434th Troop Carrier Group History

The following squadrons where part of the 434th TCG:
  • 71st Squadron
  • 72nd Squadron
  • 73rd Squadron
  • 74th Squadron
  • Brief History of the 434TH Troop Carrier Group

    The following history is quoted from the history prepared by USAF Historical Division, Research Studies Institute, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama

    March 1957
    From the date of its activation on 9 February 1943 until the invasion of France on 6 June 1944, the group's training pointed toward eventual participation in airborne operations. The 434th Group spent eight months in the United States before proceeding overseas. The Group, consisting of headquarters and the 71st, 72nd, 73rd, and 74th Squadrons, was activated at Alliance Army Air Base, Nebraska, where the unit received its training. Because of a shortage of aircraft (C-47s, which the unit was equipped throughout its World War II career), and because of frequent demands on the 434th for personnel to man new units, the unit devoted the bulk of its time for four months to assimilating new personnel and to ground training.

    From November 1943 through May 1944 the 434th was engaged in an intense training program, which was designed to prepare troop carrier and airborne units for the airborne phase of the Normandy invasion. In November and through most of December, the 434th was the only American troop carrier group in the theater to train with airborne forces, and between mid-November and 24 December the unit flew a sizable number of practice missions, including paratroop drops and glider tows. Probably in order to permit newly arrived units opportunity to train with airborne forces, the 434th Group's training was limited chiefly to flying training in January and February. During the two months the Group emphasized formation-flying training.

    On 3 March 1944 the 434th Group was assigned to the 53rd Troop Carrier Wing. The assignment necessitated a move for the Group. The 53rd Wing had been assigned the task of transporting the 101st Airborne division during the assault and had set up headquarters at Greenham Common, close by division headquarters at Greenham Lodge. Consequently, early in March the 434th moved to Aldermaston, in Southern England, some eight miles from the 53rd Wing's headquarters. Meanwhile plans for the airborne operation had been altered to include use of a greater number of gliders. The 53rd Wing had been selected to specialize in glider operations; in fact, its glider commitments accounted, in part, for the location of the wing's units in southern England, as close to the assault area as possible. The Wing would also have to be ready for possible paratroop commitments.

    During March the 53rd Wing put its groups, including the 434th, through a series of paratroop and glider-tow exercises. The 434th took part in a simulated paratroop drop on the night of 12/13 March and participated in a spectacularly good drop (which was witnessed by Generals Eisenhower and Brereton and Prime Minister Churchill) on 23 March. Emphasis, however, was on glider-tow training. The Group flew practice missions, towing gliders, on 15, 17, 20, and 26 March.

    D-DAY

    The Group's D-Day mission was to tow gliders, which carried reinforcements to the 101st division troops who had been dropped a few hours earlier. At 0119, 6 June 1944, 52 of the Group's planes, each towing a Waco glider, began their take-off from Aldermaston. Cargo consisted of 155 troops, sixteen 57mm anti-tank guns, 25 vehicles, 2.5 tons of ammunition, and 11 tons of miscellaneous freight. Shortly after take-off, one glider broke loose and landed four miles from base. In it was the radio by which the 101st division was to have communicated with higher headquarters. The remainder of the formation reached Cherbourg peninsula, where it encountered sporadic small arms fire, which shot down one plane and glider. One pilot dropped out of formation and released his glider some eight miles from the designated zone. The remaining 49 planes reached the release area, released their gliders at 0354, and turned back toward England. All landed shortly after 0530. The 434th Group had successfully performed the task for which it had been trained.
    The airborne troops who were transported to France on the morning of D-Day depended, to a certain extent, on aerial resupply and reinforcement. The 434th Group participated in the follow-up missions. Late in the afternoon of D-Day the Group sent 32 of its planes, each towing a Horsa glider, back to the 101st division area; the payload consisted of 157 troops, 40 vehicles, 6 guns, and about 19 tons of other equipment and supplies. According to one authoritative source, the mission "proved to be an incredibly easy one". The planes encountered no enemy aircraft and virtually no ground fire. Battle damage consisted of a few nicks on one plane. In the early morning hours of D plus one, the Group flew its last mission in conjunction with the Normandy landing; 50 of its planes, each towing a Waco glider, transported reinforcements to the 82nd Division.

    Supply missions

    For some six weeks after the invasion, the 434th Group had relatively little to do. In July a number of small airborne operations were contemplated, but were shelved before planning was far advanced. The primary mission of troop carriers, however, remained that of transporting airborne forces in operations, and a training program with airborne troops was initiated. According to the 434th's historian, during July the Group was "occupied with training - ground and air - at old familiar subjects: flying, but not on the desired type of mission."
    The undesired type of flying consisted of supply missions flown to France. In July, the Group began a regular mail run to the continent, and on 16 days of the month, it flew supply and evacuation missions, which ranged in size from two to 73 sorties. Supplies transported were, for the most part, critically needed items such as communications equipment and special ammunition. Because of the vast quantities of supplies being built up on the beaches and because of the relatively stable front, there was no need for large-scale aerial supply.

    Market Garden

    While the 434th Group (as well as virtually all of the IX Troop Carrier Command) was busily engaged in its transport activities, plans had been made for a large-scale airborne operation to support the British 21st Army Group's push into Holland. Late in August, as a prelude to further airborne operations, airborne and troop carrier forces were consolidated into the First Allied Airborne Army (FAAA). On 26 August 1944, the IX Troop Carrier command was relieved of assignment to the Ninth Air force and became a part of the newly created FAAA. The 434th remained assigned to the IX Troop Carrier Command and the 53rd Troop Carrier Wing. The FAAA was created in the midst of planning for a major airborne operation, which was to take place in August, but was canceled because the Allied armies overran the objective. In the first week of September two more airborne operations were planned only to be rapidly discarded, one because the objective was overrun, and the other because of unexpectedly strong enemy forces in the proposed drop area. On 10 September, however, Allied leaders agreed upon an airborne operation (given the code name MARKET) in the vicinity of Arnhem, Holland.
    Because of the heavy supply commitment, the 434th Group had no time to train for MARKET. Indeed, MARKET was the only large American airborne operation during World War II for which there was no training program, no rehearsal, almost no exercises, and very little tactical training activity. Nevertheless, when airborne troop began to congregate on the airfield, personnel of the 434th realized that a mission was imminent. On the afternoon of 16 September the briefing of crews began for the operation that was to take place the next day. The main drop of airborne forces was to be accomplished on 17 and 18 September, followed by several resupply missions. Unlike the Normandy operation, MARKET was a daylight affair.
    For MARKET, the 434th was again paired with elements of the 101st Airborne Division. Its assigned drop zone was near Eindhoven. On D-Day, 90 of the Group's C-47s dropped elements of the 501st parachute Regiment, scoring a generally excellent drop. Five of the Group's aircraft were knocked down by enemy ground fire. On the next day's follow-up mission, 80 of the Group's aircraft towed Waco gliders on which were loaded troops, vehicles, and supplies. Surface fire was again intense and the Group lost two aircraft. A glider-tow reinforcement mission on the 19th was plagued by wretched weather. The 434th dispatched 80 planes, each with a glider in tow; but available records do not state how many of those sent out completed the mission. The Group's historical report states, "several gliders aborted before reaching the LZ due to weather conditions." The 53rd Wing sent out a total of 385 plane-glider combinations, but only 213 of the gliders reached the landing zone. The weather was scarcely any better on the 20th. But the need for supplies was great, and a resupply mission to the airborne forces was flown. The 101st Division had already made contact with Allied ground forces and was in a fairly comfortable condition. The 82nd Division, however, was being hard pressed, and the 53rd Wing (including 53aircraft from the 434th Group) dropped supplies to the 82nd's troops. The weather remained bad for the next five days, and air supply was reduced to a trickle. The 434th flew its last mission in connection with MARKET on 25 September, when it provided 16 aircraft for a formation of 34 C-47s dispatched by the 53rd Wing to transport supplies to the 101st Division. Largely because of foul weather, which prevented the troop carriers from bringing in the scheduled supplies and reinforcements, the MARKET operation did not achieve its objective.

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    The runway

    C-47 aircraft are parked on each side of an extended runway in preparation for a glider-tow. The gliders were towed to the center of the runway by a tug and the tow aircraft waved into place at the end of the towrope. Care was taken by the towing aircraft to gain speed without breaking the towline. The glider and tow plane maintained contact through an intercom line. (Picture courtesy, Marvin Litke, pilot of the 71st TCS)

     

    Normandy: A Glider Pilot's Story - by George E. "Pete" Buckley, Flight Officer 74th Troop Carrier Squadron, 434th TCG

     

    Market-Garden: A Glider Pilot's Story - by George E. "Pete" Buckley, Flight Officer 74th Troop Carrier Squadron, 434th TCG

     

    71st Troop Carrier Squadron, 434th TCG website

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