INTO THE VALLEY The Untold Story of USAAF Troop Carrier in World War II From North Africa through Europe
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The Evolution of Warfare in the 3rd Dimension

Learn the true history of the IX Troop Carrier Command and the evolution of aerial warfare in INTO THE VALLEY, The Untold Story of USAAF Troop Carrier in World War II by Col. Charles H. Young, one of the American pioneers of airborne warfare. The USAAF IX Troop Carrier Command was cutting-edge concept at the time. It used tight, mass formations of low-flying aircraft to deliver spearheads for every major Allied invasion in Western Europe during World War II. The frontier was warfare in the 3rd dimension—the delivery of elite airborne and gliderborne infantry from the vertical flank. By the time American military leaders decided to create Airborne-Troop Carrier, the war had already begun. Those tasked with the job of developing this unique outift, had to invent it and perfect it as they went along. The effort involved many hard choices, and many losses.

The Troop Carrier armadas, some of which took hours to pass a given point, formed a rather unstable platform from which paratroopers jumped and gliders released into enemy territory only a few hundred feet below. Initially, aircrews flew these operations at night, in tight formations, unarmed, all navigation lights off, no self-sealing fuel tanks. They delivered their human payloads from low altitudes at slow airspeeds, and were vulnerable not only to flak but to small arms fire. Indeed, TC airmen were the only Air Force flight crews for whom infantry helmets were required flight gear.

In contrast, modern warfare uses smart bombs and missile technology, helicopters for air landing, satellite-based navigational aids, smart weapons for covering fire, and many other advances that make the delivery of invasion spearheads much less manual, and not so costly in American lives. In World War II, this was not the case.

The delivery technology of that era was primitive. Pilots looked out cockpit windows to identify landmarks in the light of a partial moon, and used imprecise navigational technology, like Rebecca-Eureka and Gee, to help confirm positions determined by pilotage and dead reckoning. Airborne troopers did not "deliver" the spearheads, they were the spearheads, and Troop Carrier units delivered them. Communications between ground and air—so vital for air supply of airborne troopers before they linked up with ground units—was poor to non-existent until the spring of 1945.

"Of all the combat units that made major contributions to the Allied victory in World War II," as Gen. John R. Galvin has said, " ... the record of USAAF Troop Carrier has been overlooked and sometimes misunderstood." In part, this stems from the radical changes in technology that make the manual requirements of air assault flying in World War II almost incomprehensible by modern standards. Some misinformation, however, has been introduced over the years because of the use by pop history writers of a poor-quality "snapshot" of Troop Carrier operations, a view based on anecdotal information rather than facts. Few accounts in the popular literature about WWII present a clear or complete picture of USAAF Troop Carriers and the wide variety of significant contributions to Allied victory by TC units in every theater of war.

The Troop Carrier flight training program, unlike bomber, fighter and attack programs, did not begin until several months after the war started. Though Troop Carrier units were a major Air Force outfit, TC training was not included in the rigorous pre-war Army Air Corps flight training program. The reason was simple: The decision had not yet been made that there should even be Airborne-Troop Carrier.