DVD Review: Silent Wings-The American Glider Pilots of WWII
By Floyd S. Werner Jr.
Can you name one glider pilot from WWII? Neither could I. This single DVD takes some steps to rectify
that. With the familiar voice of Hal Holbrook narrating the story of some forgotten American heroes we are
taken on the journey from the first glider experience of the Germans to the end of the war. Hal Holbrook
isn't the only celebrity - Walter Cronkite and Andy Rooney make screen appearances on the DVD also.
There are some fascinating facts. For example, there were no gliders in the American inventory and they weren't
even thought of until February 1941 after the German success in Belgium. There were only 6,000 volunteer
pilots who flew gliders in World War II. While gliders are nice and quiet from the outside,
from the inside they are noisy even without the tow plane.
The DVD treats you to some great footage of the German raids into Belgium with DFS-230s in action.
Rudy Opitz speaks from the German perspective on the operations in Belgium and Crete. Besides the
DFS-230s there is a lot of footage of Ju-52s and some Ar-232s.
Some excellent video coverage follows the birth of the US glider force. The first Waco Gliders were
built in Troy, Ohio. The CG-4A cost $15,400 each when built by Ford and about $10K more when built
elsewhere. Just because these gliders were one time use items doesn't mean that they didn't have nose art.
Walter Cronkite was a young UP reporter that actually went on combat missions in gliders. Besides Cronkite
there is Andy Rooney and a few actual combat glider pilots. Their stories are interspersed with the historical
data and add tremendously to the history. The first hand accounts are a lot of fun to listen to. There are
dramatic C-47 crashes as well as glider. Some of the crashes are landing in water and others with missing
wings. All these things just go to prove how dangerous this job really was.
Probably the most influential man in the glider program was Major Mike Murphy. Whenever the glider
force was in danger of being cancelled he would pull something off that kept the gliders alive. As an
example, briefing some congressmen at night on a field. Ten gliders landed behind him and as the last glider
landed he had the lights brought up and with the soldiers outside the gliders the congressmen were suitably
impressed. There are a few stories about Mike Murphy and they all show the professionalism of men who
flew the gliders.
Another person that is mentioned is Jacky Coogan, a child actor, who was a glider pilot in Burma.
Modelers will take away a lot of information from this DVD, such as how D-Day stripes were actually
The DVD leads you through the major glider-borne operations: Sicily, Burma, Normandy, Southern
France, Holland, Bastogne, and finally Germany. There is some color footage as the end of the war nears.
This is fascinating in its own right. The DVD concludes with a reunion of glider pilots and two new CG-4A
replicas, as no real ones exist. This section is concluded by congressional recognition for their heroics,
60+ years after the fact.
This 113 minute DVD contains information not covered before and by that fact alone it is highly
recommended. The professionalism with which this story is told, the personal anecdotes, and first rate
video finally tells the whole story of these great American heroes.
Thanks to Aeroplane Books for the review copy. You can get your copy from them at
www.aeroplanebooks.com. Here is the direct link:
https://www.aeroplanebooks.com/productcart/pc/viewPrd.asp?idcategory=&idproduct=49275 . Tell them you heard about it here.
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