Remarkable feats with the C-47

General Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Commander, thought, that besides the Bazooka, the Jeep, and the atomic bomb, the C-47 was one of the four key instruments that helped the Allies to win the war. Below there are I couple of remarkable stories with the C-47 in the main role during the Second World War. A lot of C-47’s and DC-3’s are preserved and a lot are still flying today, a remarkable feat after so many years of operation.

The Victoria Cross awarded to F/Lt. David Lord

On September 19, 1944, when Operation Market-Garden two days after the bridge at Arnhem is taken by British paratroopers, the shortage of supplies begins to take their toll. Resupplying by air is the only option for the stricken troopers of the 1st Airborne Division. And so, on September 19, resupplying is started. Among the fleet of aircraft with supplies is the Dakota III, KG374, from the 271 Squadron. Pilot of KG374 is Flight Lieutenant David S.Lord who has a an impressive past of bringing supplies by air, as he did in the Middle-Eastdie, India and Normandy. For his work in Burma, Lord received the DFC.

Flight Lieutenant David S. Lord DFC VC and the Victoria Cross

During the briefing the crews are told that because of bad weather no fighter escort will be available, and that from an altitude of 1000 feet (300 meters) the dropping are to be done to be accurate,… oh, and yes, the German anti-aircraft could be intense. Just past 13.00 hours, C-47, KG374, with sixteen others depart from RAF Down Ampney, and head for Dropping Zone (DZ) ‘V’, northwest of Arnhem. The cargo in KG374 are eight containers with ammunition. The heavy overcast during the crossing the North sea, changed into a dense fog when the reach the coast of Holland. Navigator F/O Harry King has plot a new coarse, because he has no visual on the coastline. Despite the difficult to fly to their DZ, they struggle on, because they know that the only way to help those troopers on the ground is by air.

British para's with the resupplies from the air

Around 15.00 hours, King tells Lord they are approaching the Rhine River. KG374 docents through the clouds, and the crew see Nijmegen, and further towards the horizon, the Rhine. Flying at a height of 500 meters (1600+ feet), the German Flak is homing in on the C-47. Within a couple of minutes the starboard engine is hit. Pieces of metal rip through the thin skin of KG374, but no one of the eight crew members on board are hit by it. But the C-47 is in big trouble, flames from the engine are eating on the wing. But the plane is struggling on towards the DZ, still four minutes away. When King leaves his seat, to help to push the containers through the door, the crew notice that the rollers in the floor are damaged. By hand and pure strength, they manage to drop six containers from KG374. Because there are still two container on board, Lord decides to make another pass.

Dakota III, KG374 YS-DM, 271 Squadron

Unknown to the fact that the DZ is overrun by Germans, Lord turns the aircraft and makes another ‘run-in’. Despite the murderous fire from the ground, the crew wait for the green light, to drop the last two containers. When these are gone, Lord gives the order to his crew to leave the Dakota, and jump to safety. King assists in helping members of the crew to get into their parachutes, and moves tot the door. When King is standing in the door of the aircraft, KG374 her starboard wing explodes. King is thrown out of the stricken Dakota, and pulls at once the cord of his chute. When he is drifting towards Earth, the burning KG374 crashes in a field nearby, killing the other seven other members on board:
F/Lt. David S.A. Lord, piloot (30)
F/O Richard E.H. Medhurst, co-pilot, (19)
F/O Alexander F. Ballantyne, radio operator, (25)
Dvr. Leonard S. Harper, (29)
Cpl. Philip E. Nixon, (29)
Dvr. James Ricketts, (27)
Dvr. Arthur Rowbotham, (28)

King is picked up by members of the 10th Battalion Parachute Regiment. But the next day, he and 61 one other para’s are made prisoner by the Germans. King is a POW for the remaining moths of the war at Stalag Luft I, and returns on May 13, 1945 in England. On request of the Air Ministry, King goes back to Holland, to point the crash site of KG374 so the members on board can be identified.

As a remembrance to David Lord and his crew, the Dakota of the
Battle of Britain Memorial Flight flew in the nineties of the last century
as Dakota III, KG374 ‘YS-DM’, from No. 271 Squadron

On November 13, 1945, Lord received, as the single person of Transport Command, the highest award for gallantry, the Victoria Cross. The Dutch government awards Harry King with the Dutch Bronze Cross. In 1974 the church of All Saints in Down Amptey gets a glass window as a memento to 271 Squadron, and to David Lord and his crew.

Glider rescue after 'Market Garden'

On September 17, 1944, countless C-47’s full of paratroopers and gliders headed for the east of Holland. In no time, the earth was peppered with chutes and gliders. The Allies were of the opinion, at first, that gliders made a one way trip, and were afterwards wasted. But with the offensive imminent into Germany in the spring of 1945, they could get a shortage of gliders. They researched if some gliders were reparable and could be salvaged. Greatest problem was that the rains ha soaked the land where the gliders were lying. A technique was thought of, by placing a mat of some 100 feet in front of the glider, with at the end two poles, connected with each other at the top with a line.

A C-47 heads for the cable to pick it up
and tow the Waco glider into the sky

On a C-47 a six meters (20 feet) long pole was attached to the rear. This could be lowered during the flight. A cable from a pulley onboard the plane, was guided along the pole. At the end of the cable a hook was attached. The C-47 approached with a speed of a 160 km/h (100 m/h) towards the two poles where the towcable was waiting. The pole behind the C-47 had to slide along the cable between the poles, until the hook picked the cable up, then the pole let the puling cable free, and the tow started. The man on the pulley had to pull the cable slowly firm until the glider also reached a speed of 160 km/h.

C-47 #42-23710 turns in to make a second ‘snatch’
(a white cable (pick up cable) is firm at the rear,
and a dark line (towing cable) has already a Waco glider attached)

During the starting pull, the cable would reach a length of 400 meters (1200 feet). When a speed of 200 km/h (120 mi/h) was reached, the towing cable was pulled inboard to the standard length. A C-47 could pick up two gliders with the first one already behind the aircraft. In the picture above is a C-47 on its way to pick up a second glider (he already has one ‘snatched’). Pilot in this picture is Lt. Edward L. Jett and the crew chief Sgt. Louie Winters. Last one was responsible for the release of the pick up cable from the pole, and to lower this for a second ‘snatch’. The crew chief could, if the speed dropped below the 150 km/h (90 m/h), chop the towing cable with an ax.

Five C-47 were deployed for the recovery operation after Market-Garden, which did run from October 1944 till January 1945.

Check out this
which shows the pick up of a Waco glider by a C-47

(hit the 'return' button afterwards)

Fight with Japanese Zero fighter

One C-47 was given a victory over a won airbattle. During a cargo flight from Burma to China, with Captain Hal Scrugham and Lt. Elmer Jost at the helm, their C-47 is jumped onto by two Japanese Zero fighters. The pilots in the C-47, dive their aircraft towards the earth, and maneuvers their plane in such ways, that the first Zero is unable to score hits. The second Zero pilot calculated his hight wrong, and smashed into the top of the cabin of the C-47. Out of control, the Zero crashes moments later in a hill. The C-47, with a roof like a cabriolet, made a safe landing afterwards, and is granted an official air victory!

The 'cabriolet' C-47 after the collision with a Zero

Jumping at Corregidor Island

One of the trickiest jumps by paratroopers took place on February 16, 1945, during the jump on Corregidor Island, in the Bay of Manila, the Philippines.

The position of Corregidor Island in the Philippines
(Photo: Google Earth)

Three battalions of the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, together with an Airborne Engineer Company and a Battery Parachute Field Artillery they were given an almost impossible task. The dropzone (DZ) is small, just 350 meters by 250 meters (380yards/273 yards), and the fivty C-57’s can only release 6 to 8 men before they have reached the edge of the steep cliffs of the island. Every aircraft has to make a run in for at least three times!

A 'stick' jumps into the small DZ

But the jump is a success, and on February 27, the island has being taken. At least 4500 Japanese soldiers are killed, while hundreds are deadly trapped into the blown up tunnels on the island. Just 20 Japanese fighters surrender to the Americans. In comparison, the losses on American troopers are marginal, 225 are killed, and 645 are wounded, in a airborne mission which was one of the most difficult to do, on a very small DZ, at daylight, exposed from all sides to the Japanese defenders.

On the next page, some variants on the theme DC-3/C-47