ABC News(NEW YORK) — One of the most significant dates in modern history — June 6, 1944 — marks when 160,000 Allied troops stormed the heavily fortified, 50-mile coastline of Normandy, France, in an effort to liberate Western Europe during World War II.
The beach landings were preceded by an aerial assault, in which 13,000 American paratroopers from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were dropped past enemy lines.
To commemorate the 75th anniversary on Thursday, the skies over Normandy will be filled with meticulously restored Douglas DC-3/C-47 Dakotas — the same aircraft which carried the men across the English Channel and into battle. This time, hundreds of paratroopers outfitted in replicas of Allied uniforms and using WWII military-style parachutes will reenact the drop.
The Daks Over Normandy event was organized to honor the service and sacrifice of the troops who “risked life and limb to bring about the beginning of the end” of the War in Europe.
To make this historic tribute possible, the owners and operators of these WWII-era aircraft were flying to France from the U.S., Canada, all over Europe and from as far as Australia.
On May 19, the American contingent known as the “D-Day Squadron” began its journey from Maine to Goose Bay, Canada.
“These are the aircraft. Not aircraft like this — these are the aircraft that carried these paratroopers and flew during the war,” Eric Zipkin, a pilot and coordinator for the U.S. effort, said.
“It’s extraordinary to think that 19-year-olds were doing this. And it was just what they did. It’s a fitting remembrance to them,” he added.
From Canada, the 15 American WWII-era aircraft, began the long trip to Europe. They traveled from Narsarsuaq, Greenland to Reykjavik, Iceland and arrived in Scotland on May 23.
The U.S. contingent arrived in Duxford, U.K. on May 29. From there, they will fly across the English Channel to reenact the aerial assault in Normandy on Thursday.
They will all be flying in formation and accompanied by aircraft from the U.S. Air Force, the Royal Air Force and The Royal Netherlands Air Force, among other nations.
Before leaving the U.S., Zipkin told ABC News that he would be thinking of how grateful he is to the Allied forces that fought on that day in 1944.
“Thank you to all that have made this possible,” he said. “Thank you to them.”
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