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Silent Targets

Silent Targets

The glider gang behind the lines

During the National WW II Glider Pilots Association’s 41st reunion in Oklahoma City in October 2011, glider pilots George L. Williams of Idaho and Norman C. Wilmeth of Oklahoma shared memories of their D-Day glider missions with the author.

Normandy D-Day
Flight Officer George L. Williams flew seven glider missions during World War II. Fresh out of high school when he enlisted, he was excited to be a part of the war. He had the opportunity to fly both the large British Airspeed Horsa glider and the relatively smaller American Waco CG-4A Hadrian glider. The wooden Horsa’s fuselage was 67 feet long, its wingspan was 88 feet, and it had a loaded weight up to 15,500 pounds. The American Waco’s tube-and-fabric fuselage measured 48 feet, 8 inches long, its wingspan was 83 feet, 8 inches, and it had a loaded takeoff weight of 7,500 pounds (or up to 9,000 pounds at emergency load weight).
Horsa vs. CG-4A
When asked to compare the two gliders he flew, Williams recalled, “During Normandy, I flew the Horsa glider. It was like a Mack truck — you couldn’t maneuver it very well. A Horsa really shouldn’t be cross-controlled (for example, performing a slipping maneuver to lose altitude), especially with a load in it — it might not recover to controlled flight again. But the CG-4A – that was a Mercedes by comparison!”
Several glider missions were flown on D-Day in Operation Overlord. Mission Elmira was flown during the early evening of June 6. Williams related his experience of flying a Horsa glider during that mission:

Click here to read the article from the August 2014 issue of Flight Journal

by Sparky Barnes Sargent


Updated: March 10, 2017 — 11:34 AM
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  1. I recently met a man who told me he had flown CG-4As late in WW II and in post war Germany. He had the duty of flying paratroopers to keep them qualified for their jump pay after the war. He told me that after release he would usually do some aerobatic maneuver such as a loop or roll. One time, he told me, he was not scheduled to fly the next day so he tied one on the night before. They rolled him out at 5:00am the fly because one of the other glider pilots was not available. He said he flew a gentle flight, no aerobatics followed by a soft landing. Back on the ground one of the paratroopers said “what’s the matter with the God Damned plane?” He told him “nothing, why.” He said “you didn’t do anything stupid.”

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