“Union Jack Dack” On Her Way to Normandy for D-Day 70th Anniversary

Union Jack Dak landing after a test flight. (photo via DaksOverNormandy.com)
Union Jack Dak landing after a test flight. (photo via DaksOverNormandy.com)
Union Jack Dak landing after a test flight. (photo via DaksOverNormandy.com)

News comes from our friends at DaksOverNormandy.com that one of the participating Douglas C-47s has just departed for her transatlantic journey from Connecticut on her way to participate in the D-Day 70th Anniversary celebrations taking place in and over Normandy on June 6th. The aircraft, known affectionately by her crew as “Union Jack Dak”, left without fanfare on May 6th from Oxford Airport in Connecticut bound for Lee On Solent in the UK via  Goose Bay, Labrador; Narsasuaq, Greenland; Reykjavik, Iceland; Prestwick, Scotland; then London, England. She will be joining in at the Daks Over Normandy events, which hopes to gather as many as fifteen airworthy Dakotas in Normandy. Please make sure to visit their website HERE to see how you might be able to participate, or help out.

This particular C-47, registered as N74589, has an interesting history, and it is a minor miracle that she survives, let alone flies. This is all down to the dedication of her owners, who’ve done it all on their own dime or the love of it all, and without seeking any publicity.

They did put together some details about their aircraft though, and we thought you, our readers, would enjoy seeing it too.

Our C-47, affectionately called the “Union Jack Dak” (UJD) was built in Long Beach, and delivered in 1942 as 42-24064 to the United States Army Air Corps at Baer Field near Fort Wayne, Indiana. UJD was assigned to the 434th Troop Carrying Group (TCG) of the 74th Troop Carrying Squadron (TCS). The unit shipped out to England in February 1943 via the southern route: Miami, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Senegal, Morocco and around Spain to England.

Based at Aldermaston in southern England, UJD spent her days in training ops preparing for the invasion of Hitler’s Fortress Europe. Early on the morning of June 6, 1944, UJD and the other C-47s in her unit towed Waco CG4A gliders over the beaches of Normandy wearing the same colors seen today. It is likely that she also participated in dropping paratroopers during the second invasion wave.

UJD served her country well, performing dozens of missions supporting the invasion, and push across Europe. She ferried fuel, ammunition, troops and other supplies to the front and evacuated the wounded. During the battle of Bastogne, UJD saw her second taste of combat, dropping paratroopers and supplies to the besieged city.

While parked at a forward air strip in 1945, UJD was struck by another plane and knocked out of commission for the rest of the War. Repaired with a new wing, UJD returned to the USA via Hunter Field in Savannah, GA. Declared surplus, UJD began the next chapter of her life.

UJD being dismantled in Covington, GA for the trip to her restoration shop. (photo via DaksOverNormandy.com)
UJD being dismantled in Covington, GA for the trip to her restoration shop. (photo via DaksOverNormandy.com)

Converted to a DC-3, UJD flew with West Coast Airlines for almost 20 years. After being replaced by turbine-powered transports, UJD flew freight, ferried skydivers and sprayed on anti-mosquito patrols for the next 30 years, finally coming to rest in Covington, GA.

A victim of the all-too-common tale of a bankrupt carrier and a plane held hostage for unpaid bills, UJD stood abandoned in the weeds at the Covington Airport. Over the course of the next 10 years, several parties attempted to resurrect the ship, but none proved successful.

On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the type, renowned English DC-3 expert Clive Edwards began the search for a suitable plane to bring back to life for the 75th celebrations. Clive settled on N74589, and in cooperation with James Lyle, set about bringing her back to life.

Union Jack Dak in the line up for the type's 75th anniversary celebrations at Oshkosh last year. (photo via DaksOverNormandy.com)
Union Jack Dak in the line up for the type’s 75th anniversary celebrations at Oshkosh last year. (photo via DaksOverNormandy.com)

In just 8 weeks time, Clive and a small band of volunteers managed to haul UJD out of the weeds and make her fully airworthy for her appearance at Oshkosh AirVenture for the 75th anniversary celebration of the DC-3. Because Clive, James and most of the team are from Great Britain, it seemed fitting to emblazon the plane with the Union Jack. The “Dakota with the Union Jack” soon became known as the “Union Jack Dak.” [editor – perhaps also a play on a well-known, fictitious Royal Marine named “Union Jack Jackson” who fought alongside the USMC in the British comic book Warlord during the 70s and 80s]

Union Jack Dak resplendent in her wartime markings once more.(photo via DaksOverNormandy.com)
Union Jack Dak resplendent in her wartime markings once more.(photo via DaksOverNormandy.com)

This year the aircraft is taking part in the Daks Over Normandy event, which is taking place from June 3rd to 8th in Normandy, in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the 1944 D-Day landings. Just like the aircraft did on D-Day, it will drop airborne troops over the historic drop zones.

On May 6th we plan to depart the New York area, and our goal is set to reach the United Kingdom in 3 to 5 days.  There we will have an anchor line cable installed for the parachutists’ static line cables to be ready for our event. The crew that crossed the Atlantic is truly international and consists of  2 Brits, 1 Frenchman, 2 Americans, an Argentinian and one French-American. On June 2nd, the aircraft will be ready to take on the paras at Lee-on-Solent [for the celebrations in Normandy].

WarbirdsNews wishes Clive Edwards, James Lyle, and the rest of their merry band all the best in their adventures this summer. We will be sure to keep our readers informed of these events!

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  1. WWII C-47 Skytrain/Dakotas take part in D-Day 70th anniversary celebrations in France and Britain.

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