Tico Belle takes WWII veterans on demo flight at D-Day event


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The Tico Belle was utilized in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

Senior Life Darrell Woehler

From the green-grass airfields of England to the blood-red sands of Utah and Omaha Beaches of Normandy, France, the C-47 Tico Belle airplane and hundreds like it answered the call of Allied commanders during D-Day on June 6, 1944.

On three missions that day, the Tico Belle dropped several hundred paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division and a glider with troops into battle against the heavy defensive positions of German soldiers.

The Tico Belle survived intense anti-aircraft fire that day and much more that was to come throughout World War II. It went on to duty during the Berlin Airlift, and then time with The Royal Norwegian Air Force and The Royal Danish Air Force.

But since 1988, the Tico Belle has been the pride of the Valiant Air Command (VAC) at Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville.

According to Bob Boswell, executive officer of VAC, the Tico Belle has been a labor of love from this all-volunteer organization.  The VAC maintains numerous other vintage aircraft at the Warbird Museum.

The VAC held a commemorative event on the 75th anniversary of D-Day to recognize World War II veterans. One of those veterans was George Rosenfield of Suntree, who served in the Army in Italy as a ski trooper and in Korea as a combat engineer.

Another veteran there for the commemoration was Joseph H. Reus, a Baltimore native who lives in Titusville.  Reus is a retired Air Force major who was a navigator on many types of military planes — from the B-24 in World War II, the B-29 in Korea and the B-52 during the Vietnam War. His planes were shot down twice, once ditching in the English Channel where he broke both arms. Four crewmen were killed during that tragic night.

But on this 75th anniversary of D-Day, Reus was first in line when there was an opportunity to go for a demonstration ride in the Tico Belle.  During a 30-minute flight around the surrounding area, including a view of the Kennedy Space Center, Reus recalled his days during wars, his job as a navigator and never getting lost.

“I never did … just go by the sun and stars when things got really bad,” he said. They (fellow soldiers) always told me ‘I could navigate while I was asleep.’ ”

On board the Tico Belle during the commemoration, the plane seemed to come alive as the twin engines began to roar. Dust particles came loose from the walls and ceiling and were floating in the air as the Tico Belle moved almost effortlessly down the runway.  It was almost like the Tico Belle itself was remembering June 6, 1944.