The C-7 Caribou was flown to the museum in 1992. While tracing its history, it was found that the plane was stationed at Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, from 1969 to 1970. Museum volunteer, Col. Bill Hardie, researched his flight records of the time he spent at Cam Ranh Bay and found that he and the plane were old buddies.
In Vietnam the Caribou was used to re-supply fighting forces in-country because of its unique ability to fly in and out of camps on short, unimproved airstrips. The museum’s ‘bou is restored to its Vietnam-era appearance. In addition to its Vietnam service, this C-7 also served time with the Army’s Golden Knights Parachute Team.
The C-7 was used to move people and materiel into forward areas, where short, unprepared strips were the norm. They were almost always operated under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) or “Special VFR,” but were fully equipped instrument aircraft. Typical cargoes were fuel (gasoline, diesel fuel, and JP-4), munitions (small arms ammunition, 2.75 inch aircraft rockets, 105mm, 155mm, 175mm, and 8-inch howitzer projectiles), food (widely varying from American steak and chicken, to live pigs, chickens, ducks, and eels for the Army of the Republic of Vietnam troops), passengers (U.S. military, Republic of Vietnam military and civilians, and even North Vietnamese Army POWs), and sadly, bodies. Most of the destination airstrips of the C-7 in the 1971 time period were along the borders of Laos and Cambodia with South Vietnam and were firebases or Special Forces outposts (U.S., ARVN, and Montagnard). The Caribou was a workhorse that went from sunrise to sunset every day operating in the heat, humidity, dust, and mud from the low-lying Vietnamese Mekong Delta to the towering mountain regions of the Central Highlands.
The C-7 could accommodate up to 32 passengers, 26 fully equipped paratroops, 20 litter patients, or an 8,740 pound cargo load.