TRIBUTE TO THE AMERICAN COMBAT GLIDER PILOTS OF WORLD WAR II
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Animation of "The Snatch" at the bottom of the page. Please wait for download.
Click on thumbnails for a larger picture.
Known humorously as "The Snatch" by the Glidermen, this hazardous technique was executed by towship that flew over a landing strip trailing a towline with a hook that snagged a glider tow line suspended from poles. Within six to seven seconds, the parked glider at the other end of the tow line would go from a standing stop to over one-hundred miles an hour becoming airborne within seconds. It was used to retrieve gliders after they had landed on covert missions in enemy territory, to evacuate wounded, and to retrieve gliders after assault missions.
First air cargo glider snatch - Wright Field, Ohio - 1942
Photo courtesy of Charles Day
This technique was used extensively in the China-Burma-India Theater by the U.S. First Air Commando Force when gliders were used to insert concentrations of troops behind Japanese lines. Following landings, gliders were quickly unloaded of supplies and troops and reloaded with wounded and outgoing personnel. Often, the towship would circle until the glider was rigged for retrieval. This maneuver was hazardous and required skilled airmanship by both aircraft crews. The stress on the glider's wings and towline assembly was considerable. If the glider was going to have trouble in this maneuver - wing failure, for example - it would be most likely too low for the crew to bail out (they often flew without parachutes to allow more weight for troops and cargo), and too high for them to survive the fall.
"At an airfield in Britain a C-47 transport snatches up a CG-4A glider. The glider's towline was suspended between two poles, and the transport flew over them trailing a long hook. The hook picked up the line a fraction of a second before this picture was taken, and the plane is now opening its throttles and taking up the slack. Within a second or two the glider will jerk forward and be pulled over the two posts as it goes." -- American History Illustrated, June 1983.
Glider retrieval assembly in tow aircraft - from Silent Ones WWII Invasion Glider Test & Experiment CCAAF, courtesy Charles Day
Glider retrieval assembly outside tow aircraft - From Silent Ones WWII Invasion Glider Test & Experiment CCAAF, courtesy Charles Day
Description of glider retrieval bringing wounded back from Operation Varsity with many photos - pdf file.
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