Ramsey County History – Winter 2007: “‘A Great Experience:’ Villaume Builds Gliders in World War II”

John M. Lindley

“A Great Experience” Villaume Builds Gliders in World War II
Author: John M. Lindley

German troops used gliders in May 1940, and the Americans decided to use them too. They didn’t want to build gliders at existing airplane manufacturers and wanted to minimize the use of scarce metal. The gliders were made of wood, fabric, and a bit of steel. They would be hauled into the air by motored aircraft. Glider pilots had minimal control of the “flying coffins,” as some soldiers called them, because these aircraft were unpowered. Northwestern Aeronautical Corporation (NAC) of St. Paul received a contract to build CG-4A gliders in 1942. NAC hired Villaume Box and Lumber Company as a primary subcontractor to build wooden wings, tails, and cargo floors. Villaume employed a large number of new workers, many of them women to build gliders. A high level of precision was required, since all 70,000 parts in each glider had to be interchangeable with spares. Each CG-4A glider held either thirteen soldiers or equipment such as a jeep or howitzer. The US Army Air Forces first used gliders on July 9, 1943, in the invasion of Sicily. Subsequently, the Allies employed gliders at Normandy on June 6, 1944, and in Holland in September 1944. The biggest glider operation was the assault across the Rhine River in Germany on March 24, 1945.
PDF of Lindley article