The Berlin Airlift officially ended on 30 September 1949, after fifteen months. In total the United States Air Force, United States Navy, 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.
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 Soviet Union blockaded the Allied portions of the city of Berlin, cutting off all transportation by land and water. 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.
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.