Fly In To History

Fly In To History

Historic aircraft share stories at BB&BBQ


A stepladder. A stepladder hanging from the side of a plane. Those simple three steps changed the fate of 13,000 young men.

They were paratroopers with the 101st and 82nd Airborne divisions. They jumped into the unknown, behind enemy lines, lost, alone, into a barrage of bullets. These were among the heroes of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944.

Eight hundred C-47 planes carried 26 men each. Then each plane flew back for more.

“They did not know where they’d land and what would greet them,” says Doug Rozendaal, Wednesday’s pilot of the C-47. “They were trained to jump, but this might have been their first jump in combat.”

This weekend, Northwest Arkansas residents can tour one of those C-47s and even take a flight. The Arkansas Air and Military Museum hosts the plane and its crew at the Fayetteville airport as a companion event to Bikes, Blues & BBQ.

Volunteer crews of the Commemorative Air Force flew the C-47 and the “Devil Dog,” a Marine Corps B-25 bomber, from their base in Oshkosh, Wis., to Fayetteville on Wednesday.

Members of the media got to sit in the seats and fly into the memories of the men who served and leapt from this aircraft. This C-47 was more than just one of 800. With an exceptional flight crew, “this plane was the No. 1 plane in a long line headed to Normandy to begin the D-Day invasion during World War II,” reads information provided by the museum.

The flight crew on D-Day left England at 12:30 p.m. and dropped the paratroopers under heavy fire at 1:20 p.m. They flew back, repaired the plane, got a new radio man because theirs had been hurt, loaded more paratroopers and dropped them at 5 a.m., the museum’s David Barr shares the story. He says the plane carried an extra pilot and navigator in case of injury, but not an extra radio man.



Daniel Prather of the CAF told of C-47s pulling gliders full of paratroopers, too. And of converting the bay for stretchers to evacuate the wounded. Some even tried flying Jeeps and other cargo in the bay.

The nose of the Army green plane bears the words, “That’s all Brother.” “That’s a message to Hitler,” Rozendaal explains. “We’re tired of it. We’re coming for you. We’re not fooling around. You’re done.”

Dubbed the world’s largest flying museum, “the CAF was founded to find and preserve World War II-era combat aircraft for the education and enjoyment of present and future generations.” Members search for historic aircraft and restore them to modern flying condition while retaining as much of the original details as they can.

Visitors should take note of the black and white stripes painted on the plane. These are invasion stripes, which the Allied forces began using during the Normandy invasion. With so many aircraft in the air, it was hard to tell friend from foe. These stripes helped solve that problem.

“Eisenhower only gave 72 hours’ notice of the invasion because he didn’t want the Germans finding out,” Rozendaal says. “So they had 72 hours to paint these stripes on all the planes. They painted them on with mops.”

The company restoring this C-47 had meticulously added the stripes. But members of the CAF insisted on using mops. The stripes are far from perfect — but perfectly correct.

This historic C-47 was found in an aircraft junk yard in Oshkosh. It had been sold for scrap and was next in line for cutting and remaking as a commercial aircraft. CAF members researched the numbers painted on the side of the heap and realized just what they had.

“When we show people our 175 airplanes, those are the tools to tell the story and inspire young people to recognize the sacrifices they made,” Rozendaal says.

“This gives people the chance to be part of history, part of the greatest generation.”



Living History

Flight Experience

WHEN — 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 28-30

WHERE — Arkansas Air & Military Museum at Drake Field in Fayetteville

COST — $15 adults, $10 for ages 6-17

INFO — 935-5517 or

BONUS — Flights are offered at $249 per seat on the C-$7; $425 on the Devil Dog. Reserve online at

Categories: Cover Story