Plane that led D-Day invasion discovered in Wisconsin

Last year, the remnants of a World War II airplane were found in a boneyard in Wisconsin.

The Douglas C-47, originally built in Tulsa, was on its way to being turned into a more modern turboprop airplane. The Oshkosh company that owned it didn’t know its lineage.

If that had happened, a significant piece of U.S. history would have been lost. The airplane — known as “That’s All, Brother” (a message intended for Hitler), was the airplane that led the D-Day invasion.

Yesterday, the Commemorative Air Force, which finds, restores, and flies historical aircraft, announced its intent to raise the money to restore it to its D-Day condition.

“What tends to happen is the planes that survived the war don’t have very interesting histories because they didn’t go to Europe or they were sitting in a factory or never went into combat,” Adam Smith, the VP of development for CAF tells the Dallas Morning News. “They’re wonderful planes, but they’re not particularly interesting. This one, not only can we bring an exciting airplane back to life but the story it carries … I’ve been telling people it’s like Abraham Lincoln’s hat. If I go on eBay right now I can buy a top hat made in the 1860s for a couple of hundred dollars. But if it’s Abraham Lincoln’s top hat and I can prove he wore it the night he was shot, it stirs a lot more emotions.

“For us, the fact we can say it was there and and served as the lead of the largest formation ever, it helps us tell the story. We’re in the business of inspiration and storytelling.”

Related: An inside look at the Spirit of St. Louis (Air & Space Magazine)

From the NewsCut archive: Meeting Miss Mitchell

  • MrE85
  • EliteinReston

    Fun story as far as it goes. There were 11,000 aircraft in the sky that night, according to historian Rick Atkinson’s “The Guns at Last Light.” How would they know which of those “led”the invasion?

    • According to CAF, the paratroopers’ “Mission Albany” was the first flight of 432 airplanes to drop paratroopers just after midnight. According to records, plane #42-92847 led the group. That was “That’s All, Brother.”

      They used original footage to establish that it did, indeed, lead the invasion, even noting that it was equipped with some primitive radar equipment to guide the formation.

      It also noted that the video featured primarily 42-92847, including a send-off from Lt. Gen. Louis H. Brereton, commander of the 9th Air Force.

      • EliteinReston

        Thanks much Bob….good work

  • Jeff

    I’m a little disappointed it’s not going to St. Paul. It also seems like too important of an historical artifact to be left to be restored through handouts. Seems like the Air Force or the Federal government would have some pocket change to donate.

    • CAF uses these things to make money to maintain them by offering rides. I was told at Oshkosh a few years ago they threatened — or at least intimated — that they might pull the B-24 out of KSGS and deploy it somewhere else. So I doubt there’s room for this plane.

      Which reminds me, I haven’t seen the red tail P-51 over there in a long time.

      • MrE85

        I did see a Mustang at Aviation Days last month, but not the one you refer to.

      • Jeff

        I had the opportunity to crawl through the B-24 a few years ago. It’s very spartan, I didn’t see any Economy Comfort seats. I doubt it was much fun in combat.