After WWI, the Treaty of Versailles restricted Germany on the production on many weapons vehicles and planes. Due to this, Germany decided to start a glider program that fell within the requirements of the Versailles Treaty. Germany and the Soviet Union by the time of the second world war have already constructed their designs for gliders and made flight schools. The American glider program was initiated in 1941 and invited 11 companies to compete in the program. Of the 11 companies, only 4 companies joined the program and they were tasked to create a glider to the specifications provided. The company that created the best design was the Waco Aircraft Company. The other companies involved were the Frankfort Sailplane Company, the St.Louis Aircraft Corporation, and the Bowlus Sailplane company.
The Waco Aircraft Company designed the XCG-3 and the XCG-4 gliders. These were the project designation codes however once the Waco Aircraft Companies design was chosen, the two models were called CG-3 and CG-4. Later in the war, a larger glider was also designed by the Waco Aircraft Company and it was the CG-13A. The CG-3 model was designed as an eight seater and the CG-4 was a 15 seat glider. When the CG-13A was eventually designed it was a 30 troop size glider. After the original design was chosen, the design was then distributed to sub-contractors across the country to start the production of the glider models.
The most popular glider used in WWII was the CG-4 glider and was used in many missions across both the European theater and the Burmese theater. The CG-4 glider had a cargo load of 3710 lbs not including the pilots. This cargo load gave the ability for the CG-4 glider to either carry 13 soldiers/paratroopers or vehicles/artillery to the front lines of any offensive. The gliders and the tactics used allowed for the allied forces to deploy in conjunction with a ground advance. Unfortunately while the gliders allowed for the ease of transporting soldiers and equipment, the light weight canvas construction often left the gliders extremely vulnerable to enemy anti aircraft guns. Due to this, the gliders had to be used strategically to minimize loss of soldiers, equipment and the gliders themselves. While a lot of the gliders were used expendabally, during the war effort, parts and materials could not be wasted. One of the many tactics used for gliders was that the glider pilot once detached from the taxi plane would land to glider in the best available spot. While the cargo or the soldiers were utilized at that point, the glider pilot would often hike or walk back to the nearest air strip for his next mission. Often this could be up to ten or more miles walking through terrain that could be occupied by enemy soldiers.
source 1) Brennan, T. J. “THE WACO CG-4A COMBAT ASSAULT GLIDER.” TRIBUTE TO THE AMERICAN COMBAT GLIDER PILOTS OF WORLD WAR II, www.pointvista.com/WW2GliderPilots/wacocg4a.htm.
source 2) “CG-4A.” National World War II Glider Pilots Association, edited by Charles Day, 13 Oct. 2019, www.ww2gp.org/CG-4A.php.
source 3) Gliders being towed aloft by an airplane. . Encyclopaedia Britannica. www.britannica.com/technology/glider-aircraft/images-videos#/media/1/235331/5694.
source 4) The Menominee Range Historical Foundation, menomineemuseum.com/glider.htm.
source 5) Rottman, Gordon L. World War II Assult Glider Tactics. Osprey Publishing.