Walking the Airpark: C-46 - the original Commando
By John R. Dabrowski, 16th SOW History Office
/ Published March 10, 2006
HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. --
The C-46 Commando located in the Hurlburt Field Airpark has quite a story to tell about places its been and the missions its accomplished.
Although not as well known or perhaps as well liked as the beloved Douglas C-47 Gooney Bird, the C-46 could carry twice the cargo and personnel that the C-47 could.
The C-46 was known for its heavy load capability, and because of that the transport was thrown into WW II operations in the China-Burma-India theater supporting air commando operations and British Gen. Orde Wingate’s “Chindits.”
With this capacity, the C-46 was ideal for carrying supplies and ferrying troops over the “Hump” — the CBI passage over the Himalayan Mountains. The aircraft was originally designated for seating 24 people, but often carried as many as three dozen troops.
The C-46 was built by the Curtiss Aircraft Company, now known as McDonnell-Douglas. The U.S. Army Air Force took possession of 3,180 models A through G, C-46 aircraft in 1942. Production ended at the end of WW II and the C-46 was used primarily by Air Force Reserve units for pilot and aircrew proficiency training before seeing action once again, this time with the Far East Air Force during the Korean War.
In 1962, with the return to action of the 1st Air Commandos Group, and the activation of the 1st Air Commando Wing, the C-46 was pressed into service and flew supporting missions while assigned to the 319th Troop Carrier Squadron. When American involvement in Vietnam began, the C-46 flew for Air America, the U.S. sponsored airline of Vietnam, making the C-46 one of only three aircraft to see action in three wars, WW II, Korea, and Vietnam.
The C-46 was finally retired from active service in 1968 as the C-130 assumed the primary role in cargo and personnel transport. Unfortunately, the early official records for the C-46, tail number 44-77424, on display at the Hurlburt Field Airpark were lost. This aircraft did fly courier duty with the 437th Troop Carrier Wing in Japan during the Korean War. It then saw service with the Japanese Air Self Defense Force from 1955 to mid-1980, when it was purchased by the City of Fairbanks, Alaska for commercial use there. It was delivered to Hurlburt Field on Nov. 12, 1985.