TUCSON, Ariz. — It happened on June 6, 1944 — the most massive invasion in history.
Securing an Allied foothold on the European continent commenced with aerial and naval bombardment. Shortly after midnight, an airborne assault to insert 24,000 U.S., British and Canadian troops took place to help pave the way for the beach landings that would take place later that morning.
At 1:19 a.m., 52 aircraft assigned to the 434th Troop Carrier Group launched from Royal Air Force Aldermaston Airfield, each one towing a Waco glider. Their mission carried reinforcements for troops from the 101st Airborne Division who had jumped in earlier, near Utah Beach. Among these aircraft was the D-Day Doll, tail number 830. The Doll flew three missions on June 6 and 7.
The Doll stayed in the fight after D-Day, flying in Operation Market Garden in Holland, the re-supply of Bastogne, then pushed on across the Rhine flying a variety of support missions and evacuating wounded to England.
The D-Day Doll was one of 159 C-53D Skytrooper aircraft produced. Built at the Douglas factory in Santa Monica, California, she was delivered to the Army Air Force on July 7, 1943, and arrived at RAF Aldermaston in March 1944.
Today the D-Day Doll still flies, thanks to the Inland Empire Wing of the Commemorative Air Force located in Riverside, California. In 1957, Lloyd Nolen, and a small group of former military pilots, purchased a P-51 Mustang. They were on a mission to preserve military aviation history. The CAF now has almost 13,000 members and a fleet of more than 165 aircraft representing more than 60 airframes.
On May 8, 2019, the D-Day Doll began a seven-week, 12,000-mile journey across the U.S., Atlantic and nine countries and returned to Normandy. The first stop in this journey was Tucson, home of the Old Pueblo Daedalian Flight 12. The Flight used the occasion of the Tucson stopover to present its donation, as well as a donation from Daedalian National Headquarters to support this historic mission.