‘That’s All, Brother’ flies from history to Air Force Museum for three-day visit

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Credit: Marshall Gorby

‘Its a grand lady to fly,’ pilot declares

The first Allied C47 airplane to fly over the Nazi-held Normandy beaches on D-Day nearly 77 years ago touched down behind the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at about 8:36 am Tuesday, starting a three-day stay that will give visitors a glimpse of living history.

Col. Malcolm “Mitch” Mitchell, of the Commemorative Air Force — the organization that bought and restored the historic C47 — reflected on what the 18 to 22 young paratroopers aboard the lead plane were thinking and feeling as they flew into a turning point of history on the early morning of June 6, 1944.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

“Imagine what went through the paratroopers’ minds, sitting in that airplane,” Mitchell said, minutes after the plane landed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. “They’re young kids — 17-, 18-, 19-years old. They’ve got 80 pounds of gear on their back, and when they crossed the French coastline, the weather was bad.

“So this airplane, in the lead, it was down to about 300 or 400 feet (above the ground). It was dark. You’re bouncing around. You’re being shot at. The door opens — and there you are, you’re looking down. You’re going to jump into the dark, and you don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.

Called That’s All, Brother — a 1940s phrase meant to send a clear warning to Axis powers in World War II — the plane went on to fight in other battles beyond D-Day, including Operation Market Garden.

Over the next several decades, this C-47 changed hands many times until two Air Force historians discovered the aircraft lying in a “boneyard” in Wisconsin, according to the museum and the Commemorative Air Force. The latter organization acquired the aircraft and returned it to flying status, restoring its original exterior appearance and paint scheme while readying the craft for modern usage.

The plane returned to the skies over Normandy for the commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of D-Day in 2019.

Doug Lantry, curator and historian at the Air Force Museum, said the plane dropped the first paratroopers at about 12:48 am June 6, 1944, the first strike in the battle that ultimately began the liberation of Western Europe.

That’s All, Brother is now on the runway behind the museum available for viewing on static display Wednesday April 21 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.; and Thursday between 9 a.m. and noon.

Some northbound motorists briefly parked Tuesday morning, lining Harshman Avenue in Riverside to watch the plane land. They also watched from the museum’s Memorial Park.

When visitors go inside the craft, they will not see a luxury experience.

“It won’t be like going into an airliner,” Lantry said. “It’s more like going into a pickup truck. It’s tilted for one. It’s a taildragger, so when you get in the airplane, if you get in the back, you’re walking uphill to get to the front. And that’s notable. That’s notable because not many airplanes are made like that any more.”

Jordan Brown, the Commemorative Air Force pilot for this leg of the plane’s nationwide tour, said it is an honor to fly this plane and others for the organization. He flew this C47 back from Normandy two years ago after the 75th anniversary events.

“The C47, I say this all the time, it’s a grand lady to fly,” Brown said. “It’s a wonderful handling airplane, flying is not fast, but when you’re sitting up there, you have time to reflect think of the history of this airplane and the opportunity we have to fly it.”

On Thursday, the aircraft will take-off and depart between 1 and 2 p.m.

The plane is scheduled to fly to Xenia this weekend for a special 100th birthday celebration for Sugarcreek Twp. resident Jim “Pee Wee” Martin, who was a paratrooper on D-Day. The plane will be at the Greene County–Lewis A. Jackson Regional Airport.

For more information in the plane’s ongoing nationwide tour, visit https://thatsallbrother.org/tour/

For additional information about the aircraft and accompanying events, visit https://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Upcoming/C-47-Landing/.

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