The Curtiss C-46 Commando is best remembered for its use during World War II when it was instrumental in supplying friendly forces in the China, India, and Burma theaters. It could carry more payload and had better high altitude performance than the C-47. Even so, due to the harsh conditions over the Himalayas and maintenance problems because of the remote location of their bases, the loss rate was high. Three C-46 groups - about 250 aircraft - were also assigned to the 5th Air Force in the Pacific. C-46A, D and F models were used in Korea and a few were used in the early days of the Vietnam conflict. The last Air Force C-46 was retired in 1969.
Each mission over the Himalayan Mountains was called "Flying the Hump", and each time a C-46 would carry 40 passengers or 12,000 pounds of cargo. Each time an aircraft flew the Hump, its ground crew would paint a camel on its side to designate the mission.
The aircraft on display at Castle Air Museum has 35 camels on its side designating 35 missions over the Hump. It served with the Air Force Reserve after World War II, and finally served in Japan both with the U.S. and Japanese armed forces. It was flown back to the U.S. in 1970 and later was donated to the Museum in 1983. Many were flown by civilian cargo carriers after World War II and a few are still in service today.
By kjfitz @ 2007-03-10 14:41:32