May 30, 2014 (by SSgt. Sara Keller) - Seventy years ago, young men from the 37th Troop Carrier Squadron at RAF Cottesmore, England, prepared their aircraft and themselves for what would soon be known as one of the most significant and meaningful days in the history of the world...D-Day.
A Douglas C-47 Skytrain, known as Whiskey 7, flies alongside a C-130J Super Hercules from the 37th AS over Germany, May 30, 2014. The C-47 came to Ramstein for a week to participate in base activities with its legacy unit, the 37th Airlift Squadron, before returning to Normandy to recreate its role and drop paratroopers over the original drop zone in Sainte-Mere Eglise, France. [USAF photo by A1C Jordan Castelan]
Today, Airmen of the 37th Airlift Squadron are preparing for the anniversary of that very same day. Only this time they'll be flying to honor and remember those brave men who took part in the invasion of Normandy during World War II.
This past Memorial Day, the 37th AS welcomed the Douglas C-47 Skytrain known as Whiskey 7, allowing them to not only commemorate the 70th Anniversary of D-Day but also experience a piece of their squadron's rich history.
The C-47s were the first aircraft the 37th TCS flew when the squadron was formed in 1942. When the squadron was re-designated as the 37th AS and based in Germany it flew C-130s. Today it flies the C-130J Super Hercules.
"It was a few years ago we found out that the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo, New York had the last airworthy C-47 from the original 37th TCS," said Capt. Andrew Richter, 37th AS pilot. "About two years ago we really started working with the museum to help in any way we could to bring the C-47 to Ramstein and the 70th Anniversary."
After two years of intense fund raising and coordination, a team of volunteers from the museum made the 3,600-mile trip to Germany and flew with the C-130J from the 37th AS for the first time in history.
"We have such a rich history here at the 37th and it's amazing to see our squadron's heritage first person," Richter said. "The C-47 is the first aircraft our squadron flew and it means so much to us to have the opportunity to fly with a piece of our history and participate in the French 70th Anniversary of D-Day."
It has taken thousands of hours, about $250,000 and hundreds of people to get Whiskey 7 to Ramstein, and it's not just the Airmen of the 37th AS who felt the need for the historically significant journey to happen.
"The biggest reason we brought Whiskey 7 to Europe for the D-Day anniversary is because that airplane is a symbol of what those men did 70 years ago for the entire world," said Christopher Polhemus, Whiskey 7 lead pilot. "Our crew chief really put it into perspective, he said "Those men came as liberators not as conquerors.
"The entire European continent was under the tyranny of Nazi control, they were not free," Polhemus continued. "The U.K. was next and what the U.S. did by sending W7 over here, along with thousands of other aircraft and hundreds of thousands of American Soldiers, Sailors and Marines, they came here and liberated the entire continent of Europe. It was huge!"
Polhemus also explained how Airmen from the 37th AS were extremely helpful and he's thankful for all of the time and effort they put into bringing Whiskey 7 here.
"We learn about our history as soon as we walk in the door, we see it on the walls around us...it's ingrained in us," said Richter. "To bring W7 here, fly next to it and parking it right in front of our squadron, it's just surreal."