When the Douglas C-47's ancestor, the Douglas DST (Douglas Sleeper Transport) first took to the air on December 17, 1935, Donald Douglas and his supremely competent crew looked forward to selling perhaps as many as 400 of the comfortable airliners over the next several years.
Not one of them, not Douglas, the company founder, nor Arthur Raymond, his chief engineer, nor Carl Cover, the chief test pilot, could have imagined that more than 13,000 of the type would be built, and that it would become one of the most effective warplanes in history.
Developed into the 21-passenger DC-3, the twin-engine beauty from Santa Monica revolutionized the world of air transport, becoming the best-selling airliner of its day. By 1940, a total of 430 DC-3s were carrying 90 percent of the world's airline travelers. The DC-3 had placed the United States well in the lead in commercial aviation, a position the nation would retain for the rest of the century, and beyond.
The U.S. Army Air Corps had watched the development of Douglas airliners and had purchased small numbers of the earlier military versions including the C-32, C-33, C-34, C-38, C-39, C-41, and C-42. (Ultimately, there would be more than 60 different designations assigned to variations of the basic design.)
The C-41 served as a test bed for the Army Air Corps' first order of 953 C-47s, which were built in a new Douglas plant in Long Beach, California. The all-metal Douglas C-47 featured strengthened floors, bucket seats, large loading doors, and a pair of sweet-running Pratt & Whitney R-1830 engines of 1,200 horsepower each. From that point, orders swelled so that a second factory had to be built in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Ultimately 10,632 aircraft of all versions were built in the United States, while 2,930 were built under license in the Soviet Union and 485 in Japan. (Initial production runs in those nations were built under license, but subsequent wartime conditions encouraged considerable unlicensed production.)
Variants of the basic aircraft were used by all the military services of the United States and by almost every Allied nation. Even the Luftwaffe flew the doughty Douglas design, using aircraft impressed from airlines of occupied countries.
Move on to the next section to find specifications for the Douglas C-47.