C-47 Skytrain Wartime Paratroopers
by Herbert Holeman, Colonel, USA(Ret)
C-47s dropped U.S. and British paratroops in North Africa,
Sicily, the Normandy Invasion, the Arnhem operation, and the crossing of the Rhine.C-47s also were used to insert British and U.S. troops behind Japanese
lines in Burma (Myanmar)and for paratroop drops in the Pacific including on Corregidor Island in the Philippines.
The plane was powered by two 1,200-horsepower Pratt & Whitney
radial engines, the C-47 had a wingspan of 95 feet, a length of 64 feet 5 inches and a cruise speed of 155 miles per hour and a range of 1,600 miles with a
normal payload of 5,000 pounds. From January 1942 to the summer of 1945, 10,000 C47's were produced for the war effort. The aircraft designation (C-47)
consists of a letter indicating the type / mission of the aircraft. Hence, C = Cargo transport and 47 = Sequence number for USAAF cargo transport aircraft.
The cabin was typically fitted with metal bench seats for 28
fully armed troops and its fuselage and cabin floors were reinforced for added protection and to handle heavy loads.
The two large doors in the rear fuselage accomodated loading
cargo and dropping paratroops making it the best paratroop delivery aircraft of the war. Finally, the C-47 could tow two CG-4 Waco assault gliders or one of
the larger British Horsa gliders.
A 1943 directive from the Headquarters 506th Parachute
Infantry, required the following equipment will be carried
by parachutists. This was the standard equipment list
of U.S. airborne forces. But, in reality much was lost
during jumps, such as the leg-bags being torn off because
of the speed flown by the C-47s.
1 Belt, pistol or rifle, dismounted
1 Boots, parachutist, pair
1 Canteen, cup and cover...on belt
1 Compass, lensatic or watch...on belt
1 Cap, wool knit
1 Drawers, wool
1 Field bag...Under parachute harness
1 Gloves, horsehide unlined, pair
4 Grenades, hand, frag. MkII...2 Waist pockets coat...2 hip pockets trousers
1 Handkerchief...Left chest pocket
1 Helmet, steel, M1, mod.(I think), w/liner
1 Knife, pocket, M2...Center chest pocket
1 Knife, trench, M3, w/scabbard M6...on belt
1 Matches, package
1 Mask, gas (If required)
1 Message book, pencil and maps...Right chest pocket
1 Parachute, T-5, complete
1 Pouch, first-aid and packet...on belt
2 Ration "K" (broken down)...Leg pockets
1 Raincoat...Loop over belt
1 Rope, parachutist, 30' x 3/8"...Looped on belt
1 Prophylaxis, mechanical, kit...Right chest pocket
2 Socks, light wool, pair...1 pair in field bag
1 Spoon, M/26...In canteen cover
1 Supporter, athletic (optional)
Tablets, chlorine or halazone...Left chest pocket
Tablets, bentadine (?)...Right chest pocket
2 Tags, identification, w/necklace
2 Tape, ankle (optional)
Tissue, toilet...Left chest pocket
Toilet set...Waist pockets
1 Tool, entrenching...On belt
1 Undershirt, wool
1 Uniform, parachutists, 2-pc.
Following additional equipment will be carried by Officers:
1 Binoculars, M-13...Over shoulder or on belt
1 Carbine, cal..30, M1A1 (except field Off)...On belt in scabbard
1 Case, canvas, dispatch...Over right shoulder
1 Flashlight, TL-122-A...Left leg pocket
1 Map, template M2...Dispatch case
1 Pistol, auto., cal..45 (Field O's. only)...On belt in holster
1 Pocket, double web.w/clips (Field O. only)...On belt
2 Pocket, mag., carbine, cal..30, M1A1 (except field Officers)...On belt
Whistle, thunderer...Left chest pocket
U.S. paratroopers make a D-Day Commemoration jump into
Normandy from a C-47. Good view of paratroopers following jump procedures inside the C-47 Skytrain here.
Of these operations, the most spectacular and significant took
place on the eve of D-Day (June 6, 1944), when more than 1,000 C-47s were involved in dropping U.S. and British paratroops and towing assault gliders
to areas behind the beachheads. The personal equipment carried by paratroopers is listed here.
But the largest mass paratrooper drop in history occured in
the Second World War when the decision was made to launch Operation Market Garden. More than 1,000 planes were required some 10,000 paratroopers in a
daring attack. A video of the actual operation can be seen here.