C.47A/Dakota III [44-77033]C.47A/Dakota III [44-77033]

C.47A Skytrain / Dakota III [44-77033[@ RAF Coningsby]C.47A/Dakota III [44-77033]

Without question, the transport workhorse of the Allies in World War II was the Douglas C.47 Skytrain, the military version of the immortal DC.3.  The C.47 was an all metal light alloy construction and the cantilever monoplane wings were set low on the fuselage.  Powered by two Pratt and Whitney R1830 Twin Wasp radial piston engines the type had a crew of three, pilot, co-pilot and radio operator.  Not only were the engines highly reliable, they were extremely easy to maintain even in the most difficult of environments. 

Built in March 1942 by Douglas at Long Beach California 42-24338 and issued to the USAAF.  In September 1942 42-24338 was transferred under the Lend-Lease agreement to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) as 661and served in Canada during WW2.  After the war 42-24338 was deployed to Europe with the RCAF until declared surplus to requirements by the Canadians in 1971.  Purchased by the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) at Farnborough and given the designation KG661, 42-24338 remained in service with them until 1992 employed on a variety of tasks and trials.  During the early part of 1979 the KG661 designation was changed to ZA947 since the serial KG661 had previously belonged to a Dakota that had been destroyed in an accident.  Declared surplus to requirements by the Defence Research Agency, the successor to the RAE, 42-24338 was adopted by Strike Command and issued to the BBMF in March 1993.  After engineering and structural work in 1993, which was undertaken by Air Atlantique at Coventry, 42-24338 was flown to RAF Marham for painting.  42-24338 emerged in the D-Day livery of KG374 'YS' of 271 Squadron in which Flt.Lt.  David Lord won a posthumous Victoria Cross over Arnhem on the 19th September 1944.  Hit twice by anti-aircraft fire and with one engine on fire Lord managed to drop most of his supplies on the drop run but two containers remained.  Ordering his crew to jump, Lord made a second run and a few seconds later the Dakota crashed.  In 1998 the markings were changed to “YS-H” of 77 Squadron from RAF Fassberg in Germany and two trips were made to Berlin and one to Hamburg in support of the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift.  From 2003 to 2010 42-24338 was displayed in the livery of an aircraft from 267 ‘Pegasus’ Squadron during the Mediterranean campaign.  The squadron was reformed on the 19th August 1940 by the re-designation of the Communications Unit at Heliopolis and was utilised for local transport duties in Egypt.  The squadron employed various colour schemes on its Dakotas but always displayed its ‘Pegasus’ emblem on the aircraft’s nose.  For 2011 42-24338 underwent a major overhaul by Eastern Airways at Humberside Airport and re-painted by Air Livery at Manchester in the livery of FZ692 '5T-UK’ (42-92489) of 233 Squadron a C.47A/ Dakota III.  Based at RAF Blakehill Farm, Cricklade, Wiltshire, and named ‘kwicherbichen’ (quit your bitchin), 42-92489 flew in support of the D-Day landings by towing gliders and dropping paratroops.  The original 42-92489 is still flying with Environment Canada.

Douglas C-47A [43-15509]

Douglas C.47A Skytrain [43-15509]  [@ RAF Duxford]

In fact the last Dakota flew in RAF service on the 1st April 1970 when 44-77033 flew from Oslo to RAF Northolt (see below).  In fact there was one more RAF Dakota flight on the 18th May 1970 when 44-77087 (KP208), a C.47B/ Dakota IV built in 1946, flew from RAF Kemble to Odiham, Hants, en route to preservation outside the now closed Airborne Forces Museum at Aldershot.  Repainted in 2010 to present KG374 'YS', 44-77087 is on display at the gate of the Merville Barracks in Colchester, Essex.  In addition 42-24338 (ZA947), a C.47A/Dakota III, as been flying with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) based RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, since 1993.

Built in April 1944, 43-15509 was flown to England the following month and served with the 316th Troop Carrier Group of the 9th Air Force.  Assigned to the 37th Troop Carrier Squadron, 43-15509 operated from RAF Cottesmore, Rutland, for a year.  It is believed to have participated in the airborne drops over Normandy in June 1944, the airborne assault on Holland in September 1944 and the crossing of the Rhine in March 1945.  After the War it was sold to the Swedish Airline ABA.  Later, the aircraft returned to the USA before being operated by the Spanish Air Force as T3-29.  It also took part in the TV Series "Airline" in 1980 before being obtained by the Museum.  In the photograph 43-15509 is displayed as W7-S in the marking of the 37th Troop Carrier Squadron / 316th Troop Carrier Group / 9th USAAF which operated during the Normandy invasion from RAF Cottesmore. 

Douglas C.47A [42-92449]Douglas C.47A [42-92449]

Douglas C.47A Skytrain [42-92449] [@ Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace, Paris - Le Bourget]

The first Douglas commercial transports to be acquired by the US services were a number of DC.2s, designated C.32A and C.34 by the Army and R2D.1 by the Navy, followed by 35 C.39s; these were hybrids, with DC.2 fuselages and DC.3 tail units and outer wing panels.  The C.41A was a command transport plane with VIP accommodation and military communications gear but by late 1939 the multirole C.47 had been conceived.

42-92449 served with the 8th Air Force in Europe from 25th March 1944 and was involved with the D-Day landings on the 6th June 1944.  Purchased by Aigle Azur Extreme Orient in 1948, 42-92449 was acquired by the French Air Force in 1960 as 92449 and served until 1968 before being donated to the Museum in 1970.  In the photograph 42-92449 is in the colours of USAAF 42-100558 “Buzz Buggy” of the 81st Troop Carrier Squadron / 436th Troop Carrier Group who were based at Membury, Berkshire, England, between March 1944 and February 1945.  42-100558 participated in the airborne assaults on Normandy, southern France, Holland and Germany and in 1950 ‘Buzz Buggy’ was transferred to the Uruguayan Air Force before being scrapped following an accident in 1959.

Douglas C.47A / Dakota III [42-108962]Douglas C.47A / Dakota III [42-108962]Douglas C.47A / Dakota III [42-108962]

Douglas C.47A Skytrain / Dakota III [42-108962]  [@ RAF Shawbury]

Built in 1944 at Oklahoma City and delivered to the USAAF on the 30th May 1944 arrived in the UK under the Lend-Lease Agreement as KG651 on the 13th June 1944.   Entering RAF service on the 26th August 1944 with 109 Operational Training Unit (OUT) at RAF Crosby-on-Eden, Cumbria, 42-108962 went on to serve with 24 Squadron  on the 29th August 1945 at RAF Hendon, 1383 Transport Conversion Unit (TCU)at RAF Crosby-in-Eden in March 1946 and 1333 Transport Support Conversion Unit (TSCU) at Leicester East on the 23rd July 1946.   Designated at surplus to requirements 42-108962 was placed into storage with 22 MU at RAF Silloth, Cumbria, on the 1st October 1946 and was sold to Air Prospectors on the 21st November 1946.   Subsequently owned by a large number of operators including Pan African Air Charters Ltd, Cyprus Airways, Iraq Petroleum Transport Co Ltd, British United Airways, Jersey European Airways and twice by Air Atlantique.   The last operator, Air Atlantique, flew 42-108962 from 1987 to retirement in June 2000.  Following two years of storage at Coventry Airport 42-108962 was donated to the Assault Glider Trust and arrives at RAF Shawbury on the 4th December 2003.  42-108962 is being restored for static display and will be rigged for paratroop dropping and glider towing.  42-108962 is dedicated to Flt Lt Tom Grant DSO RAFVR, a tug/glider specialist, whose brilliant planning of the Pegasus Bridge operations on D-Day allowed the glider pilots to land at night, precisely in the right place, and allowed D Company of the 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry to perform one of the most successful operations of the war as shown in the 1962 film “The Longest Day”.

Douglas C.47B Skytrain / Dakota IV [43-49474]

Douglas C.47B Skytrain / Dakota IV [43-49474]  [@ RAF Waddington]

The first 953 C.47s (an additional 12 went  to the United States Navy as the R4D.1) were troop or cargo transports; these were followed by 4991 C.47As (263 to the USN as the R4D.5) and 3108 C.47Bs, deliveries beginning in 1942.  C.47As were fitted with a 24-volt electrical system while the C.47Bs were powered by supercharged R1830.90 engines and had extra fuel capacity to cover the China-Burma-India routes.  A specialized troop transport version, of which 277 were built between 1941 and 1943, was designated C.53 Skytrooper.  The C.47 earned the informal nickname “Gooney Bird” in the European theatre of operations.  The C.47D was the same as the C.47B but with the superchargers removed after the war.

Built in 1944 for the USAF, 43-49474 was transferred to the RAF on lend-lease and used in the Berlin Airlift as KK151.  When the military commitments ended 43-49474 went on to fly with many airlines including Starways, British United Airways and British International Airlines before joining Air Atlantique in 1981 as a cargo carrying aircraft.  43-49474 as appeared several times in numerous film and TV roles including Steven Spielberg’s "Band of Brothers".  

Douglas C-47B [43-16357]

Douglas C.47B Skytrain [43-16357]  [@ Koninklijk Leger Museum, Brussels]

More than 1200 C.47s were supplied under Lend-Lease to the RAF and the type became known as the Dakota from the acronym "DACoTA" for Douglas Aircraft Company Transport Aircraft.  Dakota I was the RAF designation for the C.47 and R4D.1, Dakota III for the C.47A and Dakota IV for the C.47B.

Delivered to the USAAF as 43-16357 on the 1st August 1944 and arrived at Karachi Airport in September 1944.  Karachi was a major transhipment base for the United States Army Air Force for troops and equipment being used by the Tenth Air Force in eastern India and Burma as well as for the Fourteenth Air Force in China.  The USAAF Air Technical Service Command had extensive facilities here so aircraft would have been received, and/or assembled and/or tested prior to being flown to their combat units at forward airfields.  It was possible for 43-16357 to have been involved with flying "The Hump" from India into China.  Acquired by the Belgium Air Force in November 1947 for 366 Squadron as K16 43-16357 went on to serve with 15 Wing TC.21 Communications Squadron in 1948.  At some point during the 1960s 43-16357 was converted to a VIP transport but was declared beyond economical repair on the 22nd September 1972 during a routine maintenance.  Donated to the Brussels Air Museum the following year 43-16357 is shown in the photograph as K16.

Douglas C.47B Skytrain / Dakota IV (A65-69) [43-49866]Douglas C.47B Skytrain / Dakota IV (A65-69) [43-49866]

Douglas C.47B Skytrain / Dakota IV (A65-69) [43-49866]  [@  Luftwaffenmuseum der Bundeswehr, Berlin]

43-49866 was constructed under a USAAF contract but then transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and entered service with 38 Squadron on the 20th December 1945 as A65-69.  A65-60 served with a number of RAAF squadrons including the RAAF Butterworth Station flight from 23rd February 1967.  RAF Butterworth, (Penang, Malaysia) was officially opened in October 1941 as a RAF station and was a part of the British defence plan for defending the Malayan Peninsula against an imminent threat of invasion by the Imperial Japanese forces during WW2.  Upon closure in 1957 the station was transferred to the RAAF and so became RAAF Station Butterworth.  The base was the home to numerous Australian fighter and bomber squadrons during the Cold War era.  Upon retirement from the Flight on the 3rd June 1980 A65-60 was presented to the people of Berlin as a lasting reminder of the Royal Australian Air Force aircrews who flew on the Berlin airlift.  To guarantee a safe passage through the Berlin Air Corridor on the eleven day flight to Berlin A65-60 was given an RAF registration (ZD215) as only British, French and American aircraft were allowed through the corridor.

Douglas C.47B/Dakota IV [44-77033]Douglas C.47B/Dakota IV [44-77033]Douglas C.47B/Dakota IV [44-77033]Douglas C.47B/Dakota IV [44-77033]

Douglas C.47B Skytrain / Dakota IV [44-77033]  [@ RAF Cosford]

The rugged C.47 was renowned in every theatre of war; but it is best remembered for its part in the Allied airborne operations in Europe in September 1944, culminating in the gallant failure of the British 1st Airborne Division at Arnhern.  Possibly the C.47s most influential role in military aviation was flying "The Hump" from India into China.  The expertise gained in flying "The Hump" would later be used in the Berlin Airlift, in which the C.47 would play a major role, until being replaced by the four-engined  C.54 Douglas Skymaster transport aircraft.  On the 6th June 1944 over 1,000 C.47s were flown in a variety of uses and in the first 60 hours of D-Day over 60,000 troops had been airlifted to Normandy.

Built at Oklahoma City 44-77033 arrived in the UK on the 27th May 1945 and entered RAF service under the Lend-Lease agreement with the 2nd Tactical Air Force Communications Squadron (later renamed the BAFO Communications Wing).  In late 1945 to early 1946 44-77033 aircraft was fitted out as a VIP aircraft, with kitchen, armchairs, settees, cocktail cabinet and toilet and used for a time by Lord Montgomery and in 1947 by Lord Wavell.  From 1946 to 1949 KN645 was used as the personal aircraft of the British Military Governors of Germany - MRAF Sir Sholto Douglas, later Lord Douglas of Kirtleside and subsequently General Sir Brian Robertson later Lord Robertson of Oakridge.  During the subsequent years 44-77033 was employed in numerous RAF tasks including for use by SHAPE - Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers in Europe Communications Flight and in early 1961 was sent to the Queen's Flight at RAF Benson for use during the Nepalese leg of HM the Queen's Asian Tour.  After a repaint in November 1967 44-77033 arrived on December 1967 at RAF Northolt for AFNE (Allied Forces Northern Europe) and was used by the NATO Commander in Norway who was based in Oslo.   On the 1st April 1970 44-77033 became the last Dakota in RAF service when 44-77033 flew from Oslo to RAF Northolt to become a museum airframe.  Originally painted in 1973 with the D-Day markings of KG374 'YS', 44-77033 was repainted in 2005 into the white and silver colours of a standard post-war Transport Command aircraft and suspended from the roof – what a shame!

Douglas C.47B/Dakota IV [44-76384]Douglas C.47B/Dakota IV [44-76384]

Douglas C.47B Skytrain / Dakota IV [44-76384] [@ RAF Elvington]

Total wartime productions of the C.47 series amounted to 10,123 aircraft and were produced at Long Beach and Santa Monica, California, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  The Oklahoma City plant produced 5,354 C.47s from March 1943 until August 1945.  In addition, 700 were delivered to the Soviet Union, where around 2000 examples were licence-built as the Lisunov Li.2; these had Soviet-built engines and were fitted with a dorsal gun position.  The type was also licence-built in Japan for the Imperial Japanese Navy, being allocated the Allied code-name Tabby.

Built in 1944 at Oklahoma City for the USAAF, 44-76384 was transferred to Canada to enter RAF service as KN353 under the  Lend-Lease agreement at RAF Montreal in February 1945.  In March of the same year 44-76384 was transferred to 300 Wing in Australia and from May 1945 until December 1946 44-76384 served in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) with the ACSEA Communications Unit.  RAF service continued in the Far East until October 1947 then 44-76384 returned to the UK to 12 MU based at RAF Kirkbride.  Sold in February 1953 to Transair Ltd 44-76384 was subsequently owned by a number of operators including a period in Egypt with Nile Delta Services, later with Jersey Airlines and was finally purchased in the early 1980s Air Atlantique to join its Pollution Control fleet.  44-76384 was donated to the museum by Air Atlantique in December 2001.

Douglas C-47B [45-0951]Douglas C-47B [45-0951]

Douglas C.47B Skytrain [45-0951]  [@ Deutsches Technik Museum, Berlin]

45-0951 was built for the USAAF and also flew for the Spanish Air Force as T3-54 as well as a number of civilian companies.

After the WW2 the C.47 continued its military career.  For example, the USAF Strategic Air Command used the C.47 from 1946 until 1967 and the Royal Canadian Air Force and later, the Canadian Armed Forces, employed the C.47 for transportation, navigation and radar training, and search and rescue operations until the 1980s.  Several C.47 variants were used in the Vietnam War including the EC.47N, EC.47P, or EC.47Q or "Electric Gooneys" all of which were involved in advanced electronic warfare and the awesome AC.47D "Spooky" (nicknamed "Puff, the Magic Dragon" by the combat troops), a gunship utilising three 7.62mm General Electric Gatling  miniguns (see the 1968 “The Green Berets” film).  First introduced on the 15th December 1964 the guns were mounted in the fifth and sixth windows on the port side of the fuselage and in the aft passenger/cargo door area.  Fifty three C.47Ds were converted for use as gunships during the Vietnam War and were replaced by gunships based on the Lockheed C-130 Hercules.  In addition, many thousands of surplus C.47s were converted for civil airline use.