CAF Helps Airlift Relief Supplies to Hurricane-Ravaged Beaumont, Texas

The Commemorative Air Force's Highland Lakes Squadron, based in Burnet, Texas, just north west of Austin, has been helping move Hurricane-relief supplies to Beaumont using their trusty WWII Douglas C-47 known as "Bluebonnet Belle." (photo via CAF)
The Commemorative Air Force’s Highland Lakes Squadron, based in Burnet, Texas, just north west of Austin, has been helping move Hurricane-relief supplies to Beaumont using their trusty WWII Douglas C-47 known as “Bluebonnet Belle.” (photo via CAF)

No one can fail to recognize that right now, much of the Gulf Coast is reeling in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Beaumont, Texas was one of those towns most severely affected by the storm and the deluge which followed. Over the last couple of days, relief has been pouring in from across the United States and other parts of the world. The Highland Lakes Squadron of Commemorative Air Force has also been taking part in these efforts, using their venerable Douglas C-47 “Bluebonnet Belle” to ferry much-needed supplies to the disaster zone. We thought our readers would be interested in reading the following press release describing Bluebonnet Belle’s adventures written by David Oliver, the CAF’s VP of Operations and Maintenance.


The CAF organization tells the story of a nation in crisis during World War II. Little did we know, 70 years later, that a Douglas C-47 would again be rumbling down the runway full of supplies for a nation in crisis.

One of the many cities to be hard hit by Hurricane Harvey is Beaumont, Texas. Currently, the city is under water and all electricity and water service is unworkable. They need help urgently.  Some proud Texans in the city of Georgetown, Texas, located outside Austin, quickly went to work collecting much needed supplies at the local airport. A call went out for general aviation aircraft and pilots in the area to help take supplies down to Beaumont. The CAF Highland Lakes Squadron answered that call.

C-47 Bluebonnet Belle
The C-47 “Bluebonnet Belle” on display in our hangar is owned by the Commemorative Air Force. It was built in Oklahoma City in late 1944 as a C-47B serial number 43-49942; then flown to Montreal, Canada where it was transferred to Great Britain under the Lend-Lease program. The aircraft was ferried to England and served with the RAF. Read more… (photo by David Oliver)

Imagine the look in everyone’s eye when the shiny C-47 Bluebonnet Belle pulled up to the hangar to take a monster payload of supplies. The excitement was palpable as they loaded the large cargo airplane with diapers, food and water knowing a shipment of this size was going to move the needle. We paused for a quick picture with about 50 volunteers, many of them young students who skipped school with their parents to volunteer.

Once loaded, the Pratt and Whitney 1830s roared to life, just as they did 70 years ago on similar missions transporting much needed supplies during the war.

During the 1.5 hour flight down to Beaumont the crew witnessed the devastation first hand. The entire city of Beaumont seemed to look underwater. Reports were that the city pumps had failed and they were not coming back anytime soon. With most of the interstate roads closed, shipments of supplies were needed by air.

We landed at Beaumont and witnessed what will certainly be called the great Gulf Coast Airlift.  Lines of C-130s at the terminal were staged with bus coaches to take people out of the area to surrounding shelters. 

C-47 Bluebonnet Belle and CAF Volunteers
CAF volunteers loading up the C-47 ( Photo by David Oliver)

When the Texas National Guard showed up with their Deuce and a half truck, I knew we had brought supplies to the right place.  A troop of soldiers descended on the C-47 unloading box after box directly onto the military truck.  This was only the first load of supplies and so long as there is a need the CAF is planning to help.

The Commemorative Air Force members embodied the spirit and tenacity of the Greatest Generation, who in a time of need, stepped up to help a nation in crisis. If you are interested in supporting the Highland Lakes Squadron efforts, you can visit www.highlandlakessquadron.com.

We commend our CAF leaders in the area of the Texas Gulf Coast who did an incredible job securing the hangars and staying in communication with CAF Headquarters. While the CAF hangars fared well during the storm, we realize many CAF members did not. Many CAF members are still displaced and waiting to be able to return to their houses and see what damage has occurred. In the coming weeks, we will continue to reach out to those groups and members and see what can be done to help.

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