By Morgan Montalvo
Today's mid-morning D-Day 74th Anniversary remembrance ceremony in San Marcos includes the first Allied aircraft to drop paratroopers over Nazi-occupied France as the June 6, 1944 invasion unfolded.
That's All Brother was the wartime nickname given to the twin-engine Douglas C-47 "Skytrain" rescued from an aircraft boneyard and restored to flyable, near-original condition that includes World War Two paint, invasion markings and decorative christening.
The plane will be operated and maintained by the San Marcos-based Cen-Tex Wing of the Commemorative Air Force, an international aviation heritage organization.
"There are a lot of planes that are in museums and statically displayed but, in terms of flying aircraft, this is probably one of the top five in the world," says Cen-Tex Wing Leader Joe Enzminger.
That's All Brother will serve as the focal point for today's 10 a.m. D-Day commemoration and salute to area veterans in the unit's hangar at San Marcos Regional Airport, just east of the city. The event is free and open to the public.
Enzminger says the aircraft is, like the troops who stormed Normandy in 1944, fought across Western Europe, defeated Germany and returned home alive, a survivor with stories to tell.
“While it’s an airplane,” he says, “That’s All Brother is a D-Day veteran and, like many veterans, when it was very young it went through a tremendously challenging experience.”
Restoration of the C-47 was a multi-year cooperative undertaking between the CAF and corporate sponsors at a cost approaching $3 million.
Enzminger says the CAF has big plans for That's All Brother in 2019.
"We're going to be taking a 75-year-old airplane across the Atlantic Ocean starting in May of next year, recreating the flight over the English Channel on June Sixth, and touring Europe for three or four weeks. Why that's important is, the 75th anniversary will be quite possibly one of the last when living D-Day veterans will actually be able to be there," says Enzminger.
Three CAF C-47s will fly to Europe in 2019,
"because it's not just about the lead aircraft - it's about all of the airplanes and all of the people that participated in those missions," Enzminger says.
PHOTO COURTESY: COMMEMORATIVE AIR FORCE.