David E. Steiner

Retired USAF, Teacher, Dad, Grandfather, Curmudgeon

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The Kaiser C-119s

Chuck Lunsford

Chuck Lunsford, an Airborne Radio operator in the late '50s in Europe with the 12th Troop Carrier Sq., 60th TCW, based in France, has written a book about his experience. The airplane above is 53-8145, one of his squadron's airplanes. (Photo courtesy of John Traficante)

 

His book is a great read and anyone who spent time in C-119s in the 1950s or knows of someone who did is going to really enjoy this memoir. Here's a link to his site.

 

Here are his comments about the Kaiser C-119s:

 

"Regarding the Kaiser-Frasier C-119s built at Willow Run. This all came about in doing research tracing all the 18 aircraft that served with the 12th for my book, and I found something I didn't know when I flew them. We had several of them in the wing, and they carried tail numbers of 53-81-- or 53-80--, not 1951 numbers.

 

They were built at Willow Run in 1951, intended to have been completed as "C" models, and were supposed to have P&W 4360s. They were modified to "F" models on the assembly line, but my information is they never got the 4360s, or if they did, they were removed -- possibly to assuage Gen. Le May, who wanted all the 4360s for SAC. There was one more contract for "C" models in 1951 -- the 51-82-- aircraft. I think they were the last Cs built, some of which were delivered to the 60th TCW at Rhine Main in 1951 replacing the C-82s, and then converted to F models in the field. The crews referred to them as "CF" models, although there is no official designation for CF. They carried the P & W 4360. The 12th flew them until 1955, and the move to France, when they were replaced with new G models.

 

There were two groups of tail numbers for the new aircraft -- 53-7826 thru 53-7884 (the very last Fairchild C-119s built) and another group, whose numbers began with 53-81-- and ended with 53-8156. These 53-81 numbers were those same Willow Run aircraft, but now they had all the F and G modifications, and sported the Wright 3350-89-A turbo compound engines. The mystery is, where were they from 1951 until 1955 when they showed up in France with about 150 hours on the airframe? Brand new airplanes that were 4 years old. I know it had something to do with Kaiser going belly-up, and there must have been some contract disputes, etc, but it's all very confusing. The "CF" airplanes of the Rhine Main 60th TCW, were actually built after the Kaiser G models we got to replace them. Much of Fairchild's records have been lost in all the reorganizations, and I haven't been able to come up with any confirmation.

 

Three J models still exist. 53-8146 is preserved by the Italians in Pisa and is the only Kaiser airplane. 53-8087 is preserved at the 82nd Airborne Museum at Fort Bragg, and 53-8150 is preserved by Hawkins & Power, and may still be flyable.

 

In the summer of 2002 I went over to Brussels to see 8151, and they opened it up for me, and let me sit in the radio chair and pound on the Morse key. A real rush, as it had been 43 years since I had flown that airplane. I also learned that three of the Kaiser aircraft, 53-8121, 8145 and 8148, were converted to AC-119K Stingers in 1968, and flew combat in Vietnam. They were turned over to VNAF March l, 1973, and their subsequent fate is unknown. 53-8155 was converted to an AC-119G Shadow -- the only one, I think, and it crashed on takeoff at Da Nang in 1971. There were a total of 26 AC-119K aircraft, and only one, 53-7826 was lost to enemy action in 3 years of combat, and was the only one to have crew killed. Three others were lost in landing accidents or because of runaway props, but 22 of the 26 were turned over intact to VNAF."

 

My thanks to Chuck for his information

 

"I know it had something to do with Kaiser going belly-up, and there must have been some contract disputes, etc, but it's all very confusing."

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