They played a crucial part in the D-Day invasion.
So yesterday, eight Dakota planes took off from the Daedalus airfield in Lee-on-the-Solent to mark the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the end of the Second World War.
It’s part of a recreation of the invasion of Normandy in 1944. Crowds gathered along the seafront to watch the demonstration.
On board the planes were around 100 parachutists from Britain, Europe, the USA and beyond who were due to use round canopy parachutes to drop into the opening ceremony at Carentan in Normandy.
The planes took off from Lee-on-the-Solent and flew over Portsmouth, before heading out to Cherbourg.
On Tuesday evening, a special fly-past took place, with thousands of people turning out to watch it.
Bob Wealthy, secretary of the Gosport Aviation Society, said: ‘For the veterans, they might not be able to attend the next anniversary. Most people will have passed on.
‘In the south, the whole region was devoted to the operation. Here at Daedalus, it was the busiest airfield in the country.’
And Mr Wealthy said he was thrilled with the way the fly-past happened. It was like a dream. It’s incredible that this has happened and that there is so much support.’
Bill Thomas, 64, from Greenville, South Carolina, USA, was one of the parachutists.
The former Lieutenant Colonel said: ‘This is for all the World War 2 veterans – the greatest generation – the people that brought use freedom in our lives. A lot of sacrifices were made – I think it should be honoured.’
Dave DeSoucy is a former member of the 101st Airborne Division, the Screaming Eagles, in the US Army.
He saw action in Vietnam and was later a member of the special forces. He said: ‘This is a tribute for them. They paid the ultimate sacrifice.’
Ian Wright, 50, from Alver Village, was watching the display. He said: ‘It’s probably the last time we will see an aircraft like this with veterans who took part in the D-Day landings. This is a way of paying our respects.’
Roger Hichman, 60, was born in the area but moved away. He came back for five days especially for the D-Day celebrations.
He said: ‘It’s important to show gratitude towards parents and grandparents who went through that so that we can be here today.’