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Historic D-Day Aircraft Found in Oshkosh

By Frederick A. Johnsen

  • Normandy veteran Jim "Pee Wee" Martin, right, and Stephan C. Brown, Commemorative Air Force president, expressed hope that the historic C-47 "That's All --- Brother" will fly again over Normandy.
    Normandy veteran Jim "Pee Wee" Martin, right, and Stephan C. Brown, Commemorative Air Force president, expressed hope that the historic C-47 "That's All --- Brother" will fly again over Normandy.

July 22, 2015 - The lead aircraft of the first major airborne assault during the Normandy invasion is in Oshkosh. And has been, for awhile. This significant World War II artifact slumbered in the storage yard of Basler Turbo Conversions on the perimeter of Wittman field, waiting its turn to be rejuvenated for a new owner.

When D-Day historians and the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) approached Basler with the history of this veteran C-47, the company agreed to set it aside and let the museum raise funds to buy it. An anonymous CAF member paid for it.

The CAF talked about their plans for the battle-tested C-47, nicknamed That’s All, Brother, with the aircraft standing proud, if a bit ragged, behind the podium on Boeing Plaza.

Stephan Brown, CAF president, said Kickstarter campaigns have raised about $350,000 toward the anticipated million-dollar-plus renovation and restoration of That’s All, Brother.

The venerable C-47 will be evaluated at Basler and made ready to ferry to a restoration location. It could fly in the next year or two. High on the CAF’s list of priorities is completion of the restoration in time to participate in the 75th anniversary of D-Day over Normandy in 2019.

Brown said the history of this C-47’s manifest includes flights given to a mascot dog and the 101st Airborne Division’s paratrooper chaplain, known affectionately as “Jumping Jesus.”

Vietnam veteran and actor Dale Dye told planeside visitors at AirVenture 2015 that “What this represents is the spirit of America.” He urged crowd support for the restoration to preserve That’s All, Brother as a traveling classroom.

The crowd responded enthusiastically when 94-year-old Normandy paratrooper veteran Jim “Pee Wee” Martin promised to jump from this C-47 when the CAF gets it ready for Normandy again. Last year, Martin made headlines when he performed a tandem parachute jump over Normandy on the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

CAF Executive Vice President Adam Smith, former EAA museum director, said That’s All, Brother is credited with leading the first of two formations of the initial main force over Normandy.

He said the refurbishing of this C-47 will need to address corrosion inside the fuselage, apparently aggravated by the installation of moisture-trapping fabric lining some time in its civilian life.

Brown told the crowd that the Commemorative Air Force is the largest organization operating historic World War II aircraft, with 162 planes involved. 

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