Based upon the Douglas DC-3 airliner, the C-53 was one of several models made on the commercial production lines for the Army Air Forces during the early years of the war. Externally similar to the C-47, but without a reinforced floor or the double doors for loading cargo, the aircraft was designed to carry paratroops and tow gliders. They would also see service, however, transporting wounded and carrying cargo.
With the single door, the plane was not prefered for paratroop operations.
USAAF S/N 42-68835 is one of 150 C-53Ds built by Douglas Aircraft at Santa Monica, California (Factory S/N 11762), and delivered to the USAAF on July 12, 1943. It was assigned to the 72nd Troop Carrier Squadron, 434th Troop Carrier Group, while undergoing training with the 101st Airborne Division before departing for overseas in September 1943. Upon arrival in England, the Group was assigned to the 9th Troop Carrier Command, 9th Air Force; and the aircraft was assigned to Group Headquarters, but continued to be maintained by the 72nd TCS, whose markings it carried throughout the war. At dawn on D-Day, June 6, 1944, the 434th Group took the first gliders into Normandy with the 101st Airborne. A total of three glider missions were flown in the first two days of the invasion. The 72nd Troop Carrier Squadron would participate in the subsequent airborne operations in Holland where it dropped paratroopers of the 501st PIR in the area of the Heeswijk Castle and tow gliders to LZ-W near Son.
At Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge supplies were flown to the beseiged 101st Airborne Division. And finally in the final airborne operation over the Rhine River. It is known that our aircraft did participate in glider drops during the “Market Garden” operation in Holland.
The markings on the aircraft are based upon a photograph taken over France in January 1945, and indicate that the aircraft participated in three glider operations up to that time, as well as numerous medical evacuation and cargo missions. After the war the aircraft returned to the U.S. and was leased by American Airlines under Civilian Registration Number N19924. It would later be used by various government agencies before being sold to civilians. Ultimately it was seized by the Drug Enforcement
The crew of the plane, early 1944. Top, L-R:
Capt. Harry L. Bruce (KIA 1945), 1st Lt. Donald Pahlov (KIA 17 September 1944 - Market Garden) and 1st Lt. John Werntz.
Bottom, L-R: S/Sgt. John A. Devine and T/Sgt. Gilbert Sandy.