WWII Glider Stands as a nod to Camp MacKall, NC

Glider at Camp MacKall

HOFFMAN, N.C. (Tribune News Service)  — The Army’s Special Forces, Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations soldiers have been tried, tested and trained at Camp Mackall for decades.

But long before the first Green Beret was built amid the remote satellite installation several miles west of Fort Bragg, Camp Mackall was home to the nation’s parachute and glider training amid World War II.

Airborne, Camp MacKall

The U.S. Army Special Warfare Center and School honored that history as it dedicated a replica of a Waco CG-4A glider that now welcomes visitors from Camp Mackall’s Ashemont Road entrance.

The glider — which is raised above an intersection that also features a flag pole, historical marker and welcome sign — was built to be a sturdier version of the original CG-4A gliders. The nose of the glider includes a metal frame salvaged from an actual glider that was found, crashed, in a nearby swamp in recent years.

Glider at Camp MacKall, 1943

The glider has replaced a UH-1 Huey helicopter that had been on display at the location. Officials said the Huey is being refurbished and will eventually be relocated to another part of Camp Mackall.

Several World War II veterans attended the ceremony, including a paratrooper who jumped into Normandy, France, on D-Day alongside glider forces, a glider infantryman and a glider pilot.

Glider training

Russ Seitz said he could remember riding in a glider very similar to the one now on display as a soldier at Fort Bragg in 1944 and 1945. It would have been towed by a C-47, quietly pulled through the air behind the much larger plane.

Seitz pointed to how the nose of the glider had a hinge to allow it to open upward so jeeps or other equipment could be driven inside.

“There’s a bench on each side,” he said. “There is a sensation when you’re being towed.”

Camp MacKall postcard

During the war, the Army ordered 13,900 gliders, made of wood and metal covered in fabric. And they would be used across Europe, China, Burma and India and were often used as a complement to paratroopers, carrying additional troops, howitzers and vehicles.

The flying machines, which used a set of skids to land, were nicknamed “Gooney Birds,” “Flying Coffins,” “Tow Targets” and “Silent Wings.”

Lt. Col. Seth A. Wheeler, the commander of 1st Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group, said the ceremony was a unique opportunity to reflect on Camp Mackall’s past and commemorate its history.

Now a small but growing camp housing mostly special operations facilities, Camp Mackall was once a bustling Army installation 7 miles from Fort Bragg’s western training areas.

Smitty, 187th RCT/11th Airborne Division, Camp MacKall 1943

Construction at the camp, originally named Camp Hoffman, was begun in late 1942, according to officials. And most of the work was finished in four months, with buildings created out of temporary materials such as plank siding and tar paper.

The installation was renamed Camp Mackall on Feb. 8, 1943, in honor of Pvt. John Thomas Mackall, who was thought at the time to be the first paratrooper casualty in World War II.

The glider’s tail number, 111242, corresponds to the date Mackall died, Nov. 12, 1942.

Wheeler said Camp Mackall is the only Army installation named after an enlisted soldier.

Now a relatively austere camp, Wheeler said the installation has a lofty wartime past.

“Camp Mackall was an installation to behold, with over 65 miles of paved roads, a 1,200 bed hospital, two cantonment areas with five movie theaters, six beer gardens, a triangle-shaped airport with three 5k foot runways and a total of 1,750 buildings including three libraries and 12 chapels,” he said.

The camp was home to U.S. Army Airborne Command, which needed greater maneuver areas and airfields to train the expanding airborne and glider units.

All five U.S. Army airborne divisions have ties to Camp Mackall, officials said. The 11th, 13th and 17th Airborne Divisions were headquartered at the camp. Additionally, the 82nd Airborne Division and 101st Airborne Division at Fort Bragg trained at Camp Mackall.

Camp Mackall was home of the airborne and glider infantry for three-and-a-half years.

At the war’s end, Airborne Command moved to Fort Bragg. And a few years later, the Army began using Camp Mackall as a training location for a new kind of unit, Special Forces.

Drew Brooks can be reached at dbrooks@fayobserver.com 

(c)2018 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.)

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military (Airborne) Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Anthony Brando – Jersey City, NJ; US Navy, WWII / US Army, Korea

Francis Costello – Victoria, CAN; RC Army, WWII

Mike Dunsmore – MI; US Army, Vietnam, 1st Cavalry Division, Purple Heart

Cletis Eades – Grandview, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, pilot

Makato Harano – Kealakekua, HI; US Army, WWII

Victor Klopping – Des Moines, IA; US Army, WWII

Henry ‘Hank’ Lee – Zanesville, OH; US Army, Vietnam, Corps of Engineers, Lt. Colonel (Ret), West Point grad

Joseph Orosz – Westlake, FL; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT

Roger H. Swartz – Palatine Bridge, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Medical/11th Airborne Division

Matthew Zieringer – Chicago, IL; US Army, WWII, Korea & Vietnam, Major (Ret. 22 y.)

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on August 19, 2019, in Current News, Korean War, Uncategorized, Vietnam, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 94 Comments.

  1. I did not know gliders were used in the war. “Flying Coffin” was not an auspicious moniker for these planes. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well worth reading gp, what amazes me is the fact that in your post you mention that the glider was capable of carrying jeeps and other equipment, I would have thought this impossible due to its construction, either way mate, a great post as to be expected from you, cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Speaking of a small world, Joy Neal Kidney lives about 35 miles from where I was born and raised. I did all my serious shopping in Des Moines, and have visited her blog, thanks to her presence here on yours.

    I have a cousin who once towed recreational gliders. He said it was so completely nerve-wracking, he finally got out of it after a couple of seasons. He kept imagining himself in the glider, and just couldn’t stand the thought that he might have towed some inexperienced someone to injury or worse. I never realized the gliders were used in war, or that they were capable of carrying passengers and cargo. It makes me a little nervous to think about it, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Any idea how many Allied or US troops perished from “friendly-fire” type glider accidents?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do not have that data, Eric. I can ask around at some of my contacts, but being as the glider was only being developed when my father went in and he said he went to almost daily funerals, I would expect the answer to pretty high.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No worries.

        I asked only because as you might know I’m from the aviation MRO sector and in the 1970s worked on gliders. I would never send a glider into a combat situation.

        I wonder how many of the hot shots who pressed gliders into combat actually went in themselves.

        Reminds me of the idiotic cavalry generals who ordered men to “go over the top” during WW1.

        Sorry if I come across as ranting.

        Peace.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I know we’ve discussed this before GP “the generations today are not getting the information on: patriotism. Why we have fought and the reasons for our fighting”. The curriculum in our schools should cover the historical facts of the recent wars . A student can best understand where the country has been by educating him about the more current affairs (a cause to look back). I can see why there is fighting amongst our young generation(s )…there is no education or training that has nutured their needed love for country. Thanks for your wealth of information. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. have they relocated?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. such history and historical sites need always to be preserved. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I found it surprising that a glider could be pulled into the air with a jeep or other equipment inside. I had no idea they could hold that much.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Thank you for the history lesson

    Liked by 1 person

  10. You have to be just a bit crazy to jump out of an able airplane but you have to be really crazy to ride a box with wings and no engine. Controlled crash?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. My researches have led me to read about Operation Husky in Sicily and the battles at Arnhem. How anybody could have wanted to take up glider warfare I do not know. That poster “Join the Glider troops” is much more fact than humour, with casualties sometimes running at 50% and more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My father said in developing them, he was going to funerals almost daily.

      Like

    • 50% is a bit high. The highest loss for glider pilots, which was more than Normandy and Holland combined, was in the invasion of Germany, operation codenamed Varsity. About eighty six pilots were killed. There were a total of about 1,952 glider pilots who flew in components of the 17th Airborne. Gliders were VERY EFFECTIVE in getting in much needed equipment. In most cases the landing zones were secure by the airborne paratroopers once they had jumped into their drop zones. The problem with the German invasion was that the landing zones were not secured because to avoid another Holland the Army and AAF decided to drop everything at once on top of the area around Wesel and to take the Rhur industrial area. That meant double tow of gliders to have enough planes. The objective was the same as Holland just a little bit up and across the Rhine River. The Germans knew we were coming yet we effectively landed the majority of our gliders without hazard. If you look at the reclamation photos you would be amaze at the number that were intact or had minor damage.

      People tend to make out the glider as being one of these death traps. That was no more a death trap than an airborne getting caught in the trees or a C-47 being shot down. People die in war but the majority of the glider operations (which were the same as all the major airborne paratrooper operations) were successful. The use of jeeps, which were many that came in by glider, was very useful for the airborne in moving radios and other heavy equipment including medical trailers and artillery. The artillery crews did not have to go and find the pieces of the howitzers like the paratoopers did and put them together. They came in intact with up to seven of the artillery crew and were set up quickly to aid in taking out the 88s hidden in the trees. We have had a thousands lot of glider pilots in their Association who flew three and four glider combat missions and they will tell you that their ability to get the glider in was no different than any job in the Army in combat. “I was doing my job” have heard that hundreds of times.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I think it is great that the camp is being preserved too – and nice story G

    Liked by 1 person

  13. “Flying Coffins,” and “Tow Targets” don’t sound like optimistic monikers. But I’m guessing they were useful.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. “Never a dull moment” and “That’s a camo net!” deserve to be engraved on a memorial somewhere very very public …

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Being inside one of those gliders over Normandy must have been frightening. Fragile, unarmed and unpowered it takes a special kind of person to use one in battle.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Great history, must have been so scary going to war in one!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Great article. Oh, the cartoon about the paratrooper with the camo net instead of a proper canopy! Back when I was working narcotics for the Army, a memeber of the DST team at Bragg told me that the highest incidence of drug abuse in the Army was among those who did parachute rigging. Scary thought.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Super story, GP. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I realized the number of WW2 vets has seriously dwindled! I figure survivors are in their 90s now, for those who came in as men/boys around 18, near the end. I wonder if the last one standing will be known as such (like it was with Civil War vets).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember years ago when they announced the last WWI veteran had died. Despite not knowing much about the first world war, I felt sad, like an end of an era had passed quietly and without recognition.

      Liked by 4 people

      • The last British soldier lived to be well over a hundred. His book, “The Last Fighting Tommy: The Life of Harry Patch” is wonderful and I am sure it will provoke tears as Harry realises that “War isn’t worth one life”. It’s well worth reading and if you can ever see the BBC documentary about Harry, that is even better.

        Liked by 1 person

  20. Another interesting article about a defense device I missed. Love the comic.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I love the nicknames they gave. One of my wife’s late uncles flew in glider training in the UK. One of my great uncles on my fathers side also. Brave lot as I look at them as flying coffins 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Great article GP. It helps bolster NC’s claim to be “First in Flight” and first to train people to jump out of a perfectly good glider or airplane.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Interesting post , GP. Flying coffin is an apt name for it. Looks like a very unsafe flying machine. However, with glider training, Capt. Chesley Sullenberger used that knowledge to have the emergency landing on the Hudson River called “The Miracle on the Hudson.”

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I agree to Pete! A wonderful article. Thank you. Best wishes, Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I would never want to be in those gliders , especially under fire and darkness . Not Airborne material , I guess . I like the idea of honoring the WWII glider force . The Huey might well be put alongside .

    Liked by 1 person

  26. It must have been an amazing place in its heyday.

    Like

  27. A very interesting article, GP. I was pleased to read that the camp is named after an enlisted man, and his date is featured on the exhibited glider. It must have been terrifying to sit in those things, completely vulnerable to ground fire, and dependent on the towing aircraft not being shot down. Brave airborne troopers all.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know my dad sure didn’t like them, but it was up to the 11th Airborne to get them developed for the war. He said he had no idea how many funerals he had to attend during that period, but it was a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

      • One of my Dad’s friends was in a glider that landed at Arnhem. He used to tell awful stories about them being shot out of the sky, or crashing after the tow plane was damaged. After being captured by the SS at Arnhem, he was treated quite badly before ending up in a mixed POW camp in eastern Germany. He was finally freed by the Russians, when they advanced in 1945. In later life, he was a heavy drinker, and died quite young as a result.

        Liked by 1 person

  28. Thank you for posting this, GP. The Glider troops and command are a piece of the fabric of that great War that gets little attention.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I can only imaging the men inside those gliders wanting to land safely, even though it was in a war zone. Another great post. You are stitching the history or the armed forces together, bit by bit (and we appreciate it).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Land, sea, air and home front were all interconnected in this war (not like today), so I try to give a variety of nods to everyone. Thanks coming around this morning, Dan!

      Like

  30. The article is dated 2018. I wonder if they’ve relocated the Huey by now.

    Victor Klopping’s daughter, Carol Klopping Atkinson, is a neighbor five houses north of us.

    Liked by 1 person

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