The 75th anniversary celebrations for Operation Overlord, better known now as D-Day, reached a crescendo today with the massed fly-over along the beachheads and landing zones of Normandy, France where the June 6th, 1944 invasion took place. A fleet of WWII transport aircraft, predominantly Douglas C-47s (along with Dakotas a DC-3 and a C-53) and aircraft of the modern military forces of both France and the United States formed the aerial armada, which also paid their respects to the dead, with a trip past WWII cemeteries along the route. A smaller ceremony also took place in Portsmouth, England, home of the Royal Navy, and one of the primary locations from which more than a thousand British and American naval vessels set forth on June 5th, 1944 for Operation Neptune, the marine component for Overlord, the assault on Nazi-occupied France. More than thirty Douglas C-47s/Dakotas were scheduled to take part in the Daks Over Normandy flyovers, with fifteen of them being part of the D-Day Squadron which we have been following along their epic journey from across the United States to Europe this past three weeks. While we do not have many still images from todays flypast to share at this point, we do have some extraordinary shots from earlier in the week taken by the world-class, British photographer Rich Cooper.
Yesterday, the bulk of the D-Day Squadron flew to their staging base in France at Caen-Carpiquet Airport. On one of these aircraft, John Session’s Douglas DC-3 beautifully marked in vintage Pan American Airways livery, was Lt.Col. David Hamilton. Hamilton is the last surviving pilot who flew the Pathfinder units into Normandy… the pointy-end of the spear paving the way for the rest of the invasion fleet. Our very own Moreno Aguiari was aboard his aircraft and took a couple of images for us to enjoy.
A short video of Lt.Col. Hamilton visiting his wartime base in the UK. There is a brief segment featuring our very own Moreno Aguiari too!
There is some in-cockpit video from today from aboard one of the D-Day Squadron’s C-47s (Miss Virginia) on the flypast which gives an idea of what it was like to be in the formation.
The previous day, a number of the Douglas transport aircraft dropped 200 or so re-enactors in vintage WWII-style uniforms and ‘chutes nearby one of the original drop zones.
One of those whom also made the drop was 97-year old Tom Rice, of San Diego, California, recreating a more peaceful version of the same jump he made over the same soil in 1944.
It has been an emotional few days of marking arguably the single most important event of the past century, where the free-peoples of the world joined together in a singular endeavor to crush the Nazi empire. While many of the aircraft which took place in these celebrations will likely fly on for decades to come, it is unlikely that many of their former passengers and flight crew have too many more years, and it is they whom we should be remembering best today…. the young men, predominantly from Britain, Canada and the USA, who formed the backbone of the invading armies which liberated Normandy and pushed on beyond to Germany and ultimately, victory in Europe. Some of the survivors were there today to take part in the events commemorating their bravery and sacrifice…
Many thanks indeed to Rich Cooper for the use of his images. Rich Cooper and his organization, the Center of Aviation Photography (COAP), offer a plethora of fabulous opportunities for those interested in unique aviation photography experiences around the world… you should check them out!