events and commemorations, and it is bound to be a deeply moving spectacle, especially for those who take the time to meet some of the WWII D-Day veterans who will be on hand to reminisce and mingle with visitors.
Noteworthy, the crossing will not take place on the actual D-Day date June 6, because a No Fly Zone will be enforced over the Landing Zones for the celebrations attended by many VIPs.
This point about the endeavor is particularly important:
“Understandably, the logistics for such an undertaking as Daks Over Normandy will require intense preparation, not to mention significant financial resources. The D-Day Squadron, largely run by volunteers, depends upon the generous contributions, both large and small, from donors who understand the value of educating our populace about the compelling history of the Greatest Generation and WWII. Learning of the courage and self-sacrifice that so many of these men and women exhibited will help keep their stories and spirit alive in the hearts and minds of all who witness them. But perhaps more importantly, it will hopefully inspire future generations to better understand their own role in society, and of the need to work together towards a better future, much like the Greatest Generation themselves. This is why The D-Day Squadron needs your support. All funds raised will go towards the safe passage of the American C-47 fleet to Europe.”
To help the D-Day Squadron make history and promote the legacy of the Greatest Generation, please visit www.ddaysquadron.org.
H/T to our friends at Warbirds Digest for their support for the D-Day Squadron and the organization’s herculean efforts to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of D-Day next year.
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.