A Bridge Too Far is one of those movies which everyone should see, and this is the most epic scene of the movie. Watching the armada take off is one of the great moments of epic war movie history.
A Bridge Too Far tells the story of the failure of Operation Market Garden during World War II. The operation was intended by the Allies to break through the German lines and seize several bridges in the occupied Netherlands, including one at Arnhem. This way the Siegfried line would be bypassed and the tanks could encircle the industrial Ruhr area and end the war by Christmas.
The filming of the takeoff and air scenes was done in early September 1976, culminating in a series of air drops of around 1,000 men and supplies from eleven Dakota airplanes.
The C-47 Dakotas were all required to be registered and licensed to carry passengers. An original deal for the purchase of ten Dakotas fell through when two airframes were rejected as they did not have the necessary jump doors.
Eventually, eleven Dakotas were obtained; two Portuguese and two Air International Dakotas were purchased by Joseph E. Levine. Three Danish Air Force and four Finnish Air Force C-47s were loaned for the duration of the parachute filming.
On top of this, ten Horsa glider replicas were built, but a storm damaged almost all of them. Seven or eight were hastily repaired for the shoot. The replica gliders were tail-heavy and required a support post under the rear fuselage, with camera angles that were carefully chosen to avoid revealing this.
One of the Dakotas was fitted with tow gear, and Horsa replicas were towed at high speed, though none went airborne. A two-seat Blaník sail-plane, provided by a member of the London Gliding Club, Dunstable, was towed aloft for the interior take-off shots.