The Curtis-Wright Corporation C-46 was developed form the original XC-55 design of 1936. The first flight took place March 26, 1940, and by the time of first delivery to the Army Air Force in 1942, it had been named the C-46 Commando. Ultimately, more than 3,000 C-46s were built and the aircraft remained in service into the 1960s and the Vietnam War. The last C-46 in the Air Force was assigned to the U.S. Southern Command until 1968. It was America's largest and heaviest twin-engine transport in World War II.
The C-46 was a low-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear and could obtain a top seed of 269 mph with an operational range of 1,200 miles. However, normal payload for middle distances was four tons. The aircraft had a wing-span of 108 feet 1 inch, a length of 76 feet 4 inches, and a height of 21 feet 9 inches. The Commando could carry 50 fully equipped troops or 33 litter patients.
The Army Air Force, Navy and Marines flew commandos on all fronts in World War II, but they attained their fame flying material and supplies from India over the Himalayan Mountains or "Hump" into China. They also towed gliders on raids behind enemy lines. In Europe, first use was late in the war when C-46s dropped paratroops during the crossing of the Rhine River in 1945. The C-46 served in the Korean and Vietnam wars and thereby joined the Douglas B-26 and Douglas C-47 in serving in three wars - World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
The air commandos at Hurlburt Field, after reactivation in 1961, established several detachments for worldwide duty. Detachment 3, known as Bold Venture organized at Howard Air Force Base, Panama, May 10, 1962. In its inventory were two C-46s which deployed form Hurlburt Field. A Det. 3 C-46 transported cargo between Panama and Colombia supporting an Army Geodetic Survey Unit during July and August 1962. A Bold Venture C-46 was one of the aircraft, which participated in a demonstration of the air commando capabilities for the Army Caribbean Command in Panama, Aug. 1, 1962. Students were given rides to the C-46 and shown how supplies were dropped by parachute.
For operational Fraternidad in Honduras in early September, a C-46 provided photo coverage and served as a jump platform for Det. 3 combat controllers. The detachment also delivered a photo laboratory, personnel, a Jeep and a communications van to Tegucigalpa. In a civic action mission, Det. 3 utilized a C-46 to fly a load of surplus radio equipment to David, Panama, In October. David had one of the best civilian airfields in Panama, but it lacked adequate radio equipment and navigational aids. Detachment personnel also repaired David's communications equipment and installed a VHF transmitter/receiver. This mission provided the airfield with modern radio and navigational capabilities.
In November, a Det. 3 C-46 teamed up with a U-10 for a search and flare drop mission. An Argentine C-54 had crashed in the Panamanian Mountains. The C-46 dropped flares; the U-10 searched in the light of the flares; a combat control team prepared to jump into the area to provide ground communications; the C-46 photographed the crash scene, and the U-10 airlifted rescue personnel as close to the scene as possible and then guided them to the site by loudspeaker. In what would become typical of air commando operations, a Det. 3 C-46 commando supported special forces in Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Costa Rica and Bolivia and re-supplied two detachments during November 1962. On the civic action side, the detachment used a C-46 to deliver 600 pounds of goods and 24 people to David for Operations Christmas in 1962. The following October, two C-46s delivered construction materials for a missionary school building for the Chaco Indians in Darien Province. Civic Action and humanitarian missions in which the air commandos participated benefited people around the world wherever there was a need.
C-46D TAIL #44-77424 HISTORY
The Army Air Force received the C-46 in the Air Park Nov. 16, 1944. In 1949, it was assigned to the Air Force Reserve and used to maintain crew proficiency in Washington and California units. With the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, this aircraft served in both Japan and Korea. It remained in the Far East, and in 1955 Japan leased it for its Self Defense Force. In 1980, a private individual bought it and exchanged it for a C-118 through the Air Force Museum program. The museum cosigned this Commando to the Hurlburt Air Park where it was dedicated Oct. 11, 1986.