Troops, arms, food, and, as here, the wounded -- Douglas C-47s carried them all. "Aeromedical evacuations" such as this were, for injured soldiers, the first leg of long journeys to safety and, sometimes, home.

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Douglas C-47 Specifications

The versatile Douglas C-47 could be used for troop and cargo transport, dropping paratroops, towing a glider, medical evacuation, and virtually any other task assigned to it. It was turned into a troop-carrying glider by the removal of its engines and into a seaplane by the addition of huge floats manufactured by the EDO company.

The Dougas C-47 operated under all weather conditions on every continent around the world, and it did so with a grace and rugged reliability that made it a favorite of pilots and mechanics alike. One of the results of this affection was its many nicknames, the most enduring of which was "Gooney Bird."

When World War II ended, it would have been reasonable to expect the Douglas C-47 to serve for a few more years and then retire, going the way of the B-17s, P-47s, and other combat veterans. Many were retired, but instead of going to some boneyard for salvage, some were refurbished and became the nucleii of many airline start-ups. Available at bargain prices from U.S. government surplus sales, they had a stultifying effect upon the sale of new transport designs.

A Douglas C-47 attached to the Air Transport Command of the U.S. Army Air Forces stands at the ready in India in 1945. This plane would be loaded with supplies needed by American troops in China.

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New aircraft like the Convair 240 and Martin 404 had moderately better performance than the Douglas C-47, but were far more expensive to purchase and operate. As a result, the converted C-47s were mainstays of smaller airlines for many years. Other uses were found for the aircraft over time, and it has been successfully modernized with turbo-prop engines by several companies.

Flights from India to China were treacherous, taking Douglas C-47s over the Himalayas, where there was no place to land, and no turning back. The Chinese airfields that awaited the transports were regularly bombed and strafed by Japanese planes, so few landings were routine.

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Despite the age of the Douglas C-47s, almost every air force retained many of the craft in active service. The plane soldiered on, performing well for the United States during the 1948 Berlin Airlift, in Korea, and in Vietnam. The C-47's longevity derived from the conservative Douglas engineers building in more strength than was necessary, endowing the airplane with a virtually unlimited service life. No wonder it earned General Dwight D. Eisenhower's praise as one of the five most important weapons of World War II.

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