The C47 had many names and countless functions. Known as the Skytrain, Skytrooper, Dak, Dakota, Tabby, Spooky, Puff the magic dragon, the Doug and the most endearing the Gooney Bird.
The Douglas designers were quick to realize that the wider fuselage, compared to the DC2, permitted three or four abreast seating which gave double the passenger capacity in a cabin length the same as a DC2. So the DC2 became the DC 3 and before production ceased, over 800 had been built as commercial aircraft and 10,000 as military versions. Licensing agreements to produce DC3’s outside the US had been granted to Fokker in Holland, Mitsui Busson in Japan and Amtorg Trading Company in Russia. Quantities were manufactured in the USSR and Japan but Fokker only assembled and serviced Douglas built aircraft.
The first military derivative of the DC3 was a single C41 delivered to the US Army Corps in October 1938 for use as a staff transport. With the beginning of war production, military derivatives of the DC3 were designated C47 in the USAAC and R40 in the Navy and Marine Corps. Many civil DC3/DST aircraft were impressed by the US forces directly from the airlines, following the outbreak of war to help meet military transport demands. To make the DC3 passenger transport into the C47 cargo plane, Douglas designed modifications that included a large double cargo door with an integral passenger door, a beefed up floor with tie down fittings, folding bench type seating along the sides, a navigational astrodome aft of the flight compartment and stronger landing gear. Other changes were made as an aid to mass production to keep up with the military demand and additional assembly lines were set up at new factories At Long Beach in California and Oklahoma City. Production at the combined factories accelerated rapidly and reached 18.5 planes per day
The DC3 was popular for many reasons: she was larger, faster and more luxurious than previous planes, more economical to operate and safe. Stories of DC3 durability are legend around the world. Perhaps no other aircraft has been so historically abused and come off so well. Maybe the reasons the DC 3’s are still flying as no-one has yet designed a better aircraft for the particular job being done. It is often said the only replacement for a DC3 is another DC3.
Operating in all battle zones and throughout WWII the C47’s performed a variety of supporting roles such as cargo hauling, staff transport, training and communications, medic al evacuations- airlifting supplies and troops being the principal jobs. The Skytrans and Skytroopers of Troop Carrier Squadrons took part in all major airborne operations including Sicily, New Guinea, Normandy, Holland and Southern France. She became just as familiar to the tribal villagers of Africa, Asia and the South Pacific as she was to be the sophisticated pre war traveler. She was often the only link between the isolated combat units and their supply bases- the legend of the Gooney Bird grew on the exploits of overworked aircraft and their crew surmounting obstacles of terrain, weather and the enemy fire to complete near impossible missions.
Wikipedia, files licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
Author: Ad Meskens.
Author Björn Strey