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Ocean crossing

Commemorating World War II anniversaries

By Luc Zipkin

Returning this summer to commemorate the eightieth anniversary of the D-Day invasion and the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Berlin Airlift, the D-Day Squadron will bring a fleet of Douglas DC–3/C–47 family aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean for its Legacy Tour 2024, with commemorative flyovers, paratroop reenactments, and airshow appearances in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy.

Photography by Chris Rose.
Zoomed image
Photography by Chris Rose.

This is the second iteration of a D-Day Squadron tour; the group previously organized a crossing of American C–47s in 2019 for the seventy-fifth anniversary of D-Day and the seventieth anniversary of the Berlin Airlift.

With the 2019 tour widely hailed as one of the present generations’ last chances to honor World War II veterans while they were still alive, the upcoming Legacy Tour aims to cement the contributions of the Greatest Generation in the nation’s memory as fewer and fewer veterans remain. The tour highlights these veterans’ contributions both during the war and thereafter, with flights in memory of both the fight for freedom over France and postwar humanitarianism in West Germany. The tour aircraft and their teams aim to reflect the diverse roles of the Douglas DC–3/C–47 family of aircraft and the men and women who flew and maintained them. A combination of military and civilian-configured aircraft will be making the trip, six from America joining five aircraft in Europe, for a total of 11 participating in the events. Five years ago, the American contingent numbered 15 in total, but many teams declined to return to Europe in 2024, most citing cost and crewing difficulties; it’s estimated that each team will spend $250,000 on the seven-week tour, and finding pilots and mechanics with experience with large, radial-engine tailwheel aircraft is increasingly difficult.

The tour is collaborating with a variety of organizations to make this huge effort possible. Aside from the museums and individuals bringing their warbirds across the pond, the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, England, Aero Legends UK, the Round Canopy Parachute Team International, and the U.S. Army in Germany are handling much of the ground planning. The tour aircraft will assemble in Oxford, Connecticut, beginning in mid-May before beginning their flight across the Atlantic, making stops in Maine, Greenland, Iceland, and Scotland. In late May and early June, the D-Day Squadron will make appearances in England; then, the following week, the tour will be based in Normandy, France, conducting major commemorative flyovers and parachute drops over many historic sites, including on June 6, 2024, the eightieth anniversary of the D-Day invasion. Afterwards, the squadron will head to Germany, where, as guests of the U.S. Army, they will conduct commemorative flights for the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Berlin Airlift in mid-June.

The tour’s final organized European appearances will be in Italy, before the fleet of DC–3s heads back across the Atlantic at the end of June. It’s expected that many of the participating aircraft will gather again at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in late July.
Luc Zipkin is a professional pilot, flight instructor, and Tunison Foundation volunteer.

Photography by Chris Rose.
Zoomed image
Photography by Chris Rose.
AOPA Pilot attended the events in Normandy in 2019 commemorating the seventy-fifth anniversary of D-Day.
Zoomed image
AOPA Pilot attended the events in Normandy in 2019 commemorating the seventy-fifth anniversary of D-Day.

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