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C-47 Skytrain

C-47 Skytrain from the Topps Wings Friend or Foe Trading Card Series
C-47 Skytrain (from the Topps Wings Friend or Foe collection)

The Douglas C-47 Skytrain is a military transport aircraft that was developed from the civilian Douglas DC-3 airliner.

World War II Transport Evolution and Development

The military career of the Douglas DC series began in 1936 when the Army Air Corps ordered a pair of DC-2s under the designation C-32. A contract followed for 18 DC-2s in the C-33 freighter configuration and two more as C-34 staff transports.

C-39 Transport Aircraft

In 1937, the Army ordered a plane built to its own specifications. It was a hybrid design that combined the fuselage of the DC-2 with a DC-3 tail. This was the sole C-38 prototype and it led to 35 production versions called the C-39. The C-39 represented the first serious effort by the Army to establish an airlift capability.

Douglas C-39 at Camp Beauregard Louisiana in WWII
Douglas C-39, the military version of the DC-2, at Camp Beauregard Louisiana in WWII

C-47 Skytrain Capabilities and Variants

By 1941 the old Air Corps had been transformed into the Army Air Forces, and it selected a modified version of the DC-3, the C-47 Skytrain, to become its standard transport aircraft.

As a supply plane, the C-47 could carry up to 6,000 pounds of cargo. It could also hold a fully assembled jeep or a 37 mm cannon. As a troop transport, it carried 28 soldiers in full combat gear. As a medical airlift plane, it could accommodate 14 stretcher patients and three nurses.

Seven basic versions were built, and the aircraft was given at least 22 designations, including the AC-47D gunship, the EC-47 electronic reconnaissance aircraft, the EC-47Q antiaircraft systems evaluation aircraft and the C-53 Skytrooper troop transport version. The C-53 lacked the reinforced cargo floor, large cargo door, and hoist attachment of the basic C-47.

The Navy version was known as the R4D.

A surviving C-47 Skytrain restored and on display at the Charles B. Hall Airpark at the entrance to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
C-47 Skytrain at the Charles B. Hall Airpark

It was also used extensively by friendly allies in World War II. The aircraft in allied forces was known as the Dakota, used by the Royal Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and the South African Air Force.

It is thought by some that the "DACoTA" name originated from the "Douglas Aircraft Company Transport Aircraft".

The Lisunov Li-2, originally designated PS-84, was a license-built Soviet version of the Douglas DC-3. A total of over 4,900 aircraft were produced of all Li-2 variants between 1940 and 1954. Several airlines, including Aeroflot, flew the variant.

One hundred C-47J aircraft were re-engineered by Douglas and incorporated new wings; a new, taller vertical tail; modified landing gear; and more powerful engines. They entered U.S. Navy service under the designation C-117D.

After WWII, Douglas offered a new model to airlines: the DC-3S or "Super DC-3", which was was 39 in longer than the original DC-3. It carried up to 30 passengers, and featured increased speed to compete with newer airliners.

Douglas DC-3 and C-47 Side-by-Side Comparison

The C-47 differed from the DC-3 in numerous modifications that included being fitted with a cargo door, a strengthened floor, a shortened tail cone for glider-towing shackles, and an astrodome in the cabin roof (see comparison below).

Douglas DC-3 and C-47 side-by-side comparison of differences

 

C-47B Skytrain "Spirit of Hondo" S/N 44-77109, now renamed "Texas Zephyr"
C-47B Skytrain "Spirit of Hondo" S/N 44-77109, now renamed "Texas Zephyr" and owned by the Commemorative Air Force’s Highland Lakes Squadron based at Kate Craddock Field in Burnet, Texas

 

The C-47 in World War II

During World War II, the armed forces of many countries used the C-47 and modified DC-3s for the transport of troops, cargo, and wounded.

Operation Overlord was the code name for the Battle of Normandy, the Allied operation that launched the successful invasion of German-occupied Western Europe during World War II. The operation was launched on June 6, 1944 with the Normandy landings and featured a 1,200-plane airborne assault including hundreds of C-47s.

C-47s taking part in the 75th anniversary of the Normandy invasion, June 6, 2019 (Photo by DELEHELLE Eric)
C-47s taking part in the 75th anniversary of the Normandy invasion, June 6, 2019

 

Another influential role in military aviation was flying "The Hump" from India into China. The expertise gained flying "The Hump" would later be used in the 1948 Berlin Airlift, in which the C-47 would play a major role.

U.S. Navy Douglas R4D and U.S. Air Force C-47 Skytrains unload at Tempelhof Airport during the Berlin Airlift in 1948
U.S. Air Force C-47 Skytrains and U.S. Navy Douglas R4Ds unload at Tempelhof Airport during the Berlin Airlift in 1948

The C-47 earned the informal nickname Gooney Bird in the operations during World War II.

Post World War II Usage of the C-47

More than 10,000 C-47 aircraft were manufactured at plants in Oklahoma City and in Santa Monica, CA.

After World War II thousands of surplus C-47s were converted to civil airline use. Other C-47s remained in active military service and played a critical role not only in the Berlin Airlift, but also in the Korean and Vietnam wars. In Vietnam, the C-47 served as a transport plane, but it also flew a variety of other missions, including ground attack as gunships, reconnaissance, and psychological warfare.

Surviving C-47 Skytrain and DC-3 Aircraft

Today, some remain in operation as private aircraft. Many other surviving C-47 aircraft have been restored and are on static display across the country.

Others have been maintained in air worthy condition, and can be seen on air tours and air shows.

The oldest surviving DC-3 is N133D, the sixth Douglas Sleeper Transport built in 1936.


Original C-47 Photos by the Airplanes Online Staff

Douglas C-47 Skytrain S/N 41-7723 in Tucson, Arizona
Douglas C-47 Skytrain S/N 41-7723
Douglas R4D-8 (C-117D) Super Gooneybird of the U.S. Marines S/N 50826 at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona. It is painted in the markings of the Marine Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron 27 (H&MS-27,) Cherry Point, North Carolina, 1968
Douglas R4D-8 (C-117D) Super Gooneybird of the U.S. Marines S/N 50826
C-47 Skytrain tail number N-2150761 at the Charles B. Hall Airpark
at the entrance to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
C-47 Skytrain on display at the Charles B. Hall Airpark at the entrance to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
C-47 Skytrain S/N 2150761 at the Charles B. Hall Airpark
C-47 Skytrain on display at the Charles B. Hall Airpark at the entrance to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
C-47A Skytrain "Hi Honey" S/N 43-16130 at the Barksdale AFB Global Power Museum in Bossier City, LA
C-47A Skytrain "Hi Honey" S/N 43-16130
Noseart on C-47A Skytrain, S/N 43-48098, "War Weary", Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum
Noseart on C-47A Skytrain, S/N 43-48098, "War Weary", Strategic Air Command and Space Museum
C-47K S/N44-76486 painted as AC-47 "Spooky" at the Air Force Armament Museum at Eglin AFB, Florida
AC-47 "Spooky"
C-47A Skytrain "Hi Honey" S/N 43-16130 at the Barksdale AFB airpark
C-47A Skytrain "Hi Honey" S/N 43-16130
Originally built as a C-47A-20-DK, with the US Army Air Force as S/N 42-93127. Transferred to the Naval Air Transport Service as BuNo 17193, later designated a C-47H. Subsequently used Civilian Registration N226GB with the US Department of Agriculture. Now on display at the South Dakota Air & Space Museum, Rapid City, South Dakota.
C-47A-20-DK, with the US Army Air Force as S/N 42-93127
Nose view of C-47 Skytrain, N226GB
Nose view of C-47 Skytrain, N226GB
Douglas C-47B Skytrain "City of Garibaldi", seen here on display at Tillamook, Oregon ... it was later moved to the Erickson Aircraft Collection in Madras, Oregon
Douglas C-47B Skytrain "City of Garibaldi"



Photos by Our Friends and Supporters

C-47 Skytrain "The Snafu Special", S/N 43-15073, Merville, France (Photo by DELEHELLE Eric)
C-47 Skytrain "The Snafu Special", S/N 43-15073, Merville, France

C-47 Skytrain "That's All, Brother", S/N 42-92847, Registration N47TB, Cherbourg, France, June of 2019. On June 6, 1944, "That’s All, Brother" led the main airborne invasion of Normandy. Piloted by Lt. Col John Donalson, the plane led over 800 C-47s that dropped over 13,000 paratroopers into a battle that led to the end of World War II. It is based at the Commemorative Air Force, Central Texas Wing in San Marcos, TX. (Photo by DELEHELLE Eric)
C-47 Skytrain "That's All, Brother", S/N 42-92847, Registration N47TB, Cherbourg, France, June of 2014

Nose view of C-47 Skytrain "That's All, Brother", S/N 42-92847, Registration N47TB, Cherbourg, France, June of 2019. (Photo by DELEHELLE Eric)
C-47 Skytrain "That's All, Brother", S/N 42-92847, Registration N47TB, Cherbourg, France, June of 2014

C-47A Skytrain, Registration F-AZTE, painted in Air France colors, at Cherbourg, France, June 4, 2014 (Photo by DELEHELLE Eric)
C-47A Skytrain, Registration F-AZTE, painted in Air France colors, at Cherbourg, France

C-47A Skytrain, Miss Montana, Registration N24320, S/N 42-24320. Built in 1944, it was later converted to a DC-3 and used for years hauling cargo and dropping smoke jumpers. Today it is owned by the Museum of Mountain flying in Missoula, Montana. It remains airworthy, and painted in Johnson Flying Service, Inc. livery. (Photo by DELEHELLE Eric)
C-47A Skytrain, Miss Montana, Registration N24320, S/N 42-24320

Close-up view of cockpit and nose art on the C-47A Skytrain, Miss Montana, Registration N24320, S/N 42-24320. (Photo by DELEHELLE Eric)
C-47A Skytrain, Miss Montana, Registration N24320, S/N 42-24320

DC-3-227B "Breitling", Registration HB-IRJ, in Cherbourg, France, June 2014. It was delivered to American Airlines in March of 1940 and christened the “Flagship Cleveland”. It was leased to the U.S. Army between 1942 and 1944. After the war, it served with Trans Texas Airways and other carriers. (Photo by DELEHELLE Eric)
DC-3-227B "Breitling", Registration HB-IRJ, in Cherbourg, France

Douglas C-53D-DO Sky Trooper, S/N 11750, Registration LN-WND, at Cherbourg, France, June 2014. The aircraft was built Douglas Aircraft Corporation at is Santa Monica, CA plant in 1942. The C-53D-DO does not have the cargo door and reinforced floors in the loading area as does the C-47. (Photo by DELEHELLE Eric)
Douglas C-53D-DO Sky Trooper, S/N 11750, Registration LN-WND, at Cherbourg, France

Douglas C-53D-DO Sky Trooper, S/N 11750, Registration LN-WND (Photo by DELEHELLE Eric)
Douglas C-53D-DO Sky Trooper, S/N 11750, Registration LN-WND, at Cherbourg, France

This C-47A-DL was delivered in April 1944 to the USAAF, today marked as "DC-3 Vennerne", Registration OY-BPB, Cherbourg, France June 2014 (Photo by DELEHELLE Eric)
This C-47A-DL was delivered in April 1944 to the USAAF, today marked as "DC-3 Vennerne", Registration OY-BPB

Nose view of the C-47A-DL delivered in 1944, today marked as "DC-3 Vennerne", Registration OY-BPB, Cherbourg, June 2014 (Photo by DELEHELLE Eric)
Nose view of the C-47A-DL delivered in 1944, today marked as "DC-3 Vennerne", Registration OY-BPB

C-47 "Prinses Amalia", Registration PH-PBA, in the markings of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, seen here at Cherbourg, France, in June of 2014 (Photo by DELEHELLE Eric)
C-47 "Prinses Amalia", Registration PH-PBA, in the markings of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

C-47 "Prinses Amalia", Registration PH-PBA, in the markings of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Cherbourg, June of 2014 (Photo by DELEHELLE Eric)
C-47 "Prinses Amalia", Registration PH-PBA, in the markings of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

Built as Douglas DC-3A-453, C/N 6346, "Air Veteran", Registration OH-LCH, is operated by the DC Association in Helsinki, Finland. Seen here in Cherbourg, France, June 2014, in the markings of Finnish Airlines. The aircraft was built for Pan American Grace Airways as NC34953, but was transferred to military service in 1942 as a C-53C-DO, S/N 43-2033. (Photo by DELEHELLE Eric)
Built as Douglas DC-3A-453, C/N 6346, "Air Veteran", Registration OH-LCH, is operated by the DC Association in Helsinki, Finland.

DC-3A-453, "Air Veteran", Registration OH-LCH. Seen here in Cherbourg, France, June 2014 (Photo by DELEHELLE Eric)
DC-3A-453, "Air Veteran", Registration OH-LCH. Seen here in Cherbourg, France

C-47 Dakota, "Drag 'em Oot", Registration N473DC, seen here in Cherbourg, France, June 2014. Built in 1944 and assigned S/N 42-100882. (Photo by DELEHELLE Eric)
C-47 Dakota, "Drag 'em Oot", Registration N473DC, seen here in Cherbourg, France, June 2014
C-47 Dakota, "Drag 'em Oot", Registration N473DC, seen here in Cherbourg, France, June 2014 C-47 Dakota, "Drag 'em Oot", Registration N473DC, seen here in Cherbourg, France, June 2014

Lisunov Li-2T, “Karman Todor”, a license-built Soviet version of the Douglas DC-3, Registration HA-LIX, at Cherbourg, June 4, 2014 (Photo by DELEHELLE Eric)
Lisunov Li-2T, “Karman Todor”, a license-built Soviet version of the Douglas DC-3, Registration HA-LIX

Nose view of C-47A N777YA (cn25634), "Arctic Liner". Began service with the US Army Air Force in 1944 with S/N 43-48373 in 1944. Later transferred to the US Navy, redesignated R4D-6 with tail number 17259. In subsequent years it was registered at N777YA.
Photo courtesy of Alaska Professional Photography
Nose view of DC-3 Artic Liner, Palmer, Alaska


C-47 Skytrain S/N 315174 on display at Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Washington
C-47 Skytrain S/N 315174 at Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Washington (photo by Michael Hoschouer)


C-47 Photos Courtesy of the Louisiana History Museum

C-47 "The Zephyr" on landing approach
C-47 "The Zephyr" on landing approach
C-47 VHCGO 412 on apron
C-47 VHCGO 412 on apron

 

More Information about the C-47 and DC-3

C-47 at the National World War II Museum

D-Day Squadron

C-47 That's All Brother

The DC-3/Dakota Historical Society

The DC-3 Commercial Transport at Boeing

DC-3 at the Delta Airlines Museum

American Airlines Flagship Detroit Foundation