The Christian Science Monitor

‘My first mission was Normandy’: World War II pilots recall role in history

They’re not as spry as they were 75 years ago when they were aggressive young pilots gearing up for combat during World War II. But today they’re beaming, lost in memory, two old warriors swapping stories only few today know firsthand.

Ret. Capt. Peter Goutiere, now 104, and Ret. Lt. Col. Dave Hamilton, 96, are still standing straight, as if at attention, and almost giddy as they recount their first missions flying C-47 Dakotas, the twin-engine military transports they called “Daks” back then.

“The C-47 was a luxury aeroplane, it had everything,” Captain Goutiere says to me and a small group gathered at a hanger at Waterbury-Oxford Airport in Connecticut. In 1944, during his training in Miami, he was almost mesmerized when he saw the Dak he was to fly to Europe and beyond.

“Here comes this lovely aeroplane,” he recalls, describing the military version of the venerable Douglas DC-3, which helped revolutionize civilian travel in the 1930s. “It had its military insignia on it, and that was my aeroplane,” he says, just slightly jutting his chin with a pursed smile. “By the way, with this old age, I’m deaf as a whatever,” the brash centenarian adds, tapping his hearing aid.

Outside, there’s a regimented fleet of nearly a dozen restored C-47s lined up along the small airstrip this morning, not

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