US Army Gliders And Their Importance In WWII

Combat duty for glider pilots and its occupants was extremely dangerous. In an interview posted to the U.S Army website, retired WWII glider pilot Lt. Col. Al Hulstrunk noted that “You would think you were in a popcorn machine — you would hear pop, pop, pop, and you would say, ‘Oh, they are shooting at us.’ It was the bullets coming through the tightly stretched fabric making the popping sounds.” Typically constructed of wood and fabric, these early stealth crafts could deliver troops, artillery, or equipment to a specific area with little noise. The U.S. would put these glider units to the test, beginning with Operation Husky in July 1943.

A joint American-British operation, Husky was meant to deliver 1,600 troops on the east coast of Sicily to capture specific targets before the main Allied invasion began. The force consisted of 144 gliders, with the majority consisting of American CG-4As and the rest being the British Airspeed Horsa. Inadequately trained C-47 transport pilots, combined with lack of night flying experience by British glider pilots (who were piloting all of the gliders in the attack), doomed the entire operation. Combat gliders would fulfill more of their potential however in Burma (now known as Myanmar). Ordered by President Roosevelt in March 1944 to supply the Chindit irregular troops fighting the Japanese in an attempt to open the Burma Road, the operation would successfully deliver needed supplies and over 9,000 Chindit troops behind enemy lines. Though many gliders failed to reach their targets in the operation, the operation was ultimately a success.

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