LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Bowman Field welcomed the D-Day Doll to its historic runways along with dozens of World War II Veterans on Friday, May 10th, 2019.
The C-53D Sky trooper is on a seven-week, 12,000-mile flight across the US, the Atlantic and nine other countries as it makes it way to Europe to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Normandy Invasion.
Veteran Eugene Haupt remembers World War II as a 22-year-old paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division trained in Fort Campbell.
“When we hit the coast, the plane was so dark going over that you couldn’t see the man sitting across the aisle from you,” Haupt remembered. “When we hit the coast the aircraft fire lit up the sky so I could see the expression of his face sitting across the aisle.”
Haupt survived of The Siege of Bastogne. The battle was expected to last 20 hours.
“The noise in battle," he said while shaking his head, before pausing. “It’s two extremes. It’s very quiet or extremely noisy.”
The siege was from December 20 to December 27, until the besieged American forces were relieved by elements of General George Patton’s third Army.
“We got surrounded within hours,” Haupt stressed. “We were running out of ammunition, food."
David Obernuefenann was in the Army at Fort Knox.
Obernuefenann was part of General Patton’s Third Army. He also found himself as part of the military engagement at the Belgium town of Bastogne.
“My transportation was a 44-ton tank,” Obernuefenann laughed, looking up at the D-Day Doll.
Haupt and Obernuefenann both found themselves in the same battle December 26, 1944 but never met.
“I remember going in and getting the paratroopers out because they were surrounded by the Germans and we broke through,” Obernuefenann said proudly.
Word made its way through the small crowd that Haupt was part of the 101st Airborne Division that was rescued in Bastogne and Obernuefenann was one of the members of the Third Army that fought to free them. On this day they would ride together the historic D-Day Doll, a C-53D that also played a part in the Allied Liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control.
The aircraft flew three missions into France on D-Day and is now on its way back to Normandy by way of Louisville for the 75th Anniversary.
The two men shook hands and often glanced at each other with a smile.
“You just can’t believe how cold it can get when you’re hungry; no place to get in out of the...,” Haupt said, stopping before finishing the sentence as he shook his head.
Obernuefenann also shaking his head proclaimed, “It’s a small world and it takes everybody to make it work.”
This was David Obernuefenann first flight on a C-53D. As a paratrooper, this was Eugene Haupt’s first time landing in a C-53D instead of jumping to the ground.
Obernuefenann made the flight with a constant smile as the large plane took to the sky. Haupt sat across the aisle laughing and looking at the windows, no doubt with many memories flooding his mind.
As they both got their feet on the ground they stopped one more time side by side.
“If it hadn’t been for Patton breaking through to us, we would have gotten annihilated, no question about it,” Haupt said, almost laughing.
Obernuefenann stuck out his hand toward Haupt to shake exclaiming, “Hey it was worth it. It was worth every minute of it.”
The flight was sponsored by John Neace of Neace Ventures.
Honor Flight Bluegrass is always in need of flight sponsorship and support.
Honor Flight Bluegrass will also honor the largest gathering of WWII veterans in the history of Kentucky on June 6, 2019 at Louisville Memorial Auditorium. The program, “Operation Bravo-Zulu,” will honor the service of WWII Veterans from around the country. It is expected to be an evening of gratitude and entertainment.
For more details click here.
In addition to the D-Day event, Louisville Slugger Museum, Frazier History museum, Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, Kentucky Veterans Trust Fund and the Commemorative Air Force are allowing veterans and their families to tour the Louisville Slugger Museum for free on June 5 from 9 a.m. to Noon.
Frazier History Museum will also welcome Veterans and their families with free snacks and drinks at the Gateway Garden from Noon to 1 p.m. Families and Veterans are also welcome to stay for a WWII Veterans panel discussion. The day of honor is set to wrap up at Louisville Slugger Field with a free Bats Game at 7 p.m.