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C-46D Commando - Castle Air Museum

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C-46D Commando - Troop & Cargo Transport

C-46 Commando Castle Air Museum

The aircraft on display at Castle Air Museum is a Curtiss C-46D Commando troop and transport aircraft, serial number 44-77575, is painted with the with Flying Tiger emblem and the nickname "Honey Gal" on the nose and the words "Tiger Fleet" on the side.

The C-46 Commando was best remembered for service in Asia during WWII where these aircraft carried cargo over the Himalayas between India and China. Each plane could carry up to 50 troops or 15,000 pounds of cargo. Millions of pounds of supplies including fuel, bombs and ammunition, medical supplies, and spare parts, were transported to friendly forces on the other side of the "Hump". Each time an aircraft flew "the Hump" its ground crew painted a camel on its nose as seen in the photo below, right.

Camels marking trips over the "Hump"

The flight over the Hump was often a dangerous one, flying with heavy loads in poor weather at elevations of 12,000 to 14,000 feet, sometimes coming under enemy attack.

Although the C-46 had no armament to speak of, when Commando Captain Wally A. Gayda was menaced by a Japanese fighter, he defended himself by firing his Browning Automatic Rifle through his cabin window, killing the Japanese pilot.

C-46 Commando with Tiger emblem on nose.

Museum information states that this display C-46 was actually one of 180 aircraft assigned to Europe in late 1944 and participated in Operation Varsity in March 1945. Operation Varsity was the largest airborne operation during World War II, in which more than 16,000 Allied paratroopers were dropped into Germany.

After sustaining considerable damage from German anti-aircraft fire this aircraft was flown back to its base by the aircraft commander who received the Distinguished Flying cross for his actions. After WWII, it was turned over to the Japanese Home Guard. It was flown back to the US in 1970 and donated to the museum in 1984.

The C-46D was the last variant produced in large numbers (1,430) during WWII. Designed specifically for troop transport it included single doors on both sides for paratroop drops. The US Air Force continued to use the C-46D as a transport aircraft into the 1960s.