Updated: 04/02/2014 5:42 PM
Created: 04/02/2014 4:37 PM WHEC.com
By: Scott Kilbury
You don’t have to go far to find historical landmarks in the Rochester area. Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass and George Eastman all called Rochester home. But you might be surprised to find a hidden treasure from World War II and it is still in working condition. Its owners are hoping to pay tribute to American veterans in a special commemoration.
Tucked away in a rather inconspicuous airplane hangar, just 30 miles south of Rochester, sits a pretty important piece of history.
Dawn Schaible, National War Plane Museum, said, “It’s the best kept secret, but I don’t want it to be a secret.”
Whisky 7 is named after her markings. She rests at the Geneseo Warplane Museum. It’s one of the few remaining cargo planes that carried paratroopers into Normandy, France on June 6, 1944, on D-Day, the largest invasion in military history.
Schaible said, “We realized what a perfect way to honor our veterans, especially the vets that were at Normandy on that day, to return her there on D-Day for 70th celebrations.”
At the invitation of the French government, the aircraft will return to Normandy. Leslie Palmer Cruise, the lone surviving paratrooper of Whisky 7 will be on the ground waiting for her arrival.
Palmer Cruise remembers D-Day like it was yesterday.
Leslie Palmer Cruise, World War II veteran, said, “I think I was number 9 in the middle of the pack. Once they said to, we were ready to go.”
It took Palmer Cruise and the 82nd Airborne three hours to make the trek from England to France.
Palmer Cruise said, "One of the things that were amazing was to look down as we were going across the channel and see the silhouettes off all the ships and if we didn't realize this was going on for sure, we could see they were serious this time, it was really happening."
If all goes as planned, it will happen again. This time, the flight will be 32 hours. This time, it will be a celebration, not an invasion.
Schaible said, “In the same way, they had no choice to fight for us. We believe this isn't really a choice, but an obligation for having this privilege. We need to return her there and give the honor that's due to these men.”
The warplane museum staff and volunteers are hoping charitable donations will help the pilot, paratroopers and Leslie Palmer Cruise make the return to Normandy. It’s a quarter of a million dollar price tag.You can help by making a contribution as little as six dollars. To donate, click here.
News10NBC will continue to follow this historic project and bring you updates. We'll be talking with the pilots who will be going on this special journey. You can visit our special page on the Return to Normandy by clicking here.