Case SI Airborne

The Case SI Airborne tractor, transported by WACO CG-4A gliders, made its mark in World War II battles

| November 2012

Case SI Airborne by the numbers
9 feet, 11 inches
Width: 59 inches
Height to top of steering wheel: 56 inches
Wheelbase: 56 inches
Turning Radius: 11-1/2 feet
Operating weight with fluids: 3,188 pounds

A certain irony existed during World War II, when American industry shifted its energies from production of durable goods to wartime materiel. In the mid-1940s, the American farmer couldn’t get a new tractor for love or money — but the Army could, and did. J.I. Case was among several manufacturers that built tractors for wartime use, converting its popular Model SC into the Case SI Airborne tractor.

The Case SI, equipped with a Hough loader built by Frank G. Hough Co., Libertyville, Ill., was one of several pieces of construction equipment developed for transport by WACO CG-4A gliders and cargo planes. Other pieces included a Clarkair CA-1 bulldozer developed by Clark Equipment Co., Michigan; a scraper built by LaPlant-Choate, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and an 11-S towed grader manufactured by J.D. Adams & Co., Indianapolis. The four units (and similar pieces) were used to maintain and repair aircraft runways and perform other construction jobs in battle zones.

These units are highly prized collectibles today, partly because they were produced in small numbers and partly because very few of them returned home after the war ended. “Probably 99 percent of the material manufactured for the war effort never made it back to the U.S.,” says Ken Cerra, Indianapolis. “It was typically abandoned or just given to our allies as part of the redevelopment effort after the war.”

If Ken sounds well versed in the World War II airborne equipment, it’s because he is. He owns examples of the four pieces of airborne construction equipment listed above. Each of his four restored pieces is historic, but the Case is clearly at the head of the pack.

“It is very unique,” Ken admits. “Very few of these were made with a front loader. From my experience in military vehicle preservation circles, I only know of one other with a Hough loader. The other tractors were used to pull the scraper or grader.”