Aviation historian John Havers sent me this write-up today about a special event in England honoring D-Day veterans. I reproduce it here in its entirety:
"Remembering D-Day and St Mere Eglise
It was from Upottery airfield, locally known as Smeatharpe, on the Blackdown Hills above Honiton, Devon, England, that the 81 Douglas C-47s of 439th TCG (91st, 92nd, 93rd and 94th Squadrons) took off for Normandy in the late evening of June 5th, 1944, led by Colonel Charles H Young. On board were paratroopers of 101st Airborne Division heading for a DZ near St Mere Eglise. Glider missions followed on 7th June, as well re-supply tasks during ensuing days.
During the past weekend of July 28th and 29th this long inactive airfield was temporarily re-opened so that a “Commemorative Gale”, organised by The South West Airfields Heritage Trust and the Blackdown Hills Radio Control Flying Club, could be held to raise funds for the establishment of permanent memorials at both the nearby Exeter International Airport and Culmhead airfield; Upottery already has a memorial. The principal aim of the day was to stage a re-enactment of a Gala Day held in July 1944 by the 439th TCG, which then consisted of field events from cycling to flying demonstrations.
Star of the weekend was undoubtedly C-47 315211 coded J8-B, a veteran of WW2 in Europe; quite a homecoming! This was shared with a Beech 18 in Royal Air Force SEAC colours, a N2S-5 Kaydat in US Navy colour scheme, two former British Army Austers, a former French Air Force Broussard and a number of modern light aircraft. Many outstanding radio controlled model aircraft were also flown throughout the day.
Re-enactment was very much a part of the event, with Jeeps and other former USAAF vehicles, encampments, as well as personnel appropriately dressed in the uniforms of the time and civilians in 1940s attire. A Service was held to remember all those that gave their lives flying from Upottery and to remind us all of the great sacrifice they made that we might be free today."
Sounds like great fun! I wish I could have been there, but through the efforts of John Havers, we can all enjoy that special day. Thanks, John!