The expansive shorelines of Normandy’s beaches, typically bustling with sunseekers and vacationers in June, undergo a transformation on the solemn occasion of the 78th anniversary of D-Day. As the ocean meets the land, it becomes a sacred ground where individuals gather to pay tribute to the soldiers and civilians who lost their lives here. Similar commemorative events take place across the United States, the United Kingdom, and Europe, featuring poignant flyovers by the very aircraft that once carried and supported those brave soldiers.
On June 6, 1944, Operation Overlord commenced from airfields in southern England, with a daring low-level crossing of the English Channel cloaked by darkness and clouds. This audacious mission involved an impressive fleet of approximately 13,000 aircraft, including Douglas C-47s and various DC-3 iterations, as well as Lancasters, Hawker Typhoons, and the iconic B-17 Flying Fortress predominantly manufactured by Boeing. Some of the C-47s were tasked with towing gliders for strategic landings near locations like Pegasus Bridge. These gliders, the Waco CG-4 Hadrians and Horsas, played a crucial role in catching the Axis forces off guard and disrupting their positions. Although the success of these specific missions came at a high cost, the overall operation achieved its objectives.
In 2019, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion, a remarkable fleet of 15 C-47s (including our Miss Virginia) and related aircraft embarked on a symbolic journey across the North Atlantic to honor the sacrifices and heroism of those who served in World War II. Known as the D-Day Squadron, these aircraft and their skilled pilots participated in commemorative events at England’s Duxford (EGSU) airfield, conducting parachute drops over significant areas like Sannerville in northwestern France. The squadron congregated in Caen, France, preparing for solemn flights over Omaha, Juno, Sword, and other hallowed beaches along the coast. Some aircraft from the fleet veered off course to fly to Germany, paying homage to those who served during the Berlin Airlift in 1948 and ’49 after the war had concluded.
Today, four members of the D-Day Squadron will conduct a flypast over Virginia, hosted by Dynamic Aviation, which operates Miss Virginia, a C-47. She’ll be joined by the C-47B, Betsy’s Biscuit Bomber, operated by the Estrella Warbird Museum; the Spirit of Benovia, a C-53 owned and flown by the Benovia Winery; and N18121, a 1937 DC-3 owned and operated by Aerometal International. Points include Staunton, Elkton, and Harrisonburg, Virginia, across the Shenandoah Valley.