May 29, 2015
On May 7th AirCorps Aviation staged a reenactment of the painting of D-Day invasion stripes on Texas Flying Legends Museum’s C-53, The Duchess of Dakota. On hand was Jim Lawler, whose father flew the original Duchess in the war.
Invasion stripes weren’t normally the perfectly laid out, impeccably painted markings we see on modern restorations. That’s because on June 3rd, 1944, an order came down to the squadrons to paint 5 stripes, 3 white and 2 black on the wings and fuselages of the nearly 1,000 C-47s and C-53s slated to take part in airborne and glider assaults in advance of the Normandy beach assaults. It left little time to complete the job.
In all an estimated 2000 transports, 870 gliders, 2,500 fighters and 700 twin engine bombers had the stripes applied in the 24 to 72 hours before D-Day, most on the 4rth of June because the original plan was to invade on the 5th.
Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force knew that the air over the channel and France would be jammed with so many planes that normal aircraft IFF or (Identification Friend or Foe) systems would be completely overwhelmed. They feared large losses to friendly fire from the understandably jumpy invasion force.
For twin engine aircraft like this C-53 the order was:
Upper and lower wing surfaces of the aircraft will be painted from the engine nacelles outward with five white and black stripes, each twenty-four inches wide, arranged in order from center outward: white, black, white, black, white.
Fuselages will be painted with five parallel white and black stripes, each twenty-four inches wide, completely around the fuselage, with the outside edge of the rearmost band eighteen inches from the leading edge of the tailplane.
As anyone knows who has served, an order is one thing, executing it is another. So the rush was on to find black and white paint and brushes, mops, brooms and even rags tied to sticks to apply the paint. It is rumored that white paint was unobtainable in England for many months after the invasion.