The original design was started in 1939 as the DC-4 for the commercial airlines. The first batch was commandeered off the assembly line in 1942 and redesignated the C-54. C-54's were first delivered to the Army Air Forces in March, 1942. They saw service in every theater in World War II and were the primary airlifter across the Atlantic and Pacific, making nearly 80,000 crossings with the loss of only 3 aircraft.
There were 955 C-54s built at Santa Monica, CA and Chicago, IL; 201 of them were delivered to the Navy as R5D's. The aircraft on display at the Castle Air Museum is one of those Navy transports. It displays the markings it carried when its squadron, VR-8, was assigned to the Military Air Transport Service in 1949, based at Hickam AFB, Hawaii. In 1956, it was assigned to NAS Pensacola and used as the Blue Angels staff transport, carrying the maintenance officer and maintenance team. It was replaced in 1957 by another R-5D. That replacement was the first staff transport to have a Blue Angels paint scheme.
The first Presidential aircraft was a C-54 outfitted with a hydraulic elevator for President Franklin Roosevelt and nicknamed the "Sacred Cow". President Roosevelt used it only once, for his trip to Yalta in February, 1945. It was used by President Truman until 1947. That aircraft is now at the Air Force Museum, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.
The Berlin Airlift of 1948-49 used 319 of the approximately 400 C-54's then in service to haul supplies to the city when the Russians closed all road and rail access to the city. The Museum aircraft, then assigned to Navy Transport Squadron 8 (VR-8), was one of those used. Over 189,000 flights were made in the 15 months of the Berlin Air Lift, delivering 2.3 million tons of food, fuel, and supplies. C-54's served until 1972.
By kjfitz @ 2007-03-10 15:30:24