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Remembering an Unsung Giant



C-133A 40135 enroute to Edwards AFB on maiden flight 23 Apr 1956 (USAF)

The Douglas C-133 Cargomaster and Its People


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 C-133 Book Ordering

Remembering an Unsung Giant: The Douglas C-133 Cargomaster and Its People is the definitive history of the C-133. Click here for the order form for the book and all other Firstfleet Publisher  products.. Resellers please contact me for information on pricing and to make final arrangements for a purchase.  

Book Preview

For a preview of my C-133 book, I have posted the two-page Table of Contents and the first page of each of the 24 chapters. The Title Page has links to each succeeding page.

 Firsfleet Publishers has three publications in addition to the DVDs.

1. WWII unit patches. A disc with over 470 WW2 unit insignia (90+ USN/USMC). They are in 300 dpi tif format, capable of much enlargement (Item Kilo).

Go to WWII Patches page for information and to order.

2.  The Douglas C-132: The Ultimate Turboprop Transport. (Item Lima, Mike) facsimile edition of a 146-page report on the Douglas XC-132 logistics transport together with a magnificent 36 x 72 general arrangement drawing in 1:72 scale. The report gives a high level of detail about how the C-132 would have been equipped, had it gone into service. There are two additional chapters. One gives more background on the C-132. The other is a history of aerial refueling, which would have been a C-132 mission. The history carries into the 1950s and concludes with an "alternative history" section, written as if the C/KC-132 had been bought. Pricing is $60 plus $4  S&H (add $5 sales tax for WA addresses).

3. C-133 video and picture discs (Item India). 90-minute video detailsfinal flight of C-133 61999 from Anchorage, AK to Travis AFB, CA in Aug 2008. The illustrations disc contains more than 2,100 C0133 pictures and documents. These include all pictures from the book and 142 pages from the 84th MAS unit scrapbook, scanned at 200%.

e-mail: Cal Taylor at 


Flight Orders


The question comes up frequently, of where can copies of flight orders be found. To my knowledge, flight orders and special orders were not filed anywhere outside the issuing unit. I know of no way that such orders can be located now.


Reunion Information

The Dover and Travis reunions are 9-10 May and 16-17 May, respectively. These will be the final C-133 reunions, the seventh at Dover and the 20th at  Travis. Rick Spencer has been the resident philosopher and MC at Dover. He has written a compelling farewell to the Cargomaster and an excellent presentation about the significance of the C-133 and its people during fifteen years of USAF service.


Welcoming Address for the C-133A Diamond Reunion at DAFB,

May, 2014, Presented Upon Behalf of the Reunion Committee

Ladies, gentlemen, and guests, this evening we welcome one another back to DAFB for the C-133’s seventh and final reunion, and to celebrate our Diamond anniversary year. 

Tonight, we also pay homage to those members not with us because of illness, the natural passages of life, or the fatal accidents that we endured.

I am honored, humbled, and somewhat nervous to be here before you, peers all, as MC and part of this final gathering of old friends who were colleagues at one time. It has been some 60 years almost to the day since the Douglas C-133A Cargomaster was initially funded and a few years later rolled out for its debut in California. We can all say that we have been with it in spirit, if not body, from its beginning to its end. 


Given the size of the USAF and the years gone by, we were a very small group maintaining and flying a very large airplane around the world. It was an ‘eye popper’ for all those seeing it.  We were involved in important and memorable missions with the best air and ground crews ever assembled. Should I use the word ‘elite’ to describe us all?  I think so!  When one surveys today’s aero technology, we were iron men in wooden ships.


There were a mere fifty C-133’s built, based at two locations, and their lifespan and “heyday’, the 1960’s, were compressed into a very short period compared to nearly all other AF aircraft. The final landing of a C-133A, 61999, some 35 years after its official retirement and subsequent private ownership, was at the Travis Air Show in 2008 prior to it becoming a part of their AMC Museum display. Now, sadly, there are no more.


In one of the quirks of our history, the C-133A now at Travis AFB was originally a DAFB bird, and the display here was originally a Travis bird.  That incongruity between what one would expect to happen and what actually happened has created a closer relationship between the two Museums and among all the veterans associated with this historic transport.  We are now family; and, we now have an obligation, one to the other, to maintain these special aircraft that were an unusually important phase in the life of military cargo flight. .  And, we therefore offer kudos to those doing so at the Dover AFB AMC Museum, as well as Travis AFB.


As an example of the unique capabilities of both the crews and the Cargomaster, our C-133A set a number of unofficial records, including records for military transport aircraft on trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific routes. Among the longest were non-stop flights from Tachikawa AB, Japan to Travis AFB, CA (17:20 hours on 22 May 1959, and Hickam AFB, HI to Dover AFB, DE in about 16 hours. The only FAI officially sanctioned record was in December 1958, when C-133A 62008 lifted a payload of 117,900 lb to an altitude of 10,000 ft at Dover AFB, DE.  I would surmise that some here tonight had a direct hand in these and other records.


Our reunions, including this 7th, have always celebrated a grand and glorious interval of our life- that of our service in the USAF, our personal relationship with the C-133A, and Dover AFB. We were young then, very young, and it was a time like no other in our lives. For those our age, throughout our military service and most of our civilian lives, we were actively involved in the containment of Communism. And, it was for good reason.  Communism killed over 100,000,000 men, women, and children, not to mention the near 30,000,000 of its subjects that died in its often-aggressive wars and the rebellions it provoked.  Communism was the great and evil story of the twentieth century and at its zenith, ruled a third of mankind. It seemed poised to spread indefinitely and then it collapsed like a house of cards. It had violated one of the basic tenets of civilization, “Thou shalt not kill.”


But, for us, Peace was our nation’s tenet, and DAFB C-133’s were integral in mission support of our country’s fundamental belief in worldwide democracy leading to individual freedoms. Unfortunately, what we have learned from history and endured throughout our life is that peace is a far more complex affair than war. So complex that peace often seems beyond humanity’s reach.


The century of our lives became the bloodiest of all time in spite of our best efforts toward peaceful resolutions. Atrocitologists have estimated total military and civilian casualties ranging up to 275,000,000. Thucydides the Greek first noted almost twenty-five centuries ago that peace is an armistice in a war that is continually going on.  And, so it seems.

However, this continuous ongoing and out pouring of concern for one another for well over 50 years poses an interesting but central question, “Why?” Our mere attendance would seem to suggest a simple answer; enduring friendship engendered by our small size with a big mission.  We flew the line with dangerous cargo to risky and unusual places. Flying the line gave us an independence and responsibility here and in foreign countries at a young age that few ever obtain.  Adding to that was the short span of operational years along with the high percentage of mysterious losses that created a special esprit de corps among us.


But, the “Why” is more complex than that and we have to look into antiquity to understand it.  So, here is the more complex answer to these many years leading to a Diamond Reunion among the few USAF veterans associated with the C-133A at DAFB.


The reasons for our reunion and hundreds of others involving military veterans revolve about two concepts: one important to the nation; and, the other important to those who served the nation in uniform.


The former, importance to the nation, is the common sense observation that escapes many of our citizens and the political bodies of the country: that military organizations exist to win wars.  Winning the nation’s wars is the military’s functional imperative.  In fact, it is the only reason for a liberal society to maintain standing armies.  We were personally a part of that important national organization dedicated to preserving freedom and protecting our citizens. We were proud to be so and to do so.  And, we remain so.


The latter, importance to the veterans, is traced to antiquity.  Aristotle conceived it and the Greeks called it ”philia”.  It is broadly defined as  ‘brotherly love’ and it is the glue of the military ethos, then and now.  It is that bond formed among disparate individuals who may have nothing in common but facing the dangerous unknowns of military duty. We performed personal acts to help one another that were inherently good.  That was the major critical factor for our success during some of the trying times we faced with the C-133A.


As we were few in numbers, every single person was important; one to the other, as a friend, as a professional colleague, and as a cog in the always-turning wheel leading to successful mission accomplishment. The tragic loss of one was a loss to all, as our relationships were based upon loyalty, affection, and a shared experience.


Philia” exists to this day as the foundation for all military organizations throughout the world.  The many reunions of veterans that we see taking place every year, including ours, results from an ethos first noted by the ancient Greeks.  It exists in the USAF from the ground crews to the flight crews; and, tonight we have participants from all levels of our C-133 organization.  Philia never leaves the individual and the individual never leaves the military.  That ethos, ‘brotherly love’, remains to our last.


During these reunion days we have been enjoying the fruits of our ‘enduring friendships’ that were fostered by our ‘brotherly love’ that began over 50 years ago here at DAFB. They were the offspring of our relationship with the world’s flagship military air transport, the C-133A Cargomaster. It was the unselfish nature of service for the nation in the uniform of the USAF that brings us together, once again, for the last time, for celebration and to embrace America’s Exceptionalism.


I am not certain there is another AF retiree group that shares such mutual feelings of trust and affection as we.  We were one then; we are one now; and, we will remain as one to the last!   However, after this night’s event, we will slowly fade away; as do all good citizen soldiers with the knowledge that we helped secure a better and safer life for our families, the nation, and the world.


We were not heroes; we were just ordinary citizens from all walks of American life dedicated to the preservation and the good will of our beloved country.  We can stand proudly knowing that we did our duty by honoring our country without rancor during one of its most troubled and dangerous time.  I ask: What more could we have done? We have accomplished our mission, and this evening we shall rejoice in the peace of such knowledge.


Tonight, for a short time we are once again young, so enjoy your meal, enjoy your stories, and enjoy the time together that has been so fleeting. 

Upon behalf of the reunion committee we offer a sincere welcome, and thank you for your attendance.


Richard L. Spencer, Ph.D.

Lt Col, USAF Ret.

39th ATS, MATS    

DAFB, DE   1962-1965








Sales Outlets


Several museums now stock the book. So far, they are: 

    AMC Museum, Dover AFB, DE

    Hill AFB Museum, Ogden, UT

    Jimmy Doolittle Air & Space Museum, Travis AFB, CA   

   The museum's C-133 page is at this link.

    National Museum of the USAF, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH

     Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson, AZ

      C-133 Model Available

Gene Hooker's vacuform 1:72 C-133 model remains available on special order. The kit has a 40+ page illustrated instruction manual, excellent decals and all the trimmings to build a truly impressive model. Contact Gene for production and availability details and go to the Gallery page for more info on specifications and costs, plus a photo of a completed model.


Other Great Books

Jerry McAuliffe's book, U.S. Air Force in France, 1950-1967, is excellent. The C-133 flew through Chateauroux a lot, so here is the source for everything about that base and the rest during those years. It has 464 pages, hundreds of photos and color shots of wing and squadron insignia for all flying units stationed in France, including US Army and Royal Canadian Air Force.  Contact him at . Click here for a new website for Jerry's book. I have read the whole book, and it is excellent. It gives a fascinating picture of the way that French and American government policy changes impacted the lives of USAF, RCAF and Army personnel serving in France. There are excellent diagrams of all the airfields, summaries of facility development and insights into living in France in those years.

Lou Martin's book is available now.  Close Encounters With the Pilot's Grim Reaper  details Lou's close encounters in 60 years and 19,000 hours of flying. Starting when he was 17, the book includes 22 years in the USAF, five years as a JAL captain, three years in Iran before the Shah's fall and 19 years as an FAA inspector and time as a war bird pilot for the Planes of Fame Museum. Lou provides an excellent picture of life as a pilot in the transition from the WWII Air Force to Korea and beyond. The book has 540 pages and more than 80 illustrations. It lists at $24.50 plus S&H. Contact Lou at 13268 Huntington Terrace, Apple Valley, MN 55124 or by e-mail at For an enthusiastic review by James Etten, in the London Flight Times, go here.



Spitfire Wingman from Tennessee: My Love Affair With Flight is the excellent and exciting autobiography of Col James Haun, whose career spanned the period from the late 1930s into the 1960s. Haun was sworn into the Tennessee National Guard by then-Major William Tunner, who became the key proponent of airlift. The updated the book includes added photos and a cover painting featuring the Spitfire Col Haun flew with an RNZAF squadron. He also has an audio tape version, read by Col Haun. There is also an audio version.  Go to the book website for pricing and ordering info.

S.A.C. Great Years is MSgt Tom Kaye's fascinating story of his life as a Cold Warrior in the Navy and the Air Force. He was an aircraft mechanic ashore and afloat on CVA-42, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, before enlisting in the Air Force. He started working the B-47, which remained his favorite airplane. A tour at Midway introduced him to the C-133. Kaye's tale tells how it really was for a young enlisted troop in the years from 1950 to 1972. Lots of fun and full of great detail. The book is available from Trafford Publishing for $17.95 plus S&H.

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