How effective were glider squadrons in WWII?

Model Designation

The CG-4A glider, (C-for cargo, G-for glider) was the mainstay of the U.S. Army Air Forces glider arsenal.

The glider displayed at Fagen Fighters WWII Museum is the completion of an original WWII-era airframe found in inventory at Villaume Industries in Eagan, MN. Villaume, formerly located in St, Paul, is still in business today, and was a sub-contractor for Northwestern Aeronautical during WWII. Villaume built over 1500 CG-4A’s during WWII.

As for this glider, volunteers spent a period of 5 years carefully researching and building the airframe to original specifications, successfully completing it in 2012. It was acquired by Fagen Fighters WWII Museum shortly after, and is proudly displayed as a representative of the only aircraft type built in Minnesota during WWII.


The Waco CG-4A 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 13,903 CG-4A gliders were constructed during the period 1942-1945. The Ford Motor Company, one of the 16 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-Kauffmann, Cessna Aircraft, and many others.

The outside appearance of the CG-4A gave an illusion of simple construction. The final production models actually contained just over 70,000 parts.

The entire nose section (including the pilot’s compartment) of the CG-4A swung upward creating a 70 x 60 inch opening into its cargo compartment. This made it possible to quickly load and unload the glider. Types of cargo were fighting men, a jeep with radio equipment and driver, radio and operator plus one other soldier; two soldiers and a jeep trailer loaded with combat supplies; a 75mm pack howitzer with 25 rounds of ammunition and two artillerymen; a small bulldozer and its operator.

Unlike powered airplanes that could either be flown directly overseas or shipped to distant ports fully assembled on the decks of aircraft carriers, gliders had to be shipped unassembled in wooden crates. Just one CG-4A glider, for example, required five enormous wooden crates to be shipped overseas. And again, unlike powered aircraft, which were ready for combat almost immediately upon reaching their destinations, the relatively delicate gliders required several days to be gently unloaded from cargo ships, uncrated, and painstakingly reassembled before they were ready for their test flights. This time-consuming shipping procedure was to be a source of considerable grief for the Allies throughout the war.

By February of 1944, a total of 2,100 crated Waco CG-4A gliders had been shipped to England from American factories. The only people left to assemble them were untrained British Civilians. The results were disastrous and in October, the IX Air Force Service took over and managed to put together 910 Wacos by the middle of April. With only five weeks remaining until D-Day, the glider shortage had barely been conquered in time.

The CG-4A glider came into its own on D-Day with the invasion of Normandy. Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of German-occupied France started on June 6, 1944. Operation Overlord was launched from the sea against one of the strongest armies in the world, inside the most elaborately equipped defensive network ever created. Almost all the gliders used in Normandy in June, 1944 were lost.

A common landing area sight. Gliders frequently landed close together, often too close.

A landing zone during the D-Day invasion.

A glider being towed off by a C-47.




3750lbs. Empty
Up to 7,500 Loaded

Wingspan: 83 feet 8 inches
Length: 48 feet 3.75 inches
Height: 12 feet 7.5 inch

Armament: None

Cargo (One item per glider):
13 troops in battle gear
Jeep Trailer
75mm Howitzer
37mm anti-tank gun
Small bulldozer and operator

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