The C-47 had a lucky escape after being found in a restoration yard in Wisconsin. It would have been stripped for parts had its tail number not been checked.
The plane that led the D-Day invasion in 1944 is taking flight and returning to Europe for the 75th anniversary of the Second World War battle.
The C-47 troop carrier – named "That's All, Brother" – had a lucky escape after being found in a restoration yard in Wisconsin, where it would have been stripped for parts had its tail number not been checked. Air Force historians verified its provenance through military and Federal Aviation Administration records.
Pilot Tom Travis, who will fly the aircraft on its commemorative mission this summer, said: "This [was] the No. 1 ship in Normandy on June 6, 1944. Somebody found the tail number, traced it down and found it in a... I won't say junkyard, but it was in a restoration yard in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
"And they were lucky enough to get it before it was cannibalised and turned into another aeroplane."
Denise Hayes, whose grandfather John Donalson flew "That's All, Brother" during the D-Day invasion, visited the restored plane. She said: "It's unbelievable to think that all those men were in that plane and to hear the stories, and know some of the people that came back."
That's All, Brother is now operated by the Texas-based Commemorative Air Force, which preserves military aircraft.
It will return to Normandy this summer to drop paratrooper re-enactors over the French coast in June.
Travis outlined the plans: "It's going to be quite an operation. We'll do a flight around the Statue of Liberty and then head to Goose Bay, Labrador. After Goose Bay we're going to cross to Greenland, make a fuel stop, Iceland overnight. Then down to Scotland and Duxford, England.
"Other aircraft are going to meet us in Duxford – as many as 40 C-47s/DC-3s, and we'll drop troopers over the beaches of Normandy on 6 June."
This year's D-Day commemoration could be the last great remembrance of the Allied attack to include D-Day veterans, many of whom are now in their 90s.