German Gliders in World War II
German Gliders in World War II
The Luftwaffe and the Wehrmacht employed gliders for assault and supply during World War II — more so than the other countries involved in the war since gliders had the sole ability of airborne insertion and silent assaults which could deliver sections of troops at a time. Gliders had the advantage of eliminating much of the time paratroopers had to use to form up after landing, as well as bringing heavier equipment that could not be parachute delivered at the time. Later these gliders, and more advanced designs, were used to deliver cargo as well as evacuate those wounded as the Germans began losing the war. Although there is next to no discussion regarding the aforementioned it is the reason this book is an important one as it provides detail and context though thin on explanation.
This book is the book to get to learn of the gliders flown by the Luftwaffe during World War II. The art is excellent as are the photos which show historical moments or often overlooked but significant details. Along the way, interesting bits of information are dropped like beacons guiding the way to understanding. The machines addressed in this book — originally entitled, Deutsche Lastensegler — are the:
- Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Segelflug DFS 230
- Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Segelflug DFS 331
- Gotha Go 242
- Gotha Go 345
- Gotha Kalkert Ka 430
- Messerschmitt Me 321
- Junkers Ju 322
Tantalizing facts and photos are mixed in throughout the book in both the copy and the captions. No less than an incredible eleven towing variations are listed as well as how aircraft such as the Ju 87 Stuka were used in towing. The complex triple tow plane technique (troika) for hauling the giant Me 321 (see photo, below) aloft is shown in photos as is the successor technique addressed — the twin fuselage five engine Heinkel He 111Z (also with photos).
The book illustrated the surprising following:
- How both solid and liquid fueled rockets were used to assist the gliders to get airborne behind their tow aircraft
- The rotor glider trial where the unpowered rotor of a Focke-Achgelis Fa 225 helicopter was attached to the airframe of a DFS 230
- Just how large and capable the Me 321 was
- How complicated the pilot’s cockpits were. These were not the simple handful of instruments found in Allied glider craft — the late war Go 242 cockpit photo shows no less than 36 (including the basic instruments of compass, vertical speed indicator, airspeed, attitude indicator and turn-and-bank indicator)
In actuality the Gotha Ka 430 (named after the designer, Chief Designer Kalkert) is addressed only slightly — a mention in a caption and a description in the table in the 47th page — a handful were produced, though, so it may be of little matter. Additionally, in the same manner, the Ju 322 was both a dismal design and production failure receiving receiving a page’s worth of attention as a result. Interestingly, though it is implied that Luftwaffe gilders were routinely returned to the air (often on a return mission), there is no discussion of this aspect nor mention of the common practice of field dismantling DFS 230 gliders so that they could be be towed back to an airfield to be used again. However, there is knowledgeable discussion of camouflage schemes as well as glider utilization, especially in eastern Europe as well as Russia.
This book is rich in detail but thin on overview as well as discussion. It is meant for the informed reader already aware but in need of detail to better understand this aspect of history — and this is where this book excels. There is no table of contents or index but these are hardly required given the low number of pages.
German Gliders in World War II, Heinz J Nowarra, 1991, ISBN 0-88740-358-1, 47 pp.