While stationed at RAF Lakenheath, England in the mid-sixties, I had the pleasure to see, one of the great old cargo planes of the past, nicknamed “Old Shaky.” It happened to be the C-124C Globemaster II, that provided the Air Force, with heavy lifting capabilities during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
She wasn’t pretty, nor sleek and trim, and she certainly wasn’t young. Her first flight was in 1949 and her first delivery to the Air Force occurred in 1950. She featured “clam-shell,” and hydraulic ramps under the nose, and an elevator under the aft fuselage.
Her odd appearance, hid some powerful attributes. She could carry tanks, artillery, bulldozers and trucks. She had a double deck, which could be converted to carry 200 fully equipped soldiers or 127 litter patients. Her four Pratt & Whitney R-4360 piston engines-rated at 3,800hp, could push her through the air at a speed of 320mph, and a range of almost 2200 miles, She could carry 216,000 lbs., maximum.
“Old Shaky’s,” name derived from the large Pratt & Whitney piston engines, which had cylinders the size of coffee cans. The noisy conglomeration of connecting rods, push rods and 28 pistons, made for a deafening roar and a shaky plane ride.
I have no idea, what the strange looking birds were doing on our airfield. We were a fighter-bomber base, flying F-100 Supersabre’s. The few times, I had the pleasure to see the planes, was when I was working on the flight line, as an Air Policeman.
We often had different groups fly TDY-Temporay Duty to Lakenheath. I suspect the C-124’s we had on different occasions, probably flew in from Germany. They may have been flying in supplies or perhaps they were making a hop back to the states. I just don’t know.
One early morning shift found me at a post on the flight line. As was the case, any daylight was always preceded by fog and a light drizzle. When I first arrived on post, I had no idea, the large planes were parked nearby. I could hardly see my hand in front of my face. But as I walked my post, darkness was replaced by dawn, the fog was starting to dissipate and the light drizzle had stopped.
As I walked along the parry track, I started to make out faint, gray, ghost like images parked along the line. It wasn’t the familiar outline of an F-100 Supersabre, but something much larger. In fact, there was something strange about the shapes. The nose of each aircraft was off the ground, pointing towards the heavens, with the tail of each one, resting on the ground.
I immediately radioed HQ, to report the strange occurrence. Was it some sort of sabotage, an accident or what? A minute or so after my call, a SAT Team-Security Alert Team showed up. When I pointed out the strange looking site, they immediately took off to inspect the area.
About ten minutes later, the SAT Team returned, this time with an aircraft mechanic. After talking with him, we found out what the problem was. Seems the C-124 has tricycle type landing gear, meaning a nose wheel, and wing wheels. Since the aircraft sits so high off the ground, it has no tail wheel, only a skid if it tips over. To compensate for this, the mechanics install a triangle shaped support device under the tail, when it is parked. This keeps the aircraft from tipping over backwards, and probably helps stabilize the plane when it’s being loaded.
From what I can recall, the C-124’s came in that evening, probably from Germany and were parked on the flight-line. Someone forgot to install the tail supports. That evening, a“Hawk,”-A strong gale off the North Sea, blew through and tipped over every C-124 on the line! (I couldn’t locate a photograph as I have described, but it reminded me of a photograph I had seen of the Cadillac Ranch, in Amarillo, Texas).
Wikipedia: Douglas C-124 Globemaster II
The Curse of the Cargomaster, by By John Sotham Air & Space Magazine, September 01, 2010
Personal Memories of Sgt. Mac, Copyright © 2000-2011, By macsmilitary.com
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic, By Richie Diesterheft from Chicago, IL, USA