In the predawn darkness of June 6, 1944, over 69200 paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division climbed aboard 432 Douglas C-47 Skytrains as part of ‘Mission Albany’ - the first wave of air assaults heralding the start of the Allied invasion of Normandy.
In fact, 300 ‘pathfinder’ parachutists had already been dropped behind enemy lines only hours earlier equiped with the Rebecca/Eureka ground/air radar responder beacons and marker lights to guide the 101st Airborne Division troops to the various drop zones scattered across the Normandy peninsular.
Approaching the coast at less than 500ft, once the waves of C-47’s reached their assembly point some 57 miles out, the aircraft climbed to 1000ft, turning to their respective drop zones.
In blackout conditions with German anti-aircraft flak bursting all around them, the C-47’s were required to stay in formation almost wingtip to wingtip to ensure the troops landed as closely together as possible.
Unfortunately not everything went as planned with some of the pathfinder beacons disabled in the jump, thick low cloud cover rolling in over the jump zones and some of the C-47’s coming in too low for their troops to exit without injury as their parachutes did not have enough time to slow their rate of decent before they hit the ground.
Pilots and troops described the nigh-time assault as simply terrifying with C-47’s being shot out of the sky all around them and watching arcs of tracer fire rising up to meet them as they drifted slowly down through the darkness.
One of the C-47 pilots, Lt Russell Chandler Jr was to later recall the fierce German defensive fire…
'Flak was often heavy, and it was sickening to watch your wingman take a hit, nose over and head down. There was no skill in avoiding being hit. You stayed in formation and prayed it wouldn’t be you. Of my group of 27, I think we lost seven that first day…'
At the same time, a large force of glider battalions were being delivered across the beaches towed by a range of modified C-47’s and Stirling Bombers.
Two hours later, the second wave of airborne troops arrived at their drop zones carrying another 6400 parachutists aboard 369 C-47’s. Again, poor conditions and increased German anti aircraft fired forced many aircraft to drop their troops many miles from the designated drop zones resulting in significant confusion on the ground.
Over the following hours more troop gliders and parachutists were touching down all over the Normandy area desperately trying to consolidate on the ground before attacking their assigned targets.
Although many of their crews survived, 42 C-47’s were destroyed during the two days of operations - 21 of those on D-Day during the parachute assaults and the remainder during resupply missions.
US D-Day casualties for the two airborne divisions was over 2500 with total casualties rising in excess of 9300 by the end of June. German casualties over the course of the invasion campaign was to reach in excess of 21,300.
As per many of its operations throughout WWII, the Douglas C-47 would predominantly fly low altitude missions leaving it extremely vulnerable to ground fire.
While it’s robust and reinforced aluminium fuselage and wing surfaces could sustain significant damage, it’s two Pratt & Whitney R-1830-90C Twin Wasp 14-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines were still extremely vulnerable but in an emergency, the USAAF troop transporter was capable of limping home on just one operational engine.
Ordinarily, a C-47s two propellers faced forward at right angles to drive air backwards producing thrust but with an engine stopped, that ‘open’ propeller position suddenly created enormous drag on the airframe.
To compensate for this, the C-47 was equiped with two Engine Propeller Feathering Switches mounted on either side of the overhead panel above the pilot and co-pilot.
Some C-47s lost both engines, forcing the pilot to push the nose down to maintain flight speed and hoping to glide as far as he could to enable the crew to safely bail out or to find an open field or clear stretch of water for a controlled crash landing.
This original ‘Red Top Propeller Feathering Switch is a rare and significant artefact of one of the USAAF’s’ most iconic troop transporter - the Douglas C-47.
The Feathering Switch is fully functional and depresses in on its spring as designed.
What a special gift for the aviation enthusiast in your life! - An original, WWII C-47 ‘Red Top’ Propeller Feathering Switch mounted in its 100yr old Mango Wood Display Stand with engraved plaque, printed and laminated Fact Sheet plus a highly detailed, custom built Scale Model of this iconic USAAF Transporter, perched atop its magnetic display arm!
While this model is available in the highly detailed 1/72 scale version, I do have a super detailed Giant 1/48 scale kit that features opening cargo door and D Day parachutists exiting the aircraft!
This Douglas C-47 Instrument comes complete with detailed Scale Model, Mango Wood Stand & Plaque plus Printed Fact Sheet featuring photo of instrument in aircraft cockpit.
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Your Douglas C-47 Skytrain, 'Red Top' Propeller Feathering Switch, Original Recovery Curios Warbird Collectable includes:
- Original Warbird instrument
- Highly detailed hand-built and airbrushed 1/72 plastic scale model of the aircraft*
- Hand-crafted and beautifully finished 100yr, Far North Queensland Mango Wood display stand
- Detailed, 2-sided, printed and laminated Instrument Fact Sheet detailing aircraft and instrument
- Removable Magnetic Display Arm
*An upgrade to the Super Size and extremely detailed 1/48 scale model is also available in the hand-built and airbrushed plastic version for an additional $85 (Click on the 1/48 scale option)
Both the 1/72 & 1/48 scale hand-built and airbrushed plastic models are available with 'wheels & flaps up or down' and 'canopy open or closed' options with a choice of two Squadron markings and camouflage.
Upon order placement you will receive an email asking for your preferred configuration.
Your complete Recovery Curios Original Instrument Collectable is securely packed and delivery normally takes between 3 - 4 weeks approx.
Did you fly, crew or maintain a C-47 Skytrain or have a friend, colleague or family member who did? Check out our PERSONALISED ORIGINAL INSTRUMENT COLLECTABLE OPTION here.