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The C-47 Had a Great Love Affair in the Sub-continent

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MG is an air warrior with a distinguished career and now a corporate advisor, writer, and intrepid traveler and novelist


The C-47

The C-47 was the military version of the Dakota or DC 3. Manufactured by the Douglas company this twin-engine plane was a real workhorse. More than 16700 of these machines were built. This includes almost 5000 machines manufactured in Russia under license during World War II right up to 1950. The plane has a legendary status and even in 2020, it is still being used by private operators in the United States and South Africa.

The C- 47 made its entry in the subcontinent in 1944. Almost 300 of these machines were positioned in Assam by the United States Army Air Force and RAF. These were used for the famous airlift of supplies and ammunition to the Chinese army from Assam over the Himalayas.

The C47 entered service in India with the IAF in 1946 and the first batch of 10 planes landed at Karachi. The plane was the sole transport plane of the IAF for close 15 years and had a near-zero accident rate. The DC 3 or its military version C-47 was used to transport the first batch of troops in Kashmir in 1947 to face the Pakistani invaders. It was also used as a bomber and many airmen just threw bombs out of the plane door. The Dakota was the sole transport plane till the Avro 748 appeared. It was a piston engine plane with a top speed of 200 MPH and could carry 28 fully kitted troops. It could also transport light tanks and some AMX tanks of the army were transported to Leh in 1962. The C-47 was phased out of the IAF towards the end of the sixties of the last century, but it continued in service with the BSF for another 2 decades. The Dak or DC -3 was also used by Indian airlines and for the first time, the Indian carrier and Air force had a plane that could fly nonstop from Delhi to Bombay a distance of over 1000 Miles.


The work horse

DC 3 has been used by over 100 nations around the world. The beauty of the plane is its ruggedness and reliability. The plane was serviced in India by HAL and during World War II the United States Air force flew this plane over the Himalayas and established a sky train from Assam to China. One can visualize the ruggedness and reliability of the plane as it traversed over the lofty Himalayas and onwards to China. It was used to supply the beleaguered Chinese National Army fighting the Japanese.

The plane was comfortable and flew at about 10-12000 feet and one can recollect that Air Commodore Meher Singh used this plane to land at Leh, the highest airfield in the world in 1948. The plane was an endearing sight and 2 complete squadrons of the C-47 were used by the IAF to transport supplies to army outpost in the East from Jorhat. The plane is almost eternal and a part of the history of aviation. A plane is preserved in the Air Force Museum at Palam.

The US Air Force's 6th Special Operations Squadron was flying the C-47 until 2008. With all of the aircraft and pilots having been part of the Indian Air Force prior to independence, both the Indian Air Force and Pakistan Air Force used C-47s to transport supplies to their soldiers fighting in the Indo-Pakistan War of 1947.

The role of the C 47 in the liberation of Kashmir is etched in gold in aviation history. In 1947 with Srinagar almost in the hands of the Pakistani raiders and the airfield under threat, the first batch of 28 Sikh soldiers were transported by a C- 47 under lieutenant colonel Rai to secure the airfield. A Skytrain was established and the Pakistani raiders thrown back

.Over 100 C-47 Dakotas and DC-3s from many sources were pressed into service in support of Indian forces in Kashmir.

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Last word

The C- 47 and DC-3 were part of the aviation scene in the subcontinent for close to half a century. It has the status of a legendary machine that never failed. The IAF made excellent use of this plane and even transported light tanks and jeeps in it. In 1962 AMX tanks were transported to Leh in Ladakh at a height of 11,000 feet by this rugged machine. The plane was also modified by Indian Air Force engineers and used as a bomber during the 47-48 conflict with Pakistan.

The C 47 will forever remain a part of the glorious history of aviation in the subcontinent.


MG Singh (author) from UAE on September 23, 2020:

Thank you, Devika, for reading and commenting.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 23, 2020:

Fascinating story and I feel this an entertaining type of hub on this topic. Factual and interesting to know of such history.

MG Singh (author) from UAE on September 22, 2020:

Bill, nice of you to have commented

MG Singh (author) from UAE on September 22, 2020:

Thanks, Eric, for your valued comment

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 22, 2020:

Wonderful military history! I had no idea it was still in use. Great information!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 22, 2020:

Really interesting. I like it when machines become heroes. What a history.

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