D-Day Veteran: C-53D Skytrain, DC-3

left

In the military, the DC-3 was known as the C-53D Skytrain or Dakota. After the war many Dakotas like this one were converted to DC-3s for civilian use. Many old aircraft like this DC-3 sit abandoned and are usually scrapped because it is too expensive to restore them. This DC-3 in Fremont, Ohio is going to take $250,000 and a lot of volunteer labor but there is hope for this veteran. This C-53D was was used for paratrooper transport and flew in the D-Day invasion. After the war it was converted to a DC-3 and flew for Continental Airlines as well as Southern Airways, hauled sky divers in Florida and was possibly used for drug smuggling. The plane was purchased by the current owner’s father, Gene Damschröder, Sr., who planned to restore it. After his death in a plane crash in 2008 his son, Rex Damschroder, began Work  to save the aircraft. The plan is to restore the aircraft to its military configuration and fly it to France in 2018 for the 75th D-Day anniversary. This will be the last milestone D-Day anniversary in which surviving D-Day veterans will be present.

Cockpit

This flight deck has seen a lot of history, from dropping paratroopers into battle to flying passengers and perhaps “flying the deck” on South American drug runs. Those “steam gauges” and the radio stack look like they could be from the 1970s.

paint

The original Army Air Corps paint is still there under the civilian paint. That square patch is one of several repairs from bullet holes and shrapnel  damage.

inside

The passenger interior was stripped away long ago. This is more like it’s military configuration.

engine start

The right R 1820 engine comes to life after many years.

rudder

The rudder and other control surfaces are to be rebuilt or replaced.

right front

It’s going to take a lot of money and a lot of work to restore this C-53D. They have set up a non-profit corporation, “saving lulubell” for donations. They can always use volunteer help. I may go out next fall and work for a few weeks. You can contact Michelle Liu at mliu@theblade.com to donate or to volunteer. Do you think this old bird will fly again? I guess that depends on us. It will serve as a memorial to the Veterans of World War ll and as an educational tool for future generations.

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Comments

  1. Van

    The DC3 and it’s variants are the most significant aircraft of all time.
    I think that will be true even when the Malinium falcon meets the Enterprise in the year 2369 AD.

    • Rob

      I’d like to be around to see that Van, ‘course I’d be 424 by then, but who knows what the good Lord still has in store for me.. :)

    • Anthony Anthony Wurthmann

      There is a DC-3 here in Alaska at the Alaska Transportation Mueseum in Wasilla, Alaska. I have been attempting to purchase another vintage aircraft from them, to no avail thus far.

      • Dave Wright

        Museums like to trade…….the best way to deal with them is buy something they want and trade it to them……that is also true with military museums.

  2. Bob Baird

    I think it’s wonderful that someone is going to bring back this airplane seeing that it played such an important role in history! My dad was a medic in the 101st Airborne, 506th Parachute Infantry and was dropped into Normany. Who knows, this could have been the very plane he was on! He’s on the middle left in this pic taken June 2, 1944 with his platoon.

    • Rocco

      Great pic. I know you’re proud, and should be.

    • Rob

      a Band of Brothers.. :)

    • BMW/Tundra Guy

      Wow!!! You MUST be one proud son!!!! Your Father is one of too many to try to place a number to, heroes that have served in one form or another to allow the freedom to view this site, to post comments here and other places, and to worship freely!!!!! Among many many many other things that way too many people take for granted!!!!!
      To ALL PAST AND PRESENT MILITARY, you have my heart felt THANK YOU!!!! MAY GOD BLESS YOU for your sacrifices!!!!!

  3. Jim O Member

    As a pilot for 45years it’s by far my favorite plane. Hopefully it takes to the air for many many more years to come!!

  4. Dolphin Member

    Great photo, Bob, thanks for putting it on here. We need to remember the guys who went over there.

    Some DC3s had Wright radial 9 engines, and the engines on this one look like they are 9s. A long time ago my father gave me a piston that he said was out of a Wright radial that I still keep on my workbench. The bore is just over 6 inches, which would be the size for a Wright radial. It’s aluminum but very heavy with lots of cast-in reinforcing webbing under the top, and is the most solidly built piston I have ever seen. I guess that’s why those planes were such reliable workhorses. They were built that way.

  5. piper62j

    I was a crew chief on C47s for 3 of my 4 years in the Air Force.. Also flew on a Puff the Magic Dragon in Nam.. I know just about every part of the plane and if it were closer, I’d be volunteering a lot of my retired time to restore this one..

    I was also fortunate enough to visit a C47 being restored in California.. The owner asked me to stay and help out, but I was on vacation and had limited time.. It was in complete olive drab paint and just as I remembered them.. It even smelled the same..

    Hate to see these old birds get scrapped because of money.. They are an integral part of our nations history and all remaining C47s should be restored and kept in flying condition free of charge by our government.. LOL.. They flew very smooth and the drone of the engines will put you to sleep..

    • Dave Wright

      The issue is there were so many of them built and used. The USAF just retired there last one in 2008 but there hundreds of survivors, many still flying and many in museums close to being fly able. The FAA may still be flying at least,one of them and many still used daily in Canada. They are great historic aircraft off course but there are other more rare aircraft that deserve at least as much attention. Of all the B24’s built I think there is only one flying…..they were such good airplanes that countries and fire bomber companies just flew the wings off them. Off course, only one B29 is still flying…..soon to be 2 we hope…..( the B29 is a much more complex aircraft) Wright 1820’s are great engines with plenty of experts and spares available to keep them operational. These old girls are just too big to operate without a job. I have cut up many large aircraft. My D18’s are about as large as most private individuals can successfully own and operate for fun.

  6. Terry J

    Hi, Yup – US Military versions were the C-47 (Skytrain) though the Gooney Bird was another normal moniker back then. Growing up in the 50’s / 60s I often saw these flying overhead since lots of WW2 pilots started little private air cargo companies with surplus C-47s. By little, I mean the airplane and them. :-) Terry J

    • Gilbert

      C 53 was the designation for the paratrooper version which didn’t have the double doors and reinforced floor. This would have had seating for the troops at the time. They also had the tow hook for glider towing. Far fewer were made than the C47. You are correct that they are generally known as C47 rather than C53.

  7. dm

    Here’s one on Guam about 1972.

  8. Jeff DeWitt

    While I don’t think this really counts as a barn find it’s a wonderful story about a great airplane and I wish those folks luck getting her restored and back in the air again.

    I’d love to ride in one of these sometime.

    • Dave Wright

      There was a group in Southern California ( I think….) that was doing sunset flights with one. They didn’t last long. You can frequently get a ride in one at major air shows. The fees help feed the beast……you can also ride in the B17 that flys the air show circuit…….they built nearly 10,000 C47’s and the troop transport versions.

  9. Bruce

    I love those old propeys.Bruce.

  10. Vanman34

    The C53 version of the C47 was known as the Skytrooper.
    C-53 Skytrooper
    Troop transport version of the C-47 that lacked the reinforced cargo floor, large cargo door, and hoist attachment of the C-47 Skytrain. It was dedicated for the troop transport role and could carry 28 passengers in fixed metal seats arranged in rows in the former cargo space; 221 built.

  11. Terry J

    Great scene from “Band of Brothers” series. They were disembarking off of trucks near Bastogne when a soldier came up to Capt. Winters ( 101 st Airborne) and said: “I have bad news. It looks like we are surrounded”. Capt. Winters replied ” We’re paratroopers. We’re supposed to be surrounded”. :-) Terry J

    • rusty

      Thanks for the reference. It always makes me laugh.

    • piper62j

      I still have all 6 dvd’s of that series in the original metal can.. Watched it at least 20 times.. Great series.. Great actors..

  12. Jeff DeWitt

    I’ve no idea what the plane was but in 1963 my family came back from Germany via MATS. I was about five or six and don’t have many clear memories but I do remember looking out the window at the front of the engine and seeing the cylinders glowing red in the dark. Of course it wasn’t until years later I learned they were cylinders on a big radial engine.

    And I LOVE the sound of a big propeller plane in flight. That’s one of the many fun things about the movie “Airplane” (that I doubt most people catch). The plane is a jet, but the sound is a prop plane.

    • Dave Wright

      That is a long way in a C-47………

      • Jeff DeWitt

        I doubt it was a C-47. What would MATS have been using to ferry passengers across the Atlantic in 1963? My memories are pretty vague but I think it had four engines.

        As I recall two engine aircraft weren’t certified for transatlantic passenger service until sometime in the 80’s.

      • Dave Wright

        MATS never had anything to do with FAA certifications but it probably was more like a C 54 or a DC4. They were common by that time as were Constalations. And MATS had lots of those. I used to routinely fly between March AFB and Hickum Hi in a rescue C130, also a long way.

  13. Fred

    It has to be cool, James Bond flew one.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14PMgikQ6oo

    • Dave Wright

      That airplane is available for charter in Florida and was also at D Day…….minimum charter 2600.00. Great movie craft……..

  14. Van

    I imagine a remake of Space Balls could use one of these instead of a Winnebago

  15. Jerry L

    Went in one at the EAA Oshkosh air show in the mid 70s. I had a 1942 Taylorcraft
    L2-A grasshopper Liaison plane that was stationed at Wright-Patterson Airbase in WWII. When marriage arrived, it left. Probably why I am still on the green side of the grass.

  16. pperros

    A couple of weeks ago, I was in my yard in northern VA when I heard a sound from long ago — the unmistakable drone of twin radial engines passing slowly overhead. Looked up, and sure enough it was a DC-3 passing at about 3,000 feet. Turns out it was about to land at National Airport to commemorate the first commercial landing there 75 years ago. That took me way back.

  17. Charles

    Each year at the EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the organization honors a certain plane. One year it was the B-17, Cessnas, trimotors, P-51 Mustangs, etc. Several years ago the DC-3/C-47 was honored. A large number of the planes were in attendance and it was exciting to note the different uses and Owners. Several were company planes, universities, private owners, etc. One of the planes present was from the Buffalo Airline in Alaska. While many of the planes were in pristine condition, the Buffalo Airline plane had the look of a “workhorse!” Was not shiny, streaks along the fuselage, drip pans under the engines….. If anyone is interested, AirVenture begins this year July 25 until August 1. As the saying goes: “See you at Oshkosh!”

    • Dave Wright

      It has to be the best air show on earth……I have been to many all over Europe and the US but Oshkosh is the best. My brother won his class there with his Piper Comanchee probably 10 years ago now. With the traffic, it is amazing there are so few accidents.

  18. Phil

    Gene Sr gave me my first ever airplane ride at the Fremont Ohio Airport. I was 12 to 14 years old then and 55 now. I remember him telling me to put my hands on the yolk and told me I was flying it when he took his hands off of his yolk. Great times!

  19. roger

    Hope it gets restored.Happy to see history saved!!!
    My late Father was a Navy anti aircraft gunner on a Cruiser in the Pacific .
    1942-45

  20. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    yep love an old radial….there is a DC-3 freighter – I believe – that makes a regular north south route over my place….you can hear the drone of those engines for awhile before she passes in the late evening…..can’t wait until the CAF is all moved into their new home – I’m just down the street from the hangers….

  21. Mike

    My Mom’s Dad flew as a co-pilot during the D-Day landings, he never really would talk about it. But the day of his funeral, some of his buddies from the VFW came out for the meal at the Church afterwards and they brought out his service record and talked for hours to us Grandson’s and to Mom. Seems he had tried to be a bomber pilot, but for some reason did not qualify, so he went into the air transporter service, and was scheduled to pilot one of the planes for D-day, but do to rotation he was moved to co-pilot for the plane he was in. It hauled a group over and was shot up pretty bad, how it made it back was never known. Grandpa was wounded from flak but recovered. He did later Pilot a plane in Market Garden, and later dropping supplies near the end of Battle of the Bulge. He remained in the Army Air Corp until he was discharged in 1946. He was recalled during the Korean war and flew stateside only. He was one of the Greatest Generation that like most never talked about it, you only find this stuff out after they die. I am very lucky, some years ago, Grandma gave me his service records to keep, and I have shown them to my Kids and not to long ago, showed them to my oldest Grandson. These are wonderful items to have, and to be proud of.

  22. Todd

    My Dad flew in one of these out of Hawaii bound for Guam during Korea. He said that the starboard engine started missing about 30 minutes out so they turned around and headed back to Wheeler AA. He and a bunch of others sat around for four hours while they repaired it.Then they filed back on and took off again. 30 min. out and it started missing so they went back for repairs again. This time they sat for eight hours. When they were ready to go again there was a mutiny and the men refused to get on. He said they called the M .P.s and ordered them on the aircraft at gunpoint. I guess they finally made it to Guam because I’m here to tell about it.

    • Charles

      When I was in the Air Force, I was assigned to Andersen AFB, Guam. However, I did not fly on a DC-3, it was a Boeing 707, World Airways Charter. Flew to Hickman AFB, Hawaii and then on to Guam. When my tour of 18 months was over, I flew a MATS C-119 to Wake Island, refueled, then on to Hawaii. From Hawaii, flew to Travis AFB, CA. The total flight time was 24 hours or so!

      However, when I enlisted in the Air Force in Pittsburgh, PA, in 1960, I flew a DC-3 to Chicago, then to San Antonio, TX for basic training at Lackland AFB.

  23. ron tyrrell

    In 1965 I worked for Avery Flying service located out side of Greybull Wyo as a mech asst. At that time we were flying Privateers ( Navy version of the Liberator), B 25s, C 45 Beech and best of all a B18. The B18 was the bomber version of the C47/DC3 and thought to be at the time the only one left in 1965. We carried about two thousand gallons of borate solution for fighting fire with the aircraft. One one thing that I most remember the take off fron Greybull air port when it was loaded. The elevation was around 5000 ft and on a hot summer day it used all of the run way and a little bit of the sage brush getting airborne. I have often wondered what ever happened to it, there is another in Pima air museum in Arizona. Also at that time Frontier Air Lines were still flying DC 3s all around Wyoming. About mention an air craft returning from Germany, that would have been C118, I flew to Germany in 1963 on board on of them, setting backwards and exhaust glowing and misfiring the whole way

  24. That Guy

    Having lived in or near the Silicon Valley region of California my whole life, I grew up seeing (and hearing) Lockheed P-3 Orions flying overhead multiple times each day. They were based at Moffett Field in Mountain View and were patrolling the central California coast watching for Soviet submarines.

    After the end of the cold war this activity declined, Moffett was decommissioned as a military airfield, and I didn’t hear the rumble of big piston-engine prop planes for a long time. But recently they seem to have reappeared, and I have wondered why. It’s amazing to me that these 50+ year old airplanes are still serving active duty.

    • That Guy

      After posting this, I dug a bit further (meaning, I went to Wikipedia) and found these planes actually have turboprop power, not piston engines. I always assumed their characteristic rumble was produced by big piston engines, but maybe it’s the props themselves which give it that sound. I learned something new today. :-D

  25. Ed Willaims

    The Evergreen Air Museum in Mc Minville, Oregon has a cosmetically restored DC-3
    out on the front lawn. It is painted in the usual military Olive Drab color.

  26. Terry J

    What a cool museum that is, been there several times. I recommend that you readers Google it and view the great inventory of historic planes. Ever heard of the Spruce Goose? It’s there. :-) Terry J

  27. piper62j

    Hey Don.. I think there are some C-130s, C119s, B29s on that field.. I can’t really get a close, clear view, but these are the planes I believe I can identify.. The planes with the tip tanks appear to be Navy and there is one lone plane I cannot figure out..

    Great find.. Wish I was there..

  28. Pierre Stievenart

    I was born in still occupied Belgium on 1st Jan. 1944 and was liberated by the GI’s beginning of September that year. In the sixties, I could fly on civilian DC-3s run by Sabena (the Belgian flag carrier). Of course I love the Dakota, a fantastic flying workhorse. Now living in France, I saw a Dakota last June flyin over a ceremony in South Brittany. I’m looking forward to salute the restored Skytrain when he will return to Normandy in 2018.

  29. Sael

    Folsom’s Flying Service in Greenville ME has a DC3 on floats. I’ve seen it on the ground, very impressive. http://www.douglasdc3.com/float/float.htm

  30. Mike McCloud

    For Jeff Dewitt; MATS ‘may have’ flown a C-47 type across the Atlantic. In those days, after the Berlin Airlift especially, there were lots of military aircraft in lots of places ; they were often referred to as ‘hacks’; used for travel between bases, &; for any other utilitarian needs. The C-47 may have been used for two reasons; #1; other acft were in use &; personnel ( &; dependents) needed to be somewhere else, like stateside, #2; The acft ‘pool’ was managed as a motor pool would’ve been; there’s a need; use it. The flight may also have been to transfer European-based military acft, back to the states and; later, put up for sale at one of the many bases here, used for that purpose. The fact was; dependents needed transportation, and likely put on board because there was space available. I worked on C-47’s in RVN on my ‘tour;. The Spooky crews were across the ramp from us &; we had many memorable, impromptu ‘interservice wrastlin’ matches’ !

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