A C-47 with some history

Story and photos by Eric Van Gilder

While up in the central coast area of California, my wife and I discovered the Estrella Warbird Museum. They have a nice collection of warbirds from multiple eras and a museum with a great layout. As we neared the museum, this airplane caught my eye. It's rare to see aircraft here in California with Israeli markings. It's even rarer to see it on a WWII era aircraft. It was apparent that this particular airplane has quite a history.

This airplane is a C-47B-5-DK by it's Douglas record with a construction number 25869. It was manufactured in the 1943-1944 timeframe and was delivered to the US Army direct from the Douglas factory in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Official records show it belonging to the US Army through the end of WWII. The gentleman at the museum I spoke with stated that this airplane is a veteran of D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge and Arnhem. He said it was also a veteran of the 1967 Six Day war and the 1973 Yom Kippur war. Before entering Israeli service, this aircraft spent some time in Belgian, then French service. Israel acquired over 35 DC-3/C-47/C-53 cargo/transport airplanes between 1948 and 1960, so this one entered Israeli service during that timeframe.

You can see some of the old markings and labels through the paint. At the top is 016 under the gray, which matches with it's Israeli designation, 4X-FNN/016. You can also see the 4X-FNN through the camouflage to the left of the Star of David in the lower picture. You can also make out part of the old civil US registry N47SJ under the Star roundel.

Radio rack next to the radio operators desk, just behind the cockpit. The radio rack seems much larger than most WWII era C-47s.

Cockpit switches and guages are a mixture of English and Hebrew. There is also a mixture of those in the radio operators compartment. Fuse panels were also a mixture of English and Hebrew. There are Hebrew stickers and labels throughout the airplane as well.

"The only replacement for a Dakota, is another Dakota"

This is the traveler's prayer. The Traveler's Prayer should be recited at the beginning of a journey, according to the Talmud. In the prayer, the traveler asks for a safe trip.
"May it be Your will, Lord, My God and God of my ancestors, to lead me, to direct my steps, and to support me in peace. Lead me in life, tranquil and serene, until I arrive at where I am going. Deliver me from every enemy, ambush and hurt that I might encounter on the way and from all afflictions that visit and trouble the world. Bless the work of my hands. Let me receive divine grace and those loving acts of kindness and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all those I encounter. Listen to the voice of my appeal, for you are a God who responds to prayerful supplication. Praised are you, Lord, who responds to prayer."

First Aid. This is where the first aid kits were located on the aircraft during its operational use.

There was at least one C-47 modified to perform ELINT (Electronic Intelligence). Looking at the amount of rack space for radio gear and the number of antennas that are still on the airplane, along with a number of connections to the outside of the airplane, it would appear that ELINT was this airplane's main mission. The C-47s used for this purpose were called "Barvaz", which is a Hebrew word meaning mallard. That might explain this marking that is seen high on the fuselage and the tail:

This airplane was withdrawn from Israeli service in 1999. By the end of 2001, all of the C-47s of Transport Squadron 122 of the IAF had been retired. They were based at Lod airfield before retirement, but had 4 different bases throughout the life of the C-47 in IAF service. It is estimated that the "Dakotas" flew over 100,000 hours in the service of the IAF. Six of these aircraft were acquired by a private collector in February of 2001. There was talk of the Israelis keeping one in flyable condition for a museum at Hatzerim.

After over 50 years of military service all over the world, this C-47 has retired to a home in California. It can be seen at the Estrella Warbird Museum in Paso Robles. The hard-working folks there will take great care of this one, I am sure. We will check in from time to time with the folks there to see how the "Goony Bird" is doing. Thanks to the folks at the Estrella Warbird Museum for speaking with me about and letting me photograph, this historic airplane.

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