Tag Archives: Douglas C-47 Skytrain

10 July 1943

U.S. Paratroopers in North Africa prepare to board an 8th Air Force Douglas C-47-DL Skytrain, 41-18341, for Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily, 9 July 1943.

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. 226 C-47 Skytrains of the 52d Troop Carrier Wing dropped 3,405 U.S. paratroopers. A second airborne assault by the remaining 1,900 paratroopers of the 504th PIR  was carried into battle by 144 C-47s from the 52d TCW.

The British Army 1st Air Landing Brigade under Brigadier Philip Hicks arrived on gliders to capture landing zones in the interior of the island.

Invasion Plan, Invasion of Sicily, 10 July 1943. The airborne assault target is at map coordinates C–2.  (United States Military Academy)

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.

Coloenel James M. Gavin, United States Army, commanding officer, 505th Parachute Infantry Regimeent, with his men before Operation Husky, 9 July 1943. (U.S. Army)
Colonel James M. Gavin, United States Army, commanding officer, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, with his men before Operation Husky, 9 July 1943. (U.S. Army)

The British glider assault, Operation Ladbroke, consisted of 8 Airspeed Horsa and 136 American Waco CG-4 transport gliders. Only 12 of these landed at their targets. At least 65 went into the sea with the loss of over 250 British soldiers.

Operation Fustian was the airborne assault by the 1st Parachute Brigade under the command of Brigadier Gerald Lathbury was carried by 105 C-47s, 11 Armstrong Whitworth Ablemarle paratroop transports, 11 Horsa and 8 Waco gliders. Approximately 40 of these were shot down by Allied and Axis anti-aircraft fire and several were lost to mid-air collisions. Many transports were badly damaged and had so many wounded paratroops that they aborted the mission and returned to North Africa.

Despite significant problems, the airborne troops kept the island’s defenders off guard and had a “positive effect” on the outcome of the invasion.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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26 June 1948

U.S. Air Force Douglas C-47 Skytrain transports unloading supples at Templehof Airport, Berlin, 1948. (U.S. Air Force)
U.S. Air Force Douglas C-47 Skytrain transports unloading supplies at Flughafen Berlin-Templehof, Berlin, 1948. (U.S. Air Force)

26 June 1948: 32 United States Air Force Douglas C-47 Skytrain transports flew 80 tons of supplies to Berlin, the first day of the Berlin Airlift.

At the height of the Cold War, the Union of Soviet Soviet Socialist Republics, occupying eastern Germany following World War II, blockaded the Allied portions of the city of Berlin, cutting off all transportation by land and water. This was followed by the building of the Berlin Wall. The western part of the city was now completely isolated. Josef Stalin hoped to force Britain, France and the United States to abandon Berlin, giving the communists complete control of the devastated country.

Soviet T-55 tanks at Checkpoint Charlie, one of just three access points to the Allied sectors of Berlin. (Central Intelligence Agency)

General Curtis LeMay was asked to transport the needs of the city by air. It was calculated that they would need to supply seventeen hundred calories per person per day, giving a grand total of 646 tons of flour and wheat, 125 tons of cereal, 64 tons of fat, 109 tons of meat and fish, 180 tons of dehydrated potatoes, 180 tons of sugar, 11 tons of coffee, 19 tons of powdered milk, 5 tons of whole milk for children, 3 tons of fresh yeast for baking, 144 tons of dehydrated vegetables, 38 tons of salt and 10 tons of cheese. In total, 1,534 tons were needed daily to keep the over two million people alive. Additionally, the city needed to be kept heated and powered, which would require another 3,475 tons of coal and gasoline.

At the height of the airlift, one airplane was landing every 30 seconds. By the end, more supplies were arriving by air than had previously come by rail. The airlift ended 30 September 1949.

2,326,406 tons of food, medicine and coal had been delivered.

101 aviators lost their lives.

A Douglas C-47 Skytrain clears the rooftops after takeoff from Berlin-Templehof. (Unattributed)
A Douglas C-47 Skytrain clears the rooftops after takeoff from Berlin-Templehof. (Unattributed)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 June 1944

General Dwight D. Eisenhower talking with Lieutenant Wallace C. Strobel and paratroopers of Co. E, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, United States Army (the legendary “Band of Brothers”), at Greenham Common, 2030 hours, 5 June 1944 (U.S. Army)

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.

C-47 Skytrains in Vee-of Vees formation.
C-47 Skytrains in Vee-of-Vees formation.

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.

Stand up, hook up, shuffle to the door. . . .

Allied air assault on Normandy, 5–6 June 1944. (Army Air Forces in World War II)
A restored Douglas C-47A-80-DL Skytrain, serial number 43-15211, of the 92nd Troop Carrier Squadron, 439th Troop Carrier Group, 50th Troop Carrier Wing, IX Troop Carrier Command, United States Army Air Force, in its original markings and invasion stripes, with re-enactors at USAAF Station AAF-462 (RAF Station Upottery), 28 July 2007. © Mac Hawkins

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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23 December 1941

A group of new Douglas C-47 Skytrains. The airplane closest to the camera is C-47-DL 41-18415. (Douglas Aircraft Company)

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 first DC-3-type airplane to be purchased by the Army Air Corps was this Douglas C-41A, serial number 40-070, (DC-3-253A s/n 2145) delivered 11 September 1939. It was used by General Hap Arnold, Chief of Staff, Air Corps.

The primary differences between the civil and military airframes was the addition of a cargo door on the left side of the fuselage, a strengthened cargo floor, a navigator’s astrodome and provisions for glider towing.

Douglas DC-3 (C-47B) three-view drawing. (NASA)

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.

Early production C-47 Skytrain transports under construction at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant at Long Beach, California. (Library of Congress)

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). The wing center section is straight, but outboard of the engine nacelles there is 5º dihedral. The wings’ leading edges are swept aft 15.5°. The trailing edges have no sweep. 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).

A Douglas employee at Long Beach, California works on a C-47’s Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp R-1830-92 radial engine. Stenciling shows that the propellers were inspected 10 October 1942. (Albert T. Palmer/Office of War Information)

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).

U.S. Army paratroopers jump from Douglas C-47-DL Skytrain 41-7805. This airplane was in the first production block of C-47s built at Long Beach, California. (U.S. Air Force)

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.

U.S. Paratroopers board a Douglas C-47 Skytrain for Operation Husky, 9 July 1943. (U.S. Army)
U.S. Paratroopers board a Douglas C-47 Skytrain for Operation Husky, 9 July 1943. This airplane, Douglas C-47-DL 41-18341, was built at Long Beach, California. (U.S. Army)
Douglas C-47 Skytrains at the Midwest City Douglas Aircraft Plant. Douglas produced 13 C-47s a day at this facility. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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17 December 1935

Douglas DST NX14988 on its first flight, 17 December 1935. (Douglas Aircraft Company)
Douglas DST NX14988 on its first flight, 17 December 1935. (Douglas Aircraft Company)
Carl Cover
Carl A. Cover

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.

American Airlines' Douglas DST, NX14988, the first DC-3. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)
American Airlines’ Douglas DST, NX14988, the first DC-3. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

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).

An American Airlines Douglas DST at Grand Central Air Terminal, Glendale, California. (LIFE Magazine)

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.

American Airlines' Douglas DST NC14988 at Glendale, California. 1 May 1936. (DM Airfield Register)
American Airlines’ Douglas DST NC14988 at Glendale, California, 1 May 1936. (dmairfield.org)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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