Douglas C-54, R-5D Skymaster

The Douglas C-54 Skymaster was a four-engine, long range, heavy transport used by the US and Canadian Air Forces and the US Marine Corps during the Korean War.  The C-54, civil designation DC-4, first flew on 14 February 1942, and it entered service with the US Army Air Force later that year.  It was widely used during World War Two, providing especially valuable service flying cargo over the “Hump” from India to China.  The C-54 also provided excellent service during the Berlin Airlift in 1948-1949.

The C-54 had a crew of six and could carry up to 50 troops or up to 32,500 lbs. of cargo.  It had a range of 2,500 miles carrying an 11,440-lb payload.  The US Marine Corps version of the C-54 was designated the R5D.  A total of 1,122 Skymasters were built.

At the start of the Korean War there were 26 operational C-54s serving with two squadrons of the Far East Air Forces.  The C-54 provided the Far East Air Force’s entire heavy airlift capability during the first two years of the Korean War.  They were partially replaced by Douglas C-124A Globemaster IIs beginning in May 1952.

The Skymaster proved to be too heavy for most Korean airfields so it was primarily used for long-distance cargo transport and for deliveries into the major Korean airbases.  The Royal Canadian Air Force provided one squadron of “North Star” (C-54) transports to fly cargo and personnel between McChord Air Force Base, Washington, and Haneda Airport, Tokyo.  R5Ds served with US Marine Transport Squadron 153, VMR-152, during the war.