C-47 2019-07-08T11:18:30-05:00

Project Description

MPH

230

WEAPONS

0

SEATS

32
Don King Diary
John Nickerson Diary
Overlord Jump Roster

C-47

Role:  Military Transport

National Origin: United States

Manufacturer: Douglas Aircraft Company

First Flight: 1941

Primary User: United States Air Force, Royal Air Force, US Navy, Royal Canadian Airforce

Number Built: 10,174

The Douglas C-47 Skytrain or Dakota (RAF designation) is a military transport aircraft developed from the civilian Douglas DC-3 airliner. It was used extensively by the Allies during World War II and remains in front line service with various military operators. The C-47 differed from the civilian DC-3 in numerous modifications, including being fitted with a cargo door, hoist attachment, and strengthened the floor, along with a shortened tail cone for glider-towing shackles, and an astrodome in the cabin roof.

The specialized C-53 Skytrooper troop transport started production in October 1941 at Douglas Aircraft’s Santa Monica, California plant. It lacked the cargo door, hoist attachment and reinforced floor of the C-47. Only a total of 380 aircraft were produced in all because the C-47 was found to be more versatile.

During World War II, the armed forces of many countries used the C-47 and modified DC-3s for the transport of troops, cargo, and wounded. The U.S. Naval designation was R4D. More than 10,000 aircraft were produced in Long Beach and Santa Monica, California and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Between March 1943 and August 1945 the Oklahoma City plant produced 5,354 C-47s

About MAFM’s C-47 “Sky King”

If DC-3’s could talk they would no doubt all have some incredible stories to tell. Well, 832 can’t talk, but she was blessed very early on to be commanded by a pilot  (Lt. Don King) who had the foresight to document incredible details while flying  832 from Miami to North Africa  where it was one of the very first aircraft to drop American troops during Operation Husky in Sicily. The aircraft went on to Italy to take part in operation  (Avalanche), then to France where it dropped troops on D-Day during Operation Neptune. This mission is perfectly documented from the personal log, diary, official jump roaster, the details of each person aboard 832 on that day. The last behind the line’s mission Don flew was in Holland during Operation Market Garden where over a period of 3 days, # 832 dropped paratroopers, pulled a Waco glider with supplies, a jeep and crew and on the last day dropped bundles behind the line. Being that Don flew very early on in North Africa, he rotated out of the squadron after Market Garden. We have documentation that shows the 53rd TCS taking part in operation Varsity making one parachute drop, but we do not have the details as too who the pilot was and the crew it dropped.          

 42-32832 was built as a C-47-DL  in Santa Monica CA and delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force on February 11, 1943.   It was then assigned to the  53rd Troop Carrier Squadron.  On May 4, 1943, Secret orders were given to move this airplane along with 13 other C-47’s to  North Africa via the Southern Atlantic route. Of the 13  planes that made that trip, #832 is the only survivor from the war in Europe.      

 This aircraft may in-fact have the most documented WWII history of any DC-3 flying today. On May 23, 2008, David Elliott made contact with Scott Glover On May 23, 2008, to introduce himself and simply verify a serial number! David’s father (Billy Elliott) was a pilot with the 53rd TCS, and David mistakenly thought that his father had been the co-pilot on #832 on the trip to North Africa, and as a result, spent countless hours researching the history of this aircraft.   As it turned out his father was actually listed on the load manifest as a passenger from Florida to North Africa and ended up flying another airplane 42-100983    

 The following paragraphs are documents placed in chronological order from start to end that we have for this plane.  The key, of course, is the diary written in “present tense” by Lt. Don King available for download above.     What vision he had to write with such detail with very little emotion as he was truly “documenting” a historical event.      

This is a living document that is continually being added to as more information is learned about this aircraft, its crew and the people who jumped out behind enemy lines during America’s involvement in WWII

This aircraft was built as a C-47-DL sn 42-32832 and delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force on February 11, 1943. It was assigned to the 53rd Troop Carrier Squadron and on May 4, 1943, Secret orders were received:

” … proceed in aircraft as indicated from Morrison Field, West Palm Beach, Florida via Marreckech, French Morocco, North Africa to Western Task Force, reporting upon arrival there to the Commanding General, North African Theater of Operations for duty and assignment”

CREW & PASSENGERS ON TRIP TO AFRICA INCLUDED:
C-47 42-32832 0264-K-2
P-1st Lt John L. Wood, 0-660851
CP-2nd Lt Donald E. King, 0-737432
E-T/Sgt Clifford V. Moadows, 13033945
A. Pvt Waltor E. Schryvor, 32474132
Pass-Pfc Isaac H. Kidd, 34510382
Pass-2nd Lt Billy W. Elliott, 0-737382

On the trip to Africa, the aircraft was piloted by John L. Wood, who shortly thereafter piloted a sister ship C-47 42-82842. Lt. Donald E. King stayed with this aircraft as a pilot throughout the war in Europe. His son (Kevin King) provided a detailed diary of the missions flown by his dad including (Husky, D-Day, Market Garden).

OPERATION HUSKY I

Allied Invasion of Sicily – Airborne Spearhead

9 July 1943
Kairouan Airfield, Tunisia to DZ ‘Q,’ south of Niscemi, Sicily on the Niscemi-Gela road

PARACHUTE DROP (NIGHT)

U.S. 82nd AIRBORNE DIVISION

505th Regimental Combat Team (RCT), includes:

1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions of 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), plus 3rd Battalion of 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (attached to 505th RCT for jump) *

* 3rd Battalion of the 504th PIR transported by 61st TCG: 53rd TCS (Serial 1)

Objective 3/504th: drop just south of Niscemi, a town about ten miles inland from Gela; establish and defend roadblocks at the key intersection of the road running south from Niscemi to the invasion beaches at Gela, Sicily.

The 1st major allied airborne operation

The Following is an excerpt from Don Kings Diary, detailing the mission

July 9, 1943    

18:00–We have been briefed on our first mission.  The invasion of Europe has begun.  We are the first Squadron to put American troops on European soil–our target is Sicily!

We stand around operations waiting to be taken to our planes.  We are listening to the phonograph and talking.  The truck comes and we leave for our planes.

19:00–We are at our stations–1st. Lt. John L. Wood as the pilot and myself as co-pilot,  S/Sgt. Clifford V. Meadows as an engineer, and PFC. Walter E. Schryver as the radio operator.  We are to fly the left wing of the leading flight of our group. We start our motors and taxi to the south end of the runway for take-off. We take off and circle the field to get into formation and pick up the other groups that are to join us. When we have our formation we head out on a course of 50 degrees until we reach the coast and turn to 126 degrees.  All goes well and there are hundreds of planes in our formation.

20:00—We reach our first check-point—an island off the coast of Tunis.  We turn to a heading of 93 degrees and head for Malta.  We have all our lights on now. 

21:00—We turn out our lights and no one can smoke.  We do not see Malta but know we have passed in the dark.  I am doing most of the flying because it is dark and I am on the right side and can see better.  We turn to 10 degrees.

22:00—We fly until we come to Sicily.  All goes well and is quiet.  We see many surface vessels waiting 10 miles offshore for a signal to land troops.  We follow the coast of Sicily until we come to Gela and turn inland to our DZ.  As we turn inland we meet a hail of machine gun fire and some anti-aircraft.  It is over in minutes and we drop our troops in the DZ.  We see Gela in flames and completely destroyed.  Earlier in the evening a flight of P-40’s went over at a high altitude and drew the Italian searchlights and another flight came in low and shot them out so there are no searchlights on us.  B-17’s came over before us to pick up the radar and distract their fire.  All is dark except for the flares the Italians and Germans are shooting up in their vain attempt to locate us.

23:00—We lose altitude again and head directly home—255 degrees—none of our ships are lost, but other Squadrons have lost a few.  Everything goes well all the way home and everyone lands safely by 01:30.  We have most of the camp out to meet us and the cooks have some coffee and donuts for us.  Not much excitement for an invasion.

OPERATION HUSKY II

Sicily – Airborne Reinforcement

11 July 1943
Kairouan Airfield, Tunisia to Gela-Farello landing ground at 1st Division beachhead, Gela, Sicily

PARACHUTE DROP (NIGHT)

U.S. 82nd AIRBORNE DIVISION

504th Regimental Combat Team (RCT), includes:

1st and 2nd Battalions of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Objective: Reinforcement of troops at Gela, Sicily – ordered by General Patton.

The disastrous friendly-fire incident resulted in 23 planes shot down, and 37 planes damaged but able to return to base.

Squadron Awarded Presidential Unit Citation

JULY 11, 1943—(My 24th birthday)  

19:00—We are briefed and ready to be taken to our stations.  We have the same crew with the exception of Sgt. Crockett as engineer and Lt. Elmore as navigator.  Among the paratroopers is a Major, a Capt., and a 1st Lt.  They are a rough looking bunch of boys.  We are taking 1st Lt. Walter Blair along for the ride knowing that there won’t be much tonight.  We are to fly the right wing this time and be deputy Squadron leader.

20:00—We are in take-off position all talking and having a big time.  We take off and circle the field getting into formation and picking up the other groups we are to take—we are the last Squadron in our group tonight.  We start on the same course as before—our target is nearly the same spot.  We are on our own tonight because they are to have things well under control—no P-40’s or B-17’s.

21:00—We take up a heading of 88 degrees until we reach an island halfway to Malta.  Our altitude is 100 feet—those following us are lower.  It is a beautiful night and visibility is good.

22:00—We are near to Malta and have changed course to 96 degrees.  All is going well and we are laughing and joking.

23:00—We can see Malta clearly tonight and circle it to the south and east and turn to 7 degrees and to Sicily.  Twenty minutes from Malta I am to give the paratroopers their warning to stand up and hoop up.  We still have our formation lights on although we don’t need them.  We also have our amber recognition light on.  John says “This is just like practicing back in the U.S.”  He no more than gets the words out than a surface vessel which is directly below us cuts loose with a hail of machine gun fire.  We know it is an Allied ship and we have our recognition lights on so we really swear at them.  We are hit but not bad. Ehnot and Froom on the left wing must be hit bad but they stay in formation.  Machine gun fire and the anti-aircraft fire is thick on the Island of Sicily now.  We are still at 100 feet but start to gain altitude because of hills on the Island.  We reach the Island and find one of the paratroopers is hit but insists on jumping just the same.  We fly inland for 2 minutes and turn to 320 degrees.  As we turn, Ehnot and Froom do a beautiful chandelle to the left and never pull out.  We see them burning on the ground and John said, “Ehnot just crashed”, and I said, “He did?” It didn’t bother us in the least because we were so busy dodging machine gun fire.  We had to leave formation and make a 360 degree turn to the left to get over a hill.  We were really on our own now and all hell has broken loose.  We get to our DZ.  The major says,  “Friend or enemy we’ll kill those bastards!” and they jump from 600 feet above the ground.  After the jump, we push the nose down and throttles and pitch ahead to 50 inches and 2750 rpms.  Whoever says a C-47 won’t do 220 mph with racks on is crazy—we did it.  We are pretty badly shot up by now and are beginning to wonder.  We don’t see another ship.

24:00—The coast is a solid wall of machine gun fire and anti-aircraft fire.  We wonder how long we can last.  Lt. Elmore is hit and knocked down-he has the radio operator take off his parachute while he fumbles for sulfanilamide.  He is just scratched but scared.  Crockett comes running up and says our tail is badly shot up.  He and Lt. Blair go to look at it.  Blair says our tail wheel is shot nearly off but none of the cables are hit.  A slug comes through from behind and rips into my parachute, setting it afire and spills it all over. Blair grabs the fire extinguisher but decides to use his canteen of water because the chemicals in the extinguisher are injurious to the skin.  He puts it out O.K.  John is flying now and we are just skimming the hills at 200 mph.  We fly up every ravine we can, hunting for a way out of this wall of fire.  We finally find a space between 2 concentrations of fire where we will be out of range of them…We duck up a ravine headed for the coast.

01:00—We pull up over a hill at the end of the ravine and we are met by a hail of machine gun fire from 15 or 20 ships lying just off the coast.  As we reach the coast our altimeter reads 100 feet below sea level.  We are still doing 200 mph barely out of the water and waving and dodging to miss ships and fire.  John is yelling, “If they get me to grab it quickly.”  We are hit some more and John turns off the battery switches to prevent fire.  We think if we get through this we will be the only ones to return.  We have our recognition lights and shooting flares to tell them we are friendly ships but they continue to shoot.  It looks like John just dipped the left wing in the water so I caution him.  We are finally out of this fire and try to find our position.  We think we are far enough at sea by this time to be safe.  We no sooner relax than hell breaks loose again.  We shoot more flares but it doesn’t do any good.  We are finally out of it and I notice that our ship is running rough and I know John noticed it too but neither of us mentions it because there is no use to worry the rest of the crew.  We pick our heading of 255 degrees and head for home—come what may we are ready now.  We are surprised to see another ship pull into formation with us because we thought we would be the only ones lucky enough to get through that hail of lead.  We don’t know for sure where we are and our radio is shot out so we hold 255 degrees and hope and pray we make it.  We know we will hit Africa somewhere but don’t know where so we save one flare in case someone challenges us.  We are at 1000 feet and it is cloudy.  We have a drink of water and a cigarette and every time John moves his cigarette I jump because it looks like a tracer.  Every cloud reflected on the water looks like a ship and we both jump.  I am doing most of the flying now because John had his share tonight.

02:00—We see the coast of Africa and by luck, we hit it in the right spot.  We see Sousse below and a convoy of ships in the harbor.  We turn all of our lights on and shoot a flare.  They don’t shoot at us—thank God.  We turn to 240 degrees and fly until we recognize our position.  The British beacon by our field is flashing GZ so we know we are home but which is our field?  We head directly at the beacon and cross a field on the way.  We see the big red “M” at the end and recognize our own field.  We decide to make an emergency landing because we think both of our tires are shot up.  We have no more flares to shoot so we change our minds and decide to make a normal landing.   I put the landing gear down and wait for the pressure to rise – it barely moves and we look at each other and all of a sudden it jumps up and we know our landing gear is down.  We stick our heads out of the windows and by the use of flashlights see that our wheels are all right but can’t tell if there is air in them or not.  We turn on our approach and put down flaps and John lands – a beautiful landing.  We taxi to the end of the runaway with our tail in the air because we don’t know if we have a tailwheel or not.  We finally have to set it down and we all hang on – it is there and holds!  We taxi to the parking place and shut off the motors.  We sit there a minute realizing we are the luckiest men in the world.  We finally get out to look at the damage.  It is just like a sieve and has 4 holes big enough to stick your head in.  Lt. Elmore finds out it was a piece of the radio that hit him.  We find that our Squadron lost only one ship – Ehnot and Froom in ship 918.  Several are shot up as bad and some didn’t get hit at all.  The old ground really feels good.  We now have 2 white parachutes to paint on our ship.   It is hard to tell when our ship will be ready to go again.  I wish we could go back right away.  We have the Navy to thank for a most enjoyable evening – – I hope I can do as much for them some time.  

Below, Lt. Don King  Details general supply missions from July 28, 1943, to August 8, 1943

July 28, 1943

05:00 – – Our first Sgt. Awakens us at this unearthly hour and tells us we take off at 07:15.  We get up, eat breakfast, and get to the operations hut by 07:00.  We find out it is to be a freight run to Palermo, Sicily on the north coast.  We have to go to field “D”, which is south-east of Kairouan to load up.   

07:30 – – We take off and are at field “D” in 40 minutes.  We get loaded by 09:00  In our ship and we have our same crew and Lt. Wrang as navigator.  We are to lead the 4th flight.  We have a jeep and trailer, 17 stretchers, 5 life rafts, and our emergency radio.  Our VHF and IFF is still not working.  We take off at 09:15 and head for the coast.

10:00 – – We are well on our way.  The weather is bad and visibility is poor.  We are loaded pretty well so we take it slow.  We see Pantallaria on our right and know we are still on course.  We have to fly a souse formation because of rough air.  We are losing 2000 feet a minute and then going up 2000 feet a minute.  It is really a job to stay on course.  We have to stay fairly close together in order to see each other but not so close we are thrown together by the rough air.  

11:00 – – We sight a few ships below us and do not fly over them because we know they will shoot at us.  All is going well and we see Sicily and are still on course.  We turn to 120 degrees which we find out later is wrong.  We fly for a ½ hour and our navigator says we are over enemy territory, but the formation continues on.  Finally, they turn back and head up the coast at about 200 degrees.  It is really a relief to see friendly territory.  We sight Palermo and the field.  It is surrounded by mountains on all sides.  The runaway is only 2200 feet long so we circle the field and come in slow and short using all of the runaways.  We get stopped but none too soon.  We get unloaded and look around the place.  No signs of bombs but it has been strafed.  German and Italian planes litter the field and surrounding territory.  The people are friendly and say they wish we had gotten there a year ago.  We eat a can of “C” rations and get ready for the return trip.  

13:00 – – We take off and head back.  The weather is still bad and rough.  The visibility isn’t any better.  We are moving right along now that we are empty.  Everything goes well and we don’t see a ship, an airplane, or anything on the way back.

14:00 – – We see the coast of Africa and fly until we hit our assigned

From there we head for the field and are on the ground by 15:00.  All in all, it was an uneventful trip, but there will be more.  It isn’t much fun to duck lead anyway.  Sicily is beautiful in the spot where we landed – – I’d like to be stationed there. 

August 1, 1943

06:30 – – We are rudely interrupted and told that we are going to Sicily in an hour.  We get up, dress, and eat breakfast.  No one seems to know what we are to do.  We meet at operations for instructions and find out we are to move an anti-aircraft outfit from Gela, Sicily to Palermo, Sicily.  Lt. Wood and I are to lead the second flight.  We have Lt. Wrang as navigator otherwise it is the same crew.  Take off time is set for 07:30 so we check out our maps and rations and take a truck to our ship.

07:30 – – Wood isn’t feeling well so I do the flying.  We are only taking six ships and the 15th Squadron is taking six.  We take off with Major Betts leading the Squadron.  We head right out on 60 degrees.  It is a beautiful morning and the weather is good, the air is smooth.  We see a convoy of ships below us and fly around them.  We are at 1500 feet and unescorted so it doesn’t pay to fly over them.  At 08:20 we sight Pantalaria and change our heading to 50 degrees.  We haven’t seen a thing except for the convoy since we left and haven’t hit any weather.  At 09:00 we run into clouds and have to let down under them – – no rough weather.  We see the coast of Sicily now and are right on course.  As we come over the coast the Major signals for a change in formation so we go into echelon to the right.  We circle the field and it is a good big field and load up.  We have 2000 pounds of ammunition, 2 anti-aircraft guns, some big boxes, and 8 men with their equipment.  We wait around until they tell us we have everything. 

11:00 – – We take off and Wood is flying now and I’m watching the map.  We fly about 340 degrees and climb all the way because there are mountains under us that seem to get higher as we go along.  We hold our course well and are over Palermo at 11:40.  We have to circle the field losing altitude.  As we do, we can see that the city has been bombed since we were here last.  We are in echelon and peel off to land.  This short runway is going to bother us because we have a load.  We turn on our approach and slow down to 90 mph and Wood asks for full flaps and we stall along at 85 mph.  Just as we go over the edge of the runway, he gives it the throttle and we ease on down without a bump.  We take over to the side of the field and unload our ship.  It is 11:45 so we decide to eat our “K” rations.  The Major pulls out a gallon can of peaches that he got ahold of somewhere and we have a good meal after all.  The doctor in the same outfit comes running out and askes us if we will haul patients back to Tunis.  We already have orders to report to Colonel Meyer at Pont de Olivo for further orders. 

12:30 – – We take off empty and head out on 120 degrees for Pont de Olivo.  We see German planes smoking on the ground where they had been shot down last night.  Wood is flying and everything is alright.  At 13:00 we see Pont de Olivo and go into right echelon and land.  The Colonel says to fly to a P-40 base south of there and ask if they want to move.  He says if they aren’t ready we are to spend the night there and go for a swim and move them tomorrow.   WE take off at 13:45 and follow the coast until we reach the field.  At 14:00 we get there and land.  We find out they aren’t going to be ready for a few days.

14:30 – – Major Betts calls the Colonel and asks if we should return to Palermo and pick up the patients.  The Colonel says the 15th are still there and they can bring them.  We are to go on home instead of stay over and go for a swim.  There may be another job in the morning back at home.  We can’t find Woolcott – – Cummin’s co-pilot – – who has taken off to the hill looking for souvenirs.  We decide to leave without him because h e can ride back with the 15th and it will teach him a lesson.  

16:30 – – We take off and head for home.  I am still flying while Wood sleeps.  We are at 1500 feet and flying 150 degrees.  We see a few ships and fly around them.  We also see some other airplanes but they are ours so everything is alright.  I think everyone else is asleep and I’m getting sleepy myself so I open the window wide and the wind keeps me awake.  I fly along watching the water and can see fish swimming and leaping out of the water.  WE reach Pantallara again at 17:20 and turn to 135 degrees.  Everyone is still asleep and it’s peaceful and quiet.   At 17:50 we see the coast of Cape Bon and fly along it and reach oru channel and turn in.  it’s a little rough over the land now and everyone wakes up.  We see our field and go into right echelon to land.  We circle the field and peel off for our landing.  There is a strong cross wind and it’s kind of hard to land but I don’t bounce this one.  We taxi out to our parking place and return to our tents.  Mission completed at 18:15.  No excitement on this one again but it was a nice trip.  I see the boys have a ball game going so we watch them for awhile and go eat.

August 5, 1943

06:00 – – Lt. Saltmarsh comes running into our tent and says we have a mission and take off will be at 07:30.  He says to prepare to stay overnight.  WE have eaten and are in the operations hut for briefing.  We are to go to Pantallara and move a Spitfire outfit to Licata, Sicily.

07:30 – – Take off time and Lt. Wood is in Cairo, Egypt, so Lt. Edgar D. Lanning and myself are to take our ship.  We have our same crew but no navigator.  We fly the right wing of the leading flight.  WE take off and head for Pantallara.  At 08:00 we sighted the island and at 08:20 we are on the ground.  It is a nice field and the Germans and Italians left us some nice bomb-proof hangers dug back in a mountain of rock.  They are very nicely built and sturdy.  We load up and have a jeep and eight men and their equipment to move.  

10:00 – – We are loaded and ready for takeoff.  We takeoff and head for Licata, Sicily.  At 10:45 we see Sicily and at 11:00 are on the ground.

11:30 We unload this outfit and load up a P-40 outfit and are to move them up to Termini on the north coast.

13:00 – – We are loaded and ready for take off.  We have a load of rations and some men.  We head for Termini and are there by 132:45.  We land and start to unload.  It takes quite awhile to unload because they have only one truck and they don’t want us to put it on the ground.   We are unloaded by 16:30.  We decide to stay overnight there.  We eat with this outfit and have a pretty good meal.  After supper we go down to the beach and swim.  It is only about 100 yards from the runway.  We finish swimming and start back when F/O Young sees a watermelon patch, so we eat melons.

20:00 – – We get back to the plane and start to fix our beds and get ready for bed.  We carry litters because we never know when we will be carrying patients.  We sleep on them out under the ships.  About 04:00 a train whistle blows and we think it is the air raid siren.  We jump up and see it’s a train, sigh, and lay back down.

August 6, 1943

07:00 – – We are up and have breakfast with the pursuit Squadron.  We are to take off and return to Pont de Olivo on the Southern coast for further orders.

08:30 – – Take off time and in 45 minutes we are at Pont de Olive.  The Major says we are to take a Captain to Siracusa and wait for him and bring him back.  The rest of the Squadron is to return to Kairouan.

10:00 – – We are ready to take off and at 10:30 are at Siracusa on the east coast.  The Captain asks to go to town with him and look around.  You really can see there has been a war here recently.  Italian soldiers are still in uniform and have their arms but are used as civilian police – – they don’t want to fight anymore.  We wait around town while the Captain conducts his business.  This town is the same as the rest – – blown to hell and people in the street begging.  We see the Captain and tell him we are returning to the airport and will wait for him there.  We have a few rations on our ship so we decide to eat.  We wait until 16:30 for the Captain to return.  

17:00 – – We take off and return to Pont de Olivo and report to Major Meyer for further orders.  He says to spend the night there and pick up a load of patients at Licata in the morning and take them to Mateur back on the African Coast.

18:30 – – We eat with the 48th Squadron of the 316th Group which is stationed there.  I run into Lt. Beal who was my instructor back at Austin, Texas.  We have a long talk.   Lt. Lanning runs into some of his old classmates.

20:00 – – We decide to go to bed and rig up our beds the same way.  The night passes quickly.

August 7, 1943

07:00 – – We get up and eat and tell the Major that we are leaving for Licata.

08:00 – – We are at Licata.  They start bringing in the patients – 2 are able to walk, but the rest aren’t.   We only have 8 all together.  

10:00 – – After a lot of waiting we are ready for the trip to Materur.  We pick up a pursuit pilot before we leave, who wants to go to Tunis.  

10:30 – – We have no maps but we take off in the general direction of Africa.  We pick 265 degrees.  We sight Pantallara so we know we are on course.  At 11:30 we sight Cape Bon.  We see Tunis and knew where we are.  We reach Mateur and land.  They unload our patients while we go to the Red Cross tent and get lemonade and sandwiches.   White women – – first we have seen in some time.  We talk with them until our ship is lunloaded.

12:30 – – We take off for Tunis and are there in 30 minutes.  We drop our passengers and head for home.  We still have no maps so we take up a heading of 180 degrees.  We keep flying and find our field by 13:45.  We buzz the field and see there isn’t a plane around.  The rest of the boys are on another mission.  We land and get out and head for the mess hall to eat.  We just get there and the rest of the Squadron returns.  They moved a B-17 outfit to Mateur.  Guess there aren’t many more enemy aircraft in Sicily so it was another quiet trip.

August 8, 1943

11:30 – – We are eating dinner and Lt. Shermer comes in and tells us we are to take off at 12:00 for Tunis to move  an Ordinance outfit to Pont de Olivo, Sicily.  We finish eating in a hurry and get to our ships.  Lt. Wood is still in Cairo, Egypt, so Lt. Lanning and myself will fly our ship.  We are to fly on the right wing of the first flight. 

12:00 – – We take off and circle the field once to get in formation and gain altitude and then head for Tunis.  It is about an hour to Tunis.  

13:00 – – We see Tunis and go to right echelon for the landing.  We no more than get on the ground than they are loading us.  By 13:30 We are loaded and ready for take off.  We have a jeep, 1000 pounds of freight, 4 bags of mail, and 2 passengers.  We take off and reach the coast and head out on a 65 degree heading until we see Pantailara.  We fly around it to the south and east and turn to 35 degrees.  

14:30 – – We leave Pantallara behind and are on our way to sicily.  We see a convoy headed toward Africa and fly around it.  We sight Sicily and come in over Gela and then head for Pont de Olivo.  We go into right echelon for the landing.  We are on the ground by 15:16.  

15:30 – – We are nearly unloaded and Lt. Shermer says we are to return empty.  We are ready for take off again by 16:00.  We take off and head back to Gela and toward Pantallara.  We sight the same convoy, this time and fly a little too close but they don’t fire, thank God.   

16:30 – – We see Pantallara and fly around it the same way again.  We now head out for the African coast.  We sight Cape Bon in about 45 minutes and fly until we hit Sousse – – our place to enter.   

17:30 – – We are over land and headed for our field at Kairouan.   We reach it and go into right echelon for landing.  We are on the ground by 18:00.  This was the quickest trip we have ever made because the Red Cross brought us ice cream for supper and we don’t’ want to miss it.  We are each to get a pint so we hurry to make sure we get ours.  First we have had since we left the States.   Another quite Mission.                                                                                                                   

(This was the last entry in Don’s Diary detailing events in North Africa, now the squadron moved to Italy where it was joined by additional aircraft.)

OPERATION AVALANCHE

Allied Invasion of Italy – Airborne Reinforcement

13 September 1943

Licata Airfield, Sicily to Comiso, Sicily (load paratroopers), then to DZ ‘T,’ Paestum, Italy, south of Salerno

PARACHUTE DROP (NIGHT)

U.S. 82nd AIRBORNE DIVISION

504th Regimental Combat Team (RCT), includes:

1st and 2nd Battalions of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (minus 3rd Battalion) *

* 1st Battalion 504th PIR transported by 61st TCG

2nd Battalion 504th PIR transported by 313th TCG

Objective: urgent need to reinforce General Clark’s 5th Army on beaches south of Salerno – ordered by General Mark Clark

First use of Pathfinders in airborne operation

14 September 1943

Licata Airfield, Sicily to DZ ‘T,’ Paestum, Italy, south of Salerno

September 13, 1943 – – – Salerno

14:40 – – News comes that General Clark’s 5th Army needs reinforcements and we are to get them there as soon as possible.  Lt. Shermer sets up the schedule and sets take off for 19:00.  We are to go to Somiso from our station here in Licata and pick up the 504th Battalion of the 82nd Airborne Division. 

18:00 – – We have eaten and have our maps, escape kits, etc.  We are at our stations at 18:30.  In our ship is Lt. Wood, myself, Lt. Carig, Sgt. Slagowski, and Sgt. Miranda.  We are to lead the second flight and fly the right element in a V of V’s

19:00 – – We take off and head directly for Comiso on the southeast tip of Sicily.  By 19:30 we see the field and go into right echelon for landing.  By 19:45 we are on the ground and parked in a line to load our troops.  The whole mission is mixed up and no one knows where we are to go or when.  We sit around for awhile and finally the Colonel says we will go to the briefing. 

22:00 – – Our briefing is out in the field with a map of Italy posted on a plane and the lights of a jeep help a little.  We are to go to a small town south of Naples where the 5th Army is in trouble.  The Colonel says the “DZ” will be marked with a row of white Lights in the form of a “T”.  He says there will also be radar.   In case something is wrong and the “DZ” isn’t lit there is a road and river junction that can easily been seen from the air and we will use that.   He says the Navy is foo the coast a few miles and don’t know we are coming so to be on the look out for them.  He also says he doesn’t think we will run into any enemy fighters.  WE know where the “DZ” is and how to get there, but that’s about all, so the briefing is over and we don’t know what we’re getting into.

23:00 – – Take off is set for 23:15 so we taxi into position and wait our turn.  WE have a Captain and about 17 men on our ship besides our crew.  WE take off and head out on a heading of 40 degrees towards Catania.  It is a beautiful night with a bright moon and it makes formation flying easy.  We hardly need our lights so we turn off all but our formation lights and recognition light.  At 23:34 we are at Catania and turn to 27 degrees and hold it  until we come to the tip of Sicily which is midnight.  We can see Mt. Etna towering high above us and a few smaller mountains below us.  

24:00 – – We turn to 37 degrees and fly until we see the coast of Italy at 00:12.All is going well and everyone is in formation, but we are coming to some clouds so we climb to 1500 feet.We turn to 5 degrees and follow the coast for 27 minutes and still no enemy action but we see several lights in the mountains along the coast.We passed over a couple boats but I guess they saw our recognition lights this time and give us not a bit of trouble.We are getting a little nervous now because we are over enemy territory and we know what can happen.At 00:39 we turn to 324 degrees and fly along the coast until 00:55 – – all is still well and it is cloudier but we can still see alright.We turn to 308 degrees and fly until 01:12 and hit the coast.We turn to 20 degrees and fly inland for 5 minutes.Just as we cross the coastline we give them the red light which means we are 4 minutes from the “DZ” and it isn’t lit up at all, but all of a sudden a bunch of flares go up in shape of a T so we give the green light
and out they go at 01:17.We dropped them from 800 feet at 90 mph so we push the nose down to gain speed.Everyone is still in formation and still no enemy action.We head on for one minute before turning to give the ones behind us a chance to stay with us. Seeing those chutes go out at night is really beautiful.We head toward the coast and climb to 8000 feet because there is another group coming in under us.We fly the same course back and now more exciting than coming over.We are back at Licata and on the ground by 03:30.We head for Intelligence and tell them how it went and what we saw and then to the mess hall for coffee and donuts.This was a quite mission again but it could have been disastrous.We have another tomorrow night but will have to miss it because our ship is out with an oil leak.First one we have missed.Guess I’ll give up writing accounts of our missions until something really big comes off. These are getting to be just routine flights.Guess “Jerry” is just about through there.

The 53rd went on to fly the 2nd mission the next night, but as indicated in Don’s Diary,  #832 didn’t make it due to an oil leak.  The rest of the planes made dropped the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division which included;      1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment with the objective to further reinforce General Clark’s 5th Army on the beaches south of Salerno. 

(Almost 9 months pass before Don makes another entry in his diary which detailed the events of the D-Day drop in France.)

OPERATION OVERLORD/OPERATION NEPTUNE – ‘D-DAY’

Allied Invasion of France – Airborne Spearhead

– Mission Boston: U.S. 82nd Airborne Division *

– Mission Albany: U.S. 101st Airborne Division

– Operation Tonga: British 6th Airborne Division

6 June 1944
Barkston Heath Airfield, Lincolnshire, England to DZ ‘T,’ between Amfreville and Gourbesville in Cherbourg on the Cotentin Peninsula, Normandy, France

PARACHUTE DROP (NIGHT)

U.S. 82nd AIRBORNE DIVISION

505th Parachute Infantry Regiment

507th Parachute Infantry Regiment *

508th Parachute Infantry Regiment

325th Glider Infantry Regiment

* 2nd Battalion and 3rd Battalion of 507th PIR transported by 61st TCG (Serial 24, 25: Chalk numbers 1 through 72). H Company and Hq Company of 3rd Battalion, 507th PIR transported by 53rd TCS (Serial 25, chalk numbers 37 through 54)

Objective 507th PIR: assist 505th PIR to take and pass the Merderet (river) at La Fière; establish and maintain contact with the 508th PIR at Renouf; and prepare to advance to the Western front.

Squadron Awarded 2nd Presidential Unit Citation

June 5, 1944

It has been nearly a year since I have written in this book.  We have done a lot since then and come a long way.  We moved to England to take part in the invasion of the mainland from the west.  We had our briefing Sunday, June 3, and are just waiting for orders to start.  This is going to be the real thing.  We are to fly a 72 ship formation on this one and be next to the last group over the “DZ”.  There will be well over 1000 transports alone with 18 paratroopers a piece and that many paratroopers can handle the whole  German Army!  We are to take off at 23:58 and drop at 02:32 and return.  We just sit around and wait until the rank decides the rest of the plans.  They must be expecting gas because they make us wear impregnated clothing which makes us look more like infantry than Air Corp.  It is 20:00 and we are getting into our oldthes, laggings, G.I. shoes, and long underwear.  Everyone is laughing and having a big time.  

21:00 – – We are at our final briefing and it is just routine – – weather, opposition, communications, operating procedure, etc.

22:00 – – Briefing is over and we check our flimsies, maps, escape kits, and the Major gives us a little pep talk.

22:30 – – We are at the ship and my crew is ready – – myself as pilot, Lt. James Timmins as co-pilot, T/Sgt. Robert Decker as engineer, and S/Sgt. Paul Stone as radio operator.  I am still flying the same ship I flew across – -832.    I talked to the jump master who is a 2nd. Lt., and we get things coordinated for action in case of emergency and just talk about things in general.  

23:00 – – We are sitting in the ship checking equipment and making last minute arrangements.  We start engines at 23:21 and taxi out at 23:30.  Everything is going swell and we are all on the runway for a formation take off.  I am flying the right wing of the 2nd element which is a good place.  We are scheduled to take off at 23:58, so we have a little time to kill.  We just sit and wait.  The time comes and we’re off!

24:00 – – We are in formation and climbing.  We are back over the field at 00:09 and head out on course of 184 degrees.  We pass each check point on time.  The weather is clear and a big moon is shining so it is light as day.  We continue on course until we reach a flashing beacon and turn to 237 degrees and continue on until we hit the Bristol channel.  From there we turn to 105 degrees until we hit the Island of Wright.  Here we turn off our navigation lights and our formation lights.  We turn to 237 degrees and fly for. 27 minutes.  There are several boats along the way for checkpoints and other formations are returning.  We are right on course and on time and still in formation.  We are over the Channel now and anything can happen.  Beautiful night and things are going swell.  We are at 200 feet above the water and I think that is too high.   02:00 – – We are at the Channel Islands where we are to turn into the Cherbourg Penninsula.  There is some fire from both Islands but we are out of range of both – – I hope.  We give the 20 minute warning to the jump master and he has his man stand up and check equipment.   Still not much fire.    We reach the coast and think to ourselves that here is where we catch it.   Nothing happens.  So this is “Festung Europa”.   The fighters and bombers have really cleaned this place out.   We cross the coast and give the red light – 4 minutes out of the “DZ” and still no fire.  They throw up a little just out of the “DZ” but not enough o hurt although it only takes one.  We cross the coast again but no fire.   There are a few fires burning on the ground but no evidence of activity.  We head for the Island off the coast and run smack into the navy.  They must have been told to hold their fire this time because they don’t fire or even challenge us.  We are making pretty good time now and still in formation.  They take a few pot shots at us from the coast but no harm is done.  

03:00 – – Right on course and headed for homeWe have our lights back on which makes it easier.Looks like a little clouds and rain so we move in close.It rains but you can see through it if you are close enough and we are.WE come out of it alright and still in formation.We are at 3000 feet and the moon is really bright here.All we have now is to follow the light line home.Just a regular flight from here onin.WE land at 05:15 and still in formation.We check the ship and find one hole in the tail. I think the boys done a fine job tonight.Have another mission this afternoon so will continue from there.

To continue with the story of the 18 men who jumped out of Sky King on D-Day

Click the Link Below

OPERATION MARKET/GARDEN – ‘A BRIDGE TOO FAR’

Allied Airborne Invasion of Holland

– British 1st Airborne Division   /  17 September 1944
Barkston Heath Airfield, Lincolnshire, England to DZ ‘X,’ near town of Wolfheze, Holland; 8 miles west of ArnhemPARACHUTE DROP (DAY) BRITISH 1ST PARACHUTE DIVISION *
* 1st Parachute Brigade transported by 61st TCG: 53rd TCS  (Serial A27).

Objective of British 1st Airborne Division: Seize and hold the bridges at Arnhem.

September 17, 1944 – – – –

It has been a long time since we have had a drop in enemy territory.  We have made several freight missions and evacuation missions to France and Belgium but not over enemy territory so I  haven’t written about them although they were interesting.  

09:30 – – We are at the briefing at Group headquarters and from the map it shows our course will take us 100 miles into Holland and all over enemy territory.  Could be very rough.  We are to have plenty of fighters and fighter bombers and they are to lead us in and shoot up anything that moves.  We are to be the 27 serial of 36 ships to a serial so it must be quite an operation.  I think by the time we get there, there will be little or no ground fire.  We are to take off at 11:50 and drop at 14:06.

11:00 – – WE are at the ships because stations are at 11:00.   I have 2 British 1st. Lts. And 18 men.  For bundles I have just 1 motor-cycle.  In my crew today is myself as pilot, 2nd Lt. James Timmins as co-pilot.  T/Sgt. Rober Decker as crew chief and S/Sgt. Paul Stone as radio operator.  I have no navigator because I am flying the right wing of left flight in the second half of the Squadron.  The British are loading up and have plenty of equipment.  They seem like a swell bunch of men.

11:30 – – We are starting our engines and taxing to take off position for a 11:50 take off.


12:00 – – We are in the air and assembled into formation.  WE come back over the field at 12:06 and head out on course.  We are to go to our Wing Departure point at March and from there to Attleborough on the English coast.  We cross the English coast at 13:53 and head for a boat in the middle of the channel.  Our time is right and so is our course.  At the boat I let Timmins fly and get my flack suit and helmet on and the rest of the crew does the same.  I take over while Timmins gets his.  I have lost all track of time and course but Timmins knows where we are.  We see the Dutch coast and fighters right down on the deck  hunting for anything that moves.  As we cross the coast we see that the Germans have flooded the entire area.  As we continue on still in perfect formation and still expecting anything we see boats burning which means the fighters have knocked out the flack barges.  Our altitude is just under 1300 feet.  We see two Horsa gliders down but no one around them.  Gliders will never be successful or their up keep.  Here it is – – some one cuts loose on the ground with something and I can see the black bursts as flack explodes above us.  We are so low that I can hear the guns go off.  They are right under us but don’t hit us.  They hit the outfit ahead of us but no one goes down.  Now the fighters go down to silence it and that is the end of that one.  Those fighters are alright.  We continue on and here is the red light meaning we are 4 minutes out of the “DZ”.  We begin to loose altitude so we can drop at 680 feet.  We start our slow down to drop at 110 MPH or less.   I see the “DZ” now.  I tis covered with gliders and parachutes.   It has a blue smoke signal on it so we know we are right.  As we come over the “DZ” I drop our motorcycle and give the paratroopers the green light and they jump.   We are at 700 feet and doing 110 MPH and still slowing down.   We get down to 90 MPH before they  they all get out.  When they are gone we pour the coal to it and make a wide sweep to the left and head home on the same course as we came in on.  Not a shot fired over the “DZ” and we gave them a perfect drop.    We still have 100 miles to go over enemy territory so we go out a little faster than we came in.   I’m always glad to get out in a hurry.  WE came back to the place where they shot at us and it is on fire so we know there is no danger there anymore.  WE continue on and see the coast ahead of us and as we cross it we take off our flack suits and helmets and open a box of “K” rations and breath easier.  We see several gliders down in the water but the men have been picked up by the air-sea rescue boats.  We see 3 gliders in the water with men on the wings so we leave the formation and go down to see if they are alright.  We make a pass at 200 feet above t hem and look it over again.  We drop them a raft and start out to catch the rest of the formation.  We cross the English coast again in the right place trying to catch our formation.  We know we will be home in a couple hours.  We catch the formation just as they peel off to land.  We come in and land and realize we were pretty lucky.   Tomorrow we are supposed to tow gliders in.  

18 September 1944  Barkston Heath Airfield, Lincolnshire, England to Landing Zone near Oosterbeek, Holland; west of Arnhem   GLIDER TOW – WACO CG-4A (DAY)   BRITISH 1ST PARACHUTE DIVISION    1st Airlanding Brigade towed by 61st TCG: 53rd TCS  (Serial A40)

September 18, 1944

10:00 – – Another briefing and this time we are to go into Holland to a spot southeast of Nijemagen which is nearly on the German border.  We are to tow one loaded glider.  Our route is the same as yesterday up to the IP and from there it is approximately 100 degrees for 40 minutes.   Shouldn’t be too rough.  We are to have fighter cover again.

11:00 – – We are at our stations and checking our glider.   F/O Nickerson is flying the glider and it has a jeep and 5 men in it.  We check our course and get ready to take off by 11:30.  I have the same crew today except my crew chief who let his assistant go today.  His name is S/Sgt. Piecush.  

11:30 – – We start our take off and climb straight ahead for 12 minutes and head back to the field.  As we come back over the field we are all in formation.  WE are flying in flights of 4 ships in echelon to the right.  WE are in Lt. Ted Simons flight.  WE climb to 1500 feet and head out for March – – our Wing departure  point.  The weather isn’t too good but we can make it alright.  From March we go to Attleborough, our Command departure point on the coast of southern England.   

13:00 – – We crossed the coast of England at 12:56 still in formation and everything is alright.  WE head for the boat in the Channel which assures us we are still on course.  WE make land fall at the same place as we did yesterday.  From here we head for our IP which isn’t far from Eindhoven.  Things are still going alright.  I don’t see any fighters yet though.   Here it comes – – big black puffs and breaking right in the middle of our formation.   You can really hear it and smell it as it goes through our plane.  I guess this is where things get rough.  We are out of it again but still no fighters.  No one is hit bad and we are still in formation.  That only lasted about 10 minutes.   I don’t see how they can keep on missing though – – we are only at 1500 feet and doing 120 mph with gliders so we don’t dodge.    Here is the IP and we turn into the “DZ”.  Things are quite again.  We have about 40 miles to go yet thought.  I  see the “DZ” ahead with red smoke from signal pots on it.  I give the glider his green signal which means we will be there in one minute and he can cut loose when he gets ready.   Here it comes again – – small arms .50 caliber, and anything else “Jerry” has.   There goes our glider – – hope he makes it.   We are turning  out of the “DZ” land and I see one ship go down and 4 chutes come out.  It is Lt. McClintock from Fresno, Cal.  His landing is right where the fire is coming from.   They sure have our range – – more holes in my ship, but she is still flying.  We pour on the power and head home.  Our formation is still intact except for Mac.  We get out alright and are on our way home over the same route.  The fire has stopped again – – thank God.    

15:00 – – WE are back at the IP at 3000 feet and headed home.  A little fire off to our left but we are out of range.  We cross the coast again at 15:30 and rest easier.  We get back to our field at 17:30.  We find out we lost 3 planes – – Mac, Lt. Donald Cox who crash landed, and Lt. Harold Williams who bought it back to junk it.  We got quite a few holes ourselves but not bad.  Our left tire will have to be changed though.  They say we are to take off for Aldermaston in southern England for a resupply in the morning.  I am plenty tired now.  If we have another one tomorrow, I’ll sign off now and get ready to go.

19 September 1944

RAF Aldermaston, Lincolnshire, England to DZ near Nijmegen, Holland   PARACHUTE BUNDLE DROP (DAY) BRITISH 1ST PARACHUTE DIVISION  /  Re-supply with parachute bundles  Largest airborne operation in history: 35,000 paratroopers and glider assault troops

September 19, 1944

11:00 – – We came down here last night to get our load.  This is to be a resupply mission.  We are at our briefing which isn’t much.  They know very little about the situation or weather.  All they know is where the “DZ” is and the route we are to fly.  WE are to fly from here (Aldermaston) to Hatfield (north of London), to a point on the coast east of London which is called “Attu”, but the name of the town is Southend, from there Margate, to the boat in the Channel, to Ostend in Belgium, to Ghent in Belgium, to Turnhout in Holland, to Lindhoven in Holland, and drop at a spot southwest of Nijemegan.  This way we fly over friendly territory most of the way, but have to cross the front lines.   I’d rather fly over enemy territory all the way and take a little fire here and there rather than cross th e lines where their fire is concentrated.  This is about all the briefing covers.  

11:30 – – We are at our ships checking our load and course waiting for take off at 11:50.  We have 6  1000 pound bundles inside that racks under the ship and 6  400 pound bundles inside that will be thrown out by the crew when we get there.  Our load is ammunition and food so it is important that they get it in and get it soon.  We are all set to go and have our regular crew and one boy from the quarter-master to help with bundles.  We are taxing out to the take off position and will get off on time.  We take off and head straight out for 7 minutes and come back over the field and head out on course in formation.  We are flying the right wing  of the 3rd flight which is led by Lt. Ted Simon.  The weather is really bad here and I sure hope it gets better.  

12:30 – – We just passed Hatfield and head for Southend and the weather is getting worse.  Visibility of about ½ mile and ceiling of about 900 feet.  We have to fly pretty close formation and the air is rough so it looks like we’re in for a work out.  

13:00 – – We are crossing the English coast at Margate and headed for the boat in the Channel.  We are over the water so drop down to 300 feet where the weather is better.  We see several gliders down in the water with air-sea rescue boats picking up the men.  We reach our boat and head for Ostend.  We fly pretty low but the clouds are getting right down on the deck.   Looks like we’ll have to go up through it.  Yes I’m right, here we go.  I can still see Simon but the rest of the formation is lost.  We are on top at 1500 feet and it’s clear but there are ships all over the sky – – you can’t fly formation on instruments.   Our flight is still together though so we head for Ghent.  Ships are coming up through the overcast by the hundreds.  T here is a lot of radio chatter as these new outfits try to regroup.  We don’t even try but head out in 3 ship elements.   Sure hope this overcast breaks up before we get to the “DZ”.

14:00 – – WE leave Ghent and head for the front lines toward Turnhort.  We cross the lines and nothing happens – – could be that “Jerry” has pulled out.  The clouds break up and we can see the ground spots.    We are coming up on Eidhoven now and they are starting to fire.  One ship ahead of us is on fire but continues on.   Five chutes just came out and the ship starts a diving turn to the left.   Looks like it’s going to come right back through the chutes but it hits the ground and what a fire!    We’re past them so I can’t see where they lit.   Few more just went  through our ship but hurt nothing.  I see the “DZ” ahead and the clouds have broken so we start down to 700 feet for the drop and slow up to 130 mph.  I salvo the bundles in the racks underneath and give the crew the green light and they start throwing the ones inside out.  There is a hell of a noise and the whole ship shudders but we’re still going.  Decker comes running up and says the bundles are gone so we pour on the coal and turn to the left and climb to head back the same we came in.   I asked Decker where we got hit and he said that was just the cargo door shot open and banging against the ship.  That means we have a hole in the side of the ship 6 feet by 5 feet.  We will have a lot of drag with that hole.  We will have to use a lot of power to keep up.  That door is still on the hinges and banging against the side of the ship.  It makes the loudest as well as wets up an awful vibration.  We don’t stop climbing, till we get to 9000 feet.  It will take more than small arms to get us up here.  We get back to Eidhoven  and as we pass over we can see a string of ships towing gliders and headed for someplace.   They are getting pretty shot up, tho. Nothing seems to bet getting us this high yet.   Here it comes – – just one burst at our altitude and to our right – – that’s all we get.   It’s really overcast now but we are in clear air above it.  We head back for Turnhort and friendly territory but the clouds are so thick we can’t see the ground, so just fly time and distance.     We think we are over the Channel so start our let down at 200 mph.  That door is really making a racket now and vibrating.  We get down to 4000 feet and level off but still above the clouds.

13:30 – – We cross the English coast again according to the time and dune in our radio compass to the beacon on the field and home in.  When we are about 30 minutes out we start to let down through.  We get down to 400 feet and can only see ½ miles – – sure hope there is nothing too high around here.   Here is the field so we go into echelon and land and find out we lost one ship today – – Lt. David Proctor and Capt. Wood’s crew that I flew with in Sicily and Italy.   Lt. Northcott was pretty badly shot up.   According to report, Troop Carrier has lost numerous ships due to enemy action – – that’s the way it goes

This is the last entry in Don King’s Diary.    The 53rd TCS went on to fly one more behind the lines major mission in Germany, but the incredible details of the mission was not documented.       Here is what we know from history what the 53rd TCS and probably  this aircraft did on March 24, 1945;

OPERATION PLUNDER/OPERATION VARSITY – ‘CROSSING THE RHINE’

Allied Assault on Germany – Airborne Spearhead

– British 6th Airborne Division *

24 March 1945  RAF Chipping Ongar Airfield, Essex, England to Drop Zone ‘A,’ near Wesel, Germany 

PARACHUTE DROP (DAY)  BRITISH 6TH PARACHUTE DIVISION 

8th Battalion Parachute Regiment of 3rd Parachute Brigade, British 6th Airborne Division transported by 61st TCG. After drop, 53 TCS (61st TCG) returned to a new base at Abbeville/Drucat Airfield (B-92), France

Largest airborne operation in history to be conducted on a single day  in one location: 16,000 paratroopers and glider assault troops

By July 16, 1945, this aircraft had made it back to the United States where it was assigned registration number  NC75412 and converted to a DC-3C by the Executive Transport Corporation.  After conversion, the aircraft was sold to General Motors, Inc., in Detroit, Michigan, where it was assigned a new registration number;  N5106.    In May 1967 she was re-registered N5106X and during November 1967 she was donated to the Board of Trustees, Southern Illinois University, at Carbondale, Illinois who installed a 24 passenger configuration.    The aircraft was sold to Henry Oliver III (Sante Fe NM) , in July 1985 and attended the EXPO 86 DC-3 fly-in at Abbotsford, Canada.   Henry sold it to Bygon Aviation where it was flown on a 135 certificate for a short period of time.    It was then sold to the  David Nickolas Organ Donor Awareness Foundation Inc and operated by heart transplant recipient,  Rodney DeBaun.

42-32832 is the only surviving C-47 from the original 13 that formed the 53rd Troop Carrier Squadron. David Elliott (Billy Elliott’s son) contacted me in 2008 and asked that I verify the military serial number. Thankfully the data plate was still in the aircraft. David has shared with me the history of this aircraft and squadron as he has collected data over the past two decades researching his father’s military history. David introduced me to Kevin King who has also provided a tremendous amount of historical documentation of his dad and this specific aircraft.

By July 16, 1945, this aircraft had made it back to the United States where it was assigned registration number NC75412 and converted to a DC-3C by the Executive Transport Corporation. After conversion, the aircraft was sold to General Motors, Inc., in Detroit, Michigan, where it was assigned a new registration number; N5106. In May 1967 she was re-registered N5106X and during November 1967 she was donated to the Board of Trustees, Southern Illinois University, at Carbondale, Illinois who installed a 24-passenger configuration. The aircraft was sold to Henry Oliver III (Santa Fe NM) in July 1985 and attended the EXPO 86 DC-3 fly-in at Abbotsford, Canada. Henry sold it to Bygon Aviation where it was flown on a 135 certificate for a short period of time. It was then sold to the David Nickolas Organ Donor Awareness Foundation Inc and operated by heart transplant recipient; Rodney DeBaun.

Scott Glover bought the plane from Rodney Debaun on August 4, 2000, and built a grass strip and hanger for it (XS70) in Mt. Pleasant Texas. A second new engine has recently been installed, and the aircraft is currently undergoing restoration including a paint job that will be representative of the way it looked on D-Day. The aircraft has just over 18,000 flight hours on the airframe.

General characteristics

  • Crew: Two
  • Capacity: 21–32 passengers
  • Length: 64 ft 8 in (19.7 m)
  • Wingspan: 95 ft 2 in (29.0 m)
  • Height: 16 ft 11 in (5.16 m)
  • Wing area: 987 sq ft (91.7 m2)
  • Aspect ratio: 9.17
  • Airfoil: NACA2215 / NACA2206
  • Empty weight: 16,865 lb (7,650 kg)
  • Gross weight: 25,199 lb (11,430 kg)
  • Fuel capacity: 822 gal. (3736 l)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Wright R-1820 Cyclone 9-cyl. air-cooled radial piston engine, 1,100 hp (820 kW) each
  • Propellers: 3-bladed Hamilton Standard 23E50 series, 11 ft 6 in (3.51 m) diameter

Performance

  • Maximum speed: 200 kn; 370 km/h (230 mph) at 8,500 ft (2,590 m)
  • Cruise speed: 180 kn; 333 km/h (207 mph)
  • Stall speed: 58.2 kn (67 mph; 108 km/h)
  • Service ceiling: 23,200 ft (7,100 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,130 ft/min (5.7 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 25.5 lb/sq ft (125 kg/m2)
  • Power/mass: 0.0952 hp/lb (156.5 W/kg)