C-47 #43-15073 : an important witness to our history
On 29 January 1944 a C-47 troop transport aircraft left
the Douglas factory in Long Beach, California. She wore the
serial number 19539 and entered the fleet of the US
Army Air Force, serial number 43-15073. She cost the
American tax payer $109,663.
From the time she became part of the 9th US Army Air
Force, she crossed the Atlantic and arrived in the United
Kingdom via West Africa. Assigned to the 440st Troop
Carrier Group she took part in multiple exercises in support
of the American Expeditionary Corps, in preparation for
the invasion along the coast of Normandy. On 6th June
she crossed the channel towards the Cotentin
Peninsula and dropped paratroops of the 501st Parachute
Infantry Regiment (101st Airborne Division) south of Sainte-Mere-
Eglise. Throughout the battle of Normandy she flew supply
sorties using temporary landing strips, returning to the
UK with wounded soldiers.
In August 1944 she took part in operations in Provence, in
September she carried men of the 82nd Airborne Division
to Nijmegen to capture the bridge that led to Arnhem,
the operation immortalised in the Film A Bridge Too
She was hit several times by enemy fire. Some months
later on 27 December 1944, riddled by flak, She and her
crew were very nearly lost.
At the end of the war she was sold to a Czechoslovakian
airline who refitted her for civil use and made her the pride
of the fleet. Repurchased by the French Air Force in
March 1960 she was sold again in 1972 to the Yugoslavian
army. At a base near Sarajevo, where she was used for many years as static instructional airframe, she was machine-gunned during the war that engulfed the Balkans but luckily survived the conflict.
At the beginning of 2007, the Association for the
Management of the Merville Battery discovered the
existence of this plane, unveiled her history and
launched the operation Saving C-47 #43-15073, designed for the repatriation, restoration and display of the plane to the public, in Normandy.
Rot away or the breakers yard
Is this to be the unenviable destiny of this exceptional
plane and her unique heritage? This fails to take
into account the enthusiasm and willingness of the
volunteers of the Merville Battery, people who do not
want to see this icon of our modern history disappear.
Similar to the aircraft that dropped our brave
paratroops of the 9th Battalion at Merville. It is just a
blink of an eye to the other flank of the allied invasion
and the American paratroops of the 101st Airborne
Division (Screaming Eagles). After D Day, she would take
part in all the major airborne operations leading up to
the fall of the 3rd Reich : Dragoon, Market, Repulse,
Varsity. From the landings in Normandy to operations
in Provence, from the battle at Nijmegen to the siege
of Bastogne and the crossing of the Rhine she is a
veritable piece of history, and an invitation to
remember and to reflect on the price paid to regain
The plane's green light was the signal for paratroopers to jump. The C-47 was known as the "workhorse of World War 2" and should not be cut up for scrap. It's a symbol of those brave aircrews and men of the U.S. 82nd/101st and British 6th Airborne Divisions that forever rest in the fields of Normandy. To scrap it would be the same as turning our backs on history and the great sacrifice that these men made.
With your help, we will save C-47 #43-15073.