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Massive WWII Aircraft Fleet to Retrace Historic D-Day Route

Three C-47A Skytrains soar over the White Cliffs of Dover on May 31, during one of several practice flights leading up to their D-Day flight. (photo: Rich Cooper/D-Day Squadron)

Nearly 50 World War II-era aircraft on Wednesday will retrace the route many of those same aircraft flew 75 years earlier as they soared into the history books of an important moment known as D-Day.

A fleet of around 32 American and European C-47 Skytrains and Dakotas, and several fighter aircraft will depart Duxford, England and follow the path flown to Normandy, France, on June 5. The massive tandem flight will be flown beginning at 1:40 p.m. local time (8:40 a.m. EDT).

As the aircraft head south to the English Channel, the flight path will cross over Colchester, Southend-on-Sea, Maidstone, and Eastbourne. The fleet of warbirds are scheduled to arrive over Sannerville, France nearly three hours into the flight.

The American C-47 Rendezvous with Destiny arrived at Duxford, England on Friday. (Dax Over Normandy)

Hundreds of Paratroopers to Descend on Normandy

It is over Sannerville that the United Kingdom released several waves of paratroopers jumping from C-47s into a dark unknown exactly 75 years earlier. A recreation of the historic event will occur at about 4:40 p.m. (local) as the skies will be filled again by round army parachutes descending upon the coastal town.

The American D-Day Squadron will have their mighty 15 of C-47s/ DC-3s fly in a joint formation with their European counterparts known as Daks over Normandy. Many of them will carry volunteer paratroopers on board for the symbolic drop above France.

Prior to sunrise on June 6, 1944, several waves of paratroopers and supplies dropped beyond Normandy Beach to help clear a path for the surviving soldiers arriving via water craft.

“(The aircraft) will drop more than 200 paratroopers over the original 1944 drop zones in Normandy commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day,” Moreno Aguiari, executive director of the D-Day Squadron, said on Sunday. “The event will honor the citizen soldiers of the war, whose bravery led the Allies to the liberation of France, and then to an end of the devastating war in Europe.”

Aguiari broke down the numbers of June 6, 1944, this way: 13,000 paratroopers were dropped behind enemy lines, prior to and as 156,000 troops stormed five Normandy Beaches. And, of the 11,000 aircraft used for aircover (of the transports) and support, 925 were C-47s.

Paratroopers drop from the American C-47A Skytrain That’s All – Brother! in May. (Charles A Atkeison)

“Few veterans of D-Day are still with us, and this celebration may be our last chance to honor these brave war heroes,” Aguiari added. “We are committed to ensuring their significance and sacrifice is fully appreciated for generations to come, and are developing an education program to honor these citizen soldiers and their impact on D-Day, and ultimately the Allied victory in World War II.”

Several of these World War II-era aircraft, including C-47A Skytrains That’s All — Brother! and Placid Lassie, make frequent visits to American air shows and events each year. You can follow their journeys, and their sister-ships flights this week, Live via their social media.

(Charles A Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)

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Charles Atkeison

Written by Charles Atkeison

Charles A Atkeison is a long time aerospace journalist having covered both military and civilian aviation, plus 30 space shuttle launches from Cape Canaveral. He has produced multimedia aerospace content for CNN, London's Sky News, radio, print, and the web for twenty years. From flying with his father at age 5 to soaring as a VIP recently with the Navy's Blue Angels and USAF Thunderbirds, Charles continues to enjoy all aspects of flight.

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