This image, taken by Alfred Palmer, depicts these women mechanics at the Long Beach, California, plant of Douglas Aircraft Company are learning some of the fine points of the mighty engines that power the C-47 transport plane. The versatile C-47 performs many important tasks for the Army. It ferries men and cargo across the oceans and mountains, tows gliders and brings paratroopers and their equipment to scenes of action.
By 1941 the old Air Corps had been transformed into the Army Air Forces, and it selected a modified version of the DC-3 — the C-47 Skytrain — to become its standard transport aircraft. A reinforced fuselage floor and the addition of a large cargo door were the only major modifications. Other changes included the fitting of cargo hooks beneath the center wing section and the removal of the tail cone to mount a hook for towing gliders.
As a supply plane, the C-47 could carry up to 6,000 pounds of cargo. It could also hold a fully assembled jeep or a 37 mm cannon. As a troop transport, it carried 28 soldiers in full combat gear. As a medical airlift plane, it could accommodate 14 stretcher patients and three nurses. Seven basic versions were built, and the aircraft was given at least 22 designations, including the AC-47D gunship, the EC-47 electronic reconnaissance aircraft, the EC-47Q antiaircraft systems evaluation aircraft and the C-53 Skytrooper.
Every branch of the U.S military and all the major allied powers flew it. The U.S. Navy version was the R4D. The British and the Australians designated it the Dakota (a clever acronym composed of the letters DACoTA for Douglas Aircraft Company Transport Aircraft). The aircraft operated from every continent in the world and participated in every major battle. By the end of World War II, more than 10,000 had been built. For all of its official and unofficial names, it came to be known universally as the "Gooney Bird." General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe, termed it one of the most vital pieces of military equipment used in winning the war.