INTO THE VALLEY The Untold Story of USAAF Troop Carrier in World War II From North Africa through Europe
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WWII Development of the USAAF Troop Carrier

When World War II began, US air power was still part of the US Army. Many senior commanders believed aviation should be limited to tactical support needs of ground forces. The Army Air Corps (AAC), as it was known in prewar years, struggled to maintain a budget. In the 1930s, it trained only about 200 pilots per year, but the training was rigorous and the pilots were taken from the best candidates. Their training lasted two years, at which point they served one year active duty in either pursuit, attack, bomber, or reconnaissance.

Visionaries like Gen. George Marshall saw the strategic value of air power, and the massive US build-up in the early war years reflected this vision, driven in large by the successes of the German and Japanese airborne efforts. In 1940, the Germans staged the first airborne attack on Norway and Denmark, followed by glider attacks against the massive Belgium fortress, Eben Emael, and later a division-size attack on Crete. All were successful. American military leaders became concerned that without such capacity for the "vertical flank" they could lose the war.

An intensive training program began. Many of those assigned to create this program were trained in the 1930s as attack pilots. They knew low-altitude navigation and close formation flying. INTO THE VALLEY, The Untold Story of USAAF Troop Carrier in World War II is the story of how this unique combat program developed through innovation, courage, determination, and trial and error. It is full of firsthand WWII stories and rare photographs from the era, including the development and evolution of the Combat Glider Program. The book is distributed from Taos, New Mexico.

Col. Young and Gen. Williams Shaking Hands

Early Innovations

The airborne Troop Carrier, with its low-flying mass formations, created a "platform" from which the invasion spearheads were hurled for every major Allied invasion in Europe during the war: Sicily, Italy, Normandy, Southern France, Holland, and the Rhine River crossing. It was largely a manual operation: pilots identified landmarks and signaled their formation with high-intensity flashlights when they identified their drop zones. Even the spearheads themselves were manual, made up of highly trained fighting men who landed in battle behind enemy lines. It's a far stretch from today's surgical strikes by smart bombs and missiles.