Published in Midwest Flyer – April/May 2018 issue
The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) has announced that the aircraft that led a formation of more than 800 C-47s to Normandy, France to drop paratroopers on D-Day on June 6, 1944, took its first flight since its restoration began.
During World War II (1939-1945), the Battle of Normandy, which lasted from June to August 1944, resulted in the Allied liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany. Codenamed “Operation Overlord,” the battle began on June 6, 1944, when 156,000 American, British and Canadian troops landed on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily fortified coast of France’s Normandy region. By late August, all of northern France had been liberated, and by the following spring, the Allies had defeated the Germans. The Normandy landings have been called the beginning of the end of war in Europe.
On January 31, 2018, at 1:00 pm CST, the C-47 “That’s All, Brother” returned to the sky when it took off from Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. CAF volunteer pilot, Doug Rozendaal of Mason City, Iowa, was at the controls, and aviation photojournalist, Jim Koepnick of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, was there to photograph the historic flight.
It has been nearly 10 years since the C-47 flew, but the airplane’s D-Day history was only recently discovered by U.S. Air Force historian, Matt Scales. The aircraft was located at Basler Turbo Conversions in Oshkosh, and was slated to be converted to a modern turboprop aircraft. Like so many aircraft which survived World War II, “That’s All, Brother” was used in a variety of civilian roles following the war, hauling people and cargo across the United States. In time, its vital role in the liberation of Europe had been forgotten. Upon learning of the aircraft, the CAF, an organization known for rescuing, restoring and flying more than 170 vintage military airplanes, launched an effort to buy and restore it to its original D-Day configuration.
It was known early on that the restoration would be massive, due to extensive corrosion. Nearly every inch of the aircraft has since been restored to full functionality.
“We estimate that we have put more than 22,000 hours into this restoration project so far and the work continues,” said CAF President/CEO Bob Stenevik. “Thanks to the financial support of over 3,000 individuals and organizations, and an extraordinary group of volunteers, we have been able to achieve this great milestone with the first flight.”
Much of the work up to now has been carried out by Basler Turbo Conversions. The next steps are interior and detail work to be completed in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and restoring the aircraft’s exterior to its 1944 appearance. Once completed, the aircraft will become a valuable tool for the CAF, helping to tell the story of D-Day and the great efforts and sacrifices made on the shores of Normandy.
Once the restoration has been completed, the C-47 will be assigned to the CAF Central Texas Wing in San Marcos, Texas. Then, in June 2019, the aircraft will fly with several other World War II aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean to Duxford, England to participate in the 75th Anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France.
Anyone interested in learning more about “That’s All, Brother,” and supporting efforts to keep this aircraft flying, are urged to visit www.ThatsAllBrother.org.
Video footage of the first flight since the aircraft was restored, can be seen via Facebook at www.facebook.com/thatsallbrother.
To learn more about the Commemorative Air Force, visit www.CommemorativeAirForce.org.
For additional information on aviation photography by Jim Koepnick, visit KoepnickPhotography.com