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Silent Wings: The American Glider Pilots of World War II (2007)

Not Rated | | Documentary, History, War | 20 March 2007 (USA)
1:43 | Trailer
From the early race to build gliders to the D-Day invasion at Normandy and Nazi Germany's final surrender, "Silent Wings - The American Glider Pilots of WWII" narrated by Hal Holbrook, ... See full summary »


Robert Child


Robert Child
1 win. See more awards »





Credited cast:
Walter Cronkite
Hal Holbrook ... Narrator
Andrew Rooney


From the early race to build gliders to the D-Day invasion at Normandy and Nazi Germany's final surrender, "Silent Wings - The American Glider Pilots of WWII" narrated by Hal Holbrook, reveals the critical role gliders played in World War II offensives. Through rare archival footage and photographs, the film places the audience right at the center of the action in the dangerous world of the American glider pilot. During WWII, 6000 young Americans volunteered to fly large unarmed cargo gliders into battle. For these glider pilots every mission was do-or-die. It was their task to repeatedly risk their lives landing the men and tools of war deep within enemy-held territory, often in complete darkness. Thousands of lives were saved and battles won because of their efforts. In fact, one pilot interviewed said - the 'G' in their emblem didn't stand for glider; it stood for 'guts.' Features include: - Virtual walk-through tour of the Silent Wings Museum in Lubbock, Texas - Interview with ... Written by Inecom Entertainment Company

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Release Date:

20 March 2007 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Rob Child & Associates See more »
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Fairly Detailed.
9 February 2014 | by rmax304823See all my reviews

I doubt we'll see better coverage of American glider operations in World War II. Of course the Brits and the Germans used them too, with about the same degree of success, but this features American pilots and two familiar newscasters who flew with them, Walter Cronkite and Andy Rooney.

The first half hour or so details the problems the American glider program had in getting off the ground, so to speak. We were late to the party. German gliders, having evolved from their pre-war sailplane training at a time when the Luftwaffe was virtually forbidden, capture the Belgian fort of Eban-Emal in an extraordinarily successful glider attack. The result was the German penetration of the impregnable Maginot Line and the fall of France.

Events didn't flow so smoothly after that initial success. A German airborne attack in Crete came close to failure and cost far too many casualties. Hitler never used gliders again.

In America, there were bureaucratic conundrums. A glider pilot is a sort of chimera. He hasn't been trained to fly an airplane, though some volunteers may know how to do it. The aircraft itself is fragile, made of canvas and aluminum tubing. It's designed to do only one thing. Lose altitude and crash land in the right place. Once on the ground, the pilot deplanes with his twelve troopers and fights as an infantryman. Volunteers were mostly enlisted men. So what should their ranks be? Should they join the officer corps as ordained pilots? Are they even entitled to wear wings on their chests? In the end it was decided that they be designated Flight Officers, called Warrant Officers in other branches, and they were awarded wings with a "G" on the shield.

The job could be extremely dangerous and sometimes, as in the case of the Polish gliders at Arnhem, practically suicidal. Most audiences hear little of gliders because so few of their operations went very well and because their use is not nearly as dramatic as the use of parachutes.

Yet, when they worked, they worked well enough, as they did in southern France and at Pegasus bridge before the Normandy landings. But the slow, defenseless gliders could also be prepared for by an alert enemy and the results could be catastrophic. The glider pilots interviewed here seem to agree that their most difficult mission was in landing across the Rhine River into Germany, which may be one of the reasons we hear so often about the Bridge at Remagen and so little about glider operations that supported the crossing.

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