IWM Launches D-Day 80 Commemorative Program

IWM Launches D-Day 80 Commemorative Program With Mass Parachute Drop at Duxford Summer Air Show

Aircorps Art Dec 2019


This year, Imperial War Museums (IWM) will mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day with a series of events, activities, and family programming across all five branches, including an ambitious D-Day-themed Summer Air Show at IWM Duxford, that will see more than 100 parachutists jump from 11 Second World War era Dakotas – the aircraft synonymous with the D-Day landings.

On D-Day, 6 June 1944, Allied forces launched the largest combined naval, air, and land operation in the history of warfare – Operation Overlord. By the end of that day, 156,000 British, Canadian, and US troops had landed in Normandy. D-Day would mark the start of, a long and costly campaign to liberate Europe from Nazi occupation.

Through its historic sites and Second World War Collection, IWM will join with the rest of the UK, Europe, and America in marking 80 years since this daring operation, remembering those who fought so bravely and honoring the men who sacrificed so much during this intrepid mission.

The annual Duxford Summer Air Show (1-2 June) will pay tribute to this momentous anniversary by welcoming Dakotas from the US and Europe to the skies of Duxford for a series of dramatic flypasts over the weekend and a mass parachute jump over the historic airfield on Saturday 1 June. On the second day of the air show, visitors will experience the Dakotas flying together in a grand parade over Duxford as they make their way across the channel to continue the historic commemorations.

 D-Day 80 with Daks over Duxford in partnership with Aero Legends and the D-Day Squadron. The Douglas C-47 Skytrain, played a crucial role in the success of D-Day, dropping thousands of allied paratroopers over Normandy in support of Operation Overlord. To mark the 80th anniversary, IWM Duxford is delighted to host 11 historic Dakotas in an aerial spectacle across the weekend (1-2 June). On Saturday 1 June, visitors can experience history coming back to life as over 100 parachutists perform a mass jump over Duxford’s historic airfield. On Sunday 2 June, the full fleet will gather again in a grand parade over Duxford as they continue their journey across the channel.

IWM Duxford’s Head of Commercial Services Adam Kendall said, “We can’t wait to show everyone what we’ve been working on for the Duxford Summer Air Show: D-Day 80. For this special commemorative year, there are some stellar acts, dramatic flypasts, and new activities planned for a weekend full of non-stop entertainment. It is of course, a pleasure to welcome back Daks over Duxford with thanks to Aero Legends for making it all happen, this is truly going to be an unforgettable Duxford Summer Air Show”.

This ambitious Second World War mass flight display will bring the extraordinary story of D-Day to life in the skies of Duxford, which was home to the 78th Fighter Group of the United States Army Air Force. The 78th was heavily involved in supporting the Normandy invasion, flying missions on 6 June and over the summer of 1944. On-the-ground activities, living history groups, and IWM’s static collections will bring Duxford’s D-Day story to life over the air show weekend.

Photo by Ian Hardman via D-Day Squadron

IWM’s historic branches – IWM Duxford, HMS Belfast, and Churchill War Rooms – form an integral part of the D-Day story. HMS Belfast played a crucial role in the invasion, leading the naval bombardment force that supported the British and Canadian assaults on the Normandy beaches, and was one of the first to open fire, at 5.27 am on 6 June 1944. Churchill War Rooms was the nerve center of strategic decision-making during the Second World War.

IWM’s D-Day-focused family program will launch in the Spring half-term and run every day during the summer holidays at IWM Duxford, HMS Belfast, IWM London, and IWM North. Through a variety of activities including storytelling, trails, object handling, and craft activities – such as mini parachute making and morse code breaking – families will learn about the preparations leading up to D-Day, the events of the day itself, and the subsequent campaign, which led to the liberation of North-West Europe and eventual victory.

Additional ticketed events, talks, and tours will take place across IWM branches throughout May and June to mark this momentous occasion, including IWM’s popular In Conversation events featuring guest speakers James Holland and Dr Tessa Dunlop, expert-led D-Day focused gallery tours, lecture days and film screenings.

Caro Howell, Director-General said, “I am delighted to present IWM’s commemorative program as we mark this momentous occasion. I am especially thrilled to welcome back the return of 11 historic Dakotas to the Duxford Summer Air Show to launch the commemorative week. Across all IWM sites, we hope to bring together an incredible program utilizing IWM’s rich and diverse expertise and collection items to bring forward the hundreds of stories of the men and women who helped make D-Day happen”.

For further details of IWM’s full program of D-Day-related events, activities, and publications, or to book tickets, visit iwm.org.uk

The airplanes lined up on the Duxford Airfield flight line during the 2019 event. (Screen Capture of Into Flight Once More – via D-Day Squadron)

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