SOME INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THE GLIDER PROGRAM AND THE CG4A
The CG-4A glider, (C-for cargo, G-for glider) was the mainstay of the
U.S. Army Air Forces glider arsenal. It was designed by the Waco Aircraft Company of Troy,
Ohio whose personnel followed specifications given to them by the
U.S. Army Air Corps. Francis Arcier, a Waco vice-president and chief designer, is usually referred to as the
"father" of the CG-4A. A total of 13,909 CG-4A gliders were constructed during
the period 1942-1945. The Ford Motor Company, one of the 15 prime contractors building
gliders, turned out 4,190 units, far beyond the second best producer with 1,509 units.
Some of the other contractors included such names as Gibson, Northwestern Aeronautical,
Pratt-Reed, Laister-Kaufman, Cessna Aircraft, and many others.
More than 70,000 individual parts made up the CG-4A. After its design
was accepted and production started, some 7,000 modifications were made to the aircraft,
although none of these modifications were a major change. The nose of the CG-4A could be
elevated to facilitate loading and unloading of cargo and/or mobile vehicles. It could
carry a jeep, or a jeep trailer fully loaded with combat equipment,
or a 75 mm howitzer, or a 37 mm
anti-tank gun, and specially designed airborne construction equipment including
small graders and bulldozers.
Several powered models of the CG-4A were developed but few produced.
Quick-mount engine pods were developed and attached successfully to the main wing struts.
All the powered models flew with success but none survived the war years.
The CG-4A was not designed to be a thing of beauty - and certainly it
was not considered to be an attractive aircraft. Most Air Force power pilots joked about
its ungainly appearance but few of them poked any funny remarks at the guys who flew them.
The glider pilots were an independent, tough, ready-to-fight group of pilots and they
certainly were not backward in letting anyone know that the "G" on their silver
wings stood for "Guts." The aircraft they flew with such abandon and ease was a
strut-braced high-wing monoplane that could carry more than its own weight in payload, and
frequently did. The wing, constructed around a front box spar and a rear "I"
spar, had wooden ribs, and was plywood covered except for the trailing edge. The whole
wing was covered with doped cotton fabric. The control surfaces were fabric covered except
for the leading edges which were of plywood. The wing tips were elliptical and there was
little dihedral. The fuselage was a welded steel tubing frame covered with fabric. The
floor of the cargo compartment was of honeycombed plywood construction and had tremendous
strength and rigidity. The cockpit was constructed also of a welded steel tubing frame
covered with fabric and plywood.
The combat employment of the glider in the huge invasion of France on
D-Day occurred less than three years after AF General Hap Arnold told a glider graduating
class of six student pilots that the United States would have a glider force "second
to none in the world." Before September, 1942 AF records listed no glider pilots.
In going to work to build such a glider force, CM files were checked
but only 160 licensed civilian glider pilots were found in the United States. Of these,
only 25 were sufficiently experienced to be instructors. They were put to work immediately
to train Air Corps rated pilots for key positions. Enlisted men and thousands of recruited
civilians were selected as pilot trainees. As they were trained, the best were retained to
instruct others and thus the training organization developed. Soon after training was
underway, all gliders were grounded for technical reasons. Abandonment of the program
seemed probable. However, the glider survived this critical period and on the night of
July 9, 1943, took part in the first Allied airborne operation in WWII. Allied gliders
took off that night from an airfield in Tunisia. The destination was Axis-held Sicily;
their cargo, British airborne troops. In spite of the many difficulties encountered on a
first mission of this nature (and there were many), enough of the gliders got through to
successfully complete the mission.
The glider in combat had proven itself and its use continued to build.
GENERAL SPECIFICATION - CG-4A
83 feet, 8 inches
48 feet, 3-3/4 inches
12 feet, 7-7/16 inches
Gross Weight, design
10 feet, 6 inches
A glider snatch was accomplished by a C-47 tow plane flying just
above ground level with a hook trailing behind from a cable that played out from a
revolving drum in its fuselage. The hook snagged a glider towrope suspended between two
vertical poles sweeping it airborne behind the tow plane from a dead standstill to 120 mph
in a matter of 7 seconds.
Picture courtesy by Gerald C. Berry, tow pilot
Taken by Yves Tariel of Paris, France, this is a picture
of the pick-up of the first glider to be recovered from the Normandy
landings. It was taken on June 23, 1944 as the glider was being snatched
from a field just SE of St. Mere Eglise France. by lst Lt. Gerald "Bud"
Berry, 91st TCSq, 439th TCGp,
To learn more about the glider snatch pick-up procedure,
refer to the following article written by Leon Spencer http://www.silentwingsmuseum.com/images/Web%20Content/WWII%20USAAF%20Glider%20Aerial%20Retrieval%20System.pdf