Saturday, June 23, 2012

US Army Air Force CG-4A Combat Glider

US Army Air Force CG-4A Combat Glider

A Brief History


Compiled by (USAF Ret) Major Leon B. Spencer ~ WWII Glider Pilot

I - General: 

 The use of gliders as a military weapon was known to only a few high-level United States military personnel in 1940 and virtually unknown by American civilians.   Some of the latter were acquainted with civilian sailplanes, as were a few military personnel.   The Air Corps aircraft inventory contained not a single military glider and there were no military glider pilots  on the personnel roles.  Not until it became known by American military authorities that the Germans had successfully attacked and captured the allegedly impregnable Belgian fortress Eben Emael using eleven 9-place DFS-230 gliders carrying 78 highly-trained combat engineers did the United States take notice.  For a number of years prior to that the top American Army brass rejected the use of gliders in its arsenal.    

 In February 1941, based on the phenomenal success of the German attack on Fort Eben Emael and other information received from abroad, the Army Air Corps brass deemed it advisable to initiate a study with the objective of developing a glider that could be towed by an aircraft.   Major General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, chief of the Army Air Corps, personally directed the initiation of the study.  The Air Corps planners who were charged with conducting the study had no experience with gliders so they had to rely on the advice of civilian sailplane expert such as John Robinson and Richard DuPont.     

The glider development machinery was officially set in motion by two Classified Technical Instructions, CTI-198, dated 24 February 1941 and CTI-203, dated 4 March 1941.  These instructions authorized the preparation of design studies and the procurement of 2, 8 and 15-place gliders and associated equipment.   Only the 15-place glider will be covered by this document.   The Materiel Division at Wright Feld in Dayton, Ohio, conceived the 15-place glider as a craft having a towing speed of 120 mph, a stalling speed of 30 mph with flaps deployed, a normal towing altitude as 12,000 feet and capable of carrying a 3,800 pound load.   


II - CG-4A Development:  

Aware of the changing attitude of Army brass in the development and use of military gliders engineers in the Aircraft Laboratory at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, were already busy preparing  a specification for a 15-place glider, No. 1025-2.   When it was completed on 8 March 1941, it was sent to eleven companies.   Only four responded; Bowlus Sailplanes, Inc. of San Francisco, CA, Frankfort Sailplane Company of Joliet, IL, St. Louis Aircraft Corporation of St. Louis, MO and WACO Aircraft Company of Troy, OH.   After evaluation of the proposals submitted only the WACO (pronounced “Wock Oh”) design by A. Francis Archier, chief design engineer, and his engineering staff was acceptable.   The design submitted by WACO was not aerodynamically sleek in form.  In fact, it was thought to be ugly by many who saw the design.  With its blunt nose and slab sides it looked more like a dragonfly than an aircraft.   However, it would prove to be easy to fly and more durable than expected.   


The WACO glider, designated the CG-4A, “C” for cargo and “G” for Glider, would become the mainstay in the Air Corps glider fleet.  As a utility glider it performed its mission well.  It not only transported infantry troops, but it also carried weapons, vehicles and cargo urgently needed by paratroopers fighting the enemy.    The big glider had none of the soaring capabilities attributed to its little sister, the high performance sailplane.  With an aspect ratio of 8.1 and a sink rate of 950 feet per minute at 100 mph, there was only one way for the CG-4A to go after release and that was down.  It was similar to any other transport aircraft except that it had no engines.  It reacted to the same aerodynamic forces and in the same manner as a powered airplane.  Any heavier-than-air pilot could step from the cockpit of a powered aircraft into the cockpit of a CG-4A and feel at home at the flight controls after suitable transition training.   

On 17 June 1941, the Procurement Office at Wright Field issued Contract ac-19629 to WACO for one static-test and two flight-test models of its glider.  Ten months later, on 28 April 1942, it delivered the static-test XCG-4 glider.  The following month, on 14 May 1942, the two flight-test models were delivered.  Extant records indicate that all static tests were performed at Wright Field by the Aircraft Laboratory, but there is also first-hand evidence that a preponderance of the 1942 flight tests was conducted by the Flight Research Unit of the Glider Branch at Wilmington, Ohio, at Clinton County Army Air Field. 

The XCG-4 was officially declared satisfactory on 20 June 1942.  However, so urgent was the demand for advanced training gliders that contracts to thirteen companies were issued in March and April 1942, even before the glider was declared acceptable.   In a further effort to increase production three additional companies were issued contracts in June and July 1942.       

The CG-4A glider was a high-wing, strut-braced monoplane built of steel tubing, plywood and aircraft fabric.  It was constructed in three sections, the nose section, the cargo section and the tail section.  It was designed to carry a pilot and a copilot, seated side by side, and thirteen glider infantrymen or cargo, for a gross load of 7,500 pounds.   Under emergency conditions a gross load of 9.000 pounds could be carried, not to be exceeded.   At a gross weight of 7,500 pounds the maximum permissible towing speed is 150 mph (CAS) or 158 mph IAS (Indicated Air Speed), less with a 9,000 pound gross load.  

  The original CG-4A had only a single control wheel, while later models had dual-control wheels.  The glider pilot could trim the glider in respect to all three axes with three separate trim tab controls located above and between the pilot and copilot seats.   The instrument panel housed an airspeed indicator, a sensitive altimeter, bank and turn indicator, rate of climb indicator and a compass. 

The CG-4A had a wing span of 83’ 8”, was 48’ 4” long and stood 12’ 8” tall at its highest point.  The cargo compartment was 13’ 2” in length, 5’ 10” in width and 5’ 6” in height.  According to a WACO report, dated February 1942, its empty weight with the jettisonable landing gear was 3,488 pounds, or 3,765 pounds with the training landing gear, and carried a useful load of 4.060 pounds.  However, T. O. No. 09-40CA-1, dated 15 June 1944, specifies its empty weight as 3,790 pounds with the jettisonable landing gear or 3,900 pounds with the training landing gear.   

By Air Corps edict, no strategic materials such as aluminum, copper, etc. could be  used in the glider’s construction.  These materials were reserved for bombers, fighters and transports.   The wood used in the construction of the CG-4A was mainly Sitka spruce and yellow poplar of carefully selected stock.  Western hemlock, Douglas and Noble fir, Sitka pine, sweet gum and mahogany veneer plywood was also used.   Much of the sheathing plywood was 3/32”, 5-ply stock; however some 3-ply was used.              

The nose of the CG-4A was hinged at the top so that it could be raised for loading cargo.  Two mahogany plywood bench seats could be installed along each side, and a single fold-down seat was mounted at the left rear entrance, to accommodate thirteen fully equipped glider infantrymen.  Entrance doors were provided on both sides of the aft section of the cargo section sufficiently wide for a fully armed man to walk through with ease.  Emergency exits were located on each side of the fuselage under the wings.  The glider infantrymen were issued Mae West life jackets but not parachutes.  Web type seat belts for the passengers were attached to the steel tubing of the glider side.  When a jeep was carried, all four bench seats had to be removed. 

Glider payloads included glider infantrymen, jeeps, jeep trailers, 57, 75 and 105 mm field guns, Clarkair CA-1 bulldozer, Case SI wheeled tractor, Adams 11-s towed grader, Letourner Q carryall, motorcycles, ammunition carts, medical supplies, rations, gasoline, and even chapel organs, hymnals and such things as a Red Cross doughnut making machine.  The cargo was limited only by the imagination and the payload of the glider.     

External visibility was excellent for the pilot and copilot, and there were four round observation windows along each side of the fuselage to help minimize airsickness on the part of the airborne troops.  According to the technical manual . . . “men aft of the center of gravity tended to become airsick very easily.”  There were two racks of sanitary containers in the glider for this possibility.

The glider fuselage, square in cross- section, was built of welded 1025 or X1430 chrome molybdenum steel tubing, with X1430 being specified for high stress areas.  The honeycombed cabin floor was covered with thin sheets of plywood.  The wings were rectangular in plan form and built in four sections.  Wood and plywood construction was employed, the structure consisting of a main spar, rear “l” spar, ribs and plywood skin covering.   The entire wing was covered with aircraft fabric and doped.  The inner sections of the wings were braced for torsion by a pair of streamlined airfoil struts.  The wooden and fabric tail section consisted of horizontal stabilizers, a vertical dorsal fin, elevators and a rudder.  More than 70,000 individual parts made up the CG-4A.  After its design was accepted in June 1942 some 7,000 modifications were made to the aircraft, although none were major in nature.

The CG-4A did not have flaps as originally conceived.  It was equipped with wing spoilers.   Each spoiler consisted of a 6.5 feet by 10 inch flush rectangular plate mounted 3 feet back from the leading edge of the wings.  A four foot long lever, set at a 30 degree forward angle, was located on the side of each cockpit seat so that either pilot could open and close the spoilers.  With this device the pilot was able to kill off a large percentage of the lift created by the modified Clark-Y airfoil.  Use of the spoilers increased the rate of descent from a normal 950 feet per minute at 100 mph to as much as 1,600 feet per minute.  Thus the glider pilot soon learned to plan his approach on the long or high side so that in the final moments before touchdown the spoilers could be utilized to put the glider on the intended spot.  

Originally, two types of landing gear were specified; one a shock absorbing gear, permanently attached to the fuselage for training, the other a tactical droppable take-off gear that was released by the pilot after becoming airborne.  Four thick spring-loaded laminated wooden skids, two mounted in tandem on each side of the glider mid-section, were provided for landing after the tactical landing gear was jettisoned.   The training landing gear was of the conventional type employing spring-oil shock absorbers in the main and tail gear units.  Hydraulically operated brakes were incorporated in the main gear.   The solid rubber tail wheel was a  full swiveling type with a self-centering spring.  Landing the CG-4A on wheels provided steering ability, while landing on skids alone did not.  Ultimately, the training gear became standard. 

Some early CG-4A’s were equipped with Radio Set AN/SCR-585, a portable short range transmitter-receiver communications system installed behind the copilot on the right-hand side of the fuselage.  A remote control was located below the instrument panel accessible to either the pilot or copilot.   The unit was removed by either pilot before leaving the glider.  Beginning in 1944, gliders were equipped with the Type AN/A1A-1 interphone system for communication between the glider and the tow plane.  The 3-conductor interphone cable was coiled around the tow rope but due to the stretching and contracting of the rope it frequently failed.   In the latter part of WWII the Army Air Force ordered a number of tow ropes with the interphone wires embedded in the rope, but there is no evidence that they were ever used in training or combat.         

III - CG-4A Procurement:  

As indicated above, sixteen companies were issued production contracts to build the CG-4A.  They were; Ward Furniture Manufacturing Company of Kansas City, MO (7), Ridgefield Manufacturing Company of Ridgefield, NJ (156), National Aircraft Corporation of Elwood, IN (1), Robertson Aircraft Corporation of St. Louis, MO (170), WACO Aircraft Company of Troy, OH (1074), Ford Motor Company of Kingsford, MI (4,190), Cessna Aircraft Company of Wichita, KS (750), Timm Aircraft Corporation of Van Nuys, CA (433), Babcock Aircraft Corporation of Deland, FL (60), General Aircraft Corporation of Astoria, NY (1112), AGA Aviation Corporation of Willow Grove, PA (627), Laister-Kauffman Aircraft Corporation of St. Louis, MO (310), Gibson Refrigerator Company of Greenville, MI (1078), Commonwealth Aircraft, Inc. of Kansas City, MO (1470), Northwestern Aeronautical Corporation of St. Paul. MN (1509) and Pratt-Read and Company of Deep River, CT (956).   Actually, when tallied by serial number, only 13,903 CG-4As were delivered, not 13,906 or 13,909, as specified in many published books and articles.       

No sooner had CG-4A gliders began rolling off the assembly line than they were grounded because of frequent failures of the special fittings attaching the tail brace wires to the tail surfaces. New streamlined wires were quickly manufactured and just as quickly they also failed.  Finally, a stranded cable was installed and that solved the problem. 

In the first three months of 1943 50% or more of the CG-4As were grounded because of frequent failures of the landing gear fittings, the tow rope release mechanism and the nose-raising locking device.  After evaluating the problems the Army’s assessment was that the first problem was caused by pilot’s making hard landings, while the latter two problems were the result of faulty maintenance.  Dirt collecting in the mechanism was not being removed and lubrication of the devices was inadequate.

Once a CG-4A was built and released for shipment it was disassembled and packed in five wooden crates that were built in accordance to US Army Specification No. 23-78-A, dated 5 October 1942.  11,000 feet of Grade A lumber was required for the containers at a cost of $2,000.00.  The five huge crates occupied 5,231 cubic feet and weighed a total of 30.8 ship tons.  It took two railroad flatcars to transport one CG-4A.  Heavy brown paper was taped over the glider’s Plexiglas windows and windshields to prevent scratching.  Outlined below is dimension and weight data related to the glider shipping crates:

Box No.                    Contents                     Length       Width      Height         Weight

1.    Fuselage Nose Section                     8’ 10”          7’ 2”         5’ 9”          1800 lbs

2.    Fuselage Center Section                  24’ 3”          7’ 5”         8’ 3”          5200 lbs

3.    Fuselage Rear Section                      24” 3”         6’ 10”       6’ 11”        4400 lbs

           Tail Group                                                                                               

4.    Outboard Wing Panels                     17’ 2”          4’ 10”       11’ 7”        3750 lbs

5.    Inboard Wing Panels                        25’ 3”          4’ 4”         11’ 7”        5375 lbs

IV - Powered CG-4A Gliders: 

The WACO CG-4A glider proved to be rugged enough that Air Force visionaries decided that it would make an excellent short range cargo aircraft by adding a power package to a limited number of them.  This would relieve the overburdened C-47 and C-46 aircraft from this task.  Wright Field engineers envisioned that adding engines would also relieve some of the strain on tow planes during takeoffs, and would permit the glider to reach its destination in the event the tow plane was damaged or shot down by enemy ground fire.  The head of the glider program approved a project to test these concepts. 

In early 1943, a change order was issued to Northwestern Aeronautical Corporation’s glider contract to design and add two 125 h.p. Franklin engines to CG-4A, s/n: 43-27315.  Tests were performed to determine if the XPG-1, as this powered glider was designated, could take off and land under its own power.  It did so after a long run on a paved runway, but the ascent was slow and time consuming.   A second CG-4A, s/n: 42-58090, designated the XPG-2, was equipped with two 175 h.p. Ranger engines. The maximum speed was 135 mph.   Later in 1943, the 175 h.p. engines on CG-4A, s/n: 42-58090 were replaced with 200 h.p. Ranger engines.  

In the spring of 1944 a contract was negotiated with WACO to convert CG-15A, s/n: 44-90986, a cut down version of the CG-4A and designated an XPG-3, by adding two 230 h,p. Jacobs radial engines.  All of the static and flight tests proved satisfactory.  Extant records indicate that at least fourteen powered gliders were contracted for or built, 1 each XPG-1, 2 each XPG-2As, 10 each PG-2As and 1 each XPG-3.   It was ultimately determined that there was no tactical use for a powered glider, although if the occasion arose they were available for production.        

CG-4A Variants

XCG-4 …….    Prototypes, two built, plus one stress test article.

CG-4A ……. This glider became the G-4A in 1948, 13,903 were built by 16 contractors.

XCG-4B……   One CG-4A built of all-plywood structure.

XPG-1 …….    One CG-4A converted with two Franklin 6AC-298-N3 engines by Northwestern.

XPG-2 ……. One CG-4A converted with two 175hp (130 kW) L-440-1 engines by Ridgefield.

XPG-2A ….. 2 XPG-2 engines changed to 200hp; 1 CG-4A converted to 200hp engines.

PG-2A …….    PG-2A with two 200hp (150kW) L-440-7, 10 G-2A built by NW in 1948.

XPG-2B…… Cancelled variant with two R-775-9 engines.

LRW-1 ……. 13 CG-4A transferred to the United States Navy.

G-2A ……… PG-2A re-designated in 1948.

G-4A ……… CG-4A re-designated in 1948.

G-4C ……..  G-4A with different tow-bar, 35 conversions.

Mk 1Hadrain ….. Royal Air Force designation for the CG-4A, 25 delivered.

MK II Hadrain …  Royal Air Force designation for the CG-4A with equipment changes.                         


V - Glider Pilot Candidate Qualifications: 

In April 1942 the qualifications for Army Air Corps glider pilot candidate were as follows:

1.       Age 18 to 32 inclusive.  (This was eventually raised to 35)

2.      Physical - Class I Flying physical.  (This was eventually raised to Class II)

3.      Flying experience:  Meet one of the following:

a.       Graduate of the CPT Secondary course.  (Eventually candidates with no flying experience were accepted. 

b.       Hold or have held a private pilot certificate or higher, with a 0 to 240 h.p. or 2’s rating. 

c.       Glider pilots with 30 hours or 200 flights.

4.      Enlisted personnel who can qualify under 1, 2, and 3 above are authorized to train in grade.   

5.      No candidate who has been eliminated from air crew training in the Army/or Navy Air Force will be eligible.   (This was later changed.  Wash outs were welcomed)

VI - CG-4A Tow Planes:

 The CG-4A was normally towed by the twin-engine Douglas C-47 Skytrain, Curtiss C-46 Commando or the Lockheed C-60 Lodestar.   It was towed by a 350’ nylon rope 11/16” in diameter at approximately 120 mph, the optimal towing speed.   The maximum designed speed on tow or in free flight was 150 mph CAS (Calibrated Air Speed).  Each of the three aircraft were capable of towing two gliders. 

Other military aircraft that towed the CG-4A or larger gliders were the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, Douglas C-54 Skymaster, North American B-25 Mitchell, Boeing B-23 Dragon, Consolidated PBY Catalina, Lockheed P-38 Lightning, and the single engine Curtiss A-25 Shrike which towed only one CG-4A.   The four engined C-54 could tow three CG-4As.   None of these latter aircraft were used to tow gliders in combat.  Only the C-47 was used in that role.      

VII - CG-4A Aerial Retreival: 

The ability to retrieve CG-4a gliders from the ground by an aircraft on the fly proved to be economically beneficial and expedient during World War II.  Many gliders that were undamaged or reparable were snatched from combat their landing zones (LZ) and returned to their unit.  Glider pilots referred to the aerial retrieval technique as “snatch pickup,” which was actually the case.  The glider was snatched into the air by the retrieving aircraft, going from a standing start to 120 mph in a matter of 6 or 7 seconds. 

The system was developed for Army Air Corps by All American Aviation, Inc. of Wilmington, Delaware, and was accepted in October 1942.  However, the first system capable of retrieving a CG-4A, the Model 80 package, was not tested until the first half of 1943. The standard Model 80 package was mounted in a Douglas C-47 transport, and consisted of a winch containing 1,000 feet of 3/8” steel cable and a 20’ boom attached to the outside fuselage of the C-47. The winch cable was run through guides to the external boom and then to a hook at the end of the boom.   The system functioned much like a fishing rod and reel.   A 225’ length of 13/16” nylon rope was attached to the glider, while the other end in the form of a loop is stretched between two poles 12 foot high and spaced 20 feet apart.  The tow plane flies low over the ground pickup station with the boom and hook lowered.  The hanging hook snags the nylon rope and literally snatches the glider off the ground.     

The moment the hook engages the nylon loop the pilot poured on the power and climbed away at a fairly steep angle, dragging the glider behind it.  The pickup energy absorbing winch in the C-47 was equipped with a friction brake that could be adjusted for different glider weighs.  The amount of cable played out was directly proportional to the weight of the glider.  Under most circumstances less than 600 feet of cable was played out.   Once the friction brake was applied the winch started reeling in the cable until the nylon rope was reached.   No exact number of gliders retrieved in this manner is known, but the number exceeded 500.    

VIII - Glider Pilot Training:  

Pre-Glider Contract Schools

The following contract pre-glider training schools were under the jurisdiction of the Southeast Army Air Forces Training Center, Maxwell Field, Montgomery, Alabama

Training School Name                          State                         City                                       Airfield Name

L. Millar-Wittig                               MN                   3 miles NNW                    Crookston Airfield

Capacity: 80                                                           Crookston

North American Aviation Co.           MN                   Stillwater                        Stillwater Airfield

Capacity: 112

Hinck Flying Service, Inc.                MN                   1 miles NNE                     Monticello Airfield

Capacity: 112

Fontana School of Aeronautics        MN                   1.7 miles SSE                  Rochester AirfieldCapacity: 112                                               Rochester

Anderson Air Activities                    WI                    Antigo                              Antigo Airfield

Capacity: 140

Jolly Flying Service                         ND                   2.6 miles WNW                 Grand Forks Air-

Capacity: 212                Grand Forks                      field

Morey Airplane Co.                          WI                    1.8 miles NNE                  Janesville Airfield

Capacity: 112                                                          Janesville

The following contract pre-glider training schools were under the jurisdiction of the Gulf Coast Army Air Forces Training Center, Randolph Field, San Antonio, Texas

Training School Name                       State                         City                              Airfield Name

Grand Central Flying School           KS                    2 miles NNE                     Goodland Airfield

Wiliam A. Ong                                                         Goodland

Capacity: 240

Harte Flying Service                        KS                    1.5 miles E                      Hays Airfield

Capacity: 160                                                          Hays

McFarland Flying Service1              KS                    3.5 miles NW                   Pittsburgh Munic- 

Capacity: 120                                                           of Pittsburgh                   pal Airport

Kenneth Starnes Flying                   AR                    Lonoke                             Lonoke Airfield


Capacity: 80

Sooner Air Training Corp.                OK                   2 miles ENE                     Okmulgee Airfield

Capacity: 160                                                          Okmulgee

Hunter Flying Service                     IA                     2.9 miles WNW                 Spencer Munic-

Capacity: 160                                                          Spencer                           ipal Airport

Anderson and Brennan                   SD                    2.9 miles E                      Aberdeen Airfield

Flying Service                                                         Aberdeen

Capacity: 160

Note 1:  Hunter Flying Service moved from Spencer, Iowa, to the municipal airport at Hamilton, Texas, on 20 October 1942.

The following contract pre-glider training schools were under the jurisdiction of the West Coast Army Air Forces Training Center, Santa Ana, California

Training School Name                          State                           City                                         Airfield Name

Big Spring Flying Service                TX                    18 miles NNW                     Big Spring Army                                                     

Capacity: 80                                                              Big Spring                     Glider Tng. Sch.

Cutter-Carr Flying Service              NM                   7 miles E                         Tucumcari Air- Capacity: 184                                                          Tucumcari                       field

Plains Airways, Incorporated           CO                   4 miles N                         Fort Morgan Air-

Capacity: 184                                                          Morgan                            field

Clint Breedlove Aerial                     TX                    7.5 miles N.                     Lamesa Field

Service                                                                   Lamesa

Note 1:  The 18 contract pre-glider schools listed above were scheduled to be in operation by 1 June 1942, but there was some slippage.  The pre-glider schools are listed on Page 19 of USAF Historical Studies No. 1 “The Glider Pilot Training Program 1941-1943.” 

Note 2:  There is some evidence that there were also pre-glider schools, at least temporarily, at (1) Big Springs Flying Service, 6.5 miles west of Artesia, New Mexico, at the Artesia Municipal Airport; (2) Clovis, New Mexico; (3) Pine Bluff School of Aviation, 4 miles southeast of Pine Bluff at Grider Field, (4) Southern Airways, Inc., 3.2 miles East of Greenville Municipal Airport, Greenville, South Carolina, and (5) Starkville Municipal Airport, Mississippi.   

Note 3:  The official name of the school at Monticello, MN, was 14th Army Air Force Glider Training Detachment.

Note 4:   On page 381 of Gerard M. Devlin’s book, Silent Wings, published in 1985, he lists two  pre-glider contract schools, Cutter-Carr Service, Clovis, New Mexico, and Ong Aircraft Corporation, Goodland, Kansas, that are not listed in the pre-glider contract schools above.  The contract schools listed above were taken from the official USAF Historical Studies, No.1, “The Glider Pilot Training Program 1941-1943.”      

Elementary/Advanced Contract Glider Training Schools

The following glider training schools were listed very briefly as elementary/advanced glider training schools, but some became basic or preliminary glider training schools instead.   

Training School Name                    State                        City                             Airfield Name

Burke Aviation Service                    OK                   3 Miles North                   Vinita Airfield

                                                                              of Vinita

Arizona Gliding Academy                 AZ                    17 miles W                       Echeverria Field


Waterman Airlines Inc.                   AL                    10 miles W.                      Mobile Municipal

                                                                               of Mobile                         Airport

Twenty-Nine Palms Air                    CA                    5 miles N 29                    Condor Field

Academy                                                                 Palms

Dalhart Army Air Field                    TX                    Amarillo                          English Field


Blackland Army Air Field                TX                    Waco                               Blackland AAF

Lockbourne Army Air Base              OH                   Columbus                        Lockbourne AAB


Note 1:  The schools at Twentynine Palms, CA, Mobile, AL, Wickenburg, AZ, and Lamesa, AZ, were the first Elementary/Advanced Glider Training Schools to open.  The Elementary/Advanced Glider Schools were to train glider students in light gliders followed by training in the heavy troop/cargo gliders.  The Basic and Preliminary Glider Schools trained students in only the light gliders.


Data Sources

1.   USAF Historical Studies No. 1, “The Glider Pilot Training Program 1941-1943.”  

2.  Internet at  WWII Army Air Forces Contract Flying Schools – Database Summary.

3.  To Fly the Gentle Giants – The Training of U. S. WWII Glider Pilots by Dr. J. Norman Grim, published by Author House, Copyright 2009.

4.   Page 381 of Gerard M. Devlin’s book, “Silent Wings,” published in 1985. 

WWII Advanced Glider Training Schools

As the glider program progressed all advanced glider training was conducted by military glider pilot instructors at schools at Army Air Bases. 

           Training School Name                            Location                       City and State

            Bergstrom Army Air Field                         8 miles east                          Austin,  TX

            Dalhart Army Air Base                             3 miles SSW                         Dalhart, TX

            South Plains Army Air Field                     4.5 miles NNE                      Lubbock, TX

            Bowman Field                                          5.5 miles East                      Louisville, KY

            Fort Sumner Army Air Field                     2.6 miles NW                        Ft. Sumner, NM

            Greenville Army Air Field                         7 miles SSE                          Greenville, SC

            Lockbourne Army Air Base                       9.5 miles SE                         Columbus, OH

            Struttgart Army Air Field                         6.5 miles North                     Stuttgart, AR

            Victorville Army Air Field                         5 miles NW                           Victorville, CA

Note 1:  The first 60 CG-4A instructors graduated after two weeks training at Lockbourne Army Air Base.  Among the instructors graduating were Darlyle Watters, Ed Cook and William Sampson, the first glider pilot to receive his “G” wings.

Note 2:  The advanced glider schools at Stuttgart, Arkansas, Lubbock, Texas, Victorville, California, and Dalhart, Texas, opened during October and November 1942.  Classes began at Victorville in late 1942.  Former child movie star Jackie Coogan graduated from Victorville.

Note 3:  The advanced glider school at Fort Sumner was only open a couple of months.

Note 4:  After May 1943, all advanced glider training was conducted at Lubbock, Texas.  A majority of the glider pilots graduated from there.     

IX - CG-4A Glider Flight Techniques:

Before the student pilot began his CG-4A transition flying he was required to spend at least one hour of familiarization in the cockpit.  Comfortable seating in the CG-4A for the pilot depended to a great extent on how large he was and how many pillows was available.  The seat itself was not adjustable, either up or down or fore and aft.  After finding a reasonably comfortable position, probably the first thing the pilot noted was the extreme cockpit roominess and excellent visibility.    

The glider pre-takeoff check list was amazingly simple. “Control chocks off, pitot tube uncovered, controls checked for full movement, the Form 1 checked for glider status, safety belt fastened, 300 pounds of ballast installed behind each pilot position and properly secured, trim tabs set to neutral, meter pin flush in the tow rope release mechanism, altimeter set, brakes off, and ailerons in neutral position.”

Initially, the pilot held the control wheel in the full back position to apply full “up” elevator, so if the tow plane took up the rope slack too quickly there would be some assistance in keeping the glider from nosing over and riding on the skids on takeoff.   The tow rope attached to the glider was mounted high on the nose and there was a tendency for the glider to nose over on the initial pull of the tow plane.  As the glider began to move, the wheel was moved gently forward until the glider was in a level position, rolling on the landing gear.  The pilot applied enough rudder to keep the glider directly behind the tow plane. 

When 60 mph airspeed was achieved, the wheel was gently eased back until the glider was approximately 20 feet above the runway.  At this point it was necessary to ease the control wheel forward so that the glider was in a slight diving attitude to put slack in the tow rope, thus allowing the tow plane to leave the runway.  The CG-4A was to be flown not more than 250 up, 200 down or 200 to the right or left of the extended longitudinal axis of the tow ship.  Some CG-4As were equipped with a BOGN (Bolt-On-Griswold Nose), a protective nose device.  The tow rope attachment was mounted in the center of the nose when a BOGN was installed on the glider.

Once the tow plane was airborne the glider was flown level until the tow plane came up to its proper position, which was just below that of the glider.  If the glider was flown too high immediately after takeoff, the tow ship was unable to leave the runway.  Takeoff commenced with the elevator trim tabs in a moderately nose-down position.  As the glider gained airspeed there was an appreciable nose trim effect.  The glider student was cautioned to devote his undivided attention to keeping proper tow position and to signal the copilot or instructor to trim the nose or wings immediately after takeoff if that was desirable.  A more experienced glider pilot could make the takeoff with one hand and trim the aircraft with the other.  

Techniques for takeoff are slightly different when the glider was fully loaded.  The glider pilot has to bear in mind during takeoff that the tow ship was dragging 3½ tons of weight, in addition to the full load of the tow ship itself.  The glider pilot should not increase drag by climbing too fast during the early stages but should wait until the tow ship had accelerated to its approximate liftoff speed; then by increasing the angle of attack to slowly transfer the weight from the landing gear to the wing so that the glider leaves the ground at approximately the same time as the tow plane.             

The CG-4A technical manual cautioned glider student pilots that they were sitting approximately 18 inches to the left of the longitudinal axis of the glider by virtue of the side by side seating, and hence the same distance to the left of the point where the towrope connected.  “By leaning to the right and sighting along the tow rope the glider student could easily see if he was lined up with the center of the tow ship fuselage; if not, he could correct his position accordingly.”  However, it was found that this increased the chances of vertigo, particularly during night flying.

The danger of taking off in a low tow position was emphasized. “Added drag of the prop wash could on occasion cause a tow rope failure. On takeoff the glider pilot should always be ready to release the tow rope in the event one of the tow ship’s motors failed or if the tow ship encountered difficulty leaving the runway.”  If the tow rope were to break, the procedure was immediately climb and hit the tow rope release lever.  This prevented dragging the lengthy rope along the ground with the potential of snagging the rope on an obstruction and crashing.  If a glider was flown low enough to get into the prop wash during takeoff, it was difficult to control and much additional strain was placed on the tow rope.  Flown too high, the tow rope became taut and exerted an upper pull on the tow ship’s tail.  The best position to fly was that which maintained constant sag in the tow rope and constant airspeed.  

The bank and turn indicator needle was the only cockpit indication of a good towing position.  The needle was centered with the rudder, the ball centered with aileron, and any pressures relieved by proper trimming.  Occasionally, a wing became so heavy that slight pressure would be required on the opposite aileron to maintain proper attitude even with full trim corrections.  In smooth air light pressure on the controls was all that was required; the prime difficulty of beginning students was a tendency to over control.  The cargo glider tended to oscillate while on tow; this characteristic was not experienced in the sailplanes and other light gliders flown by glider students.  The tendency to overcorrect would only result in increasing the oscillation.  The proper procedure was to pick up the low wing with the opposite rudder and use as little aileron as possible.  To stop the oscillation after it had started, cross-controlling was necessary. 

In moderate turbulence the tow plane and glider bounced around considerably and heavy pressure and large control movements were required to make the glider respond.   Keeping the glider in proper tow position required undivided attention on the part of the glider pilot,

and on tows of longer than half an hour it was recommended that the copilot take over for a few minutes to give the pilot a chance to rest his eyes and look around.

Turns presented no particular problem as long as the glider pilot could clearly see the tow plane.  As the tow plane started a bank for a turn, the glider pilot did likewise, matching the angle of bank observed.  Very little control pressure was required to bank the glider.  When

the desired bank had been accomplished, a slight pressure in the opposite direction was required to prevent over banking.  In climbs a glider pilot should maintain his position slightly above the tow plane and during descent moderate use of the spoilers dissipated altitude without excessive diving.

Indication of surface winds can be quite misleading.  As is well known, a wind velocity of 20-30 miles an hour on the ground can be considerably higher at altitude.  In stronger winds glide speed was increased from the normal 70 mph to 100 mph in order to cover any appreciable distance over the ground.  In these conditions the glide ratio was reduced to as little as 4-5 feet of forward distance to every foot of loss of altitude.  A pilot cutting loose downwind from the field in winds of high velocity had very little opportunity to plan an approach and land in the designated area.  If the tow plane failed to put the glider in the proper position on the upwind side at the prearranged altitude for release, the glider pilot could elect to stay on tow until a position was attained from which he could make a safe landing in the designated area.  Except in an emergency, the glider pilot always made the tow release decision.

Prior to release, the glider was pulled up gently to slightly above the normal tow position and all slack taken out of the towrope.  The glider was then put in a moderate dive to create slack for releasing.  Excessive speed was used to gain additional altitude if required.  As the airspeed settled down to approximately 70 mph, trim tabs were adjusted so that the glider would fly “hands off.”

The practice of stalls involved a very gentle entry with the ailerons in a neutral position.  After the nose dropped below the horizon, it was necessary to pull the wheel gently back again to establish a normal glide speed.  The lazy-8 maneuver in a glider was not too different from the lazy-8 in most other airplanes.  At 90-100 mph the glider was put into a 200 bank toward the checkpoint, and the nose lifted in a coordinated climbing turn.  As a near-stall condition was reached at the top of the 8, the nose was eased through the checkpoint; during the downward swing almost full aileron travel was required to maintain the proper attitude, and this pressure gradually eased off as the glider gained the speed necessary for the second half of the 8.  This was the only maneuver the glider was stressed for other than steep turns and gentle stalls.  Under no conditions was a cargo glider to be allowed to spin or get the nose high enough for it to “whip stall.”   However, unauthorized spins were successfully performed by Major Mike Murphy and others but were not recommended by the manufacturer.  

No discussion of military cargo gliders would be complete without mention of the “Curry glide” (named after Lt. Col. (later Colonel) Ellsworth P. Curry of Bowman Field, Kentucky, and Laurinburg-Maxton Army Air Field, North Carolina, its exponent).  Some glider pilots called it the “Curry death glide.”   Actually it should have been called the “Curry mush.”  Colonel Curry repeatedly emphasized that students should land the glider at a slow enough speed to produce the shortest landing roll on touchdown.  Because of the positioning of the pitot tube on the CG-4A, the airspeed indicator was of little value because it fluctuated quite widely during this maneuver.  The best point of reference the pilot had was the bottom surface of the wing out near the wing tip.  When this surface indicated a positive angle of attack as related to the horizon beyond, he was approaching the proper attitude.  This actually produced a flight condition of riding just on the burble of an approaching stall.  The burble felt in the ailerons was probably the best indication of the proper glide speed.  The CG-4A in this configuration could be landed over a 50-foot obstacle and stopped with less than 300 feet of ground roll without the use of wheel brakes.  Unfortunately, since the rate of sink was around 1,500 feet per minute, quite often the gear collapsed on touchdown.   

Perhaps the most interesting and exciting stage of training for the glider pilot was the “night blitz landings.”  These were made under blackout conditions with a low-altitude release at 200 feet onto a base leg, followed by a 90 degree turn to final.  The only reference point out in that big black void of a field was a lighted smudge pot on the ground.  This maneuver was performed with as many as 20-25 gliders which arrived at the tow release point at intervals of approximately 30 seconds.   The idea was to make your turn, line up with the light on the ground, and park the aircraft so that your left wing tip was over the smudge pot.  The copilot immediately jumped out of his seat, ran out the left rear door, picked up the pot, ran behind the glider, and placed the pot 15 feet outboard of the right wing tip.  Thus the next aircraft in line would have a designated parking position.  It was not unusual for the pilot turning on final and lining up on the smudge pot to see the light all of a sudden jump up and follow an erratic course approximately 110 feet to the right. Taking this element of surprise into his mental calculations he readjusted his estimate of where he wanted to land and realigned the glider on final approach so that would wind up with the light under his left wing tip.   During the landing roll he might again see the light move to the right.  Not infrequently after an evening of this maneuver, the glider program shut down for a day or two so that maintenance could catch up on their repair work on damaged gliders.  

If a glider pilot saw that he has made an error in judgment, the first consideration was to save the equipment and thereby prevent injury to himself and his passengers.  In a strong headwind the speed of the glider had to be increased to 100 to 120 miles per hour to make any headway over the ground.  If it was evident that the glider would hit a fence or other obstruction at the normal glide speed, the speed was increased by pointing the nose down at the top of the obstruction and a few seconds before reaching it pulling the wheel back gently and zooming over it.  It was possible to lift the glider from 50 to 100 feet in this manner at an air speed of 100 miles an hour.   It was foolhardy to fly along at 60 mph and guess whether or not the glider would clear the obstruction.   

When landing in a rough field or among trees in an orchard, it was advisable for the pilot and copilot to place their feet on the instrument panel to prevent fractures of the lower ex-tremities.  The plywood and fabric covered nose provided very little protection for frontal impacts unless the Ludington-Griswold protective nose or the Corey Skid was installed. 

The glider pilot’s job after landing was that of an infantryman, at least temporarily.   During ground training glider pilots were required to qualify with the M1 .30 caliber Carbine, M1911A1 .45 caliber Colt automatic, the M3 .45 caliber submachine gun, known as the “grease

gun” and the MI .30 caliber rifle.  We also had to fire for familiarization the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), .30 caliber machine gun (both air cooled and water cooled), .50 caliber machine gun, Thompson submachine gun, and the Bazooka.   


            The CG-4A glider was used in 8 combat missions during World War II.  A summary of these missions is outlined below:

X - CG-4A Combat Missions:

Sicily Mission

9-12 July 1943

Operation Ladbroke, the invasion of Sicily, was a nighttime British glider mission, contrary to the fact that night flying training was not part of the British glider doctrine.  Members of the British Glider Pilot Regiment would fly American Waco CG-4A gliders with a few American volunteer glider pilots as copilots.   Pre-mission training in the Waco consisted of 4½ hours 1½ hours of it at night.  M/G Matthew B. Ridgeway, CO of the 82nd Airborne Division, cabled B/G Maxwell Taylor in North Africa, before the scheduled mission, urging him to persuade General Dwight Eisenhower’s planners to change the mission from night to early dawn.  His plea failed.  By 13 June 1943, 346 of the 500 CG-4As shipped to Africa that March had been assembled by glider pilots and others.  Only 136 of the 300 were used for Operation Ladbroke which also included 8 British Horsas, 111 C47s, 25 British Albemarles and 8 Halifax bombers.   42 American glider pilots volunteered to train the British glider pilots in the CG-4A, but it is believed that only 19 of them flew as copilots on the Sicily mission.  The Americans who flew the mission were placed on detached service to the British Glider Pilot Regiment.  The 144 gliders participating in Operation Ladbroke were towed from six Tunisian airfields beginning at 1842 hours on 9 July 1943 by C-47s and C-53s of the 51st Troop Carrier Wing.  Shortly after takeoff six tow planes turned back because of shifting loads in gliders, another turned back when the jeep it was carrying broke loose from its tie downs.  Further into the mission when the formation ran into extremely turbulent winds three gliders broke loose from their tow plane and vanished with all hands.  Two other tow planes became lost and returned to Tunisia.  High winds at the release point coupled with inexperienced tow pilots led to 69 gliders being released too far from shore and were unable to make landfall.  605 officers and men were lost, 326 presumed to have drowned.  Only 49 CG-4As and 5 Horsas landed on Sicilian soil within a 10 mile radius of their landing zones. Allegedly, only 5 CG-4As and 2 British Horsa gliders actually landed on their designated LZs (Landing Zones).  To make matters worse, eleven American C-47s and C-53s filled with paratroopers were mistakenly shot out of the sky by friendly Allied ships participating in the invasion. American Major General Joseph M. Swing, cited five major mission weaknesses; (1) Insufficient time spent in coordinating the air routes with all forces, (2) Complexity of the flight route and the low degree of training for the navigators, (3) The rigid naval policy of firing at any and all aircraft, (4) The unfortunate timing of the airdrops directly after extensive enemy air attacks, and (5) The failure of some army ground commanders to warn all antiaircraft gun units of the impending airborne missions.  Six (6) American glider pilots were killed.  In spite of the many difficulties all of the objectives were taken and the mission was considered a success.  In his report to General Eisenhower, General “Boy” Browning placed all the blame on American Troop Carrier crews.     

Burma Mission

5-11 March 1944

Operation Thursday, the invasion of Burma, was conducted by the 5318th Provisional Air Unit (subsequently renamed the 1st Air Commando Group) began on 5 March 1944.  The 5318th, commanded by Colonel Philip G. Cochran, was launched from Lalaghat, India.  A total of 77 CG-4As were employed, although at least one source indicates that only 71 were used.  The first two gliders in the 60 glider serial, all on double tow, lifted off from Lalaghat at 1842 hours.  Colonel John R. Alison, co-commander of the 1ACG flew the lead glider.  Their destination was a jungle clearing, 200 miles away known as Broadway (24-45 N 96-45 E).  The gliders were towed by C-47s of the 5318th PAU, 315th TCS (USAAF), 27th TCS (USAAF), 31st Squadron (RAF), 62nd Squadron (RAF), 117th Squadron (RAF) and the 194th Squadron (RAF).  Sixty-three gliders were originally planned for the Broadway serial, but General Slim reduced the number to sixty.  The gliders carried Chindit soldiers armed with Tommy guns, carbines, rifles pistols, and hand grenades.  All of them unwittingly carried considerable extra quantity ammunition grossly overloading the gliders.  Problems began to develop immediately after takeoff.  Four CG-4As crashed shortly after liftoff; two were cut loose over Lalaghat when the tow plane developed electrical problems; and two more were released over Imphal when their tow plane experienced such high fuel consumption that Broadway was unobtainable.  More problems developed when tow ropes began to fail.  Only 37 of the 60 gliders landed at Broadway.  34 of the 37were heavily damaged on landing.  The three flyable gliders were later recovered by snatch pickup.  Broadway was strewn with the wreckage of CG-4As caused by deep ruts, stumps and water buffalo holes hidden in the tall elephant grass.  Doug Wilmer contends in his video, “G” Stands for Guts, that only 54 gliders took off and only 39 of them made it to Broadway.  Fifteen gliders, he said, were lost because of snapped tow ropes.  Wilmer interviewed glider pilots Harry McKaig and Harlie Johnson, who flew this mission.  Harlie McKaig said that he flew 28 snatch pickup missions evacuating the wounded.  539 people, three mules, and 29,972 pounds of supplies were delivered to Broadway.  One glider carried a small 4,139 pound airborne bulldozer.  31 men were killed at Broadway, 30 seriously injured and 238 badly shaken up, but able to do light duty.  The records of the National World War II Glider Pilot Association notes that three (3) glider pilots was killed on 1 March 1944, one (1) on 6 March and three (3) on 8 March for a total of seven (7), with an additional18 injured.   On 6 March, a 12 glider serial was towed to Chowringhee and the following day an additional 5 gliders were towed there. All were single tows.  Eleven gliders crash-landed with no serious injuries. The mission was considered a success.  On 6 March 1944, 12 CG-4As were towed from Lalaghat, India, to Chowringhee in Burma.  Single tows were used because of the previous day’s difficulty with double tows.  Flight Officer Jackie Coogan (the child movie actor) flew the lead glider.    Eleven of the gliders crash landed, one of them flew into tree killing all aboard.   The following day 5 additional CG-4As were towed to Chowringhee.   Two of the gliders used for this mission were snatched from the Broadway LZ.  Glider resupply missions continued until mid-May 1944. 

Normandy Mission

6 June 1944

A total of 514 gliders were used in Operation Neptune, the airborne faze of Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy, France.  The glider phase consisted of 292 CG-4As and 222 British Horsas.  Some reports state that 517 gliders were used, but this is believed to be incorrect.  By February 1944, a total of 2100 crated Waco CG-4A gliders had been shipped to England from American factories.  At General Hap Arnold’s urging, the first of these gliders had arrived in May 1943.  American cargo ships delivered the crated Waco’s to the port of Southampton.  From there they were transported by trains and Lorries to the glider storage area at Crookham Common, 40 miles southwest of London.  There they were assembled by glider mechanics of the 26th Mobile Reclamation and Repair Squadron and other technicians.  At the time of the Normandy invasion each Troop Carrier Group was authorized 64 C-47 aircraft and a reserve of 25%, totaling 80 aircraft, and 156 CG-4A gliders.  Prior to the invasion, during the night of 11-12 May 1944, the Allies conducted a full scale dry run in preparation for the invasion.  The dry run was called Operation Eagle.  Before D-Day the IX Troop Carrier Command had 2,000 glider pilots on hand.  According to Jack Kramer of the 441st Troop Carrier Group, 1,034 of them flew the Normandy mission.   The US Army film, “Drop Zone Normandy,” reported that the glider LZs (Landing Zones) were 900 to 1500 feet in length and averaged 500 feet in width.  The fields were surrounded by hedgerows with trees 15 to 75 feet in height and dense undergrowth.  The release altitude of the gliders was 400 to 600 feet.  Operation Neptune consisted of six major glider serials; Chicago, Detroit, Keokuk, Elmira, Galveston and Hackensack.  Gliders delivered 4,047 troops to the battlefield, 412,477 pounds of combat equipment and supplies, 281 jeeps and 110 artillery pieces.  Some of the CG-4As were equipped with 8 foot deceleration parachutes and at least 288 were fitted with the bolt-on Griswold nose to protect the pilot and copilot from frontal damage during landing.  Many of the gliders landed outside of their designated landing zones because tow pilots became disoriented and gave them the green light to release too soon or too late. Records of the National World War II Glider Pilot Association notes that thirty-one (31) glider pilots were killed on D-Day, 6 June 1944, twelve (12) on 7 June and one (1) on Independence Day, 4 July.  A noteworthy accident occurred near Hiesville, a few miles from the Normandy coast.  Brigadier General Don F. Pratt, Assistant Division Commander of the 101st Airborne Division, was killed when his glider crashed into a hedgerow at high speed, breaking his neck on impact.  He was the highest ranking Allied officer killed on D-Day.  Despite the haphazard release of gliders and paratrooper drops all of the Normandy objectives were taken.

Southern France Mission

15 August 1944


News of Operation Dragoon, the invasion of Southern France was the worst kept secret of World War II.  A total of 407 gliders were used for this mission that began on 15 August 1944.  At least one report indicates that 409 gliders were used.  All CG-4As were on double tow.  Six hundred glider pilots were sent to Italy in advance of the operation.  40 CG-4As flown by British glider pilots, towed by C-47s from the 435th Troop Carrier Group, took off from Voltone, Italy beginning at 0400 hours.  35 British Horsas flown by British glider pilots and towed by C-47s from the 436th Troop Carrier Group took off from Tarquina, Italy beginning at 0518 hours.  They were recalled because of ground fog over the LZ.  Two of the gliders were forced down on the return trip.  The mission was remounted in the afternoon, with the gliders arriving over the LZ at 1745 hours.  Both British missions were code named Operation Bluebird.  Thirty-three of the Operation Bluebird CG-4As landed on the LZ.  Six others failed to arrive at the LZ for various reasons.  One glider disintegrated in mid-air killing all aboard.  332 CG-4As flown by American glider pilots were towed from airfields in western Italy, between Galero and Follonica, beginning at 1510 hours. They were towed by C-47s from the 62nd, 64th, 438th, 439th, 440th, 441st and 442nd Troop Carrier Groups.  The American mission was code named Operation Dove.  The gliders were towed in seven waves.  At least one American glider pilot, Bud Klimek, flew one of the older CG-4As with a single set of controls.  The airborne element of Operation Dragoon was conducted by the 1st Airborne Task Force.  Some gliders were released between 2000 and 3000 feet when congestion developed in the glider release area.  Gliders in the rear began to overrun gliders in front causing the deadly congestion.  There were midair collisions.  None of the CG-4As used was equipped with the protective Griswold nose.  No effort was apparently made to recover by snatch pickup a single American or British glider used in the Southern France invasion.  Twenty-one (21) glider pilots were killed during the mission.  According to the records of the National World War II Glider Pilot Association, one (1) glider pilot was killed on 14 August 1944, nineteen (19) on 15 August and one (1) on 18 August, while approximately sixty-three (63) were wounded or injured.  The airborne success of Operation Dragoon was impressive, despite the miscues, and it was clear in mid-1944, even to the most earthbound skeptics, that troop carrier and airborne forces were already making a major contribution to the Allied war effort.  

Holland Mission

17-23 September 1944

More gliders were used in Operation Market, the airborne phase of Operation Market-Garden, the invasion of Holland, than any other World War II glider mission.   A total of 1899 CG-4As participated in the Operation Market, and 1618 of them landed safely.  The American objective was to take and hold the bridges from Eindhoven to Nijmegen so the British XXX Corps could speed to Arnhem with its tanks and ground forces.  There were not enough American glider pilots in the theater to provide copilots, so untrained glider troopers occupied the right seat.  To meet minimum needs an additional 150 glider pilots were flown in from the states just days before D-Day.  70 CG-4As from the airfield at Chilbolton, England, took off behind C-47s of the 437th Troop Carrier Group at 1110 hours on 17 September 1944 and headed for Holland.  Two minutes later, 50 CG-4As towed behind C-47s of the 439th Troop Carrier Group took off from an airfield at Balderton, England.  The following day, 18 September, 450 CG-4As were towed behind C-47s from airfields at Aldermaston, Welford, Membury, Chilbolton, Greenham Common and an unnamed airfield, beginning at 1120 hours.  Eleven minutes earlier, 454 CG-4A took off behind C-47s of the 61st, 313th, 316th, 439th, 440th and 441st Troop Carrier Groups and headed for Holland.  Beginning at 1437 hours on 19 September 1944, 385 CG-4As departed airfields at Aldermaston, Welford, Membury, Chilbolton, and Greenham Common and headed for their respective landing zones.   On D-Day plus 3, 20 September, only one CG-4A from the 53rd Troop Carrier Wing was towed to Holland, departing from an unnamed airfield at 1430 hours.  Three days later, beginning at 1200 hours, 84 CG-4As from the 436th TCG at Membury and the 438th TCG at Greenham Common were towed to Holland by C-47s.  That same day, 23 September, 406 CG-4As towed by C-47s of the 61st, 313th, 316th and 434th Troops Carrier Groups from airfields at Barkston Heath, Folkingham, Cottesmore and Chilbolton respectively took off beginning at 1210 hours headed for their assigned landing zones.  101st Airborne Division glider landings near Eindhoven were made on Landing Zone (LZ) “W”, an expansive landing area.  It was 1½ miles north of Zon and west of the north-south main road from Eindhoven.  The 82nd Airborne Division glider landings near Nijmegen were on LZ “T” and LZ “N”, which were joined together in an oblong shape, 3½ miles long north to south and 1½ miles long east to west.  Nine gliders towed by the 61st Troop Carrier Group to LZ “T” were mistakenly towed 12 miles into Germany, east-southeast of LZ “T”.  They were never seen again.  Of the 1899 gliders used in Operation Market only 281 were salvaged.  An additional 118 salvageable gliders were destroyed in a storm before they could be recovered.  Several military sources stated that as many as 700 of the gliders were equipped with the bolt-on Griswold nose or the protective Corey Skid, and as many as 900 were fitted with the 8 foot deceleration parachute.  According to the Membership Roster of the National World War II Glider Pilot Association forty (40) glider pilots were killed in action in Holland between 17 and 23 September 1944.   Seven glider pilots were killed on 17 September1944, thirteen (13) on 18 September, fifteen (15) on 19 September, one (1) on 20 September, one (1) on 21 September and three (3) on 23 September.   As many as 123 glider pilots were wounded or injured in action.  Some were captured by the Germans and became prisoners of war.  The Americans took all of their objectives, but the British failed to take Arnhem. 

Battle of the Bulge Mission

26-28 December 1944

This glider mission was known as Operation Kangaroo.  Two combat missions were flown on 26 December 1944.  The first lone empty CG-4A took off from Orleans, France (A-50) at 1025 hours towed by a C-47 from the 440th Troop Carrier Group and flown to Etain, France (A-82).  The glider was piloted by 2nd Lt. Charlton W. Corwin, Jr. with F/O Benjamin F. “Connie” Constantino as copilot, both men members of the 96th Troop Carrier Squadron.  At Etain the glider picked up five surgeons, four medical technicians and medical supplies.  It was then towed off at 1436 hours, released at 300 feet over Bastogne, and landed without incident at 1511 hours.  Ten (10) additional CG-4As lifted off from Orleans beginning at 1510 hours towed by C-47s of the 440th TC Group.  Each glider was loaded with medical personnel, artillery shells or 59 to 60 5-gallon cans of 80 octane gasoline.  They ran into consideration flak and ground fire upon reaching Belgium.   Three surgeons and four medical personnel were killed in the gliders from ground fire.  Flying at an altitude of 500-600 feet the first glider landed at Bastogne at 1715 hours.  The following day, 27 December 1944, beginning at 1015 hours, fifty (50) CG-4A gliders from Chateaudun, France were towed to Bastogne behind C-47s of the 439th and 440th Troop Carrier Groups.  There were no copilots on this mission.  Contrary to normal procedure, the glider pilots and their passengers wore parachutes. The flak was fierce as they neared the landing zone. Flying between 600 and 1500 feet the tow plane/glider combinations were easy targets.   Thirty-three (33) of the fifty (50) CG-4As reached the 101st Airborne Division perimeter, seventeen (17) did not.  Thirteen (13) were shot down.  A total of sixty-one CG-4As and seventy-two (72) glider pilots were used in the Battle of the Bulge mission.  Four (4) glider pilots were listed as killed in action and fourteen (14) were captured by the Germans and became POWs.  At least one source asserts that 3 glider pilots were killed in action.  Doug Wilmer, in his video, “G” Stands for Guts,” asserts that fifteen glider pilots were reported as “missing in action.”  Fifty-five (55) glider pilots were evacuated from Bastogne on 28 December 1944, 22 of them had landed there on 26 December 1945.  These glider pilots were used to guard the German POWs that were being evacuated with them.

Rhine River Crossing Mission              

24 March 1945

The Americans employed 906 CG-4As in Operation Varsity, the Rhine River Crossing.  It was the largest single day glider operation of World War II.  The lead towship/glider combination took off from Coulommiers, France at 0734 hours followed by other combinations at thirty second intervals.  The 437th Troop Carrier Group provided 80 gliders, 40 as Serial No. A-8 and 40 as Serial No. A9, towed off from Coulommiers, France; the 436th Troop Carrier Group provided 144 gliders, 72 as Serial No. A10 and 72 as Serial No. A-11, towed off from Melun, France; the 435th Troop Carrier Group provided 144 gliders, 72 as Serial No. A12 and 72 to Serial No. A13, towed off from Bretigny, France; the 439th provided 144 gliders, 72 as Serial No. A14, and 72 as Serial No. A15 towed off from Bretigny and Chateaudun, France respectively.  All 592 gliders were towed to Landing Zone “S” across the Rhine River.  The 440th Troop Carrier Group provided 90 gliders, 45 as Serial No. A16 and 45 as Serial No. A17, towed off from Bricy, France; the 441st Troop Carrier Group provided 96 gliders, 48 as Serial No. A18 and 48 as Serial No. 20, towed off from Bricy, France and Chartres, France respectively; the 442nd Troop Carrier Group provided 48 gliders, Serial No. A19, towed off from St. Andre, France; the 314th Troop Carrier Group provided 80 gliders, 40 as Serial No. A21 and 40 as Serial No. A22, towed off from Poiix, France.  All 314 gliders were towed to Landing Zone “N”.  Serials A8 through A15 were double tow, while A16 through A22 were single tow.  General Paul Williams, Commander of the IX Troop Carrier Command, agreed to deploy the C-46 for the transport of paratroopers, but not the CG-13A glider.  He felt that the CG-13A had not been tested enough to be used in combat.  Only 49 of the 72 C-46s returned to airfield B-54 at Achiet, France.  23 were shot down or crash landed.  Following Operation Varsity the C-46 was prohibited from combat because of the vulnerability of its hydraulic control systems and the lack of self-healing gas tanks.  This was the only Troop Carrier mission in which the C-46 was used.  The British used 381 Horsas and 48 Hamilcar gliders and 858 glider pilots in their phase of Operation Varsity.  402 British gliders arrived over the Landing Zone.  One British tug and glider failed to take off and an additional 35 gliders broke loose enroute to the LZ.  There were six glider landing LZs used in Operation Varsity.  According to the Membership Roster of the National World War II Glider Pilot Association 89 glider pilots were killed in action and approximately 240 were wounded or injured.  Eighty-one (81) were captured by the Germans and became POWs.   

Philippine Islands Mission

23 June 1945

Six CG-4A  gliders and one CG-13A glider were used in the Philippine Islands Mission.  Operation Gypsy Task Force took place at Camalaniugan Airfield, near Appari, Luzon.  The towplane/glider combinations took off from Lipa, Luzon shortly after 0600 hours on 23 June 1945.  Glider pilots participating in the mission were Major Edward Milau, Lieutenant Max Cone, Lieutenant J. J. Booth, Lt. Drummond, Flight Officer W. Bartz, Flight Officer R. Brook, Flight Officer E. Doty, Flight Officer R. J. Meer, Flight Officer D. Orkney and Flight Officer O. H. Wallace.   The CG-13A was piloted by Major Milau and Lieutenant Cone.   The glider pilots were part of Major Milau’s 1st Provisional Glider Group.  The gliders landed shortly after 9:00 a.m. with no Japanese resistance. Only one glider was damaged in landing when it hit a bomb crater.   The gliders carried troops, jeeps, ammunition trailers and armament, plus medical and communication supplies.

NOTE:   A total of 3,784 CG-4As were used in the eight glider combat missions of World War II. A few were used more than once.

Data Sources:

1.    “Flying Combat Aircraft of the USAAF-USAF,” edited by Robin Higham and Abigail T. Siddall, and published by the Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa, in 1975.

2.    USAF Historical Studies No, 1, “The Glider Pilot Training Program 1941 to 1943.”

3.    USAF Historical Studies No. 47, “Development and Procurement of Gliders in the Army Air Force 1941 – 1944.”

4.    AAF Manual No. 50-17, “Pilot Training Manual for the CG-4A Glider,” published by the Headquarters AAF, Office of Flying Safety, dated March 1945.

5.    US Army Air Force Glider Aerial Retrieval System, compiled by  former Major Leon B. Spencer, WWII glider pilot and Charles L. Day, author of “Silent Ones -  WWII Invasion Glider – Test and Experiment.” Published in 2001.

6.    Technical Order No. 09-40CA-1, dated 15 June 1944, “Pilot’s Flight Operating Instructions for Army Model CG-4A Glider.”