D-Day Squadron Legacy Tour 2024 Kick-Off Week

Texts and photography by Claude La Freniere
From May 16-18, 2024, Aviation News Journal traveled to Waterbury/Oxford Airport in Connecticut to witness the first leg of the D-Day Squadron Legacy Tour, known as Kick-Off Week.
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On-site, we observed a gathering of historic planes brought together under the leadership of the "D-Day Squadron." This organization coordinates a fleet of planes set to travel to Europe in 2024 to commemorate two significant events: the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion and the 75th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift.
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Building on the success of a similar mission in 2019, this American contingent of C-47 and DC-3 transport planes is preparing for its second trip to Europe. The upcoming journey celebrates the pivotal roles these aircraft played during the D-Day invasions and the Berlin Airlift, marking important milestones in history.
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“READY-4-DUTY" experienced a significant setback, requiring a full engine change before finally joining the squadron across the Atlantic after a two-day delay.
D-Day Squadron Trims Fleet for Legacy Tour Takeoff

Despite ambitious plans for a ten-strong contingent, the D-Day Squadron's Legacy Tour recently departed with a leaner fleet of five historic aircraft. While several teams worked diligently to prepare their planes, the mission's complexity, logistical hurdles, significant costs, and a challenging sponsorship climate ultimately forced some to stand down.
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Captain Curt Lewis on the left and Larry Neu at the helm of "That's all Brother"
The valiant five that braved the North Atlantic crossing include:
1. C-47 “Placid Lassie” (N74589) - Tunison Foundation - USA
2. C-47 “That’s All Brother” (N47TB) - Commemorative Air Force Centex Wing - USA
3. R4D “READY-4-DUTY” (151ZE) - Commemorative Air Force Dallas - Ft. Worth Wing - USA
4. C-53 “Spirit of Douglas” (N8336C) - Private Owner - New Zealand
5. DC-3 "Western Air" - Western Airlines Inc – USA

These intrepid pioneers will be joined mid-tour by a contingent of at least three UK-based C-47s, with potential additions from France and Sweden. All pilots are either retired military personnel or highly experienced civilians, and their crews volunteer their time, considering it an immense privilege to fly these historical icons. The C-47, a workhorse of World War II, saw action in diverse theaters like North Africa, New Guinea, Normandy, Sicily, and even the United States.
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Honoring Heroes: The D-Day Squadron Legacy Tour Takes Flight

The D-Day Squadron's 2024 Legacy Tour is a powerful mission that unites international operators of iconic World War II aircraft, specifically the DC-3 and C-47. This collective effort serves as a profound tribute to the veterans of that defining conflict.
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World War II reenactors, adorned in authentic uniforms and armed with period-specific weapons, equipment, and vehicles, recreated scenes from an Allied airbase life.
A Legacy of Flight: The Tunison Foundation

Born from the desire to preserve WWII history through flight, the D-Day Squadron is a division of the Tunison Foundation. Established in 2017 by James Lyle and Eric Zipkin, the Foundation honors Ed Tunison, the final surviving member of their flagship C-47 "Placid Lassie's" war crew.
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We were honored to be part of this group, flying on "That's All, Brother" (TAB), a C-47 Skytrain in close formation with Spirit of Douglas” C-53 “Western Air” DC-3 and “Placid Lassie” C-47.
Education and Inspiration: Beyond the Skies

The Tunison Foundation, a non-profit organization, led a successful mission in 2019 commemorating D-Day's 75th anniversary and the 70th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift with a fleet of 15 restored C-47s and DC-3s. Building upon this legacy, their mission has expanded to include educational initiatives alongside their flight exhibitions.

The Power of Unity: Flying Museums and Future Generations

Generous donations from supporters fuel the Squadron's endeavors. They represent the unifying spirit of flying these vintage DC-3s with dedicated crews. These "flying museums" serve as powerful educational tools, engaging young people around the globe. By remembering D-Day as a turning point in WWII, the D-Day Squadron ensures this pivotal event remains etched in our collective memory, a testament to the enduring courage of past generations.
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“Placid Lassie”, That’s All, Brother”, “Spirit of Douglas” and "Western Air" regroup and depart for their journey in Europe. “READY-4-DUTY” joined them two-day after a full engine change.
Three Days of D-Day Prep: A Behind-the-Scenes Look

Our three-day visit to Waterbury-Oxford Airport (KOCX) offered a glimpse into the immense task of readying the D-Day Squadron's historic aircraft for their journey. Witnessing the tireless work of the teams to ensure airworthiness and crew safety was truly awe-inspiring.

Keeping Veterans Airworthy

"Placid Lassie" underwent a complete magneto replacement on one engine, a critical maintenance step. "READY-4-DUTY" experienced a more significant setback, requiring a full engine change before finally joining the Squadron across the Atlantic after a two-day delay.
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“Placid Lassie” underwent a complete magneto replacement on one engine, a critical maintenance step performed by Clara McGee (on the ladder) aircraft mechanic at Tradewind Aviation and volunteer at the Tunison Foundation.
Beyond Maintenance: Formation Practice and Public Engagement

The three days weren't just about wrenching on engines. The Squadron also conducted formation flying drills without passengers, honing their skills for the upcoming flights.

A Touch of History

The Squadron hosted a captivating open house on the first day. World War II reenactors, adorned in authentic uniforms and armed with period-specific weapons, equipment, and vehicles, recreated scenes from an Allied airbase life. Photographers reveled in the opportunity to capture these living history moments around the majestic aircraft.

A Historic Flight: Soaring Over New York City with D-Day Veteran "That's All Brother"

The D-Day Squadron's second day culminated in a truly unforgettable experience: a historic formation flight for a select group of guests aboard four aircraft. We were honoured to be part of this group, flying on "That's All Brother" (TAB), a C-47 Skytrain with an extraordinary past.
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Built in 1943 and meticulously restored by the Commemorative Air Force “That’s all Brother” is a true flying museum, a living testament to a pivotal moment in history.
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TAB: A D-Day Hero Takes Flight Again

Built in 1943 and meticulously restored by the Commemorative Air Force (San Antonio, Texas), TAB is a C-47 veteran with an undeniable pedigree. Piloted by Mr. Curt Lewis, it actively participated in D-Day under the command of pilot "Al Realms." On June 6, 1944, TAB led a formation of 800 C-47s, spearheading the D-Day invasion. This historic aircraft played a critical role in dropping 13,000 American paratroopers and towing gliders carrying soldiers beyond enemy lines. As recognized by the DC-3 Society, TAB is a true "flying museum," a living testament to a pivotal moment in history.

Soaring Above New England and New York City

Our flight path took us on a majestic triangular journey over New England. We soared over the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site and the United States Military Academy at West Point, culminating in a breathtaking low-altitude (1,000 feet) flyover of the Hudson River and New York City. This incredible perspective allowed us to witness iconic landmarks like the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, One World Trade Center, LaGuardia International Airport, Lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, and even the Hudson River Park football field.
This flight aboard TAB was more than just a scenic journey; it was a chance to connect with history and honour the bravery of those who fought for freedom.
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Placid Lassie” C-47 flying over Statue of Liberty in NYC.
D-Day Squadron Takes Flight: The Legacy Tour Crosses the Atlantic

The D-Day Squadron's 2024 Legacy Tour wasn't just about the destination; it was a journey steeped in history and logistical complexity. Let's delve into the mission's objectives and the challenges the Squadron overcame.

Objectives

Departing from Oxford, Connecticut, the five participating aircraft embarked on a six-leg mission to Europe. This ambitious plan prioritized crew rest, meticulous maintenance, strategic refueling, and precise flight planning to ensure a safe and successful journey.

The Legendary North Atlantic Route

Limited by range, the aircraft couldn't cross the Atlantic in a single stretch. Following the footsteps of history, the Squadron traversed the iconic "Blue Spruce Way," the North Atlantic Route used to ferry planes from America to Europe during World War II. This route included stopovers in Canada, Greenland, Iceland, and Scotland.
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During our journey over New England, we flew in tight formation with the C-53 “Spirit of Douglas” and DC-3 “Western Air”.
A Six-Day Odyssey

The transatlantic crossing took a total of six days. Each aircraft covered nearly 3,000 nautical miles, enduring 18 hours of flight time. The dedicated crew of approximately 30 individuals ensured the smooth operation of the mission, consuming a combined total of 36 gallons of oil and over 1,600 gallons of fuel per plane.
A Testament to Teamwork and Resilience

The 2024 Legacy Tour is a remarkable example of teamwork and meticulous planning. By successfully navigating the logistical challenges and honouring the historic route, the D-Day Squadron preserved a vital chapter in aviation history.

Commemorating Sacrifice: D-Day 80 & Berlin 75

The Legacy Tour 2024 focuses and commemorates two pivotal events from World War II and its aftermath:

• The 80th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion (June 6, 1944): This massive Allied operation was a turning point in the war. The tour will visit Normandy, France, the location of the D-Day landings, to pay tribute to the Allied forces who liberated France from Nazi occupation by land, sea, and air.

• The 75th Anniversary of the Berlin Airlift (1948-1949): This humanitarian effort by the Western Allies supplied essential goods like food and fuel to West Berlin during a post-war Soviet ground blockade. The tour will include a stop in Germany to honour this critical operation.

The crews plan to participate in various events and aerial demonstrations throughout the tour. There's even a possibility of a large-scale parachute jump, reenacting the actions of D-Day paratroopers, symbolizing the sacrifices made during the war.
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Our whole crew on "That's all Brother" Curt Lewis-pilot (Captain), John Bixby-pilot, Mindi Russell-Crew Chief, Larry Neu-pilot, John McKiski-pilot and missing on the picture the mechanic Dennis Stadel.
D-Day Squadron Legacy Tour 2024: A Detailed Itinerary

The D-Day Squadron Legacy Tour 2024 promises a remarkable journey commemorating pivotal moments in history. Here's a breakdown of their flight plan and schedule:

Preparation and Transatlantic Crossing (May 13-28)

• May 13-16: Arrival of DC-3 aircraft at Oxford-Waterbury Airport (Connecticut)
• May 13-18: Launch week in the Northeast US, including training and preparation for the transatlantic crossing.
• May 17 (rain date: May 18): A special Hudson River flyover in New York City (weather permitting).
• May 18: Departure from Connecticut to Presque Isle, Maine (first stop).
• May 19: Second leg to Goose Bay, Canada.
• May 20-25: Crossing the North Atlantic along the historic "Blue Spruce Route" with stopovers in Greenland, Iceland, and Scotland.

European Events and Commemorations (May 25-June 17)

• May 25-26: Participation in an event at Old Warden/Shuttleworth (England).
• May 25-June 2: Tour of various locations across the United Kingdom (details to be confirmed).
• May 27-31: Parachute training and practice sessions at North Weald Airfield (UK).
• June 1-2: Visit to the Imperial War Museum Duxford (England).
• June 2: D-Day 80th Anniversary commemoration - a cross-channel jump with paratroopers landing in Cherbourg, France.
• June 3-9: Events and parachute jump operations based in Cherbourg and Maupertus Airport, Normandy, France.
• June 10: Flight from Cherbourg to Wiesbaden, Germany.
• June 15-16: Participation in the "Berlin 75" event at Wiesbaden Military Airfield, Germany.
• June 17: Departure from Wiesbaden, Germany.

Return to North America and Public Appearances (June 21-July 28)

• June 22-23: Stopover in Padua, Italy for events at Padua Gino Allegri International Airport and the HAG Fly Party.
• June 24: Return to North Weald Airfield (UK).
• June 21-27: Eastbound transatlantic crossing back to North America.
• June 27-28: Final stop at Presque Isle, Maine. (Note: Some aircraft may not have flown to Germany or Italy and will return to base earlier.)
• July 19-21: Participation in the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) in Fairford, England.
• July 22-28: Grand finale at the EAA Air Venture Oshkosh in Wisconsin, USA.
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This comprehensive itinerary offers a glimpse into the D-Day Squadron's ambitious mission. Their journey is not just about flying historic aircraft; it's about commemorating the sacrifices made during World War II and the Berlin Airlift, while fostering public engagement and education.