The Douglas C-47 was actually slated for conversion to a modernized turboprop-powered transport by Basler Turbo Conversions across the airport from Boeing Plaza. Instead, the aircraft was acquired by the Commemorative Air Force and will undergo extensive restoration with the goal of participation in the 75th anniversary commemoration of the D-Day Invasion of Normandy in 2019. As the first of over 800 aircraft participating in the airborne assault, That's All Brother acted as a pathfinder during the night assault. It carried 15 paratroopers, about half the normal amount, and a radar set designed to assist in locating the drop zones. The venerable transport served in the European Theater of Operations through August 1945, then returned to the U.S. and served with 16 different civilian owners until July of 2015. The Commemorative Air Force will ensure That's All Brother has a good start on another 75 years serving as a reminder of the courage of the paratroopers that freed Europe from tyranny.
The dedication ceremony was held on Wednesday in Boeing Plaza under the nose of the aging warrior. Commemorative Air Force President and CEO, Stephan Brown, described the process wherein the aircraft was acquired from Basler Turbo Conversions across the airport from Boeing Plaza. The aircraft was purchased through an anonymous (to us) donor, and a recent fundraising effort has netted about $350,000 for the restoration process.
Dale Dye, retired U.S. Marine Corps Captain, actor and advisor on military movie productions, was involved in the production of the video used for the fund-raising campaign. "What it represents is the spirit of America," Dye said. "We need to get this (aircraft) out there so we can understand what the real spirit of America is." He emphasized that the current generation learns through experience rather than book-learning, and that the historic aircraft will serve as a practical way of teaching history. The Aero Experience agrees whole-heartedly!
Jim "Pee Wee" Martin was a member of the 101st Airborne Division/506th PIR/3rd Battalion/G Company and landed on Utah Beach during the Invasion of Normandy. He fought for 33 days in France, served in the Invasion of Holland and also defended Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. "Without this type of plane, we would not have had a successful invasion," Martin told the audience at the dedication ceremony. "My heart goes a little faster when I get into one. I still have the same feeling."
Following the ceremony, the guest speakers were available to greet the audience, and it was heartening to see many of the younger generation take an interest in the aircraft and the great accomplishments of Jim "Pee Wee" Martin, Dale Dye and the Commemorative Air Force.