Last year an iconic piece of history was discovered lying in an aircraft boneyard in Wisconsin. It was the Douglas C-47 That's All, Brother - the airplane that led the massed paratroop drop on D-Day. The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) needs your help to rescue and restore this proud old airplane! Your contribution is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.
***LAST MINUTE PLEDGES COUNT DOUBLE!***
This morning we received an amazing email from Janne Andersson, a CAF supporter in Europe. He wants to keep the momentum going and made an extraordinary promise: dollar for dollar, he will match all pledges made today (up to $15,000).
In other words, the clock is currently at $316,463 - so every new pledge or increased pledge will effectively count double until the clock hits $331,800!
With 24 hours to go we achieved our "super-stretch" goal of $310,000 thus unlocking the BONUS REWARD for everybody that contributes to the campaign at the $25 level and above.
About the Airplane
42-92847 led Mission Albany a formation of 432 aircraft that, just after midnight on D-Day, dropped more than 6,600 paratroopers behind enemy lines on the Cotentin Peninsula of Normandy. Named "That's All, Brother", this airplane led the first major blow in the Allied liberation of Europe.
In researching the history of the aircraft we discovered an amazing piece of film shot at Greenham Common airfield in England at dusk on June 5th, 1944. It shows “That's All, Brother” departing on its historic mission to launch the liberation of Europe.
Here are a few stills from the film:
The entire film can be viewed here.
Did you notice a small dog in the first few seconds of the film? We know that one of the pilots of “That's All, Brother” took his dog along for the historic flight on D-Day!
The airplane was commanded by Col. John M. Donalson of Birmingham, Alabama. For superior flying skills exhibited in extensive daylight and night training, his unit had been selected to lead the American airborne landings in Normandy. The full flight crew of “That's All, Brother” on D-Day was:
- Lt. Col. John M. Donalson, Command Pilot (438th Troop Carrier Group Commander)
- Lt. Col. David E. Daniel, Pilot (87th Squadron Commander)
- 1st Lt. Barney Blankenship, Co-Pilot
- 2nd Lt. John N. Shallcross, Navigator
- S.Sgt. Harry A. Chalfant, Crew Chief
- 2nd Lt. Robert G. Groswird, 2nd Navigator
- S.Sgt. Woodrow S. Wilson, Radio Operator (wounded by flak during the D-Day mission)
The men that jumped from the airplane were paratroopers of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, with the 101st Airborne Division. We don't know their names (can you help?) but believe several of them were in leadership positions.
The only person we know, for sure, jumped from "That's All, Brother" is Raymond S. Hall. As a unit Chaplain, he was prohibited from making a combat jump. But "Chappie" Hall believed passionately that his men would never accept him unless he jumped with them. After months of wrangling, permission was granted, and he reported a doubling of church attendance!
In a C-47 just behind “That's All, Brother” was an NBC radio reporter. On returning to England, Wright Bryan filed the first eyewitness report from Normandy. You can listen to his full 15 minute report here:
“That's All, Brother” actually flew two missions on D-Day. In the evening of June 6, 1944 it towed a glider carrying men of the 82nd Airborne Division as part of mission Elmira.
Click Here [PDF download] to read a more detailed history of “That's All, Brother” written by the CAF's Curator, Keegan Chetwynd.
Saving “That's All, Brother”
In 1946, the airplane was sold into civilian hands. It passed through sixteen different owners before being acquired in 2008 by Basler Turbo Conversions LLC of Oshkosh, WI.
The airplane's place in history had been forgotten, and it was placed in Basler's outdoor boneyard awaiting conversion to a modern BT-67 turboprop.
From the perspective of historic preservation, this would have been disastrous. The conversion process radically changes the appearance and fabric of the airplane - lengthening its fuselage, replacing the original engines with modern jet turboprops, gutting the cockpit and replacing with new equipment.
With “That's All, Brother” just weeks away from being torn apart, Staff Sgt. Matt Scales of the Alabama Air National Guard was researching the story of John M. Donalson, who piloted the airplane on D-Day.
Sgt. Scales' diligent work led to the rediscovery of "That's All, Brother", and the opportunity to save a priceless piece of history.
Although it disrupted the business planning of Basler Turbo Conversions, they postponed the conversion hoping a suitable organization would step forward with a rescue plan. Future generations will be grateful!
The Commemorative Air Force and Basler Turbo Conversions have a binding agreement in place that gives the CAF until August 31, 2015 to secure the funding necessary to rescue the airplane.
A successful Kickstarter campaign will allow the CAF to save and return “That's All, Brother” to the sky, so people young and old can understand and value the important role it played in preserving world freedom.
Our plan is to:
- Faithfully restore the aircraft to represent its exact configuration on D-Day. This will include exterior paint and the installation of original seats, avionics, radio and radar equipment.
- Maintain the aircraft in airworthy condition as a piece of living history, attending major national commemoration events, airshows, flyovers and the like.
- Develop a touring educational program that emphasizes the values of the Greatest Generation: courage, self-sacrifice, perseverance, initiative, and the price of freedom. The program will be influenced by the success of the CAF’s Red Tail Squadron program RISE ABOVE. Using a P-51C Mustang and traveling movie theater, this takes the inspirational story of the Tuskegee Airmen to 40 cities each year, reaching about 50,000 people annually.
- The program will position the aircraft as a flying classroom, allowing school children and other visitors to actually board the aircraft and sit in the original paratrooper seats. Inside the darkened plane, hidden speakers and sensors will carry people back in time to the men sitting in this very airplane the night of June 6, 1944.
- Fly to Europe in the summer of 2019 to participate in the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the last opportunity for living veterans to attend a major commemoration event.
Why Kickstarter? How Will Your Support Help?
Simply put, the goal of this Kickstarter is to raise the funds needed to complete the transaction before CAF's agreement with Basler expires on August 31, 2015. All other required funding has been pledged, the remaining need is $75,000.
Any surplus funds raised will be applied to the restoration of "That's All, Brother" and related educational programming.
The CAF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Your contribution is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.
Pledge $10 or more: Receive regular project updates, exclusive access to the full interview with D-Day paratrooper Pee Wee Martin (previewed in the project video), plus an 8 x 10 postcard print of “That's All, Brother”.
Pledge $25 or more: Receive all the items above, plus a one year digital subscription to CAF's monthly WWII aviation history magazine, "Dispatch" and a beautiful 11 x 37 panoramic side profile lithograph of “That's All, Brother”, suitable for framing, designed by AviationGraphic.com.
Pledge $50 or more: Receive all the items above, plus your choice of either a stylish “That's All, Brother” restoration team ball cap or a limited edition ‘Challenge Coin'. Also includes a ground tour of the airplane before, during or after the restoration project.
Pledge $100 or more: Receive all the items above, plus your name inscribed on a recognition plaque on the main door of “That's All, Brother” You can choose to honor a family member or veteran by sponsoring this in their name.
Pledge $101 or more: New reward level in honor of the 101st Airborne Division! Receive the $50 tier reward items, plus be one of just 101 names to be laser engraved on a paratrooper seat of That's All, Brother. You can choose to honor a family member or veteran by sponsoring this in their name.
Pledge $250 or more: Receive all the items above, plus you can take a flight on “That's All, Brother” when the restoration is complete! We will send a certificate good for one passenger flight that can be redeemed by you, or a person of your choosing. An online schedule will show ride availability at major aviation events and tour stops around the US.
Pledge $300 or more: Receive all the items above, plus a limited edition brass "cricket" as used for nighttime identification by Airborne troops dropped on D-Day. This reward item is being supplied by the original company in England that supplied US Army forces for the invasion of France. It will be manufactured in the original factory, on the original machines, using the original dies. How cool is that?
Pledge $500 or more: Join the CAF! Receive all the items above, plus you or a friend / family member will be enrolled as a Colonel in the Commemorative Air Force. As a full voting member you will receive benefits including a printed monthly magazine, CAF name tag and wings, plus the opportunity to participate in unit activities and fly in CAF airplanes on a space-available basis.
Pledge $1,000 or more: Receive all the items above, plus recognition as a Bronze level Restoration Sponsor of “That's All, Brother” and a personal guided tour of the airplane with a member of the project team. Your panoramic lithograph will be signed by Pee Wee Martin who not only jumped into Normandy on D-Day, he repeated the feat on the 70th anniversary, aged 93!
Pledge $5,000 or more: Receive all the items above, plus recognition as a Silver level Restoration Sponsor of “That's All, Brother”. Includes VIP access to the WWII Air Expo event held in partnership with the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, plus dinner with a notable WW2 veteran and senior CAF officials.
Pledge $10,000: Receive all the items above, plus recognition as a Gold level Restoration Sponsor of “That's All, Brother”. This includes a Naming Opportunity for one of the paratrooper seats on “That's All, Brother”. You can choose to honor a family member, friend, or veteran by sponsoring this seat in their name.
BONUS REWARD: Achieving the Super Stretch goal of $310,000 will unlock this Bonus Reward for all Backers at the $25 level and above.
Risks and challenges
There is very little risk of losing the airplane if the Kickstarter is successful. A binding agreement is in place until August 31st 2015, backed by a $20,000 deposit already paid by CAF. All other required funding has been pledged. Not all monies have been collected, so there is technically a risk of non-payment. However, all of the pledging individuals are known personally to the CAF, and the risk of default is considered very small.
Implicit to the vision for the project, and fulfillment of certain Kickstarter rewards, is the future restoration of "That's All, Brother" to airworthy status, to a high degree of historical authenticity representative of its World War II service.
An aircraft restoration project does come with risks alongside the joy of success. The CAF is no stranger to these dynamics and has analyzed the various risk factors involved with "That's All, Brother".
CAF sent an experienced mechanic to conduct a detailed pre-purchase inspection, which concluded that the aircraft was a good candidate for restoration. "That's All Brother" was in airworthy condition as recently as seven years ago and its airframe and engine logbooks are intact. Most importantly the basic airframe is in solid condition with minimal structural corrosion. The Douglas C-47 was produced in large quantity and is still used extensively in military and civilian operations today, which provides a heightened level of access to spare parts, expertise and equipment. CAF is acquiring the aircraft from Basler Turbo Conversions LLC which has pledged ongoing technical support and access to its extensive holdings of C-47 spare parts.
Additionally, CAF’s confidence in approaching this restoration is based on numerous similar projects that have been successfully completed since the organization was founded in 1957. CAF is the largest operator of vintage military aircraft in the world, supported by a staff of 30 people and several thousand passionate volunteers.
Finally it is acknowledged that while flying a historic aircraft can be a source of unparalleled inspiration and educational value, it also carries a level of operational risk. This risk is mitigated by the CAF's robust safety management system, the 70+ year operational record and flight characteristics of the C-47, and the existence of several C-47s preserved in static museum collections around the world: for example the Pathfinder 42-93096 at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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