The Fremont Airport is the home of Lulu Belle, a McDonnell-Douglas C-53DO “Skytrooper”. Built in 1942 with serial number 42-68710, she is one of 159 built.
The history of this aircraft shows that it flew the D-day operation, carrying troopers of the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Regiment from Saltby Airfield, England to Normandy, France. The plane did so as part of the 62ndTCS (Troop Carrier Squadron), 314th Troop Carrier Group. Nose Code “E5”, it carried chalk #17 on D-day flight.
The flight crew:
1st Lt. James R. Hamilton, pilot
2nd Lt. Ernest R. Scott, co-pilot
Sgt. Aaron M. Womack Jr., radio operator
Sgt. Henry H. Gardner, crew chief
It was one of the original 13 aircraft that comprised the 62nd TCS. Their locations were Berguent, French Morroco; Kairouan, Tunisia; Castelvetrano, Sicily; Saltby, England; Poix, France; and Villacoublay, France. The 62TCS participated in most of the major combat airdrops in the Mediterrean and European theaters of WWII.
The invasion of France on D-Day, 6 June 1944, was one of the largest air operations in history - Allied aircraft flew 14,674 and 127 were lost. The use of invasion stripes was deemed essential after a study of the effects of thousands of aircraft using IFF concluded that communications systems could not handle the traffic load. Invasion stripes were black and white markings painted onto the wings and fuselages of Allied aircraft for D-Day. The stripes were meant to make recognition by friendly forces easier during and after the invasion, and reduce losses from friendly fire. All aircraft except for readily identifiable heavy bombers and seaplanes were required to have invasion stripes.
Two references to a nose art name have been seen. The original may have been “Painted Lady” and was later dubbed “Lulu Belle” – a tribute to LuLu Damschroder, wife of the late Gene Damschroder who built the Fremont Airport in 1963 and purchased the red and white DC-3 in 1988. It was still airworthy at the time, although it remained grounded more and more as the years went by.
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