Aircraft that Lt. Philip Sarrett flew on D-Day now sits at local airport
A ceremony was held Jan. 25 in Frederick, Okla., to honor the pilot of a World War II-era plane that now sits at the Rolla National Airport in Vichy.
The plane, a 1942 Douglas C-47, was flown on D-Day by Lt. Philip Sarrett, of Ada, Okla. In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, Lt. Sarrett flew the plane, which he dubbed “Ada Red,” to drop paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division into Normandy.
Less than a year later, Lt. Sarrett was killed in combat while flying a different aircraft.
To honor Lt. Sarrett’s service and sacrifice, Ed Schmidt and Lee Maples, owners of Baron Aviation and co-owners of the C-47, donated the aircraft’s steering yoke and manufacturer’s data plate as a gift to Sarrett’s family.
Dr. Joe Hulgus, a faculty member at Missouri State University in Springfield, Mo., constructed a cherry presentation case to display these mementos.
The presentation ceremony took place in a World War II-era hangar in Frederick, Okla., which now serves as the headquarters of a living history group known as the World War II Airborne Demonstration Team, or ADT.
The ADT operates two vintage C-47 aircraft, and conducts real World War II-style paratrooper drops at airshows around the country. The ceremony to honor Lt. Sarrett was done in conjunction with the ADT’s “Open Hangar Day,” a public event that the organization holds twice a year.
Receiving the presentation case was Lt. Sarrett’s sister, Margaret Ray, of Sulphur, Okla. Also in attendance were Lt. Sarrett’s nephew, Philip Ray, of Exton, Pa.; Lt. Sarrett’s niece, Marsha Funk, of Oklahoma City; Jim Boiles, of Nacogdoches, Texas, who is also a nephew of Lt. Sarrett; another niece, Elizabeth Williams, of St. Louis, and Scott Nelson, of Amarillo, Texas, who is a great-nephew of Lt. Sarrett.
In addition, “Ada Red’s” radio operator, Sgt. Willis Brown, was represented by his sons, John Brown, of Forney, Texas, and Gerald Brown, of Whitehouse, Texas. Family members of the plane’s co-pilot, Lt. Leopold Paich, and the crew chief, Sgt. Claude Walker, were not able to attend the ceremony.
The plaque on the display case reads, “Control Wheel and Manufacturer’s Plate, From C47D USAAF 42-32827, ‘Ada Red,’ Flown by Lt. Philip Sarrett, 313th TCG, 47th TCS, Carrying 16 Troopers, 508th PIR, 82nd Airborne Division, June 6, 1944, Mission Boston, Serial 22, Chalk 27, Drop Zone ‘N,’ Etienville and Beauzville-la-Bastille.”
Philip Ray, Lt. Sarrett’s nephew, spoke on behalf of his family. He thanked the World War II Airborne Demonstration Team for hosting the ceremony and for “bringing to life the story of World War II airborne campaigns.” He added, “We’d also like to express our special thanks to Ed Schmidt and Lee Maples, of Baron Aviation, who generously donated these items from my Uncle Philip’s plane. These are treasures we will value and honor for the rest of our lives.”
“Ada Red’s” owners were not able to attend the ceremony, but speaking on behalf of Baron Aviation, Ed Schmidt said, “We’re just proud to be able to share part of the plane with Lt. Sarrett’s sister and the rest of his family. We hope that it will provide some closure to the family, and that it will honor Lt. Sarrett’s service to our country.”
William Garvin is special collections librarian and university archivist for Drury University in Springfield, Mo. His feature story, “The Saga of Ada Red,” was publish by The Rolla Daily News June 6, 2013.