The Douglas C-74 Globemaster was a United States heavy-lift cargo aircraft built by the Douglas Aircraft Company in Long Beach, California.
The Globemaster was developed after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The long distances across the Atlantic, and especially the Pacific Ocean to the combat areas indicated a need for a transoceanic heavy-lift military transport aircraft. Douglas Aircraft Company responded in 1942 with a giant four-engined design. Development and production modifications issues with the aircraft caused the first flight to be delayed until 5 September 1945, and production was limited to 14 aircraft after the production contract was canceled after V-J Day.
Although not produced in large numbers, the C-74 did fill the need for a long-range strategic airlifter, in which the subsequent Douglas C-124 Globemaster II was used by the Air Force for many years.
Design and development
A contract worth more than $50 million was signed 25 June 1942, for 50 aircraft and one static test article. There were no XC- or YC-74 models produced.
The Douglas Aircraft Company began studies at their Santa Monica division towards developing a transport capable of fulfilling the needs of the U.S. military. The 'C-74 Project Group' used their company's DC-4 as a basis and concentrated on extending its capabilities. This new model number aircraft became the Douglas Model 415. Their design philosophy was to build a "no-frills" aircraft that was able to accommodate much of the Army's large equipment. This included tanks, 105 mm Howitzers with transporting vehicles, angle bulldozers, and smaller utility vehicles like jeeps.
This first flight of a C-74 occurred on 5 September 1945. The first C-74, 42-65402, was airborne just two months after it rolled off the assembly line. At the time of its first flight, the C-74 was the largest landplane to enter production, with a maximum weight of 172,000 lb (78,000 kg). It was able to carry 125 soldiers or 48,150 lb (21,840 kg) of cargo over a range of 3,400 mi (5,500 km). Perhaps the most notable feature of the C-74 was its cockpit arrangement with separate canopies over the pilot and copilot; the same arrangement was used for the XB-42 Mixmaster. This arrangement was unpopular with flight crews, however, and the aircraft were retrofitted with a more conventional arrangement. During the life of the aircraft, the radial engines were also upgraded to 3,250 hp (2,424 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-4360-49 engines. The aircraft was 31 feet longer than the C-54 Skymaster, and would be 24 feet longer than the proposed C-118 Liftmaster.
The second built, 42-65403, c/n 13914, crashed during flight testing on 5 August 1946 at Torrance, California when it lost a wing during an overload dive test. All four crew bailed out successfully.. The fourth aircraft was diverted to a static test article at Wright Field, Ohio and virtually every component was tested to destruction between August 1946 and November 1948. This was done in order to determine the individual components' ability to withstand design loads. The fifth C-74 built was modified to be a prototype for the Douglas C-124 Globemaster II, which used the same wing as the C-74, but used a much larger fuselage. This newer aircraft quickly superseded the C-74 in service.
Douglas had every intention to adapt the aircraft into a civil airliner once the war ended. Pan American World Airways began negotiations in 1944. Their civilian model would be dubbed a DC-7 by Douglas (Model 415A) and the 'Clipper Type 9' by Pan American. Pan American intended to use the 108-passenger aircraft for international travel between New York, Rio de Janeiro, and other cities. The major difference between the military cargo aircraft and the civil airliner was the non-pressurized fuselage of the military C-74 and the pressurized DC-7. The passenger compartment was to be outfitted with a lounge bar, dining area and sleeping cabins for night flights. In June 1945, an order was placed for 26 DC-7 aircraft.
With the need for military aircraft greatly reduced by the end of World War II, the order for 50 military aircraft was canceled in January 1946 after production of only 14 aircraft. Only construction numbers 13913/133926 (AAF serials 42-65402/65415) were built. Construction numbers 13927/13962 (AAF serials 42-65416/65451) were canceled. This cancellation also ended plans to build an airliner version of the C-74 for the civilian market, as the limited military production run increased the cost per civilian aircraft to over $1,412,000 and Pan American canceled its order. Douglas then canceled the DC-7 designation. The DC-7 designation was later used for a completely different civilian airliner project in the early 1950s, having no relationship to the C-74.
C-74 Globemaster over Long Beach, California. Of the 14 Globemasters built, 11 actually saw operational service. All were used by the United States Army Air Force Air Transport Command (ATC), and later to the United States Air Force Military Air Transport Service (MATS).
The C-74 had a crew of five, including copilot, pilot, radio operator, navigator, and flight engineer. Crew rest quarters were included for long-duration missions. Passageways were provided in the wing to permit the flight engineer to perform servicing and repairs while in flight. It could carry 125 fully equipped troops, 115 litter patients with their medical attendants, or up to 50,000 pounds (22,000 kilograms) of cargo. The cargo bay had twin hoists that could be moved on a rail up and down the bay. They could be used to drop a removable belly section to ease loading of cargoes, reducing the need for specialized cargo handling equipment.
The small numbers of C-74s built meant that the aircraft's service was limited, but it gave the Air Force experience with the operation and usefulness of large transport aircraft.
The "C-74 squadron" was activated along with the "C-74 Project" on 5 September 1946. They were attached to the 554th AAF Base Unit located at Memphis Municipal Airport, Tennessee. The 554th was a part of the USAAF Air Transport Command. The C-74 Squadron's mission was:
- To conduct non-scheduled, nonstop flights from Fairfield-Suisun (Later Travis Air Force Base) to Washington, D.C. The flights would be cargo only, no passengers were authorized.
- To establish a flight program which would accumulate 300 hours of service time on the Globemaster's original R-4360-27 engines in the shortest possible time
- To gather and record all technical data from tests performed on the C-74
- To train sufficient crew members and aircraft mechanics with which to conduct these tests. The R-4360 engine was earmarked for the B-35 and B-36 so Air Materiel Command was especially anxious to see the results of the squadron's use of the aircraft.
- Establish loading techniques and procedures
- Establish proper tie-down procedures.
- Establish air evacuation techniques.
- Determine other data concerning loading, offloading of cargo.
This project was designed to be a "shakedown" of the aircraft prior to entering operational service. Training of personnel to conduct this test was to have been accomplished by aircrews and technicians initially C-74 trained at Wright Field, Ohio, and also at the Douglas facility in Long Beach, California. Approximately 30 transcontinental flights were planned.
The squadron was moved to Morrision Field, Florida in October 1946. This was due to the fact that the runways at Memphis were not stressed to take the large gross weight of the C-74, resulting in some minor cracking to the concrete surface. Operations included two weekly trips from Morrision Field to Albrook Field, Panama using R o Hato Army Air Base as an alternate field.
In 1947, the 2nd and 3rd Air Transport Groups (Provisional) were formed and the C-74 was declared operationally ready. Humanitarian missions were flown in 1947 that included flood relief to Florida, and Hurricane relief for the southern area of the U.S.
Morrison Field was inactivated on 1 July 1947, and both provisional units were inactivated, the aircraft and support personnel and equipment being reassigned to Brookley Field, Alabama. On 1 June 1948, the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) was formed with the merging of the Air Force's Air Transport Command and the Navy's Naval Air Transport Service. Within MATS, all of the Globemasters were assigned to the Atlantic Division.
Once in operational use, C-74s began to be used on scheduled MATS overseas routes though the late 1940s and mid 1950s:
- "Panamanian", between Brookley and Albrook AFB, Panama
- "Puerto Rican", between Brookley and Ramey AFB, Puerto Rico
- "Hawaiian", between Brookley and Hickam AFB, Hawaii, with a stop at Fairfield-Suisun (later Travis) AFB, California.
- "Johnathan", between Brookley, Kelly AFB, Texas; McClellan AFB, California; McChord AFB, Washington, and Elmendorf AFB, Alaska.
- Brookley and Casablanca-Anfa Airport, French Morocco; Wheelus Air Base, Libya
- Brookley and Keflavik Airport, Iceland; RAF Manston, England.
Additionally, logistic support flights for Strategic Air Command (SAC), and Tactical Air Command (TAC) saw the Globemaster in North Africa, the Middle East, Europe, the Caribbean, and within the United States. Two C-74s were used to support the first TAC Republic F-84 Thunderjet flight across the Pacific Ocean to Japan. SAC also continued to use the Globemasters to rotate Boeing B-47 Stratojet Medium Bombardment Groups on temporary duty in England and Morocco as part of their REFLEX operation.
During the Berlin Airlift, a single Globemaster (42-65414) arrived at Rhein-Main Air Base on 14 August 1948 and landed for the first time on 17 August at Berlin's Gatow Airfield in the British sector carrying 20 tons of flour. Over the next six weeks, the Globemaster crew flew 24 missions into the city delivering 1,234,000 pounds of supplies. Several airlift records were set by the crew in 414 during Operation Vittles. On 18 September, Air Force Day, the crew flew six round trips into Berlin hauling a total of 250,000 pounds of coal setting a new Airlift Task Force utilization record by flying 20 hours during the 24 hour effort.
During the construction of Tegel Airfield in the French sector of Berlin, large construction equipment was needed to build new runways. But this equipment, including a rock crusher, was too big for even the Globemaster to accommodate. The mission was accomplished by having the equipment cut into pieces by welding torch at Rhein-Main and flown aboard the C-74 into Gatow for reassembly.
After six weeks of Vittles flights, the Globemaster returned to Brookley AFB. Reportedly, the Soviet Union complained that the Globemaster could be used as a bomber via the open elevator well. The fact that the runways in Berlin were not stressed for the airlifter's weight and the aircraft was not compatible with the corridor's scheduling were other factors considered for its withdrawal.
Support for the Berlin Airlift by the C-74 changed to flying regularly scheduled flights between the U.S. and Western Germany. This mission was called the 'Goliath' and was constantly transporting C-54 engines and parts for use in the airlift. Cargo arriving in Western Germany was flown to Berlin in smaller C-47 Skytrain and C-54 Skymaster aircraft.
Experience with the Berlin Airlift demonstrated that the new United States Air Force needed a heavy strategic airlift capability, which led to the development of the Douglas C-124 Globemaster II.
The invasion of the Republic of Korea by North Korea began another supporting phase of the C-74's career. From 1 July 1 to December 1950, the Globemasters logged over 7,000 hours in flights to Hawaii hauling troops and high priority cargo westward toward the Korean War and returning eastward with wounded GIs.
During the seven months between July 1950 and January 1951, the Globemasters transported 2,486 patients, 550 passengers, and 128,000 pounds of cargo from Hickam AFB, Hawaii to the United States while hauling just under a million pounds of cargo westward. The C-74s did not fly into Japan, Okinawa or any South Korean airfields. These figures, coupled with the fact that, since 1946, the C-74 had flown over six million miles and 31,000 flying hours without a single injury to crewmen or passengers, give testimony to the Globemaster's reliability.
By 1952, The C-74 began to experience shortages of spare parts and increasing maintenance problems. It was recognized by late 1954, that the deterioration of the C-74's components were progressing more rapidly than predicted. Plans were made for the eventual retirement of the Air Force's only fleet of Globemasters. In June 1955, the 6th ATS was merged with the 3rd ATS and was flying operational missions with them. On 1 July, the 6th ATS (Heavy) was officially deactivated and its C-74s and crews were transferred to the 1703rd ATG's 3rd ATS (Heavy). On 1 November 1952, the C-74s were placed in flyable storage at Brookley AFB while the group waited for instructions as to the disposition of the aircraft.
During the first three months of 1956, the 11 remaining C-74s were officially removed from the Military Air Transport Service's inventory and were flown one by one to Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona for long-term storage and disposition. Colonel George S. Cassady, who had accepted the first C-74 for the Air Force and now a Brigadier General, was attending a Continental Division Commander's Conference when he learned of the C-74's last flight. Cassady received special permission to pilot the aircraft on its last flight and on 31 March 31 1956, flew the last C-74 from Brookley AFB to Davis-Monthan AFB.
Most of the C-74s in storage at Davis-Monthan AFB were scrapped in 1965, although four wound up in civilian hands, mostly owned by Aeronaves de Panama (holding company for "Air Systems"). The National Museum of the United States Air Force scrapped the last vestige of Air Force Globemaster Is when they relegated the YC-124C, 48-795 (the prototype of the Globemaster II which had been converted from C-74, 42-65406) to fire-fighting training in 1969.
42-65404 was sold on the civilian market as N3182G. It wound up in Panama as Aeronaves de Panama HP-385. It flew in Europe and to Middle East frequently but crashed near Marseilles, France on 9 October 1963, with six on board killed. After the crash, Aeronaves de Panamas licence to operate from Denmark was withdrawn, and the airline went out of business.
42-65408 was sold on the civilian market on 24 March 1959 as N8199H, owned by Akros Dynamic. It was flown to Cuba in an attempt to sell it to the new Castro government. It later was moved to Panama as Aeronaves de Panama HP-367. It flew in Europe and to Middle East frequently. Abandoned after the airline went out of business in 1963, and dismantled at Milan, Italy in August 1972; it was the last surviving Globemaster.
42-65409 was sold on the civilian market in 1956 as N3181G. After reconditioning at Oakland, California, it wound up in Panama as Aeronaves de Panama HP-379. It flew in Europe and to Middle East frequently carrying live cattle from Copenhagen to the Middle East. It was abandoned at Milan, Italy in 1969 and appeared in the 1969 Michael Caine movie "The Italian Job." It was painted in the colors of the fictitious Communist Chinese Civil Aviation Airlines that delivered the gold to FIAT in Turin. Later moved to Turin airport, it caught fire while on public display on 11 June 1970 and again on 24 September 1970 while it was being salvaged, this time killing two salvage workers.
42-65412 was sold on the civilian market in 1956 as N3183G. Dismantled at Long Beach,CA in 1964
The following USAAF/USAF units flew the C-74 Globemaster:
- Air Transport Command, Continental Division
- C-74 Squadron, 554th Army Air Field Base Unit, Memphis Municipal Airport, Tennessee, September 1946
- Reassigned to Morrision Field, Florida and redesignated as 1103rd Army Air Field Base Unit, October 1946.
- Air Transport Command, Atlantic Division
- C-74 Squadron, 1103rd Army Air Field Base Unit, Morrison Field, Florida, October 1946*
- 2nd Air Transport Group (Provisional), Morrison Field, Florida, March 1947*
- 21st Air Transport Squadron (Provisional)
- 22nd Air Transport Squadron (Provisional)
- 3rd Air Transport Group (Provisional), Morrison Field, Florida, May 1947*
- 31st Air Transport Squadron (Provisional)
- 32nd Air Transport Squadron (Provisional)
* Aircraft, support personnel and equipment reassigned to Brookley AFB, 1 July 1947 and redesignated 521st Air Transport Group upon closure of Morrison Field
- 521st Air Transport Group, 1 July 1947
- 17th Air Transport Squadron
- 19th Air Transport Squadron
- Redesignated: 1601st Air Transport Group, 1 October 1948 (Reassigned to Continental Division)
- 1260th Air Transport Squadron (Merger of 17th and 19th Air Transport Squadrons)
- Redesignated: 1703d Air Transport Group, 1 October 1949 (MATS Continental Division)
- 1260th Air Transport Squadron, October 1949 July 1952
- 6th Air Transport Squadron (Heavy), 1 July 1952 (Inactivated 30 June 1955 and merged with 3d ATS)
- 3rd Air Transport Squadron (Heavy), 1 July 1952 1 November 1955**
** C-74 Aircraft kept in flyable storage, 1 November 1955 31 Mar 1956, being reassigned to 3040th Aircraft Storage Group, Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona for disposition.
Specifications (C-74 Globemaster)
- Francillon, Ren . McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Since 1920: Volume I. London: Putnam, 1979. ISBN 0-87021-428-4.
- Williams, Nicholas M. "Bug-Eyed Monster: The Douglas Model 415A, the first Globemaster and DC-7." Air Enthusiast, Issue 60, November December 1995, pp. 40 53. ISSN 0143-5450.
- Williams, Nicholas M. "Globemaster: The Douglas C-74". Journal of the American Aviation Historical Society, Volume 25, Number 2, Summer 1980.
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