This expansive aircraft is what's known as a glider. They were used to land troops and supplies behind enemy lines during World War II. It took over five years, but Clyde Unger and other volunteers restored the 1945 Waco glider to its original military glory.
â??People ask me how I got involved in this glider, and I had been retired for about six months and I figured, it's about time to do something,â?? said Clyde Unger. â??When a picture of this particular glider showed up on the back of a truck, I looked at it, and I decided, well, I know what Iâ??m going to be doing for the next six or seven years.â??
The glider was an engine-less and unarmed aircraft, towed through the air by a C-47 airplane, and although it's often been referred to as a â??Flying Coffinâ??, Clyde says the glider was essential in the war effort.
â??As far as paratroopers were concerned, they would be scattered all over the countryside, where as the glider could bring in a fighting force, and if you brought troops, 75mm Howitzers, they would become slightly mechanized,â?? Unger added.
Being a glider pilot was not an easy task; it's been calculated that upon entering the combat zone, a glider pilot had an estimated life expectancy of 17 seconds.
â??The glide ration is 12 to 1: twelve feet forward, one foot down. So when they were released at 600 feet in Europe, they had approximately one-and-a-half minutes to get it on the ground, and that's not a lot of time,â?? Unger said.
In addition, the Ford plant located in Kingsford played a vital role in glider manufacturing.
â??They turned out the most gliders for the cheapest price," Unger said.
Four-thousand-one-hundred-ninety gliders to be exact, which was more than any other manufacturer in the entire United States.
The gliders and their pilots were crucial components in the war, and as World War II general Matthew Ridgway said, "Glider pilots were a special brand of men," and now in Iron Mountain, we can honor them.