Few aircraft are as well known
or were so widely used for so long as the C-47 Skytrain, nicknamed "Gooney
Bird." The aircraft was adapted from the DC-3 commercial airliner which first
appeared in 1936. The first C-47s were ordered in 1940 and by the end of WWII,
over 10,000 had been procured for the USAAF and US Navy. They carried personnel
and cargo, and in a combat role, towed troop-carrying gliders and dropped paratroops
into enemy territory.
The most widely used military transport in World War II, the C-47 also saw
service with the U.S. Navy as the R4D and with the RAF as the Dakota.
After WWII, many C-47s remained in USAF service, participating in the
Berlin Airlift and other
peace-time activities. One hundred C-47J aircraft were reengineered 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 designation C-117D.
During the Korean Conflict, C-47s hauled supplies, dropped paratroops, evacuated
wounded and dropped flares for night bombing attacks. In Vietnam, the C-47 served
again as a transport, but it was also used for a variety of other missions which
included flying ground attack, reconnaissance, and psychological warfare missions.
The AC-47 "Spooky", a heavily-armed gunship
version of the C-47, was equipped with three side-firing 7.62mm Miniguns and was
nicknamed "Puff the Magic Dragon."
The last C-47 was retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1975.