D-Day Squadron Flies 78 Years After Operation Overlord

N18121, a DC-3, flew over to Caen, France, for the 75th anniversary of D-Day in 2019. [Photo: Stephen Yeates]

The wide stretches of sand that comprise the beaches of Normandy normally fill now with sunbathers and people en vacances on a June day. But for the 78th anniversary of what we know as D-Day, those same boundaries between ocean and land fill with those who honor the memory of soldiers and civilians who perished here. Similar memorial events take place across the U.S., the U.K., and Europe—including very special flyovers of the aircraft that carried and supported those soldiers.

Fifteen Douglas C-47s and other variants flew across the Atlantic Ocean to Duxford, England, in May 2019. [Photo: Stephen Yeates]

On June 6, 1944, Operation Overlord launched mostly from England’s southern airfields to cross the English Channel at low level and under cover of darkness and cloud. The roughly 13,000 aircraft flown on that encompassing mission included Douglas C-47s and other variants of the DC-3, as well as Lancasters, Hawker Typhoons, and the B-17 Flying Fortress built mostly by Boeing. Some of the C-47s towed gliders for an initial sortie to land near Pegasus Bridge, among other locales. Those Waco CG-4 Hadrians and Horsas played a critical part in the operation, to threaten the Axis forces in place and catch them off guard. Those plans largely worked—though the casualties from those specific missions were high.

The rugged Normandy coast was not all wide open beaches, but cliffs that posed seemingly insurmountable obstacles for incoming troops. [Photo: Stephen Yeates]

D-Day Squadron Remembers

For the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion, in 2019, a group of 15 C-47s and variants crossed the North Atlantic to commemorate the sacrifices and heroism of those in World War II. Members of the D-Day Squadron, these aircraft and their pilots participated in events at Duxford (EGSU) in England, and parachute drops over key areas such as Sannerville in northwestern France. They made their way to Caen, France, to stage for commemorative flights over Omaha, Juno, Sword, and other beaches along the coast. Then some of the fleet broke off to fly to Germany to honor those who served after the war’s conclusion during the Berlin Airlift in 1948 and ’49.

Today, four members of the D-Day Squadron will conduct a flypast over Virginia, hosted by Dynamic Aviation, which operates Miss Virginia, a C-47. She’ll be joined by the C-47B, Betsy’s Biscuit Bomber, operated by the Estrella Warbird Museum; the Spirit of Benovia, a C-53 owned and flown by the Benovia Winery; and N18121, a 1937 DC-3 owned and operated by Aerometal International. Points include Staunton, Elkton, and Harrisonburg, Virginia, across the Shenandoah Valley.

Based in Maryland, Julie is an editor, aviation educator, and author. She holds an airline transport pilot certificate with Douglas DC-3 and CE510 (Citation Mustang) type ratings. She's a CFI/CFII since 1993, specializing in advanced aircraft and flight instructor development. Follow Julie on Twitter @julieinthesky.

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