5–6 June 1944 (D-Day -1): Beginning in the late evening, 821 Douglas C-47 Skytrain twin-engine transports, and 516 Waco CG-4A and Airspeed AS.51 Horsa gliders of the IXth Troop Carrier Command, airlifted 13,348 paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, United States Army, and another 7,900 men of the British Army 6th Airborne Division and the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion.
The airplanes flew in a Vee-of Vees formation, nine airplanes abreast, 100 feet (30 meters) from wing tip to wing tip, 1,000 feet (305 meters) in trail, stretching for over 300 miles (483 kilometers). They flew in darkness at an altitude of 500 to 1,000 feet (152–305 meters).
Their mission was to drop the paratroopers behind the invasion beaches of Normandy during the hours before the amphibious assault began on D-Day.
23 December 1941: Although hundreds of Douglas DC-3 commercial transports had been impressed into military service directly from the production line and designated C-48, C-49 and C-50, the first airplane of the type specifically built as a military transport, C-47 Skytrain, 41-7722, made its first flight at Daugherty Field, Long Beach, California, on this date. More than 10,000 C-47s would follow. In service with the United States Navy, the Skytrain was designated R4D-1. In British service, it was called the Dakota Mk.I.
The primary differences between the civil and military airframes was the addition of a cargo door on the left side of the fuselage and a strengthened floor in the cabin.
The Douglas C-47 Skytrain is an all-metal twin-engine, low wing monoplane transport with retractable landing gear. It was operated by a minimum flight crew of two pilots, a navigator and a radio operator. The wing is fully cantilevered and the fuselage is of semi-monocoque construction. Control surfaces are fabric-covered.
The C-47 is 64 feet, 5½ inches (19.647 meters) long with a wingspan of 95 feet (28.956 meters) and height of 17 feet (5.182 meters). Empty weight of the C-47A is 17,257 pounds (7,828 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight is 29,300 pounds (13,290 kilograms).
The C-47 is powered by two 1,829.4-cubic-inch-displacement (29.978 liter) air-cooled, supercharged R-1830-92 (Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S1C3-G) two-row 14-cylinder radial engines. These had a maximum continuous rating for normal operation was 1,060 horsepower at 2,550 r.pm., up to 7,500 feet (2,286 meters), and 1,200 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m., at Sea Level, for takeoff. Each engine drives a three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed full-feathering propeller with a diameter of 11 feet, 6 inches (3.505 meters) through a 16:9 gear reduction. The R-1830-92 is 48.19 inches (1.224 meters) long, 61.67 inches (1.566 meters) in diameter, and weighs 1,465 pounds (665 kilograms).
The C-47 has a cruising speed of 185 miles per hour (298 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) and service ceiling of 24,100 feet (7,346 meters).
The C-47 could carry 6,000 pounds (2,722 kilograms) of cargo, or 28 fully-equipped paratroopers. Alternatively, 14 patients on stretchers could be carried, along with three attendants.
17 December 1935: Douglas Aircraft Company vice president and chief test pilot Carl A. Cover made the first flight of the Douglas DST, NX14988, at Clover Field, Santa Monica, California. Also aboard were engineers Fred Stineman and Frank Coleman.
Designed over a two year period by chief engineer Arthur Emmons Raymond and built for American Airlines, the DST, or Douglas Sleeper Transport, was the original variant of the DC-3 commercial airliner. It had 14 sleeping berths for passengers on overnight transcontinental journeys and could fly across the United States with three refueling stops. There were no prototypes built. NX14988 was a production airplane and went to American Airlines where it flew more than 17,000 hours.
At the beginning of World War II, NC14988 was placed in military service, designated C-49E Skytrooper with the serial number 42-43619. On 15 October 1942, it crashed 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) from its destination at Chicago, Illinois, killing the 2-man crew and all 7 passengers. The airplane was damaged beyond repair.
The DST and the DC-3 were an improved version of the Douglas DC-2 commercial transport. It was an all-metal, twin-engine, low-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear. The airplane was operated by a pilot and co-pilot.
The DC-3 was 64 feet, 8 inches (19.710 meters) long with a wingspan of 95 feet, 2 inches (29.007 meters). It was 16 feet, 11 inches (5.156 meters) high. The airplane weighed 16,865 pounds (7,650 kilograms) empty and had a gross weight of 25,199 pounds (11,430 kilograms).
DSTs and initial production DC-3s were powered by two 1,823.129-cubic-inch-displacement (29.875 liter) air-cooled, supercharged Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 9 GR-1820G2 9-cylinder radial engines, rated at 700 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m., and 800 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m for takeoff. and turning 3-bladed Hamilton-Standard constant-speed propellers through a 16:11 gear reduction. (The engines were soon changed to more powerful 1,829.389-cubic-inch-displacement (29.978 liter) air-cooled, supercharged Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp SC3-G 14-cylinder radials, with a normal power rating of 950 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m., and takeoff power rating of 1,050 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m.). The SC3-G had a 16:9 propeller gear reduction ratio. It was 5 feet, 1.50 inches (1.562 meters) long, 4 feet, 0.19 inches (1.224 meters) in diameter, and weighed 1,457 pounds (661 kilograms).
Maximum speed was 230 miles per hour (370 kilometers per hour) at 8,500 feet (2,591 meters). The service ceiling was 23,200 feet (7,071 meters).
The DC-3 was in production for 11 years. Douglas Aircraft Company built 10,655 DC-3s and military C-47s. There were another 5,000 license-built copies. Over 400 DC-3s are still in commercial service. The oldest surviving example is the sixth DST built, originally registered NC16005.
The Berlin Airlift officially ended on 30 September 1949, after fifteen months. In total the United States Air Force, Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force delivered 2,334,374 tons, nearly two-thirds of which was coal, on 280,290 flights to Berlin.At the height of the Airlift, one plane reached West Berlin every thirty seconds.
10 July 1943: Following the defeat of Germany and Italy by the Allies in North Africa, the next phase of the war plan was the invasion of Sicily. This began with the largest airborne assault ever attempted by U.S. and British paratroopers up to that time.
Shortly after midnight, a Regimental Combat Team (RCT) consisting of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment with the 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, under command of Colonel James M. Gavin, United States Army, dropped out of a moonlit sky around Gela on the southern shore of the island and achieved reasonable success. A second airborne assault was carried out by the remainder of the 504th PIR.
As the Allied formation of 144 Douglas C-47 Skytrain transports approached the Sicilian shoreline, ships of the invasion force mistook them for enemy aircraft and opened fire. 22 C-47s were shot down and many others damaged. 83 men were killed and 318 wounded.
As a result of the friendly fire incident, the airborne assault was widely scattered, missing assigned drop zones and objectives. However, small groups of airborne troopers acting on their own initiative attacked targets of opportunity and kept the island’s defenders off balance.