The Douglas C-47/R4D Skytrain, or Dakota, as the British labeled it, was the outstanding U.S. cargo-troop aircraft of World War II—and beyond. The “runner-up” was unquestionably the Curtiss C-46 Commando, flown by the Marine Corps as the R5C.1 Significantly, the R5C had a higher speed, greater range, and carried significantly more cargo or troops than the C-47/R4D.
The C-46/R5C began life as the Curtiss-Wright CW-40, designed by George A. Page Jr. as a luxury airliner, referred to in public-relations blurbs as a pressurized “sub-stratosphere transport.” At the time, it was the world’s largest twin-engine transport. Although several airlines expressed interest in the CW-40, no orders were forthcoming, probably in part because of the fighting at the time in the Far East and in Europe.