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Douglas C-47 Skytrain Military Transport

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C-47 - Vital Weapon Without Armor


C-47 Skytrains - WWII American transport plane

Two C-47s carrying paratroopers for the invasion of southern France (Operation Dragoon). US Air Force photo.

The C-47 Skytrain military transport aircraft played a major role in War War II, and although it it had no armament of its own, Eisenhower is said to have called it one of the four most vital weapons used in winning the war. U.S.


The C-47 was manned by a crew of three and could carry a variety of loads up to 6,000 pounds, including, troops, wounded, medical personnel, guns, ammunition, and even a jeep.


Most Numerous Military Air Transport of WWII


c-47-skytrain-interior

Interior of C-47 Skytrain.
U.S. Air Force photo.

A military version of the Douglas DC-3 commercial airliner, the Skytrain, was first ordered in 1940. It was the most numerous form of military air transport during the war, and used by the U.S. Army Air Forces (C-47), U.S. Navy (R4D), as well as the RAF (Dakota). In the European theater it was often referred to as the “Gooney Bird”. A reinforced floor and a large cargo door were the main alterations made from the commercial version.


Skytrain in Every Theater & Major Battle


C-47 Skytrains dropping paratroopers and supplies

C-47s dropping hundreds of paratroops and supplies in support of Operation Plunder. IWM photo.

The C-47 Skytrain operated in every theater of war and every major battle, including important roles in operations in the Pacific theater including the Battle of Guadalcanal, and the European theater including D-day at Normandy, Market Garden in the Netherlands, the Siege of Bastogne in Belgium, Operation Plunder in Germany (crossing of the River Rhine), and in the India-Burma theater flying the “Hump” (Burma-India airlift).


According to Editors, Scott, Rainey, and Hunt in The Logistics of War, (p110) “... personnel involved in the "Hump" airlift, a 500-mile aerial pipeline over the treacherous Himalayan Mountains, flew approximately 180,000 missions delivering more than 650,000 tons of war material.”


C-47 Skytrains transporting paratroopers over Belgium

American C-47 aircraft transporting paratroopers to Holland during Operation Market-Garden in September 1944. IWM photo.

In the European theater, C-47s towed gliders and dropped paratroopers behind enemy lines. When used for paratrooper drops, C-47s were flown in a “V” formation of three groups, each group consisting of a “V” of three aircraft. The formation planes could stretch out for miles. Some aircraft had radar to more precisely locate drop areas in overcast weather.


C-47 - Vietnam War & Civilian Use Today

After playing an important role in WWII, the reliable C-47 Skytrain remained in active military service, participating in the 1948 Berlin Airlift, the Korean War and the War in Vietnam, and can still be found in civilian use.


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* C-47 Skytrain facts

Category Transport plane
Manufacturer Douglas Aircraft Company
First flight 1941
Used in WW II by
U.S. Army Air Force
US Air Force
Royal Air Force
Number built

Over 9,000 during WWII
Over 10,000 total
Cruising speed 160 mph
Max. speed 224 mph
Altitude 26,400 feet service ceiling
Range 1,600 miles
* Numbers are approximate