Jumping into History

“Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.”

These remarks made by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, prior to the launch of the Allied invasion of Normandy, still carry weight to this day for one of the soldiers he was addressing, the now 93-year-old George Shenkle.

Seventy-one years after jumping into Nazi-occupied France and history, with eyes of the world set upon him and his comrades-in-arms, Shenkle, formerly of Easy Company, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, reunited with the very C-47A Skytrain that he jumped out of April 18, 2015, at the Air Mobility Command Museum near Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.

George Shenkle sits in between Daniel Dillier and Christian Holland, re-enactors depicting World War II-era paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division, onboard a C-47A Skytrain April 18, 2015, at the Air Mobility Command Museum near Dover Air Force Base, Del. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Zachary Cacicia)

George Shenkle sits in between Daniel Dillier and Christian Holland, re-enactors depicting World War II-era paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division, onboard a C-47A Skytrain April 18, 2015, at the Air Mobility Command Museum near Dover Air Force Base, Del. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Zachary Cacicia)

“This is the culmination of the long process to bring this airplane back into the condition like it was on D-Day,” said Mike Leister, AMC Museum director. “To have George come back one more time is a tribute.”

Shenkle travelled from his home in Pennsylvania to visit the Douglas C-47A Skytrain, #42-92841, known as the “Turf & Sport Special,” cargo plane that is permanently on display inside the AMC Museum. During his visit, Shenkle took time to talk with and pose for photos with countless museum visitors and volunteers.

One of the museum volunteers who spoke with Shenkle, retired U.S. Army Col. Bob Leicht, is part of an all-volunteer team of aircraft restorationist. They have spent the past several months to bring the C-47 to the configuration it was in on D-Day.

“Last month we repainted the interior of the airplane back to an original color,” said Leicht. “We found the paratrooper seats; we restored those and just put them in.”

But for Leicht and many of the other volunteers, having Shenkle visit the aircraft was the final piece to a larger puzzle.

“Now the aircraft, as best we know is restored to the condition it was on D-Day,” Leicht said. “The cherry on the cake, if you will, is having the D-Day veteran coming back and re-entering his airplane; it ties it all together.”

George Shenkle, left, talks to Bill Lee, Air Mobility Command Museum volunteer, center, and Bob Leicht, AMC Museum volunteer, inside a C-47A Skytrain April 18, 2015, at the AMC Museum on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Lee and Leicht are part of a restoration team that recently restored the interior of the aircraft to an accurate World War II-era presentation. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Zachary Cacicia)

George Shenkle, left, talks to Bill Lee, Air Mobility Command Museum volunteer, center, and Bob Leicht, AMC Museum volunteer, inside a C-47A Skytrain April 18, 2015, at the AMC Museum on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Lee and Leicht are part of a restoration team that recently restored the interior of the aircraft to an accurate World War II-era presentation. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Zachary Cacicia)

Shenkle himself, was impressed with the condition of the aircraft.

“I think they’ve done a wonderful job,” Shenkle said. “I’m glad to see they’ve put the effort into this thing.”

A highlight for all those who attended the event was the involvement of a group of World War II-era 82nd Airborne Division re-enactors. The nine re-enactors came dressed in the same uniforms and were equipped with same weapons and materials, as were the paratroopers who jumped on June 6, 1944, over Normandy.

“Today, we are representing the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment,” said Tech. Sgt. Neil Baughman, 193rd Special Operations Wing knowledge operations. “We are here for George Shenkle, the veteran who jumped out of this C-47 on D-Day.”

Greg Boyer applies combat face paint to the face of Daniel Dillier April 18, 2015, at the Air Mobility Command Museum near Dover Air Force Base, Del. Boyer and Dillier are members of a re-enacting group that depict World War II-era paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Zachary Cacicia)

Greg Boyer applies combat face paint to the face of Daniel Dillier April 18, 2015, at the Air Mobility Command Museum near Dover Air Force Base, Del. Boyer and Dillier are members of a re-enacting group that depict World War II-era paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Zachary Cacicia)

The re-enactors boarded the C-47 with Shenkle to pose for photos, allowing the veteran to sit in the same seat position that he did on D-Day, position number three.

Shenkle maintains an active lifestyle, participating in various World War II ceremonies and reunions throughout the U.S. and Europe, including visiting Normandy every June 6th, for the anniversary of his jump.

“I will spend this May and June in France,” Shenkle said. “We will be celebrating the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day and the 71st anniversary of D-Day.”

Events like this, Shenkle’s visit, are becoming fewer and farther between as America’s World War II generation of veterans is decreasing each and every day.

“It puts a face on a piece of history,” Leicht said. “It’s a personal connection to history, because when you think about it, the man jumped into history.”

George Shenkle stands in the troop doorway of a C-47A Skytrain April 18, 2015, at the Air Mobility Command Museum near Dover Air Force Base, Del. Shenkle jumped out of this exact door on D-Day, June 6, 1944, over Sainte-Mère-Église, France. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Zachary Cacicia)

George Shenkle stands in the troop doorway of a C-47A Skytrain April 18, 2015, at the Air Mobility Command Museum near Dover Air Force Base, Del. Shenkle jumped out of this exact door on D-Day, June 6, 1944, over Sainte-Mère-Église, France. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Zachary Cacicia)

A portrait of George Shenkle, circa World War II. Shenkle, who was assigned to Easy Company, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division during World War II, visited the Air Mobility Command Museum and the C-47A Skytrain that he jumped out of on D-Day, June 6, 1944, over Sainte-Mère-Église, France. (Courtesy photo)

A portrait of George Shenkle, circa World War II. Shenkle, who was assigned to Easy Company, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division during World War II, visited the Air Mobility Command Museum and the C-47A Skytrain that he jumped out of on D-Day, June 6, 1944, over Sainte-Mère-Église, France. (Courtesy photo)

Christian Holland adjusts the chin strap of his combat helmet April 18, 2015, at the Air Mobility Command Museum on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Holland, 16, travelled from Hummelstown, Pa. to take part in the event. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Zachary Cacicia)

Christian Holland adjusts the chin strap of his combat helmet April 18, 2015, at the Air Mobility Command Museum on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Holland, 16, travelled from Hummelstown, Pa. to take part in the event. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Zachary Cacicia)

George Shenkle sits with re-enactors, who are depicting World War II-era paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division, inside a C-47A Skytrain April 18, 2015, at the Air Mobility Command Museum near Dover Air Force Base, Del. Shenkle is sitting in the same seat position on the very aircraft that he jumped out of on D-Day, June 6, 1944, over Normandy, France. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Zachary Cacicia)

George Shenkle sits with re-enactors, who are depicting World War II-era paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division, inside a C-47A Skytrain April 18, 2015, at the Air Mobility Command Museum near Dover Air Force Base, Del. Shenkle is sitting in the same seat position on the very aircraft that he jumped out of on D-Day, June 6, 1944, over Normandy, France. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Zachary Cacicia)

Source: Dover Air Force Base

5 Comments

  • It’s wonderful that Mr. Shenkle was allowed to assume his position on the aircraft that he had during D-Day. What a thrill it must have been to see the re-enactors participate in what his life was on that day and on the same plane.

  • 6 June 1944 – D-Day- is probably the most important day of the 20th Century – as far as Europe is concerned. It was the committment of USA ‘GIs’ who made the essential difference. They got stuck in big time – God bless them all. They are not forgotten and never will be.

  • My son was part of the USAF Maint. crew that removed these seats from a bomber at his NM base. His grandfather (shares same name) was on one of the navy patrol craft that led the landing craft onto the beach that day 71 years ago… so proud of both of them and everyone else involved in this historic project. Thank You all!

  • With such a rare opportunity of having a Veteran sit in the same aircraft as he did from the war, I hope you gave him the opportunity to autograph it somewhere!!

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

All comments are reviewed before being posted and may be edited for clarity.
Please check "I'm not a robot" before clicking Send.