College of Arts and Sciences


Master of Arts in History - Thesis (MA)


Allen C. York


WW2, American-British gliders, Luftwaffe gliders




The United States’ National Defense Strategy has shifted from fighting an asymmetrical, fourth generation adversary utilizing counterinsurgency and unconventional warfare to preparing for a peer/near peer conventional conflict focused on the Pacific and Central Europe. Modern maneuver commanders and operational planners can apply the economy of force, criticality of speed plus precision in kinetic engagements, value of highly trained, task organized small units, and technological incorporation knowledge gathered from analyzing the World War II glider operations executed by Germany, Great Britain, and the United States. Gliders were sailplanes that had a higher ratio of lift to drag than a motorized airplane. They were lightweight aircraft snatched fully loaded from the ground by towplanes, pulled to a high altitude, released by disengaging a towrope, then glided silently and stealthy over many miles before landing in small open spaces or conducting controlled crash landings on rough terrain. The research is not attempting to make an anachronistic case for gliders as a modern vertical envelopment mobility asset. It is empirically examining which nation best leveraged the glider borne force capabilities using the analytical tools of PEST (Political, Economic, Socio-Cultural, and Technology) and M from DIME (Diplomacy, Information, Military, and Economic). Therefore, a study that assesses the degree of effectiveness by which World War II belligerents employed the new glider technology can yield lessons for the development of modern strategy. War drives strategic, tactical, and technological change. Vertical envelopment concepts were initiated in World War Two due to the lessons learned from trench warfare in the First World War. Gliders were a vertical envelopment change that had to be managed, tactics-techniques-procedures (TTPs) developed and codified, and operationally implemented. How each nation accomplished that varied. Clausewitz saw the nature of warfare as defined by the interplay of passion, chance, and creativity. He also felt that war reflected the nature of the societies waging it. This thesis will examine the German, American, and British glider capability integration, doctrine development, manning-training-equipping processes, proponent and opponent mindsets’ within the respective military hierarchies, and technological innovations that emerged from each country’s program. It will provide an empirical, comparative analysis revealing how Great Britain succeeded over the others at implementing and pre-eminently leveraging glider capabilities in World War II.

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