Navigating the C-124 Globemaster

In the Cockpit of America’s First Strategic Heavy-Lift Aircraft


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About the Book

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.

About the Author(s)

Billy D. Higgins teaches history at the University of Arkansas–Fort Smith.

Bibliographic Details

Billy D. Higgins
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 219
Bibliographic Info: 59 photos, appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2019
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7763-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3711-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Preface 1
Introduction 3
1. “Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth…”: Rolling Takeoffs 11
2. “Rush by air”: Building an Aluminum Overcast 23
3. “The West Point of the Air”: Undergraduate Navigator Training 43
4. “Ike’s Bluff”: The Cold War and Civil Wars 67
5. “Hairy conditions”: Over the Oceans 83
6. “Birthplace of Winds”: From Attu to Zaire 108
7. “The Right Stuff”: Crewing Old Shaky 121
8. “Fate Is the Hunter”: Mountains and Thunderstorms 141
9. “Sorry ’bout that”: Korea and Vietnam 155
10. “The backbone of airlift”: Epilogue 177
Appendix: C-124 Globemaster Accidents Involving Loss of Life or Loss of Airplane 181
Chapter Notes 191
Bibliography 202
Index 207

Book Reviews & Awards

  • Navigating the C-124 Globemaster is a serious and important work, equal parts aviation/navigation history and old-fashioned travelogue. The writing gurus are always talking about the textural imperative of storytelling—sights, sounds, smells, tastes. Well, mission accomplished, it’s all there. Reading this work, I felt like I was in that bubble and cockpit with Lt. Higgins and crew, out in the netherworld of the Pacific or reversing engines in a typhoon of dust on a makeshift runway at Pleiku, Vietnam. An adventure in aviation not to be missed.”—Phil Karber, two-time Lowell Thomas medalist and author of Postmarks from a Political Traveler; Fear and Faith in Paradise: Exploring Conflict and Religion in the Middle East and The Indochina Chronicles: Travels in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam