Glider Snatch

I was watching last night’s Daily Show today and the guest, Mitchell Zuckoff, was promoting his book, Lost in Shangri-La, about the rescue of some plane crash survivors in New Guinea during World War II. Some airborne soldiers parachuted in first and cleared off a patch so some gliders could land. Eventually they flew everyone out on gliders, which Zuckoff said was done with rubber bands, so I envisioned them building a giant slingshot and shooting the gliders into the air. I knew gliders were used on D Day, towed behind airplanes from England, but it was a one-way mission to land troops and equipment together in fields rather than spread out like paratroops would be. I didn’t think they could take off again especially since there was no runway, just a clearing. I found an interview with the commander of the rescue mission where he said they snatched the gliders up and everyone got out okay. Then I had to look up exactly how you snatch a glider up. It turns out they would tie an elastic tow rope up on some poles and a plane would fly in very, very low with a hook lowered that would catch the tow line and yank the glider up into the air. There’s even a YouTube video:

2 thoughts on “Glider Snatch

  1. That’s amazing! And the reason to use gliders was because they could operate in and out of a very small, rough runway? Surely helicopters would be used today.

  2. The gliders were part of the airborne troops along with paratroopers. Gliders would land just about anywhere and the advantage was you had a group of soldiers already together and they could take heavier equipment than paratroopers.The glider pilots got out and fought too. So you are right that helicopters do the same thing today. But gliders are very quiet and might have been a good way to go in and get Osama bin Laden (except for getting through Pakistan’s airspace undetected). Then have helicopters go in and get the soldiers back out.

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