Friday, August 24, 2012

Today at KBDR (cont'd)

In July 1943 the US Army Air Forces accepted delivery (from the Douglas Aircraft plant at Long Beach, CA) of a C-47A-40-DL Skytrain aircraft carrying serial number 42-24064 and contractor's number 9926.

By the next spring, the aircraft was serving with the 74th Troop Carrier Squadron at RAF Aldermaston under the command of Major Ralph L. Strean, Jr. The 74th TCS was a unit of the 434th Troop Carrier Group, a part of the 9th Air Force. (The photo above at left shows the flight line at RAF Aldermaston in 1944.)

In the pre-dawn darkness of 6th June 1944, 52 C-47's of the 434th TCG, almost certainly including '064 (now marked with "invasion stripes" and carrying the squadron identifier "ID" and tail letter "N") crossed the English Channel into occupied France. Each Douglas transport towed either a Waco CG-4A or a Airspeed Horsa glider laden with troops, equipment and supplies to reinforce elements of the 101st Airborne Division that had already jumped from other C-47's into battle.

Aircraft '064 continued to participate in supply operations as Allied forces advanced across France and into Germany. The 74th TCS relocated from England to France and on 3 April 1945, while parked at an airstrip in Gelnhausen, Germany (near Frankfurt), '064 was involved in a minor mishap, being struck by a landing aircraft. The damage was repaired within a week.

The D-Day veteran continued to serve the military until it was demobilized and sold as surplus in 1947. Records indicate that as of 1954, now known to the FAA as N74589, it was working for a living in the livery of West Coast Airlines, flying passengers in the Pacific Northwest.

After the conversion to turbine power swept through the airline industry, N74589 went through a series of owners. It was abandoned at least once and claimed by an FBO in compensation for unpaid bills. (See photo at left of '589 sitting in the weeds.)

But eventually, she found a good home. Now, the Normandy veteran has been cleaned up, her paint freshened, and her colors restored to those of her glory days. This morning, I found Douglas C-47A c/n 9926 at rest on the ramp at KBDR, waiting patiently for someone to come spin up her twin Pratt R-1830's and take her into the sky once more. In her 70th year, the old gal still gives us a thrill.


Gary said...

Nice to see the old gal still getting air time. Classic aircraft that provides a glimpse of history. Thanks for sharing.

Frank Van Haste said...

My pleasure, Gary. When I walked around the corner of the hangar and, looking east, saw that unmistakable silhouette backlit by the morning sun, it was one of those 'be-still-my-heart' moments.

BTW, a good part of my Dad's war was spent in an Air Transport Command engine shop at New Castle (DE) Army Air Field, overhauling those Pratt R-1830's and R-2000's for C-47's and C-54's. So the sight of that airplane is special to me.

Best regards,


R. Doug Wicker said...

What an absolutely touching tribute to a fine, old aircraft with lots of history.

Good job, Frank.