Douglas C-47 / R4D Skytrain / Dakota Color Photographs Part III

C47_21_80-G-K-5297_R4D_Flag aircraft of Rear Admiral Osbourne B. Hardison, chief of Naval Air Primary Training, is checked out by ground crew at NAS New Orleans, circa early 1945
Not all R4D’s were camouflaged. This is the aircraft of Rear Admiral Osbourne B. Hardsion, Chief of Naval Air Primary Training. His two-star flag placard is visible beneath the pilot’s window. (80-G-K-5297)

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Another Navy R4D in a natural metal finish, this one is assigned to the Naval Air Transport Service.

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Another mission frequently assigned to the Dakota was casualty evacuation, as being performed by the Royal Air Force example seen here.

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A patient being transferred to a Skytrain with invasion stripes. This photo provides a good view of the boarding ladder and inside of the cargo door.

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A similar view of a U.S. Marine casualty being evacuated from Vella Lavella in the Solomon Islands.

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Not the clearest of photographs but some interesting markings with yellow and red identification panels. An earlier “55” aircraft identification number has been removed aft of the yellow 25.

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A paratrooper poses in front of a rather weathered C-47, the nose of which has been repainted. Compare the size and positioning of the Troop Carrier Command lettering with that of the photo of the paratrooper from last week’s post here:  https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2021/06/09/douglas-c-47-r4d-skytrain-dakoda-color-photographs-part-ii/

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42-92862, a Skytrain of the 32nd Troop Carrier Squadron.

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Sad Sack hauling cargo is the subject of this nose art.

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Puddle-Jumper displaying some interesting details of propeller markings. Note the white trim to the carburetor intakes. One has to wonder if the nose art is intentional or the victim of an over-zealous removal of another marking. (LIFE Magazine)

Douglas C-47 / R4D Skytrain / Dakota Color Photographs Part II

42-100646 displays one of the more extremely faded paint jobs. She was assigned to the 47th Troup Carrier Squadron and is seen in Germany just after the war.

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A formation of C-47’s showing various degrees of wear. The vertical stabilizer appears to have faded more rapidly, likely the assembly was painted with a different Olive Drab paint formulation by a sub-contractor, similar to the B-17. The wing in the foreground shows details of the weathering.

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The same formation as the photo above. The factory Olive Drab finish on some of the C-47’s has shifted to a variety of browns and buffs.

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The C-47 was also utilized as a glider tug, seen here towing the Waco CG-4 Hadrian.

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Paratroopers of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion prepare to board a C-47. The “Triple Nickles” were a segregated unit utilized as “smoke jumpers” in the Pacific Northwest. Their mission was to extinguish fires set by Japanese Fu-Go incendiary balloons, 9,300 of which were released during the winter of 1944-45.

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Paratroopers don their parachutes. 43-48910 displays extensive fading and the remnants of the code “CK –“ on the fuselage aft of the cockpit.

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Lieutenant Clifford Allen smiles for the camera. Each paratrooper carried 150 feet of rope to enable them to descend safely in the event their parachute became tangled in trees or the mountainous terrain.

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Troop Carrier Command C-47’s bank over the Oregon back country.

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A close up of the nose of C-47 42-92095 showing details of the Troop Carrier Command insignia and nose art. The number “442” has replaced at least two previous identifiers.

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This is the nose of 43-48910, also seen in previous photographs. The “CK –“ code behind the cockpit is visible, as are the remains of other codes under the Troop Carrier Command insignia. These aircraft would make for interesting modeling subjects!

Douglas C-47 / R4D Skytrain / Dakota Color Photographs Part I

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The Douglas C-47 Skytrain (R4D for you Navy types) is one of the classic designs of aeronautical engineering. Rugged and versatile, many are still flying today, almost eighty years after they were built – a testament to their design and construction.

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From a modeling perspective the C-47 offers many interesting possibilities. Here a USAAF C-47 is seen over Mindanao, Philippines in 1945. While the tail markings are somewhat unusual, the high degree of fading and wear to the finish is common to the type and can be a challenge to replicate.

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An adaptation of the DC-3 civilian airliner, Douglas produced over 10,000 C-47’s during the Second World War. Interestingly, the Japanese obtained a license to produce the design before the war, and built over 500 as the L2D. Similarly, the Soviet Union produced approximately 5,000 (counts vary) as the Lisunov Li-2.

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A U.S. Navy R4D is seen at Ciudad Trujillo, Dominican Republic. It was called Ciudad Trujillo from 1936 to 1961, but is known as Santo Domingo today. Notice the paint has worn off the back of the propeller blades.

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Three Navy R4D’s in flight, demonstrating the effectiveness of their Blue Gray / Light Gray camouflage.

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The British received around 2,000 C-47’s under Lend Lease and gave the type the name “Dakota”. After the war many were distributed to Commonwealth and former colonial countries. Several of these aircraft are still flying today, including some with the South African Air Force in the maritime patrol role. 

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42-32892 served with the Soviet Air Force and was transferred to Aeroflot after the war. It crashed on the Taymyr Peninsula on 13APR47 with 9 fatalities, 28 were later rescued. The aircraft is pictured as it remained in 2012.

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Many civilian DC-3’s were pressed into military service before and at the beginning of the war, one of which may be this aircraft pictured in pre-war USAAC markings and insignia.

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Nose art on several C-47’s were photographed for LIFE Magazine at Townsend, Australia in 1943. These are two examples.

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Lost in Shangri-La Book Review

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Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II

By Mitchell Zuckoff

Hardcover in dustjacket, 384 pages, bibliography, notes, and index

Published by Harper Collins, 2011

Language: English

ISBN-13: 978-0-06-198834-9

Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches

In the central mountains of Dutch New Guinea lies a valley, cut off from the outside world by mountainous terrain and jungle.  In the valley thousands of people lived in isolation, a stone-age society with their own unique culture and traditions.  The area was uncharted and did not show up on any of the maps of the time.  During WWII the USAAF became aware of the valley and its people while searching for areas suitable for constructing new airfields.  The reconnaissance flights were tricky, requiring the aircraft to fly through passes in the mountains before dropping into the valley, often through clouds and shifting winds.

By May 1945 the war had moved on and New Guinea had become a backwater.  Japanese troops who remained on the island were disorganized and avoided contact with the Americans.  Likewise, Allied troops avoided the cannibalistic tribes which inhabited other parts of the island.  To break the boredom, additional personnel began tagging along on the reconnaissance flights to the newly-discovered valley, eager to see its natural beauty and the villages scattered throughout.  Little was known about the people there, so imagination filled in the gaps and soon the inhabitants became seven-foot-tall cannibals, the valley’s natural beauty causing it to be called Shangri-La.  As the stories spread, the local command began organizing sight-seeing flights for personnel.

On 13MAY45 a C-47 transport named the Gremlin Special failed to clear a ridge and crashed in the valley.  Of the twenty-four people on board only three survived – Lt. John McCollom, who lost his twin brother in the crash; Sgt. Ken Decker; and WAC Corporal Margaret Hastings.  Both Decker and Hastings were injured.

This is an excellent story and author Mitchell Zuckoff does an outstanding job telling it.  The rescue effort was considerable and involved air drops of various supplies and a small unit of Filipino-American paratroopers to assist.  Only after the paratroopers were inserted was the question of how to get everyone out addressed.  I was surprised to see the perspective of the local tribesmen included.  Their society and culture has since been studied by anthropologists and Zuckoff flew to New Guinea to conduct interviews with those who witnessed the events as children.  This is a fast read which I can recommend without hesitation, both as an adventure story and to those interested in military history.

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Airfix Douglas C-47 Skytrain in 1/72 Scale

This is the new mold Airfix C-47A in 1/72 scale.  It is a fine kit in all respects, it builds up quickly and with no surprises.  The interior is perfectly adequate, very little can be seen in any case and I would advise against adding additional detail as the effort will be wasted.  I did add ignition wiring to the engines as these can be seen, and I replaced the kit wheels with aftermarket resin which offered a small improvement.  I added brake lines from wire, and Uschi antenna lines.  Kit decals were used, and represent “Kilroy is Here” of the 92nd Troop Carrier Squadron / 439th Troop Carrier Group operating from Devon, England for the Normandy landings.  The invasion stripes showed through the fuselage insignia so those were doubled up with spares from the decal stash.  A nice kit overall, one which can be recommended without reservation.

Build thread here:  https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/?s=airfix+douglas+c-47

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Airfix Douglas C-47 Skytrain Build in 1/72 Scale Part III

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The first step in painting for me is a coat of Mr. Surfacer 1000.  This is a final check for seams and other construction errors – anything amiss is sanded back and re-primed.  Even at this stage everything is applied in the direction of airflow, that way any variation in the finish is a contribution to the final weathering instead of a flaw.

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The iconic image of the C-47 is dropping paratroopers behind the Normandy beaches, so invasion stripes are in order.  White was applied first then masked, then black and more masking.  Both the white and black were toned down a bit, the pure colors are just too stark when applied to a model.

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The aircraft I’m modeling had Medium Green 42 disruptive patches on the wings and tail surfaces, these were masked off with poster putty.

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Next the basic camouflage of Olive Drab over Neutral Gray was applied using Mr. Color paints.  Both of these colors were darkened, then lighter mixes were applied to vary the tone.  The control surfaces were then masked off and shot with Olive Drab lightened with Light Gray and Orange to simulate the fading seen on the canvas material.

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All masks are removed revealing the basic finish.

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Next the de-icer boots are masked off and painted using Mr. Color Tire color.  The entire model then was sprayed with a layer of Glosscoat in preparation for weathering and decals.

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I had intended to model this C-47 of the 98th Troop Carrier Squadron at Devon, and had purchased the Xtradecal sheet for this aircraft.  Unfortunately, Xtradecal missed the chalked number “1” seen between the cargo door and the invasion stripes so I had to use the kit decals.

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The kit decals are for the well-known “Kilroy is Here” C-47 of the 92nd Troop Carrier Squadron.  The older Italeri C-47 also had a boxing with these markings.  The Airfix decals worked well and include all the stenciling, the only flaw is the white is a little transparent so the invasion stripes show through the national insignia on the fuselage.  I doubled those up with spares from the decal stash and all was well.

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Panel lines were enhanced with Tamiya Panel Line Accent Color, black for the panel lines and brown to simulate oil leaks from the radial engines (which always seem to leak).  The excess was wiped off in the direction of airflow, so any streaking is a feature, not a flaw!

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After all the fiddly bits are attached the model is sealed with Testors Dullcoat and rigged with Uschi elastic line.  Overall a rather straight-forward build with no surprises.  Now if only I can find a set of those EDO floats …

Airfix Douglas C-47 Skytrain Build in 1/72 Scale Part II

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Airfix has made some interesting engineering choices with this kit.  The wing center section spans across the underside of the fuselage.  The wing spar sits on top of this piece, and forms the back of the wheelwells and the wing leading edge landing lights.  Should be no problem getting the dihedral tight on this one!

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The wing panels fit nicely, just follow the build sequence in the instructions.  The after part of the wing fillet is molded as a separate piece which is unusual, but this fit well and caused no issues.

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The engines are nicely molded.  You could invest in some aftermarket engines but they are not required to get a good build.

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I did add ignition wires to mine, a simple improvement which improves the detail.  The wires are made from very fine copper electronics wire.  These were folded in half and superglued into holes drilled behind the harness ring.

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Painting propellers can be a pain.  Most U.S. propellers have yellow tips and a polished hub.  I painted these first and protected the tips with masking tape.  The hub is a bit more difficult to mask, so I made a slotted piece of card to slip over the blades to protect the hub from overspray.  Airfix provides both broad and narrow prop styles so there is a set for the spares box.  While I was at it I painted up both sets so future me will have a little less to do next time.

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All the transparencies are installed and protected with Eduard masks.  I then sprayed Mr. Surfacer 500 to check seams.  The kit really assembles quickly and with no drama.  After this is smoothed she’ll be ready to prime.