The C-124 Globemaster—a U.S. military heavy-lift transport in service 1950 through 1974—barreling down a runway was an awesome sight. The aircraft’s four 3800 hp piston engines (the largest ever mass-produced), mounted on its 174-foot wingspan, could carry a 69,000-pound payload of tanks, artillery or other cargo, or 200 fully equipped troops, at more than 300 mph.
The flight crew, perched three stories above the landing gears in an unpressurized cockpit, relied, like Magellan, on celestial fixes to navigate over oceans. With a world-wide mission delivering troops and materials to such destinations as the Congo, Vietnam, Thule, Greenland and Antarctica, the Globemaster lived up to its name and was foundational to what Time magazine publisher Henry Luce termed the “American Century.”
Drawing on archives, Air Force bases, libraries and accident sites, and his own recollections as a navigator, the author details Cold War confrontations and consequent strategies that emerged after Douglas Aircraft Company delivered the first C-124A to the Military Air Transport Service in 1949.