The plane that led D-Day is flying back to Normandy

With the 75th anniversary of D-Day coming, dozens of C-47s — the military version of the DC-3 — are on their way to the coast of France.

This derelict is getting some well-deserved attention.

Commemorative Air Force

That’s what “That’s All Brother” looked like when she was discovered in a boneyard in Wisconsin when I first wrote about her in 2015.

She was going to be turned into a turboprop workhorse by an Oshkosh company that specializes in such conversions, but aviation historians did some sleuthing and found it wasn’t just any old World War II airplane. It was the airplane that led the D-Day invasion.

Supporters started raising money for a seemingly impossible task: restoring the plane and returning it to a flying state by June 6, 2019, then flying it to Europe to lead the observance of the 75th anniversary.

The money was the easy part. In two days, the Commemorative Air Force raised $75,000 to buy the plane. Over the next few months, donors coughed up another $250,000 for the restoration.

By the summer of 2015, it was stable enough to be towed to the big airshow at Oshkosh.

Not longer after, restoration was in full swing, including new avionics for a modern era of flying.

Commemorative Air Force

And in January 2018, “That’s All Brother” returned home: the air.

Posted by Commemorative Air Force That's All, Brother on Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The CAF had hoped to find any surviving paratroopers who had flown the D-Day mission. None is on board on this flight, but a recreation of a good-luck charm, a Scottish terrier carried by one of the D-Day paratroopers on the plane in 1944, is making the trip.

Commemorative Air Force

The pilot, Lt. Col. John Donalson of Birmingham, Ala., is long gone, although two of his grandchildren got a tour of the plane during a recent fundraising tour.

Flash forward, now, to this week, when “That’s All Brother” headed for Europe, departing Sunday from an airport in Connecticut.

On Tuesday, it reached Iceland after a stop in Greenland. The crew was aided by something the pilots didn’t have the last time “That’s All Brother” passed this way: technology.

Posted by Commemorative Air Force That's All, Brother on Tuesday, May 21, 2019

It was a long, but beautiful day. Breakfast at 0600 in Goose Bay, at the hotel at 0100 in Reykjavik, with a fuel stop…

Posted by Commemorative Air Force That's All, Brother on Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The plane is being piloted by Doug Rozendaal, of Clear Lake, Iowa, who has flown warbirds for the Commemorative Air Force chapter at South St. Paul’s Fleming Field, has flown C-47s/DC-3s for more than 30 years, and trained the previous owner of “That’s All Brother” on how to fly the plane.

Doug Rozendaal, of Clear Lake, Iowa, is a well-known pilot of warbirds around Minnesota. Commemorative Air Force

After the week-long trip to Europe, the pilots of all the planes will meet up with a dozen European counterparts, and together cross the English Channel to Normandy for the ceremony commemorating the June 6, 1944, military landing.

“This is dangerous,” Len Roberto, a member of the board of directors of the Connecticut Air and Space Center, tells the New York Times. “It is not an easy journey in a 75-year-old airplane.”

You can follow the flight track here.

For more information: Daks Over Normandy