Compared to bomber crews and fighter pilots, the glider pilots of the US Army Air Forces were few, just over five thousand in number. Yet even today, they maintain their proud traditions through their organization, the National World War II Glider Pilots Association, Inc.
Glider pilots in the United States Army were a part of the Troop Carrier Command, the same as the pilots who flew the C-47 and C-46 twin-engine transports. Glider pilots had an unpowered aircraft rating, but were qualified to fly as co-pilots and navigators on Troop Carrier flights. Glider pilots were also qualified to fly single engine aircraft up to a certain horsepower; these included the "L-bird" liaison planes.
The story of the development of a US glider program is a fascinating one. When in 1940, the German's used gliders with amazing results, the Allies took note. In 1941, the US had no military gliders, no training program and no glider pilots. Just two years later, 30 American glider pilots flew as co-pilots in American CG-4A glider on the British Airborne operation known as "Husky." To everyone else it was known as the invasion of Sicily, the beginning of liberating Europe from Nazi rule.
Throughout WWII, the gliders and the glider pilots were there, in every major airborne operation of the war to deliver men and equipment behind enemy lines. In the final glider assault of the war, glider pilots carrying US 11th Airborne troops landed near Aparri, The Philippines, to cut off retreating Japanese forces.
The job of the US glider pilots was to deliver their human or materiel cargo and make their way back to friendly positions to fly again. Their job was no less dangerous than any other soldiers. Their training was exceptional as both pilots and combat infantrymen. They flew, they fought, they thought of home. They all remember the men they trained with, the crews they flew with and the good men who did not return to a grateful nation.
We are above all else, Winged Commandos™ WWII LHG, Inc. a patriotic organization, here to honor the service, loyalty and sacrifices of veterans to the allegiance of the United States of America.
As members of the Winged Commandos™, we work as volunteers to carry on the history of the glider pilots of the Second World War. We honor the memories and experiences of the glider pilots through participation in authentic living history activities with uniformed impressions of glider pilots and other glider-related personnel.
In 1984, the WWII glider pilots opened the Silent Wings Museum in Terrell, Texas. In 2002, the museum re-opened in Lubbock on the site where most of them trained â€“ the former South Plains Army Air Field. The Silent Wings Museum stands as the "Legacy of the WWII Glider Pilots." As Winged Commandos™, we work to help promote Silent Wings Museum through special programs, events and participation in living history activities.
The Winged Commandos™ is Lubbock's first World War II living history group. Officers of the group constitute the board of the non-profit corporation. Five key activity areas make the Winged Commandos™ unique among living history organizations.
Research & Education: Attendance at living history events, museum programs and outreach activities are our primary means of communicating the history and significance of the role played by gliders and glider pilots during WWII. Individual historical research is the foundation upon which the group builds shared knowledge.
Monuments & Memorials: The Winged Commandos™ recognizes the importance of marking sites significant in glider program history. Beginning in 2010, the Winged Commandos™ will announce plans to place markers and monuments at places if significance to glider development, and pilot training. This initiative continues the tradition started many years ago by members of the National WWII Glider Pilots Association, Inc. Marking of important sites in glider program history will be undertaken with the co-operation of the National WWII Glider Pilots Association, Inc.
Military & Civilian Impressions: At the heart of any living history program is the incorporation of the clothing and equipment by members for teaching purposes. The Winged Commandos™ male members will continue to acquire appropriate reproduction uniforms and equipment of USAAF glider pilots as their primary impressions, with other, glider program-related impressions as their secondary interests.
Another proud aspect of the Winged Commandos™ is the encouragement of women's roles. The social interactions of WWII will be represented by involvement and support of museums with similar interests such as dances. The Winged Commandos™ is planning a major hangar dance event for the fall of 2010.
Equipment Acquisitions: The Winged Commandos™ recognizes the importance of acquiring original and reproduction equipment for use in living history activities. This equipment includes WWII style camp equipment and materials for educational displays. The Officers are currently developing a plan for acquiring property and period structures to house its headquarters, storage, and restoration facilities for both vehicles and aircraft.
Restoration Projects: Two aircraft restoration projects are in the beginning stages. The first is to acquire and restore a WWII era sailplane or lightplane training glider that can be taken to appropriate living history venues for display and teaching purposes. The second is to acquire and restore a CG-4A glider forward fuselage section with cargo deck, axles, wheels and tires for use in living history demonstrations of glider loading and lashing techniques by members. This restoration project will also be made to travel to events nationwide to teach others about the role of the glider in WWII.