INTO THE VALLEY The Untold Story of USAAF Troop Carrier in World War II From North Africa through Europe
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Charles H. Young (August 9, 1914 - April 29, 2001) was born in Argonia, Kansas, where he grew up on the family farm. Young started his flying career at age 21 as a barnstormer flying a surplus OX-5 powered American Eagle. He was accepted as a US Army Air Corps Flying Cadet at Randolph Field in 1936, when the Air Corps trained an average of only 200 pilots per year. Young was first in his class to fly solo, and according to research conducted in 1994 by Col. George Williams, Asst. Director of the USAF Historical Division, still holds the USAF record for the shortest time to solo: 55 minutes. A mandatory requirement for additional dual time was imposed later, so this record will likely stand.

After completing training at Randolph and Kelly Fields, Young was assigned to the 90th Attack Squadron, flying the Northrop A-17A. The squadron commander was then-Major Paul L. Williams, who later became the commanding general of IX Troop Carrier Command in World War II. Prior to the war, Air Corps aviators were trained only in pursuit, attack, bomber, and reconnaissance. After the war began, early German victories in parachute and glider operations convinced the Allies they needed to develop quickly the capacity to attack using the vertical flank, as this might prove the margin of victory.

Williams and other career air officers were tasked with quickly building a unit that could fight warfare in the third dimension. They adopted the English cadre system, rotating senior officers through various groups as the outfits formed. He looked for pilots who had flown in his attack group, as these men were trained in "contour navigation" (flying at low altitudes), and formation flying. He drew specifically from those pilots who, after their active duty in the 1930s, had gone to fly for the airlines and learned instrument flying and all-weather navigation, still lacking in the Air  Corps.

Lt. Charles Young

Young was recalled to active duty in May, 1942. He had just made captain at American Airlines™, where he was flying DC-2s and DC-3s. In early He and his wife, Virginia, from Providence, Rhode Island, were packed to move from Fort Worth to Los Angeles when he received notice he was being recalled to active duty. He and Virginia moved 17 times as USAAF Troop Carrier groups were formed.

Williams had recalled 97 airline pilots, all of whom had the rigorous pre-war flight training. Young was rapidly promoted and assigned as a senior officer in three different Airborne-Troop Carrier groups, as the pre-invastion build-up took place. New outfits formed, senior leaders trained pilots in close formation flying, formation take-offs and assembly, developed navigational protocols and trained pilots and crews to create the low-flying, mass parachute and glider formations that delivered the invasion spearheads for all major Allied invasions in Western Europe during the war.

Young led the 439th during the invasions of Normandy, Southern France, Holland, across the Rhine River and on many other missions. The 439th was the third group into Normandy, at the head of the 50th TC Wing, and the first to draw heavy fire as the Germans got the range of the C-47 serials making their run-ins at 700 feet.  

Young returned to fly for American Airlines in November 1945, after the war, and resumed his career as a professional pilot. During his 35 years with American, Young participated in several key aviation studies, one of which was a coordinated effort between the USAF, the FAA, and the airlines to develop advanced capabilities and instrumentation for blind landing procedures for NASA's space shuttle project and for future airline use. Young also served for 5½ years as Assistant Supervisor of Flight for American. During the last five years of his career he flew the Boeing 747. His flight log totaled more than 27,500 hours.