History Magazine

D-Day & Tico Belle

By Sfalcont

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Fantasy of Flight Commemorates WWII and D-Day with Two-Day Event May 13-14 Featuring the Men – and Machines – Who Were There

Distinguished Panel of D-Day Veterans, Author to Take a Nostalgic Ride on the “Tico Belle,” One of Few Operational C-47 “Skytrains” That Flew in WWII

TICO Belle

C-47 Skytrain “Tico Belle”

For more information, contact:
Mary Deatrick, DPR
(407) 332-5212, [email protected]

For photography, visit www.fantasyofflight.com

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POLK CITY, Fla. (May 12, 2011)  - It has been recreated countless times in books and movies… but on Friday, May 13 and Saturday, May 14, the largest military invasion in world history will come to life once again at Fantasy of Flight during part four of the attraction’s Legends & Legacies Symposium Series, “D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy.”  Guests are invited to relive D-Day through the eyes of some of the few living World War II veterans who fought for their lives in Normandy, France on June 6, 1944 as well as through the words of award-winning World War II author and another special “veteran” – an actual Douglas C-47 Skytrain known as “Tico Belle,” that was also instrumental in D-Day.

Throughout the weekend, WWII heroes Richard Ortega, Winter Park, Fla., Clifford Kantz, Orlando and Howard Huebner, Ocala, Fla., and others will share personal stories and recollections of the D-Day invasion and the grueling weeks that followed. Their stories promise to sound hauntingly familiar: Richard Ortega served with Easy Company, which was portrayed in the 2001 HBO miniseries, Band of Brothers and the 1992 book by Stephen Ambrose. Howard Huebner, a paratrooper, fought with Easy Company after members of his company missed their drop zone by several miles and became separated dangerously close to German barracks. His story is portrayed in the film D-Day Down to Earth – Return of the 507th

Adding to the authentic experience will be another visitoran actual Douglas C-47 Skytrain — also known as the Tico Belle — that was used to carry CG-4 gliders and the 82nd airborne infantry on D-Day.   Tico Belle, one of the few flying “veteran” C-47s, will be visiting from the Valiant Air Command (VAC) Warbird Museum in Titusville, Fla. The World War II veterans and members of the “Legends & Legacies” panel will board Tico Belle for a nostalgic flight Friday afternoon, making for a heart-warming photo opportunity for guests, who will be able to walk through and tour the plane at various times throughout the weekend. A flight for the public may be scheduled if demand warrants (additional fee applies).

“This is an incredible opportunity to hear firsthand about one of the most historically significant battles in world history from the men who were actually there, fighting for their lives,” said Kim Long, General Manager of Fantasy of Flight. “We are expecting a full house at Fantasy of Flight May 13-14 to honor these most respected and decorated WWII veterans including the Tico Belle.”

One of the only attractions in the country to bring together legendary World War II heroes to share their firsthand accounts, Fantasy of Flight is proud to present this newly expanded symposium series which invites WWII aviation heroes and their families to offer a glimpse of what it was like to fly in the heyday of aviation as they protected their country. The series also includes heroes from WWII who served on the ground protecting and supporting the men and women in flight.  Each symposium features several open-forum/question-and-answer sessions, followed by meet-and-greet/autograph signing sessions.

CMS Richard A. OrtegaWinter Park, Fla., is a 30-year veteran of the United States military, with four years in the Army and 26 years in the Air Force. Trained as an infantryman and paratrooper, Ortega landed at Omaha Beach with the first assault wave, Easy Company, 2nd battalion of the 116th infantry regiment of the 29th infantry division. He spent 56 days on the front line, suffering 12 minor wounds before he was seriously wounded and evacuated to Southern England. He spent nine months in the hospital there before being transferred in May 1945 to the Army Air Corps to become a bombardier instructor in a B-29/50.

In July 1950, he served as the lead bombardier on the 1st B-29 mission flown over North Korea. He flew more than 10,000 hours in various roles in 11 types of aircraft, including the C-119, B-17, B-29, KC-97 and KC-135. In his later career, he participated in the development and deployment of the LGM-30 and LGM-118A Peacekeeper ICBM missiles. Ortega’s combat decorations include: two Silver Star medals, four Bronze Star medals with “V” (valor for combat), seven Purple Hearts, and many more. He retired from the United States Air Force on June 30, 1970.

Ortega feels strongly about sharing his message with the public during Fantasy of Flight’s Legends & Legacies symposium, and in particular, with today’s youth. “…We must instill upon the hearts and minds of the American public and our youth the values of citizenship, personal responsibilities, a sense of accomplishment, and enable them to become honorable members in our community for competent and professional service to our nation. In this regard, we must relate to them the story of the sacrifices experiences by the American Military Forces during the Invasion of France who risked their lives to liberate France and the rest of Europe… We must continue to devote our time, talents and treasures to motivate the American public and our youth to seriously support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Major Clifford Kantz , Orlando, retired in 1963 after 20 years in the Air Force. He flew 16 combat missions during World War II, the first of which was on D-Day, when he piloted a C-47 to drop paratroopers over Normandy. He flew one of 27 planes in the 100th TCS or Troop Carrying Squadron, which flew with three other squadrons the morning of D-Day for a total of 90 planes flying in formation. In an article he submitted to his hometown newspaper, The Daily News in Lebanon, Penn., Kantz recalled being blinded by searchlights as the planes neared the beach, and watching as the paratroopers descended from the planes. “Even at this speed, I could see their eyes and they were terrified for a few brief moments as much as I was.” His first combat mission lasted 3 hours and 45 minutes, but Kantz said, “Strangely it seemed much longer and much shorter… Many of my friends never returned that day.” The significance of the event wasn’t lost on the young pilot, who on D-Day was only 20 years old. “I shall never forget the small part that I played in the greatest military operation of any war in history.”

Special Staff Sargeant Howard Huebner, Ocala, Fla., a U.S. Army Paratrooper was just 21 when he jumped out of a plane and into the history books on D-Day. His company, C-company of the 507th , was the last of the paratroopers to jump, and by then, the landscape of their planned drop zone looked drastically different, causing them to become disoriented and jump miles off target. Separated from his company, he fought with the 506th and 501st, securing the French town of Pouppeville and later fighting in one of WWII’s bloodiest battles at La Fiere Causeway, the site depicted in the movie “D-Day Down to Earth – Return of the 507th.”

Recalled Huebner, “We had a little cover for a few feet and then nothing but sure luck and the good Lord with us, but we made it across. It was running and firing. You see your buddies lying there and you can’t help them, but we were trained to kill or be killed and that’s what took us across the causeway; guts and determination.”  The casualties suffered in taking the bridge were extremely high.  “It cost 500 lives to take a half mile of road,” he recounted. “A very high price to pay.”  C-company fought for 33 straight days in Normandy with no reinforcements, rations or supplies. Only 75 of 230 men in Huebner’s company survived. He was honorably discharged from the military in 1946 as a Special Staff Sergeant.

Tico Belle, Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum, Titusville, Fla. The Douglas C-47 Skytrain was called one of the most significant weapons used in World War II by then General Dwight Eisenhower. The military version of the DC-3 commercial airliner, the plane was used to tow gliders, and could carry a military Jeep with a trailer or a 37MM anti-tank gun as well as 28 soldiers in full combat gear. Tico Belle, then known only as tail number 42-100591 (#591) played a vital role in D-Day, carrying Waco (CG-4) gliders containing elements of the 82nd airborne infantry. She continued to see battle at Cherbourg, Arnhem and Bastogne and was used to ferry supplies in the Berlin Airlift. In 1950, she was leased to the Norwegian Air Force, then transferred to the Royal Danish Air Force in 1956, where her duty assignment was to transport the Royal Family of Denmark. In 1982 with over 13,500 flying hours, the Royal Danish Air Force finally retired #591. Members of the Valiant Air Command, with the help of Royal Danish Air Force Pilots, ferried her to the United States. During the latter part of the 80s and the 90s she visited many air shows and toured the nation as a flying museum; educating thousands about her battle heritage and of the legacy of those who sacrificed so much in the service of their country. Along the way she acquired her WWII type nose art and became known far and wide as The Valiant Air Command’s “Tico Belle” after the Titusville/Cocoa airport where she is based.

The “Legends & Legacies Symposium Series” features six topics scheduled for 2011, with remaining symposiums to include “D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy,” May 13-14; “The Pacific War: Power and Pursuit,” June 10-11; and “The Great Escape: Heroes Underground,” Oct. 14-15.  All symposiums are included with daily general admission and are free for all Annual Pass holders. Call 863-984-3500 or go to www.fantasyofflight.comfor more information. Also on the calendar for 2011 is 5th Annual Roar n’ Soar, November 12-13

Fantasy of Flight general admission is $28.95 plus tax for adults, $14.95 plus tax for youth (age 6-15) and five and under are free with full paying adult.  Group rates are available.

In celebration of National Military Appreciation Month, Fantasy of Flight is pleased to offer complimentary admission to all active-duty, retired and reserve members of the U.S. armed forces throughout the month of May. Guests must present a current military ID to qualify for the free general admission ticket. The offer is not valid with any other offers or discounts.

For more information, visit www.fantasyofflight.com.


Fantasy of Flight is Central Florida’s premier aviation-themed attraction showcasing vintage aircraft from the world’s largest private collection; themed immersion experiences; interactive exhibits; a tram tour of aircraft maintenance areas; Restoration and Backlot tours; Fun with Flight center for families and the country’s only Aerial Demonstration of the Day (weather permitting) featuring a vintage plane.  General admission also includes The Tuskegee Airmen - They Dared to Fly exhibit; the multimedia tribute to the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) - A Passionate Pursuit, a walking audio tour and many special events throughout the year.

Hours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily.  General admission is $28.95 for adults, $26.95 for seniors ages 55 and over and $14.95 for children, ages 6-15, plus 7 percent sales tax.Annual passes are available for $69.95 for adults, $39.95 for children ages 6-15, plus 7 percent sales tax, and are good for one year from the date of purchase.  Biplane rides, through Waldo Wright’s Flying Service, and hot air balloon rides, are available for an extra charge.  For more information about Fantasy of Flight, call 863-984-3500 or visit  www.fantasyofflight.com.


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