WWII Airborne Demonstration Team

Remember, Honor, and Serve – WWII Airborne Demonstration Team

The World War II Airborne Demonstration Team (ADT) celebrated completing its October Parachute School on 19 October 2019 with an Open Hanger Day at their Frederick Army Airfield in Frederick Oklahoma. The ADT ran fourteen aspiring team members through a nine-day jump course, culminating in five successful exits from an authentic C-47 aircraft while in flight. I decided to make the five hour drive to Frederick from my home in Central Texas, in order to learn more about the ADT and to experience some airborne spirit. The road trip was worth it!

Upon arriving at the airfield (home of B-26 Marauder bomber training during WWII), the authenticity and attention to detail struck me right away. The team conducts all operations out of its hanger, replete with a mock door, suspended harness training devices, and rows of rigging tables.

I did not have too much time initially to soak up the atmosphere, because almost immediately I spotted a maroon beret with the telltale orange flash and winged trefoil crest of the 82nd Signal Battalion. I made a beeline over to the paratrooper wearing the beret and introduced myself. It turns out that I was meeting Monah Davis, HHC 82nd Signal alum, ’92 – ’93. Monah is active in the All Oklahoma chapter of the Division Association. She was on hand with some her teammates to present the ADT with a plaque commemorating the strong relationship between the chapter and the ADT. I had been on the ground for about five minutes and it already felt like old home week.

The mission of the ADT is to remember, honor and serve our WWII veterans and those who have followed in their path. I immediately learned how committed to team is to their mission as I met one World War II or Korean War paratrooper after another. Words do not do justice to the feelings of humility and gratitude I experienced meeting men such as Norwood Thomas, HHC, 501st PIR, Daniel McBride, F Company, 502nd PIR, and Jerry Ring, 187th ABCT. They shared generously of their time to take pictures and tell stories, such as Norwood’s reunion with his WW2 British girlfriend Joyce Durant Morris 70 years after the war. Norwood celebrated his 97th birthday with the ADT during their

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The most remarkable aspect of the personalities of these gentlemen is their incredible modesty. They never referenced their exploits during the war, but they are quintessential airborne warriors.

I could have happily conversed with these gentlemen all day; however, Frederick Army Airfield is a working parachute school. Soon the ADT’s air wing was hard at work staging their C-47, Boogie Baby, for airborne operations and jumpers were donning their parachutes and undergoing JMPI.

All members of the team, to include the students, displayed a high level of discipline, professionalism and attention to detail while preparing for the graduation jump. I observed JMPI with a keen interest and was gratified to see the jumpmasters display a smooth and thorough sequence that would cause an instructor at the Advanced Airborne School to nod in approval.

Attendees at Open Hanger Days have the opportunity to head to the Drop Zone to observe the jumps, so once the jumpers had boarded the aircraft and Boogie-Baby taxied out to the runway, I drove out to the DZ.

The DZ was located within 3 miles of the hanger, and the class needed only one lift in order for the students to make their final, qualifying jumps, so their airborne operation was a brief affair. It was a beautiful fall day, and, despite the short duration, the airborne operation was a joy to observe. One pass to drop streamers to gauge the wind, a second pass to drop the students, full canopies and then Boogie Baby headed to the barn.

Boogie Baby herself is a World War II veteran. Manufactured in Oklahoma City in 1942, She flew with the Royal Air Force during the war as a result of the Lend Lease Program, and saw combat in the European, Mediterranean, and China-Burma-India theaters. She subsequently saw service with both the French and Israeli Air Forces. The ADT acquired her as a restoration project in 1999.

The aircraft’s interior is a virtual paratrooper museum. In addition to the restored, 1940s era paratroop seats and cockpit, the ADT decorates the walls of the fuselage with pictures and hand-written service details of World War paratroopers.

Upon returning to the hanger the students received their wings in formation with the entire demonstration team. The ADT conducted the graduation ceremony in period uniforms and using proper drill and ceremony. All freshly minted team members received congratulations and a handshake from the World War Two and Korea veterans in attendance, and blood wings from their chain of command.

I had an absolute blast spending the day at the World War II Demonstration Team’s Open Hanger Day. The experience was a combination of the sense of being back on Green Ramp and feeling like I was on the set of Band of Brothers. I went in search of some airborne spirit and found it in spades in Frederick, Oklahoma.