May 29, 2019 (by Jennifer H. Svan) - The 37th Airlift Squadron sent three C-130Js to France on Wednesday decked out with a new paint scheme.
USAF C-130J #08-8601 from 37th AS is seen landing at Stuttgart-Echterdingen Airport on May 18, 2019. Note D-Day Ivasion stripes applied for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. [Photo by Dennis Russ]
World War II veterans who fought at Normandy likely would recognize the markings immediately.
The aircraft are sporting “invasion stripes” — alternating black and white bands on the fuselage and the wings that were painted on almost every allied aircraft participating in D-Day to reduce the chance of getting shot down by friendly forces.
The squadron will send four C-130Js and about 40 personnel to Normandy for the 75th anniversary of the June 6, 1944 invasion.
They’re among 1,000 U.S. military personnel, stationed in Europe and from U.S.-based units with historical ties to D-Day, slated to participate in ceremonies, flyovers, parades and other events scheduled in the Normandy area from June 1-9.
President Donald Trump and other world leaders are expected to join some of the festivities.
From Ramstein, Capt. Ryan Statler and Capt. Andy Forsyth, C-130J pilots involved in the squadron’s mission planning for the 75th anniversary, will make their first trip to Normandy for the occasion.
“I think it’s awesome,” Statler said. “I’m a history guy, so I get a little extra excited about it. It’s cool to go to Normandy at all, so to be out there to see all that, participate in the remembrance of the invasion, is humbling.”
The squadron participates in D-Day commemorations every year, but because this year is the 75th anniversary, the unit’s contributions will be much greater, the pilots said. Ramstein airmen will be part of more than 40 flyovers, several more than last year, Statler said.
With aircraft from various nations participating, one of the biggest challenges will be coordinating the airspace around Normandy, Forsyth said, while keeping tabs on restricted airspace.
“You can’t overfly the president,” he said.
Ramstein’s air crews also will fly in large formations and will drop paratroopers, the latter a nod to the squadron’s historical D-Day ties.
The 37th Airlift Squadron draws its lineage from the 37th Troop Carrier Squadron. The carrier squadron dropped paratroopers outside of Sainte-Mere-Eglise, France, on D-Day, and participated in ensuing resupply airdrops.
The carrier squadron flew the C-47, a vintage plane scheduled to make a return to Normandy for the 75th anniversary. A fleet of restored American C-47s will join C-47s from Europe and Australia for a June 6 flyover and paratrooper drop.
Just like the C-47s in 1944, Ramstein’s C-130s are marked with a “W7.” The designation Whiskey 7 helped the paratroopers know what plane to go to, Statler said.
Forsyth hopes to get a peek inside one of the C-47s.
Flying with the advantage of 75 years of avionics updates, Forsyth said, “it’s amazing to me that you can navigate and find drop zones like that.”
“Just with a compass, stopwatch and a map,” Statler added.
“It’s incredible,” Forsyth said.