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An informative & entertaining online magazine from The Dakota Hunter about vintage aviation with a focus on the Douglas DC-3 / C-47 / Dakota.

This DC-3 Club Magazine will be updated every week with new posts running parallel with Hans’ FB site (https://www.facebook.com/thedakotahunter)

The Dakota Hunter Blog

Lockheed’s Mega Bomber that never was, the XB-30 based on the Constellation design.

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As the war came closer in 1939, the legendary  General Henry ‘Hap’ Arnold had the thoughtfulness to contemplate a list of specifications for the designing of a heavy bomber capable of flying a heavy bomb load of 8 tons over a long distance of 5,000 miles. A committee was formed (with Charles Lindberg as a member) to study the options that emerged with the awesome technological progress that had been made in the mid and late 1930’s in aero-engines and airframe construction methods. New all-aluminum planes arrived that allowed for an unparalleled upscaling of speed and payloads by the stretching of aircraft to ever-bigger dimensions. Read More

Will the Douglas C-47/ Dakota forever fly or soon die?

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Will the new “Preferred Turbine-3” carry the Douglas “Dakota” legacy to its 100th anniversary?
Winter in America is cold and out there in that winter wonderland, on 30 January 2018, I rode out to a small town named Kidron, somewhere in between Columbus and Cleveland in the state of Ohio. I was looking for a remote farm-road with a private airstrip. Hard to believe but this is the place where they are remanufacturing old DC-3/ C-47 airframes into new DC-3 Turbo-Props, in series production!  I counted 12 DC-3/ C-47 airframes on the Preferred premises, in an odd mix of original airframes and extended fuselages that had already Turbo Prop engines mounted before they came in here
Photo above: “Preferred Airparts, LLC” is the name of the company and their President Brian Stoltzfus (at left) was so kind to show me around in their hangars. private airstrip and projects on that cold winter day with snow-covered fields all around us.
More than 25 years ago, I visited the other existing DC-3 Turbo Conversion company, Basler’s in Oshkosh for purchasing their surplus Dakota parts. Ever since, I have been around in the world of the DC-3 and have met that legendary aircraft in all shapes between total decay, dereliction, and full serviceability.  I have seen factories or hangars where they renovate or rather remanufacture the Gooney Bird, in Oregon (with Paul Bazely’s AeroMetal), in Virginia (with Robert Randazzo), but also in El Alto, La Paz, Bolivia and in Villavicencio, Colombia where they did total overhauls of engines and complete reskinning jobs. Visiting all those places, I loved every one of them. And again, the Preferred Airparts hangars with the ongoing works on engines and reskinning of wings and airframes, that was an awesome experience for me. With all that vintage flying metal in the background, I’ll never have a dull day.
 
 
Photo above: Beautifully decorated DC-3 of Alaskan Bush Air Cargo. Ready for a conversion,  this 75-year old transport awaits its turn to extending its commercial operations with yet another 25 years lease of life. That is what virtually happens out there now in Kidron. I witnessed the total remaking of the oldest commercially operated transport in the World, preparing her to fly and work until the year 2044 and beyond. Mishaps excluded, but if she makes it until or beyond that year, this icon of WWII origin will come to a respectable 100 years of age while still earning revenues for the owner!
 A century-old transport still at work? Not like an oddball steam locomotive or an exotic museum-supported Airshow Star. But as a vintage aircraft, surviving in numbers over a century, FAA-certified for commercial use, is that viable? Let it be very clear, there is no boat, train, car, truck or plane in the world that can come close to this achievement, so if ever it is going to happen, the venerable C-47/ DC-3 will be most likely the first one in history to do so. This aircraft has a reputed ruggedness and a longevity like no other machine in the world that made people moving faster and farther.
Photo above: For preparing a flying time-machine to keep her airworthy beyond the year 2044, it takes some serious effort to make this happen. You cannot expect that the original radial engines, avionics, and electrical/ hydraulic systems can survive in an ongoing ‘war of attrition’, as they become simply less reliable and more expensive to keep them operational when compared with the more advanced/ state-of-the-art aviation/ aero engine technology. We all would love to see the original DC-3 with its P & W R-1830 radials surviving for a long time, but frankly, it will become less probable, with another quarter of a century to go, sustaining a commercial operation with this aircraft.
For clarifying the rationale behind this, let it be said that the business-based operation of a DC-3 is a world apart from that of the C-47 in airshow operations.
While the authentic DC-3 with its radial engines always will prevail as being the absolute WWII ‘Icon of Victory’ in Museums and on airshows/ meetings, the competitive world of aerial transport knows quite different laws in which arguments like ” I like the original Dakota/DC-3 better” are not adding much to its commercial value.
But yes, the argument surely adds sentimental value that counts big time for the aficionados, (myself included) visiting those airshows and museums. But those privately/ museum owned DC-3s, they make far fewer flight hours, with less payload, and speed is no issue so those planes are definitely not in the same demanding Commercial League where speed, payload, and operational costs are major factors to win an air transport contract.
Brian and his brother Mark and nephews Colby and Austin are having a strong confidence in the development of this market of reconditioned/upgraded vintage aircraft as their Preferred Turbine-3 for commercial operations in the more remote terrains where primitive conditions prevail. In such conditions, the ‘Old School’ design features of the DC-3 as its big balloon tires and the taildragger configuration plus its low approach speed come to great avail. The non-asphalted airstrips, muddy jungle roads, and the harsh tundra tracks of the Arctic, they are mostly found in places where often graders are not available for the leveling of the ground, creating a serious threat for the modern aircraft with their high landing speeds and small wheels. But the Dc-3’s Big Wheels keep on turning, in mud, sand, on beaches, riverbanks, and knobbly trails, where smaller wheels get stuck!
Photo above: Preferred has collected old DC-3/C-47 airframes from all over the mainland USA and Alaska that came in flying or by ship/ road transport, also from South Africa (The old “Dodson” Stock, and SAAF airframes from Wonderboom Airfield, Pretoria). There is an ex-KLM DC-3 N3BA and there are also two ex-Catalina Flying Boats Air Freight Service DC-3 airframes from San Diego, CA. The last one N403JB was flown in June 2017, still standing on the platform (see photo courtesy Michael Prophet) with original engines, waiting for a conversion but forever ending the commercial flights with the old DC-3s in the US Mainland Westcoast. They were replaced by the Cessna 208B Caravan (the Super Cargo Master), a high-wing monoplane, with max 13 passengers or 1,5-2 tons of payload, cruising at 200 knots.
Photo above: Latest information from Brian is that he also did acquire the five C-47s in Zimbabwe from their Air Force and bought all of their spare parts and engines. The airframes were transferred by road to Wonderboom Airport in July/August 2017 and are now in Johannesburg waiting for their next step. Some years ago, I saw them coming for sale in an auction, I was interested in parts but the auction never took place. At least, it seems that they are now saved from the scrapper! However, with five DC-3s that came for sale in Madagascar, it all went completely awry. For a long time, I negotiated with the Military out there. All in vain, one day I got a telephone call that all Dakotas were being scrapped and sold as aluminum ingots for the local production of domestic devices as pots and pans! (For more details and photos of that horrible mishap in Madagascar, see my book The Dakota Hunter, chapter 7, ‘Dancing with Colonels’).
Here follow the ZIM DAK C/ N numbers, all info via Brian and Michael Prophet, my good friend and DC-3 Photographer/ informer:
Air Force of Zimbabwe 5 x C-47s:  reg nr. 3700-C/N 13164, reg nr 7036-C/N 14494/25939, reg. nr  7053- C/N 16011/32759, reg nr 7301- C/N 16335/33083, reg nr. 7303-C/N 13867/25312.
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The advantages of the Turbo Prop conversion are pretty impressive as we see this list of improvements over the original DC-3 performance chart ( see also their link http://www.preferredturbine-3.com/specifications.html).

** Max. Payload goes from 3,5 to 5 tons (45 % increase). That is made possible with the addition of more cargo stowing space on a stretched cabin floor.
** Internal loading space makes a 35 % increase, mainly due to that stretching of the fuselage with some 40 inches, right behind the cockpit,
** Max Takeoff weight goes up from 25,200 to 29,000 lbs, with a new lightweight reinforced floor to carry all that extra weight.
** Engine Overhauls (TBO) are needed only after every 6,000 flight hours, compared to 1,200 flight hours for the radial P & W R-1830s. That makes a substantial gain in operational costs and less time lost in maintenance hours.
** Cruising speed makes a major step forward, to some 200 knots, more in the range of its competitor Cessna Caravan.
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Read what Brian wrote to me: “The main difference in speed is due to the shape of the cowling. The new cowling greatly reduces drag, our cowling is lighter and easier to remove for service. The dual shaped exhaust stacks that we use also keep the exhaust soot off the airplane. Very little soot collects on the airplane. The radial engines weighed about 1,700 lbs each. The new Turbo engine Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6s weight is about 650 lbs each. We also eliminate the oil tank from the radial engines that carried 29 gallons of oil and replaced it by additional 116-gallon fuel tanks in front of the original firewalls. It brings the total fuel capacity at 1032 gallons. The new 5-blade propellers are also much lighter than the old Hamilton Standard props and are fully reversible, allowing for a better performance during takeoffs and landings on shorter tracks”.
Photo above was taken during one of my visits to the Capital of DC-3, Villavicencio in Colombia, the gate to the Amazon with a fleet of 10-12 Dakotas, divided over 5 companies. This was, is and will remain for long the realm of the old radial prop DC-3. Rather primitive conditions in the Jungle outback posts, cheap labor costs, a good infrastructure for the vintage Dakota, with skilled skinners, lots of mechanics and a reputed workshop for radial engine overhauls. The first DC-3 TurboProp has also made its entry here now with Aliansa.
Finally, the gain in speed and payload brings the Turbo-modified C-47 like the Preferred Turbine-3, back in the sphere of a commercially purposeful proposition, in a time where the good old DC-3/ C-47 with radial engines is losing ground in its proficiency to generate revenues.
According to Michael Prophet,  US DC-3 freighter operations survived in only two US states: their number is down to only 10 operational piston cargo DC-3s in the US (and 4 in Canada). In Florida (Atlantic Air Cargo & Florida Air Cargo) and in Alaska (TransNorthern Air, Deserts Air, Bush Air)
Michael believes the piston cargo DC-3 is fast becoming an endangered species: TMF Aircraft Inc (Florida) went out of business 2 years ago and
‘Catalina Flying Boats Inc’ sold their last cargo DC-3 to Preferred Air Parts.
If you like my stories about war history and vintage aircraft, may I recommend you my book The DakotaHunter?
It is a 320-pages book, jampacked with 240 unique photos and stunning stories, experienced during the past 25 years in over 20 expeditions that I made in search of the legendary DC-3 on the last frontiers. I encountered harrowing and sometimes hilarious situations with the military, war/drug lords and other heroes and villains that tried to sell me abandoned or crashed Dakotas which were never their property but in the jungle, such titles are futilities.
Come to my Amazon order page, scroll down to the end and read the 20+ reviews of my book. You will be stunned to see this, comments like ‘Best book that I have ever read” and that is no BS. Scroll back on that page and make your order, the best book you can buy for your Dad, your Friend or yourself.  Click here for my book Amazon Order page The Dakota Hunter
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 Soon out (End of March 2018), my newest book ’80 Years, a tribute to the PBY Catalina‘. With almost 300 pages and 400+ photos, this luxury Lounge Table photo album covers the full 80-years career of the best Flying Boat ever made. With many photos never published before, full-page large-format spreads of the Catalina/ Canso during the war and in its post-war role as a transport and fire-fighter, the book will be an instant Collector’s Item for all vintage Aviation Buffs. But also for those who like “romancing the era of the flying boats” that brought travelers to idyllic faraway Islands in the Pacific, the Caribbean, Canada, and Alaska.

Here is a very special offer for my Early Bird customers.

Now, you’ll have the opportunity to order your copy of the First Edition of my book. Only during this ‘pre-print order’ campaign, running until March 2018, the book will be available at a special introductory price. The book will be printed in the USA and will be shipped by end of March 2018.

More details of my offer. The Early Bird customers who order the book NOW via this link below will receive a 20% discount. You’ll pay only US $ 39,95  (regular retail price is US$ 49.95). Plus as a special bonus, a FREE First Day Cover Page that comes as an inlay with the book, autographed by the author. This page (depicted below) is a loose insert, so can be used for framing. (photo Bill Bailey)

If interested, please proceed with your ordering NOW by clicking this link to the Seattle Book Company:   Order the book 80 Years, PBY Catalina

The first preview of the book has arrived in the Magazines, more will follow soon. Click this link:  Seaplanes Magazine Preview Catalina Book

 

 

A New Photo Album “80 Years, PBY Catalina”, the saga of the best Flying Boat ever made!

By | Blog

Now presented by the Dakota Hunter in a stunning new photo album with over 400 unique photographs.

Moments in time are captured in rarely seen images of  PBY Catalinas/ Cansos flying around the globe to places all over the Americas, Australia, Indonesia, South Africa, to far-flung Caribbean and Pacific Islands, and to remote outposts in the Amazon and Greenland. They can be seen at their mooring stations, even while attacking submarines, or hidden in lagoons as Black Cats during the war years. In the post-war years (1945-1999), you’ ll see the Catalina as a cargo/pax transport and as a water bomber in the firefighting role. Finally, there is a chapter with the Survivors, that made it into the New Age (2000-2017)

Romancing the Catalina: this book is made not only for the war-time history buffs but also for all those, dreaming of flying out one day around the world in their own air yacht, enjoying the total freedom in making a water landing in a blue lagoon or on a crystal clear lake. Also, many photos reminiscent of the “Golden Years of the Flying Boats“, with Cansos/ Catalinas being boarded by Holidaymakers/ passengers flying to exotic islands until the late 1950s, in Alaska, Canada, and Australia.

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Bolivian Boneyards revisited. Part 1, El Alto Airport , La Paz, Boliivia.

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In August 2017, I returned to Bolivia for yet another fabulous trip to the Magic Land of the old Inca Culture where the High Andes and the Jungle are close neighbors. First time I arrived here in El Alto Airport was way back in 1994 with a PBY CATALINA from Duxford, UK. (See photo at end of this Blog). Ever since I was mesmerized by the weird array of vintage Propliners that you can see on this airport in all states, from totally stripped or near-decomposition to fully operational and busy with making money for the owner. Read More

Raiders of the Pacific: PT-Boat Mosquitos & PBY Catalina Black Cats as Rogue Sharks, Vol.1.

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In this Dakota Hunter Blog, you’ll read about two fighting groups of WW II fame, that conquered a solid reputation for often operating in isolation behind enemy lines. With a small group or on their own, fighting their mini battles in a World War of unreal proportions as history had never seen before. In that immense Pacific Ocean, the largest stretch of water in this world, mighty Naval fleets, and Armadas of fighters and bombers went to fight the “Empire of the Sun” with hundreds of thousands of soldiers, pilots, and sailors. But there was a handful of men out there in that war theater that fought the war on a much smaller scale against that same enemy. Those were the special Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB) squadrons of the US NAVY with their PT-Boats (patrol-torpedo), named the “Mosquitoes” and the squadrons of the USAAF/RAAF with their PBY-5A Catalinas, named the “Black Cats”.

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Japanese Monster Aircraft Carrier Submarines

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In this DAKOTA HUNTER Blog, you can read about the Japanese Monster Aircraft Carrier Submarines, built initially for raiding the US Coasts.
The Japanese Navy under the visionary Admiral Yamamoto (architect of the Pearl Harbor Assault in December 1941) developed a plan for a fleet of huge Subs that each carried 3 Hi-Tech attack/ bombers inside a tubular hangar, that was mounted on a double tubular fuselage. The novel design of the I-400 series (built in December 1944) gave stability with 2 hulls welded next to each other and made up for the largest Submarine ever built until the 1960’s nuclear subs came out.
Overall length was almost 400 whopping feet (122 m) and an unrivaled armament of a huge 140 mm canon (never seen before on a sub) plus 4 power packs with 25 mm AA guns and special torpedo’s inside. The Monster Subs were weighing 5,700 tons, carrying a crew of 200 and possessing a range of over 50,000 miles, with weapons and 3 aircraft designed to become the first Submarine fit for an offensive strike on the US mainland targets on West & East Coast!

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The awesome B-54 UltraFortress, Boeing’s best Piston Prop Bomber that failed to ever fly!

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In this DAKOTA HUNTER Blog, you can read about the ultimate, most stretched version of Boeing’s successful Bomber B-29 that had delivered the World’s first Atomic Bombs in early August 1945. The Empire of the Sun stumbled on its feet and within a week, the beaten nation surrendered unconditionally, having no more answer or defense against such destructive power. That final attack on Japan propelled the B-29 bomber straight into the “Aviation Hall of Fame”, along with other allied fighters, bombers, and transports as the P-51 Mustang, the B-17 Flying Fortress, the B-24 Liberator, B-25 Mitchell, the Douglas C-47, the P-38 Lightning,  the P-47 Thunderbolt, to name a few.

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Dumbo PBY Catalina saved 56 USS Indianapolis sailors from massive Shark attack

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In this DAKOTA HUNTER Blog, you will read about some backgrounds of what is known as the largest Shark attack ever in naval history and the heroic role of a single PBY Catalina that arrived on the horror scene where hundreds of sailors were adrift in the open ocean for more than three days.
It all happened in the closing days of the Pacific war when the Heavy Cruiser USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-58, causing the second largest US naval disaster after the Pearl Harbor attack in December 1941. To make things worse, the mighty battleship sank so fast that no SOS/ distress signal could be sent out or was not picked up, leaving nearly 900 sailors adrift for days in the shark infested waters of the mid-Pacific. Read More

Tribute to the Canso/ PBY Catalina, the new Photo Album book is out!

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Feature Photo depicts a majestic landing of the Catalina between the Towering Icebergs in Greenland. More photos of the Catalina Odyssey plus the Atlantic crossings are in my new book, soon out. You can acquire the above photograph 10 x 7 in/ 25 x 18 cm, as a FREE bonus, autographed by the author if you sign in with a click on the Register bar below with your email. A newsletter and order form will arrive soon and with the ordering, you will receive this image as an inlay in the book. Happy Newyear to all my friends, followers and visitors. Photo courtesy Daniel Kordan.

Order my new book now!

In April 2016, I wrote my first Dakota Hunter Blog `Catalina Photo Album`. That blog became overnight an overwhelming hit in the number of Shares and Likes on War History Online Magazine and on Facebook.  From this experience, it became clear to me that my huge collection of Catalina photos that I have in stock (most never been published previously) would deserve a better place than being stored in boxes out of sight of anybody. I went in search of other collections and soon had a plan: making a photo album from the best of all 3000+ photos that I could find. An album in 8,5 x 11-inch landscape format as a Luxury Coffee Table Book with such awesome photos selected as rarely seen in Vintage Aviation books.

Anticipating the publication of my book, I have made on my website an Early Bird Registration form that you can fill in with your name and email. You will receive a Newsletter, an Order form and a Free Bonus if you send me this, click right here below for getting the free autographed photograph of the book’s front cover (see below) that you will receive when ordering the book;

Register now for receiving a FREE Bonus with the later purchase of my book.

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Madagascar Air Force Boneyard: Tragic end of Douglas C-47s, Mig-21s and Antonovs

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In this DAKOTA HUNTER BLOG, you will read and see photos of  yet another Aircraft Boneyard that existed for years in Madagascar.  In one of my previous Blogs, I wrote about the Greek Boneyard (c.q. Museum) that still exists with a collection of a Junkers Ju-52 3m, a Stuka, an F-104 Starfighter and C-47s. A weird mix of German and American aircraft. This Blog, however. is about a Boneyard with a mix of Russian and American aircraft that I visited some years ago with my friend Bart Nopper. It took place on that huge Island of Madagascar, 300 miles east of Africa in the Indian Ocean.

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PBY Catalina, A-26 Invaders, P-51 Mustangs: CIA Rebel Air Force attacking Indonesia, 1958.

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In this DAKOTA HUNTER Blog, you will find the story of an almost forgotten episode in the long and fascinating history of the Civil Air Transport Corp (CAT), in 1959 converted to AIR AMERICA.  A misleading name that might give you the impression that this CAT Corp. was a decent airline operator, where you could book a flight for yourself or for cargo hauling. That was correct at the front door operation of the company, but there was also a dark side, where you would be very unwelcome for any reservation.  Allegedly, CAT was the covert air support operations agency of the CIA and hence involved in all of the more or less stealthy revolts , guerilla’s  support, uproars, and other activities directed against the advancing communist influence in SE Asia in the 1940’s-1950’s. The CAT Corp.  soon had a certain reputation: where their aircraft arrived in ‘sterile’ markings, things went awry, turmoil and insurgent uprising were imminent! Read More

Florida Mosquito Control DC-3. How WWII Hero C-47s fly ZIKA killer missions in 2016.

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In this DAKOTA HUNTER BLOG, you will read about a WWII Veteran Douglas C-47  that ended its operational career as a Chemical Warfare Machine. Sixty years after the War came to an end, this Douglas C-47B  was found in Florida, where it had served for years as a Mosquito Control Sprayer near Fort Meyers on the western coastline . Remarkable feat: The first Douglas DC-3 came in US Public Service in 1936, while the same type of aircraft (an ex -military model C-47) still flies in US Public service, some 75 years later.

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Where Patton awarded McAuliffe: the 101st Airborne HQ Chateau in Bastogne revisited.

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In this Dakota Hunter Blog, you will read about an insane plan that the Germans deployed in a final effort to break the imminent Allied invasion of their homeland. This Ardennes Offensive aka “The Battle of the Bulge” took place just 5 months before the Third Reich would completely collapse in April 1945. While all military fronts around Germany’s borders from the West and South were about to be squeezed to inside the German “Heimat”, a most daring (or rather a desperate) counter attack with SS panzer divisions and Infantry was launched from the Ardennes in Luxembourg and Eastern Belgium.   Read More

War on Drugs, fighting the flying Pirates of the Caribbean

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In this DAKOTA HUNTER Blog you will find a series of amazing photos of Caribbean Drugs Runner aircraft that were left abandoned, crashed, seized or wrecked. From the earliest start of the illicit drugs trade from Central/ South America to the USA, aircraft played an important role in the transport. One of the first to exploit aircraft on a larger scale for such trade was Carlos Lehder, a car thief, marijuana dealer, and smuggler from Medellin, Colombia. The tale of the modern day “Pirates of the Caribbean” is described in this Blog.  Read More

Marianas, that B-29’s fixed aircraft carrier in the Pacific was built 72 years ago.

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In this DAKOTA HUNTER Blog, you will see photos of the USAAF Boeing B-29 Superfortress Fleet departing from the Marianas Islands for the Bombing of Japan that started on the 1st of November 1944. The Air force bases on the tiny islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Guam brought for the first time in the war Tokyo within flight range of the mighty B-29. Both the Normandy Invasion in Europe and the invasion of the Marianas Islands (both taking place by mid-1944 on 6 June and 15 June resp.) were the beginning of the end for the Third Reich and for The Empire of the Sun, be it that the Pacific War took more than 3 months longer which caused a terrible extra loss of soldiers and civilians. Read More

D-Day Veteran Douglas C-47 “SNAFU Special” honored with visit of WWII Harleys.

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This Dakota Hunter Blog is a report of our Harley Club’s visit to Normandy. This year on 4 June 2016,  we gave an “acte de presence” at the “Batterie de Merville” Museum. With the Wartime built Harley Davidsons WLA/ WLC types and a Dodge Command car, we brought a tribute to a legendary D-Day veteran Douglas C-47/ Dakota. This contemporary workhorse C-47 was named in its heydays the “SNAFU Special” (Systems Normal, All Fouled Up) and that name, evidently, is applied again on its cockpit LH side, along with that most original 8-ball nose-art and the white “Invasion- striping” over the wings and the tail.

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