At first glance this might seem to be an unlikely subject for a book in a series on combat aircraft - after all the C-47/R4D was an unarmed transport aircraft - but it soon becomes clear that despite the lack of guns or bombs the Douglas transport aircraft was very much a combat aircraft, and made a major contribution to the eventual Allied victory.
This book covers a lot of ground. The C-47 was used in every part of the Pacific and CBI theatres, so we are taken to the frozen, fog-bound Aleutian Islands in the far north, the jungles of Burma and the Pacific islands, across the Himalayas, and to New Guinea and the Philippines.
The C-47 was used to carry out an equally wide range of missions. Even the most mundane of them - the transport of supplies away from the combat zone - could be made dangerous by weather or terrain. Far more often the C-47s would be operating within range of Japanese fighters, or even (as on Guadalcanal) within artillery range! The C-47 was also used to parachute supplies directly to the front line troops, a practise that greatly increased the effectiveness of many Allied operations. The variety of different supplies carried is most impressive, ranging from the unsurprising food and fuel through to major aircraft parts - engines, main wheels for the big bombers and even complete spare wings!
While the C-47 was used by paratroops in these theatres, they were more likely to be used to land troops on newly captured to secure the new position (a tactic also used by the Germans). This inevitably brought the transport aircraft into contact with the enemy. The same process happened in reverse, with the C-47 used to fly casualties away from the front line.
Some of the material on the organisation of the transport squadrons is a little dry, and there are perhaps rather too many sets of acronyms used from time to time, but both of these problems would be very hard to avoid given the subject.
The text is supported by a well chosen selection of eyewitness accounts, as wide ranging as the text itself. Perhaps most memorable is the account of a ‘standard’ mission in the Aleutian Islands from the point of view of the author.
This book serves as a valuable reminder of the dangers faced by the crews of these transport aircraft and the vital contribution they made to the eventual Allied victory.
Development and Early War Service
New Guinea 1942-43
Pacific Theatres 1942-44
New Guinea and the Philippines 1944-45
Appendices - complete list of C-47/ R4D units, scale drawing, notes on the colour plates
Author: David Isby