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C-47 Skytrain/Dakota – Warpaint #133


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C-47 Skytrain/Dakota – Warpaint #133

Guideline Publications




The military variant of Douglas’s DC-3 commercial airliner was a simple conversion to meet the needs of the US armed forces, developed from the passenger carrying aircraft that first entered service in the mid-30s in its initial role.  It was toughened to enable it to carry heavy freight, which it could also load through a large new double side door, plus an astrodome to assist with long-distance navigation.  It served in many armies and air forces throughout the war, where it performed stoically, taking part in many significant operations during the conflict, including the successful D-Day landings, and the ill-fated parachute and glider drops of Operation Market Garden, which was another of its capabilities, thanks to a shortened tail-cone that accommodated the equipment needed to tow a glider across the channel and on into battle.  Many C-47s didn’t make it back due to enemy action, as they were heavily laden with troops, equipment or with a glider behind them, making them an easy target for the Nazi forces that they inadvertently strayed over on their way.


In British service the C-47 was called the Dakota, garnering the nickname Dak, and was also referred to as Gooney Bird in some circles.  It was a capable transport aircraft that was used in every sphere of conflict around the world, taking part in the operations carrying supplies from India to China to assist them with their fight against the Japanese forces that were expanding their empire across the Far East.  After the war the Dak was involved in the Berlin Airlift when former Ally the Soviet Union childishly blocked access to the western held portions of Berlin, necessitating the importing of all goods by air for some considerable time.  In civilian service the Skytrains were sometimes converted back closer to civilian specifications, but often kept the useful side cargo doors and strengthened floor, with many still in service today doing some interesting niche tasks to which they are well-suited.



The Book

The book by author Adrian M Balch is in the usual Warpaint format of portrait A4(ish) with a soft card cover but has an increased page count from the norm and utilises a perfect binding instead of the usual pair of staples to accommodate the total of 89 pages plus content printed on the four sides of the glossy covers, and includes folded A3 plans in 1:144, printed on both sides and penned by Sam Pearson.  A short section details the birth of the type, then the subsequent variants and history with the numerous foreign and domestic operators carries on throughout the book, alphabetically arranged.  Many of the photos are side-on and in colour, most of which are previously unseen by myself, having come from the author’s collection, some private collections as well as the usual official sources.






The pages include a lot of useful pictures with informative captions of aircraft on the apron, on the field, in the air, during trials, occasionally stripped or damaged waiting for the coup de grâce, or in storage after being retired.  The Profiles section shows a wide range of colours in which the type was painted, including some of the more colourful schemes and the ‘specials’ that were painted in more vibrant liveries, including a few airframes equipped with incongruous-looking radome from other aircraft to be used in training radar operators for those types, such as the F-104. 






My favourite variant is usually the slightly weird one, but this time it’s the olive drab aircraft with invasion stripes for the D-Day landings and beyond.  There’s just something about that scheme that is very appealing and evocative of its finest hour.  A close second is the Vietnam camouflage scheme with multiple miniguns projecting from the side windows as a ‘Spooky’ Gunship.  I have a thing about gunships, in case you didn’t know.






The In Detail section is an interesting look at some of the notable aspects of the type and its variants that spans three pages, and is followed by the afore mentioned profiles that also includes top and bottom views extending onto the inner cover, the most vibrant of which is Dazzle Dak that was covered in black and yellow chevrons all over its upper wings and undersides.  Fun to mask!




The Warpaint series always gets a thumbs-up due to their consistent layout and quality.  This is an excellent book that will see plenty of use by anyone interest in, or in building this military transport with a career that extends from the mid-30s to today in some shape or form – heading toward 100 years!  It’s clearly not a definitive reference of everything C-47, as that would require several hundred if not thousand more pages, but it really hits some of the high points.


Very highly recommended.




Review sample courtesy of


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