AVweb Rewind: The Gliders Of Normandy


This week, beginning June 6th, marks the 78th anniversary of Operation Overlord, the invasion of northwestern Europe by Allied forces in 1944. At the time, it was the largest airborne operation by U.S., Canadian and British forces, although operation Market Garden later in the war was larger yet. All of these assaults relied on towed gliders for part of the envelopment operation. In this video shot by Paul Bertorelli in 2017, we take a look at the aircraft themselves and how they were deployed. Operation Neptune was the actual D-Day assault phase.

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  1. “The first twenty-four hours of the invasion will be decisive…for the Allies, as well as Germany, it will be the longest day.”

    -Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Eugen Rommel

    Good narration, thanks Paul.

  2. The night of the invasion, Walter Cronkite rode to Normandy in a CG-4 glider and mentioned the sound of the fabric covering of the fuselage drumming against the steel tube structure. He also mentioned that he didn’t expect to survive the landing. War correspondents were the real deal back then.

  3. Our group of aviation historians/glider pilots and airplane pilots–has visited Normandy 5 times in the past 25 years. We call ourselves “Bottomfeeders”–like Paul, we study the area thoroughly beforehand–like to travel on our own, and live like the locals.It’s amazing how the sites have been “developed” (perhaps improved–sometimes–best left as they were). Time to return again!

    Thanks for the excellent commentary, Paul–you would make an excellent “Bottomfeeder!” (laugh)

    • Hi Jim: I was not an aviator…bad eyesight and while I would never have a problem taking off, I would be most concerned with the landing. Oh yes, I know I’d eventually land, but how I’d accomplish that was the main concern!
      I’m glad that you and your fellow aviation historians have made the trips you’ve made. Over the years I’ve remained in contact with the first assistant superintendent at Normandy. The day I met him was his second day on the job after a 25-year Army career. It was fitting for him since his mom had Norman roots and lived in the region. He was born in southern Mississippi and called everyone who lived north of I-10 a “Damn Yankee”! Note: there’s not a whole lotta ‘feet dry’ between the Gulf of Mexico and I-10!!!
      He was able to take me to those other incredible sites that tour buses did not visit at the time; the bridge at La Fiere, the church at Angoville-au-Plain where German AND American medics took care of the wounded on both sides during a battle and also at Graignes where the civilians and our wounded prisoners were murdered by the SS.
      If any of you are golfers, the next time you go you should consider visiting the Omaha Beach Golf Course which is in Port-en-Bessin. It used to be a huge cattle ranch, but in the early 2000s, the then Normandy superintendent, Gene Dellinger convinced the owner to convert it to a golf course and he did. It’s a beautiful layout of two courses with some fantastic views. Every hole is named after an allied leader and hole #1 is named after Eisenhower.
      Like you, I’ve gone on trips with fellow Viet Nam veterans and we’d return our van full of crumbs of bread as we’d eat our way across the country from one battleground and cemetery to another on ‘guy’ trips!
      I hope you are able to continue these journeys.
      Ken Delfino
      United States Navy (Ret)

  4. Most of the glider training took place at Laurinburg – Maxton field near Ft. Bragg, NC. Still in use today. In the little hamlet of Marston, NC, between Ft. Bragg and Maxton, the Army build a temporary airfield, using for the first time PSP plates for the runway. Known better as Marston matts.

    • Are you referring to Airborne glider trooper glider training at LM? The majority of the glider pilots were trained at South Plain Army Air Field, SPAAF, Lubbock TX. Early on their were other training fields but the majority trained at SPAAF. Many of them received their tactical training at LM. In the Fall of 44 power pilots were trained to fly gliders at SPAAF and LM. They did train the airborne out of Pope Field & LM. And Airborne were used in testing gliders. The most famous was the dual tow where airborne jumped from a C-47 as well as the gliders on tow all at the same time. This was to determine if concentrating the airborne drop would keep them closer together.

      There were CG-4A glider frames at LM for airborne glider troops to practice getting in and out of the gliders. LM was best know too for testing the gliders.

  5. Thanks for the video. I visited Normandy in 2018 but I am sorry that I did not know about the Airborne Museum.

  6. Caen in France there is a big museum about the D Day Normandy operation. Gliders in original exposed. Everybody MUST see. I met a not too young American lady with her family in the museum who told me that her father partecipated in the invasion. Very emotional

  7. My father started his service in gliders but after crash landing a few times he became a paratrooper. He said he would rather jump out of an airplane than crash land in one. 13th Airborne. Almost lost both legs dut to trench rot in one of the cigarette camps in the winter of 44/45. Eighteen months in hospitals they saved his legs. The VA then denied his anxiety claim. He made it however and made a life for himseand five kids. Woodworking/furniture genious and one of the most intelligent human beings I’ve ever known. RIP Papa Joe

  8. Paul: This is a very nice video and your comment on “allowing at least three days” is right on! The tour buses do not allow much time to allow you to take in what emotions may come over you once you set foot on the Cemetery. My first visit was in September ’94 and the only building other than the superintendent’s residence was the administration office. In about 2002 they started building the Interpretive Center and later added the large museum near the approach to the main entrance. I worked for a major airline from ’69-’02 and after my first visit to Normandy, being an ongoing student of history, I made many trips to other sites in the Normandy region as well as Northern France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. My interactions with the elder French citizens who had specific tasks on D-Day and beyond is priceless. I met one council member in Sainte-Mere-Eglise who proudly claimed his job was to blow up three telephone poles on D-Day…he was 11 years old on that day. I was also able to develop a friendship with Phil Jutras, a former Army warrant officer who was in charge of supplies and headquartered in SME after July 14th, 1944. He became good friends with the Castels who owned a dress shop which is now a cafe at the corner of Place du 6 Juin diagonally opposite from the Airborne Museum. After he retired as a state senator from Maine, he returned to SME and became the curator of the Airborne Museum!
    Having been there as often as I have, I have a TON of stories of the people I’ve met and experiences I’ve had – including having brought all our grandchildren to visit these sites over the years so they can carry on the story of the Greatest Generation’s accomplishments.
    So for now, I yield the balance of my time!
    Ken Delfino
    United States Navy (Ret)
    Keystone, SD