Tag Archives: Douglas C-47A Skytrain

19 September 1944

19 September 1944:

Air Ministry, 13th November, 1945.

     The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:—

Flight Lieutenant David Samuel Anthony LORD, D.F.C. (49149), R.A.F., 271 Sqn. (deceased).

Flight Lieutenant Lord was pilot and captain of a Dakota aircraft detailed to drop supplies at Arnhem on the afternoon of the 19th September, 1944. Our airborne troops had been surrounded and were being pressed into a small area defended by a large number of anti-aircraft guns. Air crews were warned that intense opposition would be met over the dropping zone. To ensure accuracy they were ordered to fly at 900 feet when dropping their containers.

While flying at 1,500 feet near Arnhem the starboard wing of Flight Lieutenant Lord’s aircraft was twice hit by anti-aircraft fire. The starboard engine was set on fire. He would have been justified in leaving the main stream of supply aircraft and continuing at the same height or even abandoning his aircraft. But on learning that his crew were uninjured and that the dropping zone would be reached in three minutes he said he would complete his mission, as the troops were in dire need of supplies.

By now the starboard engine was burning furiously. Flight Lieutenant Lord came down to 900 feet, where he was singled out for the concentrated fire of all the anti-aircraft guns. On reaching the dropping zone he kept the aircraft on a straight, and level course while supplies were dropped. At the end of the run, he was told that two containers remained.

Although he must have known that the collapse of the starboard wing could not be long delayed, Flight Lieutenant Lord circled, rejoined the stream of aircraft and made a second run to drop the remaining supplies. These manoeuvres took eight minutes in all, the aircraft being continuously under heavy anti-aircraft fire.

His task completed, Flight Lieutenant Lord ordered his crew to abandon the Dakota, making no attempt himself to leave the aircraft, which was down to 500 feet. A few seconds later, the starboard wing collapsed and the aircraft fell in flames. There was only one survivor, who was flung out while assisting other members of the crew to put on their parachutes.

By continuing his mission in a damaged and burning aircraft, descending to drop the supplies accurately, returning to the dropping zone a second time and, finally, remaining at the controls to give his crew a chance of escape, Flight Lieutenant Lord displayed supreme valour and self-sacrifice.

Fourth Supplement to The London Gazette, 13 November 1945, No. 37347 at Page 5533.

The Victoria Cross: “For Valour”
Flight Lieutenant David Samuel Anthony Lord, D.F.C., Royal Air Force.

David Samuel Anthony Lord was born in the city of Cork, Ireland, 18 October 1913, the son of Warrant Officer Samuel Beswick Lord, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and Mary Ellen Miller Lord. He was raised in Ireland, British India and Wales. Lord was educated at St. Mary’s College, a seminary in Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Wales, and the University of Wales in Cardiff.

David and his brother Frank enlisted in the Royal Air Force 6 August 1936. In 1938 he was promoted to corporal and requested an assignment to flight training. He trained as a pilot at RAF Uxbridge, and on completion, 5 April 1939, was promoted to sergeant.

Sergeant Lord was assigned to No. 31 Squadron, a bomber/transport unit then based at Lahore, Punjab, in what is now Pakistan. The squadron was equipped with Vickers Type 264 Valentia biplane transports, but early in World War II these were replaced by more modern Douglas DC-2s. The squadron flew in Iraq, Syria, Iran and Eqypt. Lord was promoted to Flight Sergeant, 1 April 1941. In June 1941, Lord’s Dakota was severely damaged by attacking German fighters and he was forced to crash land. Along with his passengers and crew, Lord safely returned to friendly lines.

Flight Sergeant Lord was appointed a warrant officer, 1 October 1941. In 1942, Temporary Warrant Officer Lord returned to operations in India, where he flew “the Hump,” the aerial supply line to China over the Himalaya Mountains. He was appointed to the commissioned rank of Pilot Officer on probation (emergency), 12 May 1942, and then promoted to Flying Officer.

Douglas Dakota Mk.III, FL512, of No. 31 Squadron in Burma, circa 1944.

In The London Gazette, 16 July 1943, it was announced that Flying Officer Lord had awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions in Burma.

Flying Officer Lord was reassigned to No. 271 Squadron, based at RAF Down Ampney, Wiltshire, England, flying the Dakota Mk.III. He was promoted to Flight Lieutenant, 2 June 1944, and flew in the airborne assault of Normandy, on the night of 5–6 June 1944. On 1 September 1944, Flight Lieutenant Lord was commended by George VI for valuable service in the air.

19 September 1944. Burnt-out Douglas Dakota Mark III, KG401, of No. 48 Squadron RAF. The same type aircraft as Flight Lieutenant Lord’s KG374, this is one of many Dakota’s lost while attempting to resupply Allied soldiers during the Battle of Arnhem. © IWM (CE 165)

Only one member of Lord’s crew, the navigator, Flight Lieutenant Harold King, survived. The others were buried next to the wreck of their Dakota, at Wolfheze, just northeast of Arnhem, The Netherlands. Following the war, their remains were moved to the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery.

Flight Lieutenant King was captured and spent the remainder of the war at Stalag Luft I, a prisoner of war camp at Barth, Western Pomerania. When he was repatriated, he reported what had happened on the 19 September 1944 mission.

After investigation, the Victoria Cross was posthumously awarded to Flight Lieutenant David Samuel Anthony Lord, D.F.C.  His parents received his Victoria Cross at an investiture at Buckingham Palace on 18 December 1945.

Flight Lieutenant David Samuel Anthony Lord, V.C., D.F.C., was the only member of the Royal Air Force Transport Command to be awarded the Victoria Cross during World War II.

Flight Lieutenant David S.A. Lord’s medals in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum. (Left to right, Victoria Cross; Distinguished Flying Cross; India General Service Medal 1936 with Northwest Frontier Clasp; 1939–1945 Star; Africa Star; Burma Star; France and Germany Star; Defence Medal; War Medal 1939–1945 with Bronze Oak Leaf.)

Flight Lieutenant Lord’s airplane was a Douglas Dakota Mk.III, the Royal Air Force designation for the U.S. Army Air Forces’ Douglas C-47A Skytrain. It was built in January 1944 at the Midwest City Douglas Aircraft Plant, adjacent to the Oklahoma City Air Depot (now, Tinker Air Force Base) at Oklahoma City, OK. Douglas gave it the company serial number 12383. It was a C-47A-5-DK Skytrain with the serial number 42-92568. The airplane was one of the 5,354 built by Midwest City. The plant turned out 13 C-47s each day and produced more than half of the Skytrains built during World War II.

42-92569 was delivered to the U.S.A.A.F. on 24 January 1944. The Skytrain was turned over to Royal Air Force at Dorval Airport, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 4 February 1944, and assigned the RAF identification KG 374. It was then flown across the North Atlantic to the United Kingdom, 17 May 1944. KG 374 was assigned to No. 271 Squadron, 10 June 1944, and the squadron identification YS L.

A Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Douglas Dakota painted in the markings of Flight Lieutenant Davis Samuel Anthony Lord’s KG 734.

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 airplane’s control surfaces are covered with doped-fabric. The primary differences between the civil DC-3 and military C-47 airframes was the addition of a cargo door on the left side of the fuselage and a strengthened floor in the cabin.

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-47A was powered by two 1,829.39-cubic-inch-displacement (29.978 liter) air-cooled, supercharged R-1830-92 (Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S1C3-G) two-row 14-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.7:1. These were rated at 1,060 horsepower at 2,550 r.pm., up to 7,500 feet (2,286 meters), maximum continuous power, 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.

KG 374 crashed at Wolfheze, The Netherlands, about 6 miles (10 kilometers) northwest of Arnhem. Fragments of the wreckage are in the collection of the Imperial War Museum.

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)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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30 June 1975

The last operational U.S. Air Force C-47 Skytrain, 43-49507, on display at NMUSAF. (U.S. Air Force)

30 June 1975: The last operational Douglas C-47 Skytrain transport in service with the United States Air Force, 43-49507, was retired and flown to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

A C-47D, it is on display in the World War II Gallery, painted and marked as C-47A-80-DL 43-15213 of the 91st Troop Carrier Squadron, 439th Troop Carrier Group, during World War II. At the time it was withdrawn from service, 43-49507 had flown a total of 20,831 hours.

43-49507 (Douglas serial number 26768) was built at Oklahoma City as a C-47B-15-DK Skytrain. The C-47B differed from the C-47A in that it was powered by Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S3C4-G (R-1830-90) engines. These engines were equipped with two-speed superchargers for improved high-altitude performance. Following World War II, the second speed (“high blower”) was either disabled or removed. Following this modification, the airplane was redesignated C-47D.

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

The Douglas C-47 Skytrain is a military transport variant of the Douglas Aircraft Company DC-3 commercial airliner. It is an all-metal, twin-engine, low-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear. It was operated by a minimum flight crew of two pilots, navigator, radio operator and mechanic/load master. The airplane’s control surfaces are covered with doped-fabric. The primary differences between the civil DC-3 and military C-47 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.

The DC-3 made its first flight 17 December 1935, while the C-47 flew for the first time six years later, 23 December 1941.

Two Douglas C-47 Skytrains. Nearest the camera is C-47A-90-DL 43-15661. The further airplane is C-47A-65-DL 42-100550. (U.S. Air Force)

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 total wing area is 988.9 square feet (91.872 square meters). The angle of incidence is 2°. 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-47D is 17,865 pounds (8,103 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight is 33,000 pounds (14,969 kilograms).

The C-47A was 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 with a compression ratio of 6.7:1. These were rated at 1,060 horsepower at 2,550 r.pm., up to 7,500 feet (2,286 meters), maximum continuous power, 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).

U.S. Army paratroopers jump from Douglas C-47-DL Skytrain 41-7805, over England, May 1944. (U.S. Air Force)

The specifications of the  Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S3C4-G (R-1830-90) installed on the C-47B and C-47D were nearly the same as the -92 engine of the C-47A. Displacement and compression ratio were identical. The engines’ diameters were the same, though the -90 was very slightly longer than the -92—1.85–2.74 inches (4.699–6.960 centimeters), depending on specific variant. Also, the -90 was heavier than the -92 by 25–30 pounds (11.34–13.61 kilograms), again, depending on the specific variant. The R-1830-90 could maintain 1,000 horsepower at 2,550 r.p.m. at 12,500 feet (3,810 meters), and 1,000 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. at 14,000 feet (4,267 meters), a significant increase over the -92.

The C-47D has a cruising speed of 161 knots (185 miles per hour/298 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), and maximum speed of 202 knots (232 miles per hour/374 kilometers per hour) at 3,500 feet (1,067 meters). Its service ceiling was 22,150 feet (6,751 meters). The Skytrain had a maximum range of 1,026 nautical miles (1,181 miles/1,900 kilometers) with full cargo.

The C-47 could carry 9,485 pounds (4,302 kilograms) of cargo, or 27 fully-equipped paratroopers. Alternatively, 24 patients on stretchers could be carried, along with two attendants.

C-47 Skytrains in Vee-of Vees formation.

On D-Day, The Sixth of June, 1944, a formation of C-47 Skytrains, 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), airdropped 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, behind the beaches at Normandy, France.

During the Vietnam War, 53 C-47s were converted from their transport role to AC-47 Spooky gunships. These were armed with three fixed, electrically-powered General Electric  GAU-2/A .30-caliber (7.62 NATO) Gatling guns firing out the left side of the fuselage. These aircraft were highly effective at providing close air support. The three Miniguns could fire a total of 12,000 rounds per minute.

Douglas AC-47D Spooky gunship, 45-0927, 4th Special Operations Squadron, Nha Trang, Republic of Vietnam, September 1968. (U.S. Air Force)

Douglas Aircraft Company built 10,174 C-47 Skytrains at its factories in Santa Monica and Long Beach, California, and at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

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

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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