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Dakota at Warplane Heritage saw action 76 years ago today

Dakota at Warplane Heritage saw action 76 years ago today

The C47 Dakota, (Dakota FZ692) now on display at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum was part of the D-Day invasion—actually beginning  a day early-June 5, 1944. As part of Operation Tonga, paratroopers from Britain the US and Canada were dropped inland from the Normandy beaches with the mission of disrupting roads and bridges in order to frustrate the movement of German reinforcements to the landing beaches.

On the evening on 5 June 1944 the 1st Canadian Parachute Battallion was transported to France. Each man carried a knife, toggle rope, escape kit with French currency, and two 24-hour ration packs in addition to their normal equipment, in all totalling 70 pounds. The battalion landed one hour in advance of the rest of the brigade in order to secure the Drop zone (DZ). Thereafter they were ordered to destroy road bridges over the river Dives and its tributaries at Varaville, then neutralize strongpoints at the crossroads.

Dakota FZ692 departed RAF Blakehill Farm with a Canadian pilot at the controls with a full contingent of paratroopers in the back. Once at the jump zone, the Dakota slowed down to only 100 mph and at an altitude of only 600-700 feet for the paratroopers to jump. At this speed and height, the Dakota was an easy target but FZ692 made it back safely after almost 4 hours.

The Battalion landed between 0100 and 0130 hours on June 6, becoming the first Canadian unit on the ground in France. For different reasons, including adverse weather conditions and poor visibility, the soldiers were scattered, at times quite far from the planned drop zone. By mid-day, and in spite of German resistance, the men of the battalion had achieved all their objectives; the bridges on the Dives and Divette in Varaville and Robehomme were cut, the left flank of the 9th Parachute Battalion at Merville was secure, and the crossroads at Le Mesnil was taken.

In the following days, the Canadians were later involved in ground operations to strengthen the bridgehead and support the advance of Allied troops towards the Seine River.

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