CG4A Gliders Stationed at Peterson AAF ???????

 

The “Special Collections” function is in the process of cataloging every photograph that has found its way to the museum.  For the older volunteers, many of the 1940s photos have a personal meaning as “they were there.”  Fortunately, many of these photos have recorded the hectic activity going on in the early days at the Peterson Army Air Field.  One such photo shows two WACO GC4A gliders parked on the Peterson flight line.

 

Gliders were used for many years (and may still be) as part of a nation’s military arsenal.  Unarmed gliders were used in WWII major invasions, landing behind enemy lines in Sicily, Normandy, Southern France, Holland, Bastogne, Rhine Crossing, Luzon in the Philippines and Burma.

 

The war machine industry of WWII, included the production of gliders produced by many contractors. Unfortunately the gliders developed a reputation as being unsafe.  One contractor was having their first public demonstration in St Louis with the local mayor and nine other civic leaders as passengers. Take off was the typical zero to 120 miles per hour in a few seconds.  When they reached altitude, the tow rope was released and there were immediate problems.  Both wings of the glider collapsed and came free of the fuselage.  There were no survivors.

 

The Weaver Aircraft Co of Ohio (WACO) was a glider contractor who built an excellent product.  Tubing was used in its construction which provided a stronger frame.  Many of these gliders were retrieved from their landing sites using the “snatch” technique.  Two poles were set up with the tow rope fixed across the top.  The tow aircraft, with a hook device would make the approach, hook the rope and the glider was airborne.

 

The photo of the gliders parked on our ramp has a note affixed that reads:

 

 “Although these gliders were not part of the Peterson AAF training program, they were pertinent to the history of the installation at that time.  These gliders were stationed at Peterson AAF and were serviced by the Peterson aircraft mechanics. The gliders were used in conjunction with the US Army’s training program at Camp Hale, Pando, CO. “

 

Well, that note has created a number of questions and telephone calls.  With the assistance of the US Air Force Academy Museum, and the 10th Mountain Division Historian at the Denver Public Library, they were able to determine that the 10th Mountain Division did not have any record of their ski troops being involved with gliders.  The next query was to the US Army Aviation Museum at Ft Rucker, AL., and they too had no record of gliders being associated with Camp Hale.  The US Air Force Academy representative suggested we visit the web site for the “Glider Pilots Association.”  This turned out to be a very productive suggestion. 

 

This author made contact with two of the Glider Pilots Association officials and received quite an education on WWII glider activity.  There were many glider training locations around the country, two being, Dalhart, TX and Stuttgart, AR.  After all the bad publicity of glider accidents, it seemed the next best thing was to educate the doubters.  So, the US Army Air Force set up flights around the country, with gliders in tow; the public could see a fly-over and a safe landing.

 

Now, this is where you, the reader comes in.  If you have ANY information  why these gliders were on Peterson AAF, please pass it along to the Special Collections at colorockymthi@comcast.net.

 

Contributors for this article are: Mr. Paul D. Martin, Museum Specialist, Civ, USAFA/CMA; R.S. Maxham, Director, US Army Aviation Museum; George Theis, Natl Treasurer, Natl WWII Glider Pilots Assn and  Dennis Hagen, 10th Mtn Div Historian, Denver PL.