View Full Version : D-Day C-47 Found/Sent Back to Normandy

11-20-2007, 12:10 PM
Abandoned U.S. World War II Plane to Move to Normandy

Tuesday , November 20, 2007

A U.S. Air Force plane instrumental in saving Normandy from the Nazis during World War II has re-emerged in Bosnia and soon will be put on display as a war hero, the Houston Chronicle reported Monday.

The Douglas C-47 was found at an air base near Sarajevo, Bosnia, after a search that began last January. It will be shipped to a museum in Merville, Normandy, as a symbol of D-Day, the Chronicle reported.

Click here to read the Houston Chronicle report.

"We want to restore this plane to its original glory," Beatrice Guillaume, the administrator of a museum, told the Chronicle, "to explain the story of her crew members and how difficult it was for them to risk their lives to save a country they didn't know."

Nicknamed the “SNAFU Special,” the C-47 flew unarmed to a supposedly impenetrable German artillery battery to silence gunners for the D-Day invasion. It last was flown 13 years ago during Bosnia’s war for independence.

FOX News (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,312320,00.html)

George Eller
11-20-2007, 01:01 PM

Thanks for the story Nick,

Here's more from the Houston Chronicle:


Preserving The Past
War hero re-emerges
French group wants to move a battered C-47 from Bosnia to France as a symbol of D-Day

By Cindy Horswell
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle
Nov. 19, 2007


Before 88-year-old Joseph "Buck" Buckner died in 2003, his son gave him the perfect Christmas gift.

It was a model of the Douglas C-47 on which the Baytown man had flown as a U.S. Army Air Force radio operator during World War II.

"It even had the tail number painted on it," recalled Buckner's son, Chris, also of Baytown. "My father could recite that number, without hesitation, as if it were his driver's license number."

Now, an actual plane with the identical registration number has been found abandoned at an air base near Sarajevo in Bosnia.

The plane, nicknamed the "SNAFU Special," has not flown since being riddled with bullets during Bosnia's war for independence 13 years ago.

The story behind the plane built in 1944 is an epic tale of heroism and survival, said Beatrice Guillaume, the administrator of a museum in the small French town of Merville, Normandy. She is a member of a Merville team that traveled to Bosnia last weekend to save the plane from obscurity. The aircraft had been instrumental in rescuing her town from the Nazis.

The team plans to transport the C-47 by trailer to the Merville museum, where it will be restored and put on display in June.

The museum, which opened nearly 25 years ago, is housed inside a concrete battery built by the Germans in the early 1940s.

Anyone approaching the heavily armed battery during World War II had to contend with barbed wire, a minefield, anti-tank ditches and flooded marshes.

"The battery was believed to be an impregnable fortress," Guillaume said.

In 1944, the SNAFU Special was among a fleet of unarmed cargo planes dispatched to Normandy to dispel that myth.

In the dark of night, the planes battled strong winds and dodged heavy anti-aircraft fire to drop paratroopers whose mission was to silence the battery for the D-Day invasion.

Daring flights
Chris Buckner recalled what his father said about that day: "He remembered doing nothing but fly, drop troops, come back, refuel, fly and drop more troops before the main body of soldiers hit the beaches."

By the day's end, the plane's wings and fuselage were shot so full of holes that it could not get off the ground one more time. Two other C-47s fared worse, crashing in flames into Merville's sand dunes, Guillaume said.

The mission, however, was a success, though it came at a high price: Only 75 of the 750 paratroopers who got the green light to jump survived.

The SNAFU Special is a symbol of those daring flights that helped liberate France, Guillaume said.

"We want to restore this plane to its original glory," she said. "To explain the story of her crew members and how difficult it was for them to risk their lives to save a country they didn't know."

The SNAFU Special's flight log shows that Sgt. Buckner flew more missions on the plane than anyone else.

One other Texan was listed as part of the crew — the late Sgt. Lafette Nerren, a crew chief who later owned and operated a Houston cafe called Juniors.

Nerren had earned the nickname "Lucky" because his plane always made it back , said a longtime friend, Sammy Basey of Lufkin.

The C-47 was heavily damaged, however, during a mission in the Netherlands, when it dropped paratroopers to capture a bridge in an operation immortalized by the film A Bridge too Far.

One squadron leader wrote: "It was a flying wreck. Both the main tires had been shot off, and it landed on bare wheels, losing one completely during the rollout."

During a Belgium mission in which eight C-47s dropped supplies to surrounded Allied troops, the SNAFU Special was one of only three planes to survive.

Chris Buckner said his father talked about abandoning the radio to take over the flight controls during that excursion.

The pilot had been killed and the co-pilot incapacitated.

Many owners
For the French, finding a plane that had participated in the Merville Battery drops was not easy.

Merville officials began an international hunt last January and at first came up empty. Then a French soldier heard of their quest on the Internet and provided the key.

This soldier had served as a peacekeeper in Bosnia in the 1990s and remembered seeing a C-47 there, officials said. The plane had been grounded since being machine-gunned to prevent it from flying during the Bosnian war.

The French soldier, who was a plane enthusiast, viewed the C-47 up close.

"He gave us its registration number," Guillaume said. "We researched it and found it was one that had participated in the drops here."

Records showed that the plane had been sold to Czechoslovakia after World War II for use as an airliner. In 1960, the French military bought it for its air force. Yugoslavia acquired it for its military in 1973.

All but one of the crew members who served on the SNAFU Special have died, but many of their family members plan to attend the dedication in June, officials said.

[email protected]



Photo Essay:


11-20-2007, 05:17 PM
always a good day to find an old friend, and help it home.

11-21-2007, 02:27 PM
Hi Guy's
That aircraft could have been one that carried the 1 Can Para and 9th para Battalion of the 6th Airborne Div.


The Battalion's first taste of combat was the Normandy invasion. Late on June 5th, 1944, they took off with fifty aircraft carrying the troops and equipment heading for France. In addition to the troops' fighting equipment, each man carried a knife, toggle rope, escape kit with French currency, and two 24 ration packs totalling 70 pounds. It should be noted that each paratrooper carried almost 50% more than the acceptable load tables for the invasion aircraft. Most of this additional load was extra ammunition. Battalion orders for the D-Day invasion were:

"The 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion was to land one hour in advance of the rest of the brigade in order to secure the dropping zone (DZ). Thereafter they are to destroy road bridges over the river Dives and its tributaries at Varaville, then to neutralize the strong points on the cross roads."
"In addition, the Canadians were to protect the left (southern) flank of the 9th Battalion during that battalion's attack on the Meriville Battery and then seize and hold a position astride the Le Mesnil cross roads, a vital strategic position at the centre of the ridge."

The commanding officer of 1 Can Para, Lt.Col. G.F.P. Bradbrook, issued the following orders to his company commanders:

"C Company (Major H.M. MacLeod) was to secure the DZ, destroy the enemy headquarters (HQ), secure the SE corner of the DZ, destroy the radio station at Varaville, and blow the bridge over the Divette stream in Varaville. C Coy would then join the battalion at Le Mesnil cross roads. A Company (Major D. Wilkins) would protect the left flank of 9th Battalion during their attack on the Merville Battery and then cover 9th Battalion's advance to the Leplein feature. They would seize and hold the Le Mesnil cross roads. B Company (Major C. Fuller) was to destroy the bridge over the river Dives within two hours of landing and deny the area to the enemy until ordered to withdraw to Le Mesnil cross roads."
The paratroopers landed between 0100 and 0130 hours on June 6th. Due to primitive navigation aids, dead reckoning, and anti-aircraft fire, the groups were dispersed over a somewhat wider area than had been anticipated. The dispersal on the drop resulted in the loss of most of the Battalion's heavy equipment along with 80 men who were taken prisoner. The 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion was the first Canadian unit on the ground in France. In spite of sustaining 117 casualties on the first day of battle, all objectives were rapidly attained, a tribute to the hardiness of the men, the excellence of their training, and the thoroughness of the briefing they had received. All objectives were met by mid-day, June 6, 1944. The Battalion continued to fight with great success in France seeing action in the following places: La Vallee Tantot (August 21), La Haie Tondue, Bonneville sur Tonques, Vauville and Beuzeville, where the enemy had again withdrawn leaving the town to the Allies. The Battalion rested there for the next few days until the rest of the Brigade moved into the area. They returned to England on September 7, 1944.