Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Mark Ellis

Second Advisor

Torsten Homberger

Committee Members

Vernon L Volpe, David Vail


Burma;C-47;Glider;Normandy;Sicily;World War II


Examining the development and employment of gliderborne troops and paratroopers of World War II demonstrates marked differences between their inception and evolution among the Germans, British, and Americans. While Germany led in training and deploying such troops, their usage declined rapidly after the disastrous invasion of Crete. Early advancements in German-glider applications emanated primarily from post-World War I restrictions upon powered military aircraft development. This fact, juxtaposed with accelerated Allied soldier training and development of airborne troop doctrine while World War II progressed, proves a stark dichotomy of intra-war strategic evolution. Yet, among the Allies no total consensus in specifics of training and deploying glider pilots, gliderborne troops, and paratroopers appeared. This led to interesting differences between the two major airborne Allies, but also a long-standing schism between American paratroopers and American glider troops seemingly not manifesting among the British ranks, and perhaps not among the German soldiers either. Exacerbating this rift is the backseat role American gliderborne soldiers have taken to the more glamorous paratrooper. Yet, examination of unit staff records, personal accounts, and after-action reports from Operation Overlord, Operation Market Garden, and the Siege of Bastogne reveal no difference in combat capability or battlefield effectiveness. This thesis reveals American paratroopers and glider troops provided equal levels of combat performance and even valorous deeds—suggesting the value of the American gliderborne warriors and the pilots who delivered them to the battlefield should be regarded as integral in evaluating contributions to Allied World War II victory.

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