As WarbirdsNews readers will remember, a few weeks ago, the Yankee Air Museum unveiled their freshly refinished Douglas C-47D Skytrain 44-76716. The aircraft had – for decades – worn a polished metal and white post-war livery, and the nickname Yankee Doodle Dandy. However, the vintage transport now wears a much more interesting, and under-represented paint scheme from the China-Burma-India Theatre belonging to the 1st Air Commando Group. At the time of her roll-out on June 29th, the aircraft had yet to receive her personalized squadron markings though. However, in a rather dramatic flourish, this all changed last week at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018, when the museum had the final markings hand-painted on the airframe.
The aircraft now represents Hairless Joe, an aircraft flown by the legendary Lt.Col. Dick Cole in the 319th Troop Carrier Squadron within the 1st Air Commando. As readers will remember, as a Lieutenant, Dick Cole was Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot during the daring April 1942 raid when 16 B-25B Mitchell bombers launched from the heaving deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet to bomb the Japanese mainland for the first time since the attack on Pearl Harbor. After the ‘Doolittle Raid’, as the mission subsequently became known, the Cole went on to serve with the 1st Air Commando Group during their push into Burma. At the grand age of 103, Dick Cole is the last surviving member of the Doolittle Raiders, and the gallant man was on hand at Oshkosh to witness the Yankee Air Museum’s C-47 being marked in his honor. The Yankee Air Museum released the following statement about this moment…
“Dick Cole is the hero’s hero,” said Kevin Walsh, Executive Director of Yankee Air Museum. “In 1942, as a lieutenant, Dick Cole was Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot in the daring raid on Tokyo, flying a B-25 bomber and leading 15 others from the deck of the USS Hornet aircraft carrier. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross for this mission and went on to fly many more in the CBI theater.”
Walsh explained the “Hairless Joe” moniker was actually selected by Cole’s crew and originates with a character from the popular Li’l Abner comic strip of the 1940’s. Walsh said there were other types of aircraft named “Hairless Joe” in the war, including P-47 and P-38 fighters as well as B-17 and B-24 heavy bombers. He says this plane will live on to complete a new mission.
“As a Museum, we have a responsibility to keep history alive, and for us to be able to tell the story of the CBI, often called ‘The Forgotten Theater’ with this airplane, is very important,” continued Walsh. “It’s also very humbling to do this in the presence of Dick Cole, the last surviving member of the Doolittle Raiders and a giant among men.” Walsh said the plane also received squadron insignias while at Oshkosh. The 319th TCS insignia was a large question mark within a circle and it appears on the vertical stabilizer of the tail section [Ed. this is true today for the unit’s successor, the 319th Special Operations Squadron]. “The [Squadron] never knew what their next special operation would be, so it’s fitting they adopted a question mark as their insignia,” said Walsh. “As for us, we know our mission is to take this great example of a Douglas C-47 Skytrain to as many air shows as possible, and tell the secret history of the Forgotten Theater.”
Walsh said the new paint job was made possible through the generous support of Kalitta Air. The plane was ferried to Kalitta Maintenance in Oscoda, Michigan on June 8, stripped of its old paint, thoroughly inspected, primed and re-painted by June 29, 2018. “With these finishing touches, we’re ready,” said Walsh, concluding, “We’ll be flying the plane for years to come honoring our Greatest Generation and providing people with Air Adventure rides.”
To find out about an Air Adventure ride on Hairless Joe, visit www.yankeeairmuseum.org/fly