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|WACO CG-4A "Hadrian" GLIDER|
|The Glider Infantryman's primary mode of transportation was the Combat Glider Model #4A, designed and built by the WACO (pronounced wah-co) Aircraft Company. Although the U.S. Army also used the British Horsa glider (which was constructed completely of plywood, was much bigger, and could carry a larger payload) in limited numbers, the mainstay of the U.S. airborne operations involved the CG-4A. The CG-4A was 48 feet, 4 inches long, with a wingspan of 83 feet, 8 inches. Construction was of tubular steel frame with canvas covering, and plywood flooring and wings. It could carry a normal load of 7,500 pounds, but in emergencies could handle up to a maximum of 9,000 pounds.
In practical terms, the CG-4A would normally carry one of the following loads:
13 fully equipped glider troops
1 37mm anti-tank gun
1 1/4 ton truck (Jeep)
1 field kitchen
1 75mm pack howitzer
1 photographic lab
1 weather station
1 field set - radio or radar
1 field repair shop
6 litters for evacuation of wounded
Glider troops who rode in the CG-4A were issued Mae West life jackets, but not parachutes. Glider pilots were usually flight officers (a rank especially created for them), however, there were non-commissioned and regular officers who were glider pilots as well. Although armed, the pilots were not supposed to engage in direct combat with the enemy. Their mission was to get in and then get out in order to be available to fly additional missions. The Army ostensibly wanted to reduce glider pilot casualties as much as possible. In practice, the pilots frequently fought along side the troops they flew in with until after the initial battle, although not very effectively due to a lack of proper equipment and instruction. Eventually the pilots were given more thorough combat training and organized into combat groups for command purposes. However, the primary duty for the glider pilots was to fly gliders, and so they remained assigned to troop carrier units for the entire war.
During Operation Market-Garden, the shortage of glider pilots was so critical that glider co-pilots were simply pulled from the ranks of the glider infantry, given instruction on how to fly and land the glider if the pilot was killed, and then sent to Holland. In the CG-4A, just getting there was half the fun....