OXFORD, Conn. — A fleet of American Douglas C-47 Skytrains are en route to the United Kingdom today to join up with their European counterparts to honor and remember the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
These cargo and troop support aircraft took part in the first and second waves of the Allied invasion of northern France on June 6, 1944. This week, they launched on a new mission beginning a multi-day flight across the north Atlantic Ocean en route to the United Kingdom.
Known as the Spruce Goose route, these twin-engine aircraft will travel the same route as they did 75 years earlier. The C-47s include That’s All — Brother!, which led the first wave over the English Channel in 1944 to Normandy Beach, France; Miss Virginia, Placid Lassie, Spirit of Benovia, Legend Airways, Betsy’s Biscuit Bomber, and Miss Montana.
“After their departure on Sunday, the C-47s stopped to refuel in Goose Bay Airport in Newfoundland, Canada; Narsarsuaq Airport in southern Greenland; Reykjavik Airport in Iceland; and will refuel a final time at Prestwick Airport on the Western coast of Scotland before making the final leg to Duxford Airfield north of London,” Moreno Aguiari, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the D-Day Squadron, said on Tuesday.
The first C-47 to arrive in Scotland was also the lead aircraft during the early morning hours of D-Day, 1944. That’s All — Brother! completed her oceanic crossing on Wednesday afternoon.
During the next few days, seven more C-47s will begin to arrive in the UK for the huge anniversary event. On June 4, 5, and 7, they will all join a fleet of European-based C-47s to create a large formation flight in recognition of D-Day.
Last Monday, the first wave of aircraft resumed their journey as they flew to their next destination in Narsarsuaq on the southern tip of Greenland. After refueling the long travel day ended in Iceland.
“It was a long, but beautiful (Monday),” That’s All – Brother! Navigator Ray Clausen said on Tuesday from Reykjavik. “Breakfast at 0600 in Goose Bay, at the hotel at 0100 in Reykjavik, with a fuel stop in Narsarsuaq. We really were fortunate on the weather, with clear skies and light winds in Narsarsuaq.”
“Flying over, we could only imagine the difficulties faced 75 years ago for the planes that made the Northern crossing with celestial navigation and far more limited weather forecasting,” Clausen added.
The 75th anniversary flights are significant as several D-Day veterans have recently flown aboard or will soon fly of these historic aircraft. And for many, it will be their first flight aboard a C-47 since the second World War. Surviving soldiers from the war range in age from 93 to 105 years.
“It’s very likely we’ll never see an event like this again,” Aguiari noted. “There are only a few members of the Greatest Generation still with us, so we wanted to put together the most significant tributes we could to honor their sacrifice and commitment.”
June 4-5: Daks over Normandy event at Duxford, England.
June 5: Cross-Channel Flight and Paratroop Drop
June 7-8: Daks over Normandy event at Caen, France.
[Note: If you would like to help these aircraft fly, please consider donating to help cover fuel and logistics costs.]
(Charles A Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)