Armstrong family part of D-Day re-creation at Normandy
A World War II Douglas C-47 cargo plane called Whiskey 7 — which dropped American Allied forces onto the Nazi-held beaches of Normandy, France, during D-Day on June 6, 1944 — is making a return trip with two men from Armstrong County.
South Buffalo natives John Lindsay and his 35-year-old son, Stewart, have been taking part this week in a tribute of that historic event.
John, a pilot and Vietnam War veteran, has flown Whiskey 7 over that same 50-mile stretch of coastline throughout the week and will continue those flights Saturday and Sunday as Stewart and an American parachute team participate in a series of commemorative jumps honoring those veterans who went before them so many years ago.
“It's phenomenal. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Stewart said. “My father will be up front flying the plane while I'll be in the back with the rest of the paratroopers.”
Stewart, who has served tours in Kuwait and Afghanistan, is an executive officer with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. He spoke by phone from Alaska about the D-Day commemoration before meeting up this week with his father in France.
“We're coming back 70 years later to re-enact what they did,” he said of the men who plummeted into battle decades before his birth.
He said he was looking forward to meeting paratrooper veterans and French citizens who were there on D-Day.
Stewart signed up for the event when his dad mentioned the “Return to Normandy Project” a year ago — organized by the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo, N.Y.
“My dad's doing the hard part. He's flying a 70-year-old plane across the ocean,” he said. “That's quite an expedition, to get an antique plane over there.”
John is one of five crew members who last month made the Trans-Atlantic flight from the museum's airfield in preparation for this week's event.
According to the museum website, corporate donors have outfitted the plane with modern radios and navigation equipment.
Stewart's mother, Erica, is a former flight attendant and has flown in that type of plane before, known as a DC-3 when used for commercial flights.
“These airplanes can glide,” she said. “The wingspan is longer than the fuselage.”
She has complete faith in her husband's ability to fly the plane.
“My husband is a stickler,” she said. “He felt the airplane was in prime condition to go and said the engines are working beautifully.”
Even though Erica won't be leaving the family's home on Iron Bridge Road in Freeport to attend any of the D-Day commemorations, just knowing that her son and husband are participating makes her emotional.
“This is history in the making,” she said. “I have a love for the airplane and a love for the people flying in it.”
Erica reflected on the fact that her grandfather left Germany and became an American citizen when he saw Hitler rising to power. Her thoughts turn to all those sons and husbands who took to the beaches of Normandy seven decades ago to fight the Nazi regime.
“This is about honoring so many of our dear people who helped save France and Europe. Going there and helping — it's what we do as Americans,” she said. “These are our hometown guys.”
Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.