While stationed at RAF Lakenheath, England in the mid-sixties I had the pleasure to see the C-124 Globemaster, one of the great old cargo planes of the past. The nickname “Old Shaky,” provided the Air Force, with heavy lifting capabilities during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
She wasn’t pretty, nor sleek and trim, and she certainly wasn’t young. Her first flight was in 1949 and her first delivery to the Air Force occurred in 1950. She featured “clam-shell,” and hydraulic ramps under the nose, and an elevator under the aft fuselage.
Her odd appearance, hid some powerful attributes. She could carry tanks, artillery, bulldozers and trucks. She had a double-deck, which could be converted to carry 200 fully equipped soldiers or 127 litter patients. Her four Pratt & Whitney R-4360 piston engines-rated at 3,800 HP, could push her through the air at a speed of 320 mph, and a range of almost 2200 miles, She could carry 216,000 lbs., maximum.
“Old Shaky’s,” name derived from the large Pratt & Whitney piston engines, which had cylinders the size of coffee cans. The noisy conglomeration of connecting rods, push rods and 28 pistons, made for a deafening roar and a shaky plane ride.
I have no idea, what the strange-looking birds were doing on our airfield. We were a fighter-bomber base, flying F-100 Super Sabre’s. The few times, I had the pleasure to see the planes, was when I was working on the flight line, as an Air Policeman.
We often had different groups fly TDY-Temporay Duty to Lakenheath. I suspect the C-124′s we had on different occasions, probably flew in from Germany. They may have flown in supplies or perhaps they were making a hop back to the states. I just don’t know.
One early morning shift found me at a post on the flight line. As was the case, any daylight was always preceded by fog and a light drizzle. When I first arrived on post, I had no idea, the large planes parked nearby. I could hardly see my hand in front of my face. As I walked my post, darkness was replaced by dawn, the fog was starting to dissipate and the light drizzle had stopped.
As I walked along the parry track, I started to make out faint, gray, ghost like images parked along the line. It wasn’t the familiar outline of an F-100 Supersabre, but something larger. In fact, there was something strange about the shapes. The nose of each plane was off the ground, pointing towards the heavens, with the tail of each one, resting on the ground!
I immediately radioed HQ, to report the strange occurrence. Was it some sort of sabotage, an accident or what? A minute or so after my call, a SAT Team-Security Alert Team showed up. When I pointed out the strange-looking site, they immediately took off to inspect the area.
About ten minutes later, the SAT Team-Security Alert Team returned, this time with an aircraft mechanic. After talking with him, we found out what the problem was. Seems the C-124 has tricycle type landing gear, meaning a nose wheel, and wing wheels. Since the plane sits so high off the ground, it has no tail wheel, only a skid if it tips over. To compensate for this, the mechanics install a triangle-shaped support device under the tail, when it was parked. This kept the aircraft from tipping over backwards, and probably helped stabilize the plane when it’s being loaded.
From what I can recall, the C-124′s came in that evening, probably from Germany and parked on the flight-line. Someone forgot to install the tail supports. That evening, a“Hawk,”-A strong gale off the North Sea, blew through and tipped over every C-124 on its tail!!
File: C-124C Globemaster II
The Curse of the Cargomaster, by By John Sotham Air & Space Magazine, September 01, 2010
Personal Memories of Sgt. Mac, Copyright © 2000-2011, By macsmilitary.com
Wikimedia Commons: File:C-124.jpg
F-100 Image-Public Domain