Your grandfather did in fact fly on D-Day as part of the American Airborne Invasion, though he was not on board our airplane. The invasion itself was broken up into what are called “serials” each serial contained upwards of 30 airplanes, and were arranged in sequential order, as indicated by their numbers, That’s All, Brother was to lead these serials collectively to France.
Our airplane, the lead ship, flew at the head of serial 07, your grandfather flew in the airplane which led serial number 23, which means that while he was not on the lead aircraft of the invasion, he was certainly on board the airplane which led his own serial, which was flown by pilot Lt. Col. Quinn M. Corley. I know that family legends some times grow up around these things, and that there is some chance that his unit members thought it might be useful for him to be spotting fixtures on the ground, but in reality, he was on board the aircraft as a radio operator which means that over Normandy he would have been very busy, in a small area behind the pilots, and would have been relatively unable to “look out” of the airplane. Much of the equipment he was operating was designed to get the paratroopers in the right place, and it was incredibly important.
During the chaos of battle, much of it was malfunctioning, so your grandfather would have been having one heck of a time with the equipment, knowing that lives were on the line if he couldnt get it to work correctly. Incase you are curious, serial 23 is made up of aircraft from the 313th Troop Carrier Group, and your grandfather’s specific squadron was the 29th Troop Carrier Squadron. You can spot aircraft from his squadron easily because they were painted with a large 5X on the side of their noses.
This is the informational break down for your grandfather’s plane, note that it also indicates which “chalk” he was carrying, these men came from the 3rd Bn / 508th PIR which was part of the 82nd Airborne Division.
Chalk #37 C-47 #43-15323
P L/Col Corely, Quinn M.
CP 1/Lt Gehrett, Rodney T.
N 2/Lt Ehmke, Theodore A.
RO Pfc Boucher, Fernand E.
CC Sgt Speed, Clarence t.
Sadly, the airplane your grandfather flew in, 43-15323 did not survive the war, and it was damaged on takeoff at an advanced field in Germany, at least one crew member was killed during this accident.
In case you are interested, here is a history recalling the journey of one of the paratroopers who was dropped by your grandfather’s aircraft. I thought it was worth a read! It even shows some of his family going back and finding evidence of his personal battle.
I am sorry that our airplane was not the one you were looking for, and sorry that I cant refer you to a museum where you could go and see it – but if you add us on facebook (commemorative air force) you can certainly keep up on the work being done on the airplane. We will be recreating that radio compartment and all of its complex equipment with the hope of getting it operational again, someday perhaps you could come see the airplane, and send a message in the same way your grandfather was trained to do!
The project will likely take about two years, but as with anything, it will be well worth the wait!
Please let me know if you have any more questions I might be able to help answer.