|Weaver Aircraft Company
|1 May 1942
Contributor: David Stubblebine
ww2dbaseThe WACO CG-4 was the most widely used United States troop/cargo military glider of World War II. It was designated the CG-4A by the United States Army Air Forces and called the Hadrian in British military service, but was universally known as the WACO, initials of the company that developed it: the Weaver Aircraft Company of Ohio.
ww2dbaseThe legendary actions of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Division paratroopers are fairly well known, but fewer people remember the other airborne unit type, the glider-borne infantry. The glider infantry was unique to WWII; it was developed in the early days of the war by the Germans and was disbanded in the years just after the war. Although the US Army also used limited numbers of the larger British Horsa Glider, the mainstay of US airborne operations was the Waco CG-4A. The CG-4A was constructed of tubular steel frame with a covering of cotton aircraft fabric, and plywood flooring and wings. It could carry a normal load of 7,500 lbs., but in emergencies could handle up to a maximum 9,000 lbs. The glider was designed for a maximum speed of 150 mph, with a normal glide (descent) speed of 72 mph. Landing speed was 60 mph, and its stall speed was 49 mph. Speed, obviously, was not one of the Waco's strong points.
ww2dbaseThe CG-4A found favor where its small size was a benefit. The larger British Airspeed Horsa could carry more troops and the British General Aircraft Hamilcar could carry a light tank; but the Horsa demanded a faster landing speed, which accounted for nearly all Horsa's receiving some degree of damage in combat landings and, therefore, injuries to the troops inside. The CG-4A could land in smaller spaces and by using a fairly simple net system, an in-flight C-47 equipped with a tail hook could "pick up" a CG-4A waiting on the ground.
ww2dbaseGlider troops who rode in the CG-4A were issued Mae West life jackets, but not parachutes. The gliders were towed behind C-47's then released from their tow line once over the "LZ" (landing zone). The highly trained and courageous glider pilots would then have a few scant minutes to pick out a likely landing spot, avoid all the other gliders also trying to make their landings, put the glider down on the ground without cracking it up in a ditch or slamming into trees or hedgerows, and accomplish all this while under withering fire from the enemy - and with only one chance to land safely; there were no "go-arounds" in a powerless aircraft! Further, unlike pilots of other aircraft types, glider pilots had to be double-trained as pilots and as combat soldiers of the glider-infantry. When the perilous landings were accomplished, the pilots had to be ready to become part of the fighting force.
ww2dbaseThe purpose of the glider-borne infantry was to put a fighting force on the ground, ready to move out and fight as a team. Quite often the paratroopers were scattered during their drop, and precious hours were lost while trying to regroup and get enough men together so that they could function as a capable fighting unit.
ww2dbaseBefore the invasion of Normandy, it was feared that the glider forces could face 50%-70% losses before even getting into combat, due to crash landings and the German defenses especially designed to stop the glider landings. It was felt by some that these men were simply being sacrificed for no gain. General Eisenhower insisted that the glider assault take place. The actual initial losses in crash landings and other causes were only 10-15%, and the glider forces proved crucial to the success of the Normandy invasion forces at Utah Beach.
ww2dbaseDevelopment and Operational History
ww2dbaseDesigned by Weaver Aircraft Company of Ohio (or WACO), CG-4 flight testing began in May 1942, and eventually more than 13,900 CG-4A's were delivered. At the height of production, sixteen companies were primary contractors for manufacturing Waco's, including the Ford Motor Company. There were also hundreds of sub-contractors.
ww2dbaseWhiteman Air Force Base was originally activated on 6 August 1942, as Sedalia Glider Base. In November 1942, the installation became Sedalia Army Air Field and was assigned to the 12th Troop Carrier Command of the United States Army Air Forces. The field served as a training site for glider pilots and paratroopers. Assigned aircraft included the CG-4A glider, and the Curtiss C-46 and Douglas C-47. However, the C-46 saw limited use as a glider tug in combat.
ww2dbaseWaco's went into operation in July 1943 during the Allied invasion of Sicily. They participated in the American airborne landings in Normandy on 6 June 1944, and in other important airborne operations in Europe and in the China-Burma-India Theater. Although not the intention of the AAF, gliders were generally considered expendable by high ranking European theater officers and combat personnel and were abandoned or destroyed after landing. While equipment and methods for extracting flyable gliders was developed and was delivered to Europe, half of that equipment was rendered unavailable by certain higher ranked officers. Despite this lack of support for the recovery system several gliders were recovered from Normandy and even more from Holland and Wesel. The CG-4A was also used to send supplies to partisans in Yugoslavia.
Last Major Revision: Dec 2008
|Can carry 13 glider troops, or 1x37mm AT gun, or 1x75mm pack howitzer, or 1 Jeep vehicle
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Lt. Gen. Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, at Guadalcanal