Stinson L-5 Sentinel, F-AYLV, « Sleepy Time Gal »
The Stinson L-5 Sentinel was to the Americans what the Storch was to the Germans during the Second World War. Used extensively in the European and Pacific theatres, this unarmed aircraft, with the characteristics of a passenger plane, nevertheless played an indispensable role in operations.
Nicknamed the ‘Flying Jeep’, the Sentinel flew all types of missions and its success determined its use in the Korean War.
The Stinson Division of the Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Co. produced more than 3,600 L-5s of the ‘observer’ and ‘ambulance’ types.
This remarkable aircraft has an enviable combat record: The first American aircraft to land in Normandy during the Landings of June 1944 was an L-5; a Marine L-5 was the first aircraft to land at Iwo Jima, and L-5s crossed the Himalayas in support of Gen. Claire Chennault!
Brave pilots of the Guinea Short Lines recovered several downed crews in the jungles of the Philippines with their L-5s.
During the attack on Okinawa, some L-5s took off and landed on a cable hanging from the side of an LST ship, and others, dropped from a carrier, flew over the ocean for twice their flight range, using makeshift extra tanks.
The first Forward Air Controllers were L-5s of the 588th Fighter Group in Italy, and in Korea L-5s equipped with recoilless guns were used as tank fighters!
now registered F-AYLV, left the Vultee/Stinson Works, Wayne, Michigan, in early January 1944, with build number 76-1348.
On February 11th, the US Army Air Forces assigned it the number 42-99107 and on March 21st, it left New York harbour on a freighter bound for Great Britain where it was landed on April 5th.
It is not known to which squadron it was assigned, but the L-5 with the previous serial number was assigned to 47th Liaison Squadron and the next serial number to 153rd Liaison Squadron.
According to the information in our possession, it took part in the D-Day landings, followed Patton’s army, and ended up in Belgium, where the American planes that took part in the capture of Germany were stored.
On 16 January 1952, when it was taken into account by the Aeronautica Militare Italiana, it was given the registration number MM52970 and flew until 1955. On the following 28 April it entered civilian life with the registration number I-AEFZ, and worked as a glider towing aircraft at the Parma flying club until 1994.
Italo Batiolli chose it to be his third and most perfect restoration, deciding to restore it to “factory” condition in every detail.
First, it represented an aircraft of the 1st Air Commandos Group. This force, conceived on a British plan by the USAAF High Command, was intended to carry out a secret air landing behind Japanese lines in Burma.
It was to support General Wingate’s ‘Chindit’ troops and General Merrill’s ‘Marauders’ in their mission to cut off enemy supply lines, to prevent an invasion of India that might result from the conquest of Middle Eastern oil.
The Group also had to ensure the supply of troops and the evacuation of the wounded.
This unit, commanded by the legendary Col. Philip Cochran, was central to the success of the operation.
Moreover, in the first massive use of light aircraft in combat, with its hundred Stinsons, the 1st Air Commando Group ensured that thousands of Allied soldiers were in a hospital in India four hours after being wounded in the jungle.
Until then they had to be left behind, and the “Flying Jeep” was a huge morale booster for the troops.
“Sleepy time gal” now carries the colour of the aircraft of Lieutenant Condon, the first pilot of the Normandy Invasion to land on the Normandy soil.