By SPARKY BARNES SARGENT
During World War II, approximately 6,000 people were trained as glider pilots for the U.S. Army Air Force. They proudly wore the silver wings with the “G” designation, which officially stood for Glider, although some of the men declared that the “G” really stood for Guts.
During the 1960s, a few of these men decided to form a national organization to safeguard and preserve the World War II glider pilots’ unique service history. The National World War II Glider Pilots Association was founded as a non-profit veteran’s organization, holding its first reunion in Dallas in August 1971, attracting 65 pilots. This year, the 41st reunion was held in Oklahoma City at the end of September.
“The best part of the reunions is renewing old friendships,” says Flynn, “and just visiting with each other, as well as remembering those who aren’t with us. We also welcomed visitors from Holland, France, and Finland at the reunion — regulars, I might say — one was the son of a glider pilot and the others authors. Next year’s reunion may be held in San Antonio, Texas, but we haven’t made that definite.”
Flynn served in the 312th Squadron, 349th Group. Briefly reflecting on his experience, he shares, “I graduated from Lubbock in March 1943, and was lucky enough not to go overseas. I was an instructor in the glider program in dead stick training, then in advanced CG-4 training, before going to the 312th.”
George Boyle also attended this year’s reunion, accompanied from California with his wife Trudy and daughter Connie Harris (pictured below). Boyle, 90, was with the 319th Troop Carrier Squadron-1st Air Command Group, in the China/Burma Theater. He flew 11 glider missions in the CG4-A during18 months.
Other attendees included George Williams of Idaho, who served with the 87th Troop Carrier Squadron-438th Troop Carrier Group, and well remembers flying the Horsa glider. Today, this spry 91-year-old enjoys running to stay in shape.
Norman Wilmeth of Oklahoma was with the 91st Troop Carrier Squadron-439th Troop Carrier Group, and continued flying after World War II; he proudly holds an airman commercial certificate with instrument ratings for airplane and helicopter.
George Theis served with the 98th Troop Carrier Squadron-440th Troop Carrier Group, and is treasurer of the National World War II Glider Pilots Association, as well as its webmaster.
Don Abbe, curator of the Silent Wings Museum in Lubbock, also enjoys visiting with the veteran glider pilots during the reunion. Abbe says the museum “is the only museum in the U.S., and in the world, that is solely dedicated to the World War II Combat Glider program and the pilots who made it successful. Additionally, most visitors enjoy seeing the restored CG-4A glider that we have in our hangar gallery. These gliders are so rare that only around eight can be seen in the U.S. Visitors are uniformly in awe of its size, and amazed at its simplicity and the fact that it was able to do such a vital job so successfully.”
The Silent Wings Museum was first located in Terrell, Texas, from 1984 up until 2001, but moved to its current location in Lubbock in 2002. The facility is home to literally thousands of artifacts, and also houses the Adams Library and Reading Room, which offers excellent research opportunities. Displays include hangar and combat galleries, and an ongoing restoration project of a British Horsa glider. The museum is located within walking distance of the Lubbock Aero FBO at Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport (LBB).