D-Day Minus 1, The Channel Crossing

On the last day of the Duxford shows, we launched a streaming take-off into a formation of over twenty C-47s bound for Normandy. David Hamilton joined us, the only surviving D-Day pathfinder.

David’s robust personality wins friends wherever he goes. Kay, his constant companion, gets him going just like Burns and Allen. He spent the morning among adoring fans and not so sensitive journalists, so he was ready for a rest. We moved him to the aircraft early. He had seen the interior when with us in Oxford, Connecticut, but now could avail himself of the reclining club seats. He rallied for our take-off and form-up on the way to East London, Kent, and Beachy Head, also known as the White Cliffs of Dover. Some of the repartee between Kay and David (Gracie and George) concerned his willingness to visit the cockpit and perhaps take a turn. Initially he declined, but when I and another pilot cupped each of his elbows to help him rise, any resistance evaporated. Indeed, he did most of the flying across the Channel. You can tell a pro right away. David’s smile while flying will be something I cherish long after the D-Day 75 fuel bills are paid. Helping him into the cockpit became my remembrance moment for Sgt. Myron Guy Sessions of the 101st Airborne Division.

The lushness of the Normandy coast hides many horrors of WWII. Hedgerows define land ownership. Cliffs and beaches created the barriers Germany believed it could defend. But history will wait until the morning. We required prompt delivery to our hotel anticipating a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call. At least ten heads of state would attend the June 6th ceremonies the next day. Consequently, all C-47 crews had to return to our Caen Airport headquarters hangar before 6 a.m. to complete vetting by the Secret Service. After check-in, we remained in a sterilized hangar (i.e., essential crew only) until we took off for our formation passes on D-Day, plus 75 years.

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