Pope's Air Park preserves history
By Rhonda Griffin, 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 06, 2009
POPE AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- The scenery on base got a little brighter last week when the planes in the Pope Air Force Base Air Park received a face lift with a fresh coat of paint.
Located across the street from the Pope Monument, the four brightly colored aircraft greet Team Pope members and visitors as they enter the Reilly Gate. These aircraft have made their mark in the history of Pope since the oldest, the Jungle Skipper, was used here in 1942.
Strategically placed in the Air Park to represent various steps in history, these four planes have been used throughout the years, both in the states and overseas. Many like them have made an impact at Pope, and in order to preserve the base's history, have been placed in the Air Park since its dedication on April 22, 1994.
All of the aircraft are displayed at Pope on behalf of the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
To begin the walk through the history of Pope, the Douglas C-47 Skytrain stands proudly near the gates to welcome all who enter. The military's version of the DC-3, these aircraft were stationed at Pope from 1942-46 under Air Transport Command.
Commonly used during World War II, the C-47, or Jungle Skipper, provided air and ground training for airborne infantry and parachute troops.
The C-119 Flying Boxcars, represented by the second aircraft in the park, were stationed at Pope when the 464th Troop Carrier Wing was transferred to the base in 1954. The massive size of aircraft required the expansion of the main runway, the taxiways and the gate to allow for their use.
When the Pope monument to honor Lt. Harley H. Pope, for whom the base was named, was brought to its current site, it was, in fact, delivered on a C-119, base historian Dan Knickrehm said.
The Flying Boxcars, which were quite versatile, held up to 10,000 pounds of cargo or 42 troops. They were used at Pope until 1958, when they were replaced with the C-123 Provider.
The Provider, the third aircraft, was able to operate from short airfields and could carry 60 fully-equipped troops. The life of the Provider was short lived, however, being replaced by the C-130 Hercules.
The first Hercules, named "The North Carolina," arrived in 1963 and was used to rapidly transport personnel and cargo. It was used not only as tactical transport, but could also be converted to an ambulance or used for aerial delivery.
Large numbers of crew members were trained to utilize the unique capabilities of the C-130 as the Armed Forces became more involved in Vietnam. Many of those men were trained here in North Carolina to enter the war in Southeast Asia.
These four airplanes, along with the Pope monument, do more than simply greet those who enter the base with a show of military memorabilia.
They hold the story of past generations of Airmen who proudly served their country.