Ramstein Airmen Rekindle Piece of D-Day History
By Air Force Staff Sgt. Sara Keller
86th Airlift Wing
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany, June 2, 2014 Seventy years ago, young men from the 37th Troop Carrier Squadron at RAF Cottesmore, England, prepared their aircraft and themselves for what soon would 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 Airlift Squadron 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 paratrooper mission over the original drop zone in Sainte-Mere Eglise, France. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jordan Castelan
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Today, airmen of the 37th Airlift Squadron are preparing for the June 6 anniversary of that day. But this time, they’ll be flying to honor and remember those brave men who took part in the Normandy invasion during World War II.
On Memorial Day, May 26, the 37th Airlift Squadron welcomed the Douglas C-47 Skytrain known as Whiskey 7, allowing them to experience a piece of their squadron’s rich history.
The C-47s were the first aircraft the 37th Troop Carrier Squadron flew when it was formed in 1942. When the squadron was re-designated as the 37th Airlift Squadron 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 Air Force Capt. Andrew Richter, a 37th Airlift Squadron 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 Airlift Squadron for the first time.
“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 [observance].”
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 Airlift Squadron 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 said airmen from the 37th Airlift Squadron were extremely helpful, and that 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,” Richter said. “To bring W7 here, fly next to it and parking it right in front of our squadron, it’s just surreal.”