The Douglas DC-3 in China, a photogallery

The Douglas DC-3 is, without doubt, the most successful airplane ever built. Counting all civil and military variants, more than 16,000 were produced. Some 400 are still in commercial use today, 70 years after they rolled off the assembly lines.

The first DC-3 flew on December 17, 1935, the airplane went into commercial service the following April, and it revolutionized the airline industry in the United States.

2011 05 17 cover mock up v2The China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) got its first DC-3 in 1939. (It had been using the Douglas DC-2 to great effect since the spring of 1935.) In December, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Hong Kong, the airline had three. CNAC pioneered the Hump Airlift in 1942 using DC-3s and C-53s. By the middle of 1943, CNAC was operating about 20 DC-3 variants (C-53s and C-47s) on the Hump, and the airplane remained the mainstay of the CNAC airfleet through the rest of the war.

CNAC flew thousands of Hump missions using DC-3 types.

Here are a few of the best DC-3 photos I managed to collect while researching and writing China’s Wings. (Click on any one and you can scroll through the enlarged images.)

Thanks to Gifford Bull, J.L. Johnson, Steve Michiels, and the Jim Dalby family for use of these photos.

2011 05 17 cover mock up v2Some of the best action in China’s Wings takes place in DC-3s… the DC-2 1/2, the Hong Kong evacuation, the Flying Sieve, Moon Chin flying Jimmy Doolittle out of China, Pete Goutiere’s adventures, and much more.

The DC-3/Dakota Historical Society makes a good effort to maintain the airplane’s history and legacy.

As an aside, check out this guy’s extraordinary DC-3 model made out of LEGO.

I wish LEGO would make a set for a CNAC DC-2 or DC-3 with a Moon Chin minifig!

And if any of you visitors happen to have any other good DC-3 in China photos, I’d be delighted to add them to the gallery.

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  1. I was inside a DC3 a few days ago and what struck me was how thin and flimsy the skin of the fuselage was. Okay the spars are pretty solid but flak would penetrate it like paper as would heat and cold. Those guys who flew them were amazing.

    1. I agree! I think most planes of the era were similar–with the exception of armored cockpits in the single seaters and self-sealing fuel tanks. Bold men.

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