The museum began in 1986 with a single C-47A that was rejected as “beyond salvage” by other museums. Today it stands immaculately restored, complete with D-Day invasion stripes, as it was when it served with the 61st Troop Carrier Squadron in World War II. Its extensive combat history is meticulously documented with actual photos and memorabilia donated by former crewmembers. This plane, “Turf & Sport Special,” was the centerpiece of a reunion in July 1990, that included the D-Day pilot, aerial engineer, and three of the 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers who dropped into St. Mere-Eglise on June 6, 1944—forty-six years earlier.
Few aircraft are as well known or were so widely used for so long as the C-47 Skytrain, nicknamed “Gooney Bird.” The aircraft was adapted from the DC-3 commercial airliner which first appeared in 1936. The first C-47s were ordered in 1940 and by the end of WWII over 10,000 had been procured for the USAAF and U.S. Navy. They carried personnel and cargo, and in a combat role, towed troop-carrying gliders and dropped paratroops into enemy territory.
The most widely used military transport in WWII, the C-47 also saw service with the U.S. Navy as the R4D and with the RAF as the Dakota.
After WWII, many C-47s remained in USAF service, participating in the Berlin Airlift and other peacetime activities. One hundred C-47J aircraft were re-engineered by Douglas and incorporated new wings, a new, taller vertical tail, modified landing gear, and more powerful engines. They entered the U.S. Navy service under designation C-117D.
During the Korean War, the C-47s hauled supplies, dropped paratroops, evacuated wounded, and dropped flares for night bombing attacks. In Vietnam, the C-47 served again as a transport but it was also used for a variety of other missions which included flying ground attack, reconnaissance, and psychological warfare missions. The AC-47 “Spooky,” a heavily-armed gunship version of the C-47, was equipped with three side-firing 7.63mm Miniguns and was nicknamed “Puff the Magic Dragon.” The last C-47 was retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1975.