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By Associated Press
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Filled with paratroopers, a The US fighter jolted in 1944 over an English runway to lead the invasion on the occasion of the Second World War. On his nose Adolf Hitler stood in bright yellow: "That's all, brother." Seventy-five years later, in this plane, a confluence of history and luck, once again flies to the French coast to commemorate the last major commemoration of the Allied battle, attended by veterans of D-Day, many of them in the 90s are.
Aviation Boneyard in Wisconsin, after recognizing its importance in Air Force historians in Alabama, will see the restored troop-carrier C-47, which served as the lead invasion aircraft, converge with other classic cars at its 75th anniversary jubilee in June.
After flying over the Statue of Liberty on May 18 The plane flew to Europe with other vintage cars on the same route through Canada, Greenland and Iceland as the US planes during the war. There, she and other flying military transports are expected to drop paratroopers on the French coast in Normandy.
"It's going to be historic and emotional," said pilot Tom Travis, who will fly That's All, Brother to Europe for the event. "It will be the last big meeting."
Air Force historian Matt Scales said there is no question that the twin-engined plane is the same one that led the main invasion on D-Day. It is operated today by the Texas-based Commemorative Air Force, which preserves military aircraft.
"I have no doubt, we have three separate documents that substantiate this," said Scales, who has found the plane with the help of a colleague.
Scales did it a few years ago while researching the deceased Lt. Colonel John Donalson of Birmingham, to whom the leadership of the leading aircraft was attributed, with which the main group of paratroopers on the French coast was deposed to prepare for the attack on June 6, 1944.
The night before infantry troops reached the beaches, Donalson encountered planes and about 80 others were observed by news teams and military personnel, including General Dwight D. Eisenhower, when they took off. This is from an official story of the 438th Troop Carrier Group. That's all, Brother was at the head of some 900 planes that made the flight across the English Channel to drop a total of about 13,000 paratroopers.
Donalson's plane was in the lead, in part because it was equipped with an early form of radar that set itself a target Scales said a small group of paratroopers in "Pathfinder" aircraft stationed electronic beacons on the French coast Has. Some mounts of this electronic system are still in the hull of the C-47.
Scales found wartime information on Donalson's plane That's All, Brother, and agreed with the military and Federal Aviation Administration's records to determine the aircraft manufactured by Douglas Aircraft Co still existed.
The plane was sold in 1945 on the civilian market and had changed hands several times before Scales found it. At one point it was painted in a camouflage scheme that resembles C-47s that flew during the Vietnam War.
"It never crashed, it never got damaged," Scales said. "All the dozen owners who did it between the end of the war and when I discovered it did pretty well."
The aircraft was tracked down using company identification numbers in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and purchased by the Commemorative Air Force in 2015 following a fundraiser that raised approximately $ 250,000, Scales said. It was heavily corroded and partially disassembled, but all major parts were present.
With rebuilt piston engines, advanced navigation and radio equipment, and a new paint job, the reborn That & # 39; s All made its first flight in February 2018. A crew now travels and offers veterans and other flights.
The sober The interior is lined with long metal benches for the seats and the airframe is visible to all. Since there is no insulation, the roar of the engines complicates communication as the props rotate. A cable with which parachute slides have been dropped runs at the top of the cabin.
Donalson, who retired, died in 1987. However, during a stopover in Birmingham, two of his grandsons were relegated to the risen plane. Granddaughter Denise Harris sat on one of the paratrooper's seats for the trip to France.
Harris struggled to find himself in the same plane her grandfather had used to invade in 1944.
"It's unbelievable to think that all these men were sitting in this plane too and hearing the stories and knowing some of the people who came back," she said.