National Geographic : 1943 Jul
The National Geographic Magazine John Tresilian An Army Plane Sticks a Frostbitten Nose into a Heated Hangar for Repairs At least one motor is thrust through the canvas front of this makeshift shop in Canada. A vacant porthole awaits a four-motor job. Here at 40 degrees below zero, human hands stick to steel, and some synthetic rubber hose shatters like glass. were called on. In a few days the crews flew out a total of 4,228 persons-casualties and civilians, who might otherwise now be in Japa nese prison camps. And the flights were over many miles of mountainous jungles. A year ago the aerial work horses that were available for such tasks as these were few. Most likely they were ships diverted from do mestic United States airlines-big Douglas planes hurriedly stripped of their peacetime chromium and comfortable seats for a grimmer job. Commercial Airlines Pioneered Today the rapidly expanding fleet of cargo planes ranges from 6-ton Lockheed Lode stars (C-60's), 12-ton Douglas C-47's (the counterpart of peacetime DC-3's), and the 26 ton four-engined Douglas C-54's (the equiva lent of the DC-4's) to twin-engined 25-ton Curtiss C-46 Commandos and 28-ton Consoli dated C-87's-the transport twin of the B-24 Liberator heavy bomber. In building and expanding the Air Trans port Command, the Army had at the outset a tremendous advantage in the wealth of experi ence and trained personnel it could command from the Nation's commercial airlines, both those operating domestic runs and those with service to South America and Europe. In- deed, besides its own fleet of Army aircraft, ATC has planes of every commercial airline under charter today, and commercial pilots fly the various routes just as ATC pilots do. General George, the Command's head, is known as one of the Army's best organizers and as an extremely air-minded officer. It is not strange, therefore, that many of the key positions in ATC are filled with officers who in civilian life helped run the Nation's airlines. General George's Chief of Staff is Brigadier General C. R. Smith, former president of American Airlines. Other top men are Col. Harold R. Harris, former Pan American Grace Airways executive; Col. Ray W. Ire land, peacetime traffic manager for United Air Lines; Col. Lawrence G. Fritz, who was TWA's operations chief, and Col. Robert J. Smith, previously executive vice president of Braniff Airways. General Smith believes that the tremendous aerial expansion under war's relentless pres sure has put aviation ahead at least a genera tion, not only in the far-flung extension of routes and bases, but in technical develop ments of incalculable value in peace. So the day may not be too remote when the routes now burdened with war supplies and planes will be carrying American travel ers to all parts of a much smaller world.