C-124 — The Globemaster II Survivors
A key lesson learned by the military in World War II is that airlift is a critical tool, and would become more important in the future. It is true that ships carried the bulk of the cargo in WWII, but ships are slow, sinkable, and need harbors and docks that are not always readily available.
The bulk of US military airlift in WWII was shared between the C-47, the military version of the Douglas DC-3, and the C-46 Commando. While these were reliable aircraft, some of which are still in service 60 years later, they were far from ideal airlifters. They were difficult to load. They could not carry vehicles or tanks. They had slanted cargo floors. They didn't have cranes, elevators, or ramps. And they were pretty slow as far as airplanes go. Other transport planes were in use in WWII, such as the DC-4, cargo versions of various bombers, and the Lockheed Constellation, but none of these planes solved all of these problems, or were available in sufficient numbers.
The USAAF decided to take everything that they had learned about cargo aircraft, and build a purpose-built air transport airplane. This was the Douglas C-74 Globemaster. It was a large aircraft for its day, larger than a DC-4 passenger plane. It featured four Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Corncob engines putting out 3000 horsepower each. The Globemaster used tricycle landing gear, so the cargo floor was flat. Part of the floor would drop down and function as an elevator. One unusual feature of the C-74 is that the pilot and co-pilot each had their own glass canopy, giving the aircraft the appearance of having two bug eyes.
While a lot of things were right with the C-74, only 14 were produced, and they were retired from service by 1955. The US Air Force would have purchased many more Globemasters, but one key feature was missing. It could not accommodate wheeled vehicles. Douglas worked on this problem. They found that they could make the fuselage taller, and put in clam shell doors in the nose of the aircraft right under the cockpit. What emerged was the C-124 Globemaster II. The resulting aircraft could handle bulky and outside cargo, vehicles, trucks, bulldozers, guns, and up to 200 troops or 123 litter patients. What was a pretty good aircraft as the C-74 became a great aircraft as the C-124.
The C-124 was produced from 1950 to 1955 in two production runs. There were 204 C-124A and 243 C-124C. The Globemaster II was 174 feet wide, 130 feet long, and stood 48 feet tall. It had a maximum weight of 216,000 pounds, and cruised at 200 miles per hour. The Globemaster II made an immediate impact in Korea, and was the backbone of airlift to Vietnam in the 1960's. While the Globemaster II was being passed by in the jet age, and she required a lot of maintenance, she was lovingly called "Old Shaky" by her crews.
The Globemaster II was retired from front line service in 1970, and retired from guard and reserve service in 1974. While most of the C-124s were melted down into beer cans, 9 still survive in museums. And the heritage of the Globemaster and Globemaster II live on in the form of the C-17 Globemaster III, the new USAF heavy jet airlifter.
Note—in addition to the survivors listed below, the remains of 51-119 are in the Walter Soplata Collection located in Newbury, Ohio. This aircraft was on display at the Bradley Air Museum, now known as the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, CT. The museum was hit by a tornado, and this aircraft was destroyed. Soplata trucked the remains back to his farm in Ohio. The largest recognizable piece that remains is an engine.
C-124 Globemaster II’s Currently On Static Display
Note—click on the Serial Number to see a photo of each airplane.
Authored by John A. Weeks III, Copyright © 1996—2016, all rights reserved.
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