Obscure History: Glider Battalions of WW2
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Obscure History: Glider Battalions of WW2

A story of brave men who history has forgotten in its tales of heroes.

Obscure History: Glider Battalions of WW2
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History is filled with unsung heroes, entire brigades who played important roles in important wars but whose achievements have ultimately gone ignored. One such group was the glider infantrymen who were formed as an extension of the U.S. Army airborne divisions at the end of WW1. These brave men were often dropped into hostile territory as the first line of defense, but many of them never saw the extra compensation offered to the men who joined the paratrooper divisions, these young men chose to become gliders in the search for adventure and the glory of defending their country.

The planes used by the gliders to land were much more unsafe than their paratrooper counterparts. Instead of parachutes the men of the glider forces were dropped using planes whose main structural material was plywood. Yes, you read that right, plywood. These planes, the Waco CG-4A, would carry anywhere from 13 to 25 troops and their equipment. The Waco CG-4As also often carried military vehicles (Jeeps) and other heavy-duty equipment needed by the Allies in the war effort. The Waco CG-4As were towed behind a larger aircraft and were often sent on drop missions during the night when visibility was at its lowest.

The planes provided to the glider battalions were not the only inequality to their paratrooper counterparts. Often the men of the glider units were given lesser quality jump boots, older outdated combat gear, and many had to provide their own weapon aside from the standard issue gun provided by the U.S. Army. As I mentioned before their pay was also less than the paratroopers, the paratroopers were given a bonus of $100 a month while the glider units only received $50. The men of the glider units also only received unit specific badges in 1944, a short time before WW2 would come to its end.

Before even seeing combat many glider groups suffered high casualties due to crash landings and the enemies’ artillery. The glider groups during the beginning of the war often went unknown and ignored until the battalions were assigned key movements during the D-Day Invasion of Normandy. The glider battalions were some of the first sent in to land near the enemy positions to disable the artillery they had facing towards the beaches where the rest of the invasion forces were scheduled to land. The glider battalions suffered high causalities from intense enemy fire with no back up provided from other infantry units. The men of the glider units were heroes that day as much as any other soldier who stepped foot onto the beaches but unlike those whose boots hit the beach it would take many years for anyone to acknowledge their contributions to the war effort which would eventually save the world from the vicious expansion of the Nazis. At the end of the war the U.S. Airborne decided to retire the glider battalions.

Even now, 71 years after WW2’s end, the glider battalions have fallen into relatively unknown history. These men who volunteered to serve their nation even in the face of unequal treatment and unequal opportunities deserve to have their stories told. As I began research for this article I found myself wanting to know more, I wanted to read books about these men, and I want to see epic “Saving Private Ryan”-esque films about their stories. This recognition starts with people knowing of their existence, researching their achievements, and most importantly spreading the word about their bravery and sacrifice.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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