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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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Postcards & other pictures of Camp MacKall

Smitty had acquired additional postcards to show the people back home what Camp MacKall looked like.  They were in the scrapbook his mother put together and was saved for all these years…..

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A history of Camp MacKall is on Youtube.com in 3 parts.  Part 1 includes some of  these postcards and other photos as well.

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Military Training Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

William Arnold – Edmonton, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII, CBI, B-24 pilot

Norman Eckert – NY; US Army, Korea, Sgt.0083f165f66161f63454e92890403bcd

Howard Feldman – Boston, MA; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Bill Hinson Jr. – W.Palm Bch., FL; US Navy, Cuban Missile Crisis, USS Saratoga, Shangri-la & Enterprise

Jim Keslar – Ligonier, PA; USMC & Army (Ret. 22 years)

Mardo ‘Lou’ Lucero – Alamosa, CO; US Navy, WWII/Vietnam, Corpsman

Stewart Alexander Marken – Brisbane, AUS; RA Army # Q266312, WWII, PTO, 472 Heavy Antiaircraft Troop, craftsman

Alan Penn – Skokie, IL; US Army, WWII

Herbert Sayles – W.Palm Bch, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, P-47 pilot

James Sumrall – Covington, LA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 187th/11th Airborne Division

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Dedication

187th, Headquarters Company, 11th Airborne Division - Smitty is in the back row, 5th from the right

187th, Headquarters Company, 11th Airborne Division – Smitty is in the back row, 5th from the right

The first men of the 187th Regiment at Camp MacKall seen above as they embark on a journey into the Pacific to become the “Rakkasans” known worldwide for their participation in WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam War and Desert Storm…

Major William C. Lee, Father of the Airborne

Major William C. Lee, Father of the Airborne

Here is the 11th Airborne Song: DOWN FROM HEAVEN,
An original composition by: Lt. Col. Byron Paige
Arranged by: Sgt. George Whissen

11th A/B shoulder patch

11th A/B shoulder patch

Down from Heaven come Eleven and there’s Hell to pay below
Shout “Geronimo” “Geronimo”
Hit the silk and check your canopy and take a look around
The air is full of troopers set for the battle on the ground
Till we join the stick of “Angels” killed on Leyte and Luzon
Shout “Geronimo” “Geronimo”
It’s a gory road to glory but we’re ready here we go
Shout “Geronimo” “Geronimo”

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Special thanks to the Paratroopers of the 50’s for this info. Should you wish to hear this song and others, see old photos,etc. go to http://home.hiwaay.net/~magro/abn.html On their home page is an index with a massive amount of information about paratroopers of all decades.

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For Smitty – we always try to give the tough events a lighter side –

"Geronimo!"

“Geronimo!”

Click on photos to enlarge

Camp MacKall & the Knollwood Maneuvers

WACO glider at Camp MacKall – reverse side reads: “Hello Mom, Finally got some cards that can let you see what these gliders we ride around in look like. This picture was taken on our camp field. I have a few more that I’ll sens to you. Regards to all. Hope to be home this Wednesday.” Everett

The type of construction used for the barracks at Camp MacKall and the above hospital is called a “theatre of operations.”  Built on pilings and constructed of green sawed pine boards which is then covered with type 4 black tar paper.  The wood was cut from trees on the camp property using 7 sawmills running 24/7.  When the boards dried out, the 2 pot-bellied stoves were incapable of keeping the men warm.  Smitty spent some time at that hospital when the army discovered he did not perspire.  The medication took 3 weeks to kick in and then he was back to marching.

The Knollwood Maneuver would not only be the deciding factor for the 11th Airborne, but also for future paratrooper divisions as a whole.  5 December 1943, Army Ground Forces test team deployed a composite combat team from the 17th A/B, plus a battalion from Col. Duke McEntee’s 541st Parachute Infantry Regiment to be situated at Knollwood Airport and other critical points to act as the ‘enemy.’

Viewer to this operation included: Under Secretary of War, Robert Patterson; General McNair; General Ridgeway (82nd A/B); BGen. Lee Donovan; Airborne Command and several teams of high-ranking inspectors from the War Dept., Army Ground Forces and Army Air Forces.

On midnight of Dec. 6, 1943, 200 C-47 Dakota transports carried the troopers and towed the 234 gliders from five separate airfields to begin the operation.  The lift-offs were timed so that each plane would join the column in its proper place.  The aircraft became a vee-of-vees, nine ships wide as the formations grew larger.  They made a rendezvous on the Atlantic coastline and took a 200 mile circular route before aiming toward the inland drop zones; most of the men would jump during evening’s darkness at 1200′.  Almost all the troopers and gliders hit the proper DZ (drop Zones) and LZs (landing zone).  However, the division chief of staff and his glider load landed in a road on the Fort Bragg artillery range.

Weather conditions were not condusive for jumping as the rain became sleet, but still, 85% were successful.  There were 2 casualties and 48 injuries.  The 11th Airborne “captured” and “held” the Aberdeen and Knollwood Airports from the defending forces.  The exercise came to an end on Dec. 12 – Smitty’s 29th birthday.  The War Dept., after reviewing the reports, replied to Gen. Swing that they had been wrong and the training for such a specialized unit should proceed. (As it would turn out, their training had only just begun. )

News from home: Smitty’s friend, George Dunlop rescued two Navy pilots after their training plane crashed into Jamaica Bay.  The company of soldiers that were stationed on Broad Channel became an actual camp and decided to call it — Camp Smith!  War bond drives were going on as well as the dimming of the street lamps.

Below is the graduation class of the 187th regiment, 11th Airborne Division – Everett Smith is in the back row, fifth from the right (in front of the tree), Arthur G. Weyant (bottom row, far left)

187th, Headquarters Company

On Jan. 1, 1944, the Headquarters Building for the 11th burnt to the ground.   Jan. 2, the division began its train ride south to Camp Polk, LA.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – From the 82nd A/B Div. Assoc.

airborne_agenda

tell_me_a_again

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Airborne & Camp MacKall

Read the rest of this entry

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