For decades, the military aircraft that took the lead during the largest wartime airborne operation in history unceremoniously rusted in a Wisconsin junkyard until a historian found it by chance. According to a recent report by the Associated Press, a researcher looking for C-47s from the World War II era was surprised to run into the very first warplane to drop paratroopers over Normandy.
It so happened that the historian was researching the life of Colonel John Donaldson, the Army Air Corps officer who piloted the C-47 named “That’s All, Brother.” The researcher wanted to get a feel of the aircraft in general, but he never expected to find this important piece of world history.
“That’s All, Brother” was found at Basler Turbo Conversions, a salvage shop located in the Midwest community of Oshkosh. Once the aircraft was identified, Air Force historians were immediately contacted to carry out a campaign to collect enough funds for a full restoration. It too about a month for the campaign to collect more than $350,000; a restoration crew has spent weeks working long shifts to get the C-47 back into flying conditions.
Even though Wisconsin is in the midst of a harsh winter, the restoration experts are determined to getting the warplane airborne next year; the goal is to transfer it to Europe so that it can be part of the flying celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Normandy invasion, which is more commonly known as D-Day. The engines of the C-47 have already been tested once, and the crew is confident that the historic plane will be able to take off in a few months.
D-Day took place in early June of 1944; this massive landing of Allied forces in France and behind enemy lines proved to be decisive in eliminating the Third Reich and bringing World War II to an end.