Drag 'em oot - Gallery & History
Operating from East Kirkby is airworthy Dakota Drag 'em oot. The aircraft is a combat veteran, having seen action during D-DAY and in Operations MARKET GARDEN and VARSITY.
An active Dakota on the airfield is a reminder of East Kirkby's contribution to the early Cold War era, as America's Strategic Air Command operated Search and Rescue SC-47 Dakotas from the airfield in support of their nuclear bombers.
Above: A post war USAF SC-47. Similar aircraft operated from East Kirkby in support of B-47 operations.
Below: Drag 'em oot displaying at East Kirkby.
Douglas Dakota N473DC Drag ‘em oot
The aircraft was delivered to the USAAF in December 1943 as a C-47A Skytrain, with serial number 42-100882. Assigned to 9th Air Force Troop Carrier Command in the European Theatre of Operations, the aircraft flew to the United Kingdom in February 1944.
On arrival in Europe, the aircraft was assigned to 87th Troop Carrier Squadron, 438th Troop Carrier Group, IX Troop Carrier Command at RAF Greenham Common. The 438th provided the four lead squadrons on D-Day transporting the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, to their drop zone located near Carentan. Later on the evening of 6th June the unit took part in Operation ELMIRA, the glider borne reinforcement of the earlier drops by elements of the 82nd Airborne Division. The towed force consisted of 14 Waco CG-4A Hadrian and 36 Airspeed Horsa gliders, these being released at a landing zone near Sainte-Mere-Eglise.
Although a large number of the Hadrian assault gliders deposited at landing grounds across Normandy were too badly damaged for further use, a sizeable number could be recovered for further use. A limited number of C-47s serving with the 438th TCG were fitted with ‘Model 80’ glider pick up gear to snatch the stranded gliders, Drag ‘em oot was one such aircraft. The snatch gear winch was located in the forward fuselage with an arrester hook fitted beneath the fuselage in the general area of the cargo door. This fitment resulted in Drag ‘em oot not being used for parachute drops during D-Day; instead she towed gliders and carried out re-supply sorties.
The glider recovery sorties continued during July and August and almost certainly carried on into September despite the aircraft’s transfer to the RAF as Dakota III TS422. Drag ‘em oot joined No.1 Heavy Glider Servicing Unit, based at Netheravon, and saw much use recovering Hadrian and Horsa gliders back to the UK.
During Operation MARKET GARDEN, the Arnhem landings in September 1944, Drag ‘em oot served in the re-supply role and sustained battle damage. The aircraft’s lower wing surfaces and rear fuselage were hit by ground fire and flak whilst an attack by a German fighter aircraft resulted in the cockpit being sprayed with bullets, one even passed through the back of the Pilot’s seat although there are no records of any fatalities or injuries – around forty bullet strikes have been counted in total.
Drag ‘em oot returned to the glider snatch role and continued sorties throughout the lead up to Operation VARSITY, the crossing of the Rhine in March 1945. With the war over, Drag ‘em oot was transferred to 435 (RCAF) Squadron at Down Ampney, in August 1945. Remaining under RAF control she carried out freight duties and troop movements throughout Europe and Scandinavia until April 1946, including returning Allied Prisoners of War.
The aircraft returned to Canada in April 1946 and continued to operate throughout Canada in numerous roles, including glider tug, parachute transport, Search and Rescue, Medi-Vac (fitted with skis and JATO rockets), Pilot conversion trainer, military freighter and troop carrier. Operations included flights well above the Arctic Circle using a specially fitted sun compass due to the proximity of the North Pole.
Drag ‘em oot was retired from RCAF service in 1966 and reclassified as a Douglas DC3-C, with Canadinan civilian registration CF-KAZ (later C-FKAZ) until 1985. During this period the aircraft operated as a passenger airliner and commercial freighter, seeing service with Kier Air Transport, Trans Provincial Airlines and Pacific Coastal Airlines.
In 1985 the aircraft was sold and stored in Texas until 1995, when re-registered as N5831B for use by McNeely Air Charter, operating in the Southern United States until 2002. The aircraft was once again sold, this time to the Arizona Warbirds Museum and then onto the current owner, Dakota Heritage.
Following a restoration by Edwards Worldwide Aviation a 5500 mile transit via Greenland and Iceland was undertaken in May 2005 to a new home in Liverpool, UK. Registered as N473DC in 2006, Drag ‘em oot was also repainted at RAF Church Fenton into her original 87th TCS markings.
Drag ‘em oot went on to operate from Humberside Airport, and moved on to her new home at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre, East Kirkby, in late 2008.
The WWII crew of C-47A Drag em oot, photographed here at RAF Greenham Common, 10th May 1944.