Commemorative Air Force Warbird Tour

By Courtesy of Brittany Moon

As I have become more involved in all things aviation, I’ve realized something: have no expectations. Not in a negative way, but by having no expectations, the doors open up to a world of stories, moments, and surprises when it is least expected.

A few weeks ago, I was invited by my CFI and EAA Chapter 67 President Nick Boland to fly to a CAF (Commemorative Air Force) Warbird Tour. We were to fly in on the Indiana Wing’s PT-26. If you know me, flying a taildragger and the ability to have an open cockpit, well, that’s all I know. Fly in a trainer and get some prop wash from warbirds — I cleared my schedule as fast as I could.

Then it hit me: June 6. D-Day. One of the dates I expect my students to learn during our World War II unit. I’m flying in a WWII trainer on D-Day. Pretty cool.

Then like I said, having no expectations, I read more about the CAF Warbird Tour. A JRB-6 Navy transport or to me simply a Beech 18, and a C-47 known as That’s All, Brother. Then I read further, that C-47 is known as the lead airplane during the Normandy invasion. This would be a day, I thought. Spending time around the airplane that led D-Day, on D-Day — just 79 years later. Spending time with the men and women who are its caretakers today. Spending time, at an airport, on a summer day hearing radials. Nothing could be better.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

But then it was. We taxied up to the ramp, just as TAB (what it is fondly called) started its engines. Just its massive size, strength, and those stripes took me aback. No wonder Eisenhower loved the C-47.

It came back with a load of smiling passengers. Pictures and conversations started. I shared with David, known as the historian on TAB, that I was a teacher who was lucky to teach WWII. Now if you ask my students, I’m sure you’ll hear them complain about the amount of aviation artifacts I show them, and the war stories I share about Mike Murphy’s gliders. You know how aviators are with hangar flying. Add being a teacher. You get the picture. But I hope one thing my students realize is that I’m always learning. Learning to bring knowledge back to the classroom to share with them. David instantly seemed to have learned this about me. He inspired me to further expand my collection of artifacts, real or reproductions, to bring material meaning of WWII to my students. On my second visit, I brought my boys with me. They sat down in TAB and listened to David as he shared the D-Day Cricket and other paratrooper necessities. David is vital to the story of That’s All, Brother. He brings those men’s mission on that fateful day to life 79 years later.

The JRB-6 Navy transport or as it is known, Little Raider, from the Gulf Coast Wing was due for a flight. With one open seat, I was given the opportunity to enjoy the comfort of this airplane. Leather executive seats and ash trays allowed traveling in style. However, it was accompanied by a story. A story in meeting Sid. Sid’s family has owned one of the few remaining farms in my city for more than 100 years, one I drive by daily. Our pilot was gracious in allowing us to circle the farm for some amateur aerial photography. In talking with Sid, I learned about how his father flew on the farm in a Cub. Later, he attempted to build a grass strip until the neighbors got ahold of this and unfortunately prevented it. But by not meeting Sid, hearing his homestead’s history, I would have never known about this last slice of country in Noblesville, Indiana.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Elena and Shutsy in 2016

Then came a moment. And that is another thing I’ve learned about the world of aviation. You can have a true honest moment with a stranger and forever know that their story is now a part of your own. Elena is that stranger. I saw her airplane tattoos and had to know her story. Little did I know we both would be in tears in our moment. She immediately shared with me about her time at Oshkosh in 2016. In volunteering with Freedom Flyers, she met Florence “Shutsy” Reynolds, a WWII WASP. Shutsy and Elena had a connection. Something that seems to happen yearly in Wisconsin. As they spent time together that week, Shutsy shared her story from long ago with Elena and a bond was formed. A short time later, Elena received a package in the mail from Shutsy. Crying on her kitchen floor, Elena realized she was given Shutsy’s WASP Wings with her arrow engraved on the back. Elena feels Shutsy in the air at Sweetwater. Especially now, as she wears Shutsy’s wings in the form of a bracelet as a reminder of that bond, those years that Shutsy flew, and Elena’s passion to keep warbirds alive.

As we both were sitting in the Indiana sun, tears in our eyes, I was motioned to sign my name on a manifest. A manifest that meant I was a passenger on That’s All, Brother. Coming to the tour, I had no intentions or expectations to fly. I already was treated once on the Beech. I shook my head no, but then I was given the look. Aviators know the look: you’ll regret this if you don’t. I signed my name still in my moment with Elena. Taking her story with Shutsy onto TAB, now becoming a part of my story.

Still in shock that I was selected to ride That’s All, Brother, I picked my seat. My seat was in honor and recognition of numerous people, too many to count, but not enough to thank for their service, their time, and their donation to get TAB in the air. After a long taxi, waiting for the executive jets to land, departure was called. The amount of horsepower felt was indescribable. It threw me sliding down the slant in the most incredible way. We leveled off and the signal to unlatch was given. I wasn’t going to miss my chance to use the slack line as I balanced my way up and down the fuselage. Then I sat. I would never forgive myself if I didn’t take a pause on the airplane that led D-Day. Thinking about the young men — teenagers, in the black of night climbing aboard, knowing their only way off was jumping into enemy territory. It is something that many of us today take for granted.

Then we landed. A beautifully executed wheel landing (with a direct crosswind, I might add) which then brought giggles as we slid back to our upward stance. And then I realized paratroopers wouldn’t know that feeling. They were well in France before That’s All, Brother landed back in the safety of England. This was my surprise of the day. Not a joyous surprise, but a surprise of reality. The reality that veterans of WWII are almost gone. Gone with them are stories, moments, and surprises, but thankfully to the CAF, EAA, and modern technology such as recorded interviews, a glimpse of their time in the world is still alive. Alive in the pilots and the airplanes, such as That’s All, Brother, that continue to grace the sky.

Click here if you would like to learn more about WASP Florence “Shutsy” Reynolds and her time at Oshkosh in 2016.

For more information and how you can contribute to help keep That’s All, Brother alive, please go to

For more information about the CAF Texas Gulf Coast Wing, Little Raider, and how they are keeping the memory of Texas Raiders and its crew alive, please visit

Post Comments