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  Archived Posts From: 2015

historic-sites

Progress report on improvements to state-owned historic properties in New Castle

Written on: September 22nd, 2015 in Historic SitesNewsPreservation

As part of its $350,000 New Castle Campus Improvement Plan, the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs has been conducting a series of projects at four state-owned historic properties that the agency administers in Delaware’s original capital city. Implementation of the plan began in March 2015 and work is scheduled to continue into the early part of 2016. New Castle residents and visitors may experience some inconveniences during this time including temporary restrictions on pedestrian access, and the presence of building equipment, materials and barriers. Every effort is being made to limit these inconveniences.

New Castle Court House. A number of capital improvements were made to the historic structure in the spring of 2015.

New Castle Court House. A number of capital improvements were made to the historic structure in the spring of 2015.

Following is a progress report on the projects as of mid-September 2015:

Worker installing shingles on the New Castle Court House roof in April 2015.

Worker installing shingles on the New Castle Court House roof in April 2015.

The Arsenal

The Arsenal

Workers disassembling the New Castle Academy’s garden wall in December 2014. The wall was in danger of collapse. It is scheduled to be reconstructed in the autumn of 2015.

Workers disassembling the New Castle Academy’s garden wall in December 2014. The wall was in danger of collapse. It is scheduled to be reconstructed in the autumn of 2015.

Aerial view of the New Castle Green. In the foreground is the New Castle Court House Museum, followed counterclockwise by the Arsenal, Immanuel Episcopal Church and the Academy. Photo by Bruce Burk.

Aerial view of the New Castle Green. In the foreground is the New Castle Court House Museum, followed counterclockwise by the Arsenal, Immanuel Episcopal Church and the Academy. Photo by Bruce Burk.

Founded by the Dutch under Peter Stuyvesant in 1651, the town that would later be called New Castle served as Delaware’s Colonial and state capital from 1704 until 1777. The city’s well-preserved historic district retains many original structures built between 1698 and 1873 representing a wide variety of architectural styles including Dutch Colonial, Georgian, Federal and Greek Revival. New Castle now serves as the headquarters of the First State National Historical Park.


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exhibits

World War II Mission Symbols

Written on: September 3rd, 2015 in ExhibitsNewsVolunteerism

By Carolyn Apple, retired Dover-area emergency medicine physician and Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs volunteer.

What are mission symbols? Learning about mission symbols painted on aircraft during World War II has proved to be somewhat difficult but interesting research. Mission symbols, also known as mission marks, kill markings and victory decals, are the small symbols painted on the sides of planes, usually near the cockpit or nose, which are used to show the successes of the crews that had flown that particular aircraft. During World War II, these marks or symbols appear not to have been official military markings but rather were given meaning through their repetitive use by the airmen. The markings may be varied in appearance and more than one marking may have similar meanings. Mission symbols were used by all of the Allied and Axis countries participating in the war.

Mission symbols on a B-26 bomber. Capt. James "Jim" C. Brown, pilot from the 557th Bomb Squadron of the 387th Bomb Group standing in front of "Ole Smokey."

Mission symbols on a B-26 bomber. Capt. James “Jim” C. Brown, pilot from the 557th Bomb Squadron of the 387th Bomb Group standing in front of “Ole Smokey.”

The following chart includes examples of the types of symbols seen on the U.S. Army Air Force planes. Though initially seen on bombers, mission symbols later were also used on fighter aircraft.

Mission symbols

Mission symbols on a P-38 Lightning fighter aircraft. Capt. Merle B. Nichols of the 79th Fighter Squadron, 20th Fighter Group, 8th Air Force, sitting atop "Wilda."

Mission symbols on a P-38 Lightning fighter aircraft. Capt. Merle B. Nichols of the 79th Fighter Squadron, 20th Fighter Group, 8th Air Force, sitting atop “Wilda.”

Here are just a few additional interesting facts concerning World War II mission symbols:

  1. When the camel in symbol #25 is facing in reverse, it indicates that the aircraft had to turn around due to engine trouble
  2. Symbols of ships were used to indicate enemy ships destroyed. The markings varied according to the type of ship destroyed
  3. Mission symbols were also used on other military equipment, such as tanks and submarines, to denote the accomplishments of these groups
  4. On Royal Air Force (RAF) planes, one might see a mission symbol of an ice cream cone. What does that mean? An ice cream cone was used by the British to denote Italy. The British associated Italians with those running ice cream (gelato) shops in Britain prior to the war. Another explanation for the symbol of the ice cream cone is that a mission to Milan or Turin was considered to be a “milk run” by the RAF crews. The term “milk run” was generally used to indicate an easy mission
Mission symbols seen on an aircraft dubbed "You've Had It."

Mission symbols seen on an aircraft dubbed “You’ve Had It.”

In my next blog, I will change gears and discuss selected activities of the American Red Cross during World War II.

The images in this blog were selected from the William D. Willis World War II Photographic Collection, one of the permanent collections preserved by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. Mr. Willis of Dover, Del. served as a photographic technician with the Army Air Force during the Second World War. A display of items from the collection, “World War II Through the Lens of William D. Willis,” was on view at Legislative Hall in Dover from March 4, 2015 to Feb. 21, 2016. 

Go to the following for Carolyn Apple’s earlier blogs exploring the subjects of images from the state’s William D. Willis World War II Photographic Collection:

On a Wing and a Prayer: The Use of Military Glider Aircraft in World War II—June 3, 2015

On a Wing and a Prayer: A Closer Look at Military Glider Aircraft Used in World War II—July 21, 2015

America’s Heavy Hitter—The B-17 Flying Fortress—Aug. 11, 2015

 


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news

Division project utilizes people on the autism spectrum to get the job done right

Written on: August 28th, 2015 in NewsPreservation

In recent months, the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ State Historic Preservation Office has been utilizing the skills of two young men on the autism spectrum to digitize information about Delaware’s historic properties for preservation purposes and to make it more accessible to the public. This information is part of a vast quantity of printed files, photographs, microfilm and microfiche that the office has accumulated since it was created in 1970 as a result of the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

One of the preservation office’s 33,000 photographic-inventory cards that are being scanned by CAI associates.

One of the preservation office’s 33,000 photographic-inventory cards that are being scanned by CAI associates.

Bob and Paul (their actual names have been changed to protect their privacy) work for CAI (Computer Aid, Inc.) a global information-technology consulting and services firm that employs more than 3,000 associates worldwide, with over 800 working in Delaware. CAI’s workforce includes several people on the autism spectrum whose unique skills help the company address its customers’ needs.

In February, 2015, the Delaware Department of State contracted with CAI to utilize the company’s autism-spectrum associates in scanning photographic-inventory cards and microfiche from the preservation office, as well as materials from the Delaware Public Archives. The Department of State sweetened the deal by loaning computers and scanning equipment to CAI for the project.

CAI’s Dana Slachta, who supervises Bob and Paul, as well as many other people on the autism spectrum, noted that they are “the perfect fit for work such as scanning, data entry and quality-assurance testing. Their strengths include focused concentration, attention to detail, an ability to recognize patterns and deviations in data, and thinking outside the box. … We focus on the unique skills that they can bring to our company, and try to accommodate the difficulties that they face such as discomfort in social situations.”

Alice Guerrant, manager of the preservation office’s research center, noted that “the quality of work done by the CAI associates has been outstanding. Previous digitization projects have been slow, tedious and prone to errors due to the repetitive nature of the work … and when we tried to have the scanning mass-produced by machine, the results were less than perfect. With Bob and Paul, we know the job will be done right because they scan each file by hand and they pay attention to detail.”

Promotional image from the Specialisterne website.

Promotional image from the Specialisterne website.

The journey that led to CAI’s work with people on the autism spectrum began after Delaware Gov. Jack Markell read a New York Times article that spotlighted the work of Specialisterne, a Danish company that uses the characteristics of people with autism as a competitive advantage, and as a means to help those people secure employment. Markell subsequently invited representatives of Specialisterne to meet local stakeholders, including CAI, to discuss opportunities for the company in Delaware. The governor chaired the meetings and the result was a strong commitment to support the establishment of Specialisterne in Delaware as a hub for the Mid-Atlantic region and the United States.

On May 29, 2013, Specialisterne and CAI announced a National Founding Partnership to train and hire people on the autism spectrum. The two associates working on the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ project were early graduates of this training program and were subsequently hired by CAI. That’s good news for the division which is now getting a large chunk of its historic-property files digitized. In turn, this information is being made available to the public through digital vehicles such as the Cultural and Historical Resource Information System (CHRIS), a geographic information system on historic properties that are located in the state.

Go to the following for press articles on Specialisterne and its partnership with CAI.

Specialisterne links businesses, autistic workers
News Journal, Wilmington, Del.—May 19, 2014

Creating Great Employees (Who Happen To Be Autistic)
Forbes Magazine, New York, N.Y.—Oct. 28, 2013

Delaware organization matches people with autism and tech jobs
Newsworks, WHYY TV 12, Wilmington, Del.—Aug. 28, 2013

The Autism Advantage
New York Times, N.Y.—Nov. 29, 2012


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events

Division launches on-line calendar of events

Written on: August 14th, 2015 in EventsExhibitsMuseumsNews

During August 2015, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs launched an online calendar of events that provides comprehensive, long-term listings of programs taking place at the five museums administered by the division, and at the Buena Vista Conference Center.

Click the following icon to view the online calendar.

HCACalendarofEvents

 


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exhibits

America’s Heavy Hitter—The B-17 Flying Fortress

Written on: August 11th, 2015 in ExhibitsNewsVolunteerism

 By Carolyn Apple, retired Dover-area emergency medicine physician and Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs volunteer

In previous blogs, I discussed military gliders used during World War II but now I would like to move on to an aircraft that played a pivotal role in the outcome of the war, the B-17 Flying Fortress. What, you ask, was a Flying Fortress? Developed by the Boeing Company in the 1930s, the B-17 was a four-engine heavy bomber aircraft used by the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. It was a very effective weapons system, dropping more bombs during the war than any other American aircraft.

Three B-17 Flying Fortresses

Three B-17 Flying Fortresses

Why was the B-17 called the “Flying Fortress”? The name was coined when the plane, with its heavy firepower and multiple machine gun emplacements, made its public debut in July 1935. Richard Williams, a reporter for The Seattle Times, exclaimed, “Why, it’s a flying fortress!” The Boeing Company recognized the value of the name and had it trademarked.

Group of B-17 Flying Fortresses dropping bombs

Group of B-17 Flying Fortresses dropping bombs

Early in the war, the U.S. Army Air Force command felt that tightly packed formations of bombers would have so much firepower that they could fend off enemy fighters on their own without accompanying fighter escort. However, starting with the Combined Bomber Offensive in 1943, this theory was severely challenged. The goal of this offensive was to gain air superiority over the cities, factories, railways, refineries and battlefronts of Western Europe by performing round-the-clock bombing of these strategic areas in preparation for the invasion of France in 1944. The U.S. 8th Army Air Force, based in airfields in southern England, and the 15th Army Air Force, based in Italy, were assigned to daytime bombing of these areas while the British Royal Air Force performed nighttime bombing. Heavy losses of bombers and crews forced the Army Air Force to rethink its strategy and, rather than abandoning the daylight raids as suggested by other allies, it began assigning fighter escorts, such as the P-38 Lightning and P-51 Mustang, to accompany the bombers.

Four B-17 Flying Fortresses

Four B-17 Flying Fortresses

The B-17 was a sturdily built aircraft. Though many were shot down, many more severely damaged aircraft were able to return their crews safely to base. As each of these wounded airplanes returned, the legend of the B-17 grew.

Four B-17 Flying Fortresses

Four B-17 Flying Fortresses

The B-17 Flying Fortress became a symbol of the power of the United States and its air force. There were 12,731 B-17s built between 1936 and 1945. Though most B-17s were scrapped after the war, we are fortunate to have one on exhibit at the Air Mobility Command Museum in Dover, Del. Several other B-17s remain air-worthy to this day.

In my next blog, I will discuss military mission symbols.

The images in this blog were selected from the William D. Willis World War II Photographic Collection, one of the permanent collections preserved by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. Mr. Willis of Dover, Del. served as a photographic technician with the Army Air Force during the Second World War. A display of items from the collection, “World War II Through the Lens of William D. Willis,” was on view at Legislative Hall in Dover from March 4, 2015 to Feb. 21, 2016. 

Go to the following for Carolyn Apple’s earlier blogs exploring the subjects of images from the state’s William D. Willis World War II Photographic Collection.

On a Wing and a Prayer: The Use of Military Glider Aircraft in World War II—June 3, 2015

On a Wing and a Prayer: A Closer Look at Military Glider Aircraft Used in World War II—July 21, 2015

 

 


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news

Division staff members give back

Written on: July 31st, 2015 in NewsVolunteerism

By Tim Slavin, director of the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs

On Tuesday, we gave back to the community.

As readers may know, the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs benefits from more than 13,000 volunteer hours each year. In recognition of that generosity, a number of division team members went to the Food Bank of Delaware in Milford on July 28, 2015 and donated our morning to helping their noble cause of trying to eliminate hunger in Delaware.

Division volunteers at the Food Bank of Delaware. (From left) Betsy Gant, Desiree Williams, Suzanne Savery, Edward McWilliams, Rachel Wootten, Ed Gillespie, Lynn Riley, Gwen Davis, Greg Buchman, and Tim Slavin.

Division volunteers at the Food Bank of Delaware. (From left) Betsy Gant, Desiree Williams, Suzanne Savery, Edward McWilliams, Rachel Wootten, Ed Gillespie, Lynn Riley, Gwen Davis, Greg Buchman and Tim Slavin.

Greg Buchman, Gwen Davis, Betsy Gant, Ed Gillespie, Edward McWilliams, Lynn Riley, Suzanne Savery, Desiree Williams, Rachel Wootten and I spent the morning sorting and packing canned and boxed goods donated the evening before by attendees of the Delaware State Fair, then shucked and cleaned hundreds of ears of corn and then cleaned and stacked a hundred or so coolers. (And, yes, we have pictures to prove it!)

Suzanne Savery (red shirt) and Betsy Gant (gray shirt) shucking corn for the food bank. Greg Buchman in in the left background (in baseball cap).

Suzanne Savery (red shirt) and Betsy Gant (gray shirt) shucking corn for the food bank. Greg Buchman in in the left background (in baseball cap).

Thanks to those who volunteered and special thanks to Rachel Wootten, our volunteer services coordinator, for putting all this together. I’m very proud of the work that we do at the division, and am grateful for the values we bring to our jobs every day.


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museums

Goodbye Howard

Written on: July 27th, 2015 in MuseumsNewsVolunteerism

By Rachel Wootten, volunteer coordinator, Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs

[Editor’s note: Retired pharmacist and Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs volunteer Howard Fulcher of Dover will be leaving Delaware in August 2015 to return to his native New Jersey. Fulcher served as a division volunteer since April 2011.]

Howard Fulcher

Howard Fulcher

 As I prepared to write this article for the division’s August newsletter, I didn’t know what to say. I knew how much of a positive impact Howard has had on the Johnson Victrola Museum, and in turn, on the division. I knew how much visitors at the museum (especially those from New Jersey) enjoyed Howard and his tours. I knew how much everyone would miss him. I knew how much I would miss him. I knew all these things; however I didn’t know where to start. Writing this article meant Howard really was leaving and I just didn’t want to believe it.

For more than four years, Howard has not only contributed over 730 volunteer hours at the museum, he has also been active in programming and in serving on the Community Engagement Committee that is drafting a marketing plan for the division. He has come into the museum to work countless times, when he was not scheduled, just to help his colleagues on a busy day. He has participated in almost every division event and has always gone the extra mile in everything he has done. When talking to historic-site interpreter Jackie Collins about Howard’s time at the museum, she fondly remembers working on the Fats Waller program with him in February of 2015. She recalls the amount of time and effort Howard put into his research and preparation for the program and how dedicated he was. When speaking with other colleagues about Howard’s Delaware departure there was a common theme—Howard will be greatly missed and certainly never forgotten.

From all of us, thank you Howard! We wish you nothing but the best in New Jersey. You will always be remembered as an important contributor to the division’s volunteer program. Your smiling face, your jolly spirit and your constant jokes will always be cherished. I know I speak for everyone when I say this but the Johnson Victrola Museum family will not be the same without you.


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education

DSU freshmen present fresh perspectives on Delaware history

Written on: July 24th, 2015 in EducationMuseumsNewsVolunteerism

On Saturday, July 18, 2015, 18 incoming Delaware State University freshmen presented a series of interactive, history-related activities at four historic sites located in Dover, Del. The programs were developed as a partnership between the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ Volunteer Program, the First State Heritage Park and Delaware State University’s Jumpstart Program, an academic-enrichment and leadership-development initiative that provides opportunities for academically advanced, incoming freshmen to get a “jumpstart” on their college careers.

Delaware State University students, dressed in period clothing, participating in the Jumpstart program at the John Dickinson Plantation. (From left) Terryon Witkowski, Jordyn Batch, Jasmine Griffin and Gene Gray.

Delaware State University students, dressed in period clothing, participating in the Jumpstart program at the John Dickinson Plantation. (From left) Terryon Witkowski, Jordyn Batch, Jasmine Griffin and Gene Gray.

As part of the partnership, the 18 participating students were divided into teams with a separate team assigned to each of the four sites. During the activity-development process, which took place from late-June to mid-July 2015, team members were given free rein to discuss any topic related to their respective site’s history or exhibits and to develop enjoyable and educational activities that provide visitors with fresh perspectives on Delaware history. The partnership gave students a unique opportunity to experience how museums develop public programming through efficient time-management, teamwork, critical thinking and creativity—valuable skills that the students will need as they move forward in their lives.

In their program at the John Dickinson Plantation, the students used primary-source documents to highlight the lives of Nathan and Abigail Phillips and their children. Originally enslaved, the family was freed in 1786 when Dickinson unconditionally manumitted all of his slaves. In 1793, two of the children—13-year-old Curtis and 12-year-old Reuben—were indentured to Dickinson for eight and nine years respectively and trained as servants. In addition to the Phillips presentation, the students, dressed in period clothing, presented hands-on demonstrations in which visitors participated in paper-quilling, potpourri-making and quill-pen-writing.

Working with John Dickinson Plantation historical interpreters, Jumpstart participant Jasmine Griffin (seated center, dressed in blue) demonstrates potpourri-making for a group of international visitors.

Working with John Dickinson Plantation historical interpreters, Jumpstart participant Jasmine Griffin (seated center, dressed in blue) demonstrates potpourri-making for a group of international visitors.

At the Johnson Victrola Museum, the students created a program that focused on Marian Anderson and Paul Robeson, two African-American vocalists who recorded for the Victor Talking Machine Company; while at The Old State House, the students presented a program that explored espionage during the American Revolution.

(Standing, from left) Delaware State University students Arielle Wade, Kobe Washington and Brandon Pretlow conducting a program at the Johnson Victrola Museum.

(Standing, from left) Delaware State University students Arielle Wade, Kobe Washington and Brandon Pretlow conducting a program at the Johnson Victrola Museum.

Finally, the program at the John Bell House featured students, dressed in period clothing, exploring the story of the “Dover Eight,” a group of escaped slaves from Maryland who were captured and imprisoned in the Dover, Del. jail, and who subsequently broke out and ultimately made their way to freedom in Canada.

In addition to their work at the sites, the students were required to create a poster for each of the four programs that incorporated the subjects of English, math and history. These posters were displayed at the program’s closing ceremony that took place at Delaware State University on July 24, 2015.


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news

Division welcomes four new staff members in June 2015

Written on: July 23rd, 2015 in News

During the month of June 2015, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs welcomed four new members to its staff including two historic-site interpreters, and a new member in each of the agency’s Preservation Maintenance and Horticulture teams. Following are profiles of these newest members of the division family.

As historic-site interpreters who conduct tours and special programs at the division’s museums, Charolenne Shehorn and Bridget Wallace add a human face to Delaware history by providing in-depth information about the state’s historic places, and by bringing the people and events of the past to life.

A native of Dover, Del., Shehorn enjoyed a 30-plus-year career at Kraft Foods where she served, among other responsibilities, as a lab technician in the company’s quality-control department. During her years at Kraft, Shehorn found time to serve the community by volunteering for the Lion’s Club and a local Boy Scout troop. In 2011, she began volunteer service at the division’s John Dickinson Plantation where she has since been involved in the process of conducting research on, and compiling a database of, African Americans who lived on the site. She will continue to work at the plantation as a member of the division staff.

Charolenne Shehorn

Charolenne Shehorn

A Wilmington native who now lives in Greenwood, Del., Wallace graduated from the University of Delaware in May 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in art history. During the winter of 2015, she gained practical experience by serving as an intern at the Iron Hill Museum in Newark where she was responsible for cleaning, identifying, photographing, cataloging and displaying objects from the museum’s archaeological collections. In pursuit of a career working for museums, she landed her first job in her chosen field as a historic-site interpreter at the division’s downtown Dover museums—the Johnson Victrola Museum and The Old State House.

Bridget Wallace

Bridget Wallace

Scott Hayes grew up on his family’s farm east of Dover, Del. where he learned early how to repair and maintain equipment and just about anything else that needed fixing. The farm, which follows organic practices, produces a variety of crops including herbs, corn and hops—which Hayes hopes to someday utilize in creating his own beer. A graduate of Dover High School where he focused on architectural engineering, Hayes has studied that subject at Delaware Technical and Community College and is currently enrolled at Wilmington University where he is majoring in business management. He has worked as a welder for the Eagle Group and has run wire for Brothers Electrical, both in Clayton, Del. He now serves as a Physical-Plant Trades Mechanic I for the Preservation Maintenance Team that maintains, repairs and preserves the division’s facilities, museums and historic properties.

Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes

As a member of the division’s Horticulture Team, Renee Huber provides landscape support-services at the agency’s sites, helping to maintain a beautiful and safe natural environment that complements the historic nature of the individual properties. Prior to joining the division, the Hockessin, Del. resident served for 20 years as an associate horticulturalist at Hagley Museum where, among other responsibilities, she restored and managed greenhouses, served as the head floral designer for special events and grew plants in the museum’s cutting garden and the E. I. du Pont garden. Huber holds an associate’s degree in arts from Wesley College and certificates from Longwood Gardens’ Professional Gardener Training Program.

Renee Huber

Renee Huber

 

 


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exhibits

On a Wing and a Prayer: A Closer Look at Military Glider Aircraft Used in World War II

Written on: July 21st, 2015 in ExhibitsNewsVolunteerism

By Carolyn Apple, retired Dover-area emergency medicine physician and Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs volunteer

In my previous blog, I explained that gliders were lightweight engineless aircraft that were used by the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II to transport troops and heavy equipment into enemy controlled areas without detection. However, the United States was not the first to use this innovation so how did the idea of gliders start and by whom?

Photograph of two C-47 Skytrains each towing a Waco CG-4A glider.

Photograph of two C-47 Skytrains each towing a Waco CG-4A glider.

Surprisingly, it was Germany that first used gliders. As a result of the Treaty of Versailles that formally ended World War I, Germany was prohibited from having an air force or from using any type of aircraft to train pilots except for gliders. Soon, glider clubs and training schools became popular. In 1932, the Soviet Union developed larger gliders that seated up to 18 people and could transport heavy equipment and cargo.

As Germany experienced the slow rise of a leader named Adolf Hitler, who was responsible for the formation of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party also known as the Nazi party, the country began to rebuild its military which included the new German air force called the Luftwaffe. After World War II started with the invasion of Poland by Germany, the Luftwaffe first used gliders in May of 1940 to land troops to quickly overtake the Eben Emael fortress which dominated the River Meuse in Belgium. This use of gliders in military service prompted the British, Americans and Japanese to develop their own glider programs.

Let’s examine how the United States started its glider program. Maj. Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold, acting Deputy Chief of Staff for Air, was largely responsible for selecting the Waco Aircraft Company from Ohio to produce military gliders for the United States. The Waco CG-4A glider, towed by a C-47 Skytrain or Dakota, was most commonly used in missions because it could carry a cargo load of 3,710 pounds manned by a crew of two pilots. For example, this type of glider could accommodate 13 combat-ready troops, a jeep and/or a small artillery piece. Although the use of military gliders accelerated after the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, they soon earned the nickname “flying coffins” because of the high rate of casualties during both training and assigned missions. [Editor’s note: Examples of the Waco CG-4A glider and the C-47 Skytrain are on display at the Air Mobility Command Museum in Dover, Del.]

Delaware was certainly at the forefront of the glider program. In June 1943, Maj. Gen. Arnold appointed Richard C. du Pont, Sr. from Wilmington to head the Army Air Force glider program. It was the highlight of my research to learn how Delawareans played an important role in shaping the glider program. Sadly, du Pont was killed in California on Sept. 11, 1943 during a demonstration flight of an experimental glider, but his brother, Maj. A. Felix du Pont, Jr., who was serving as the head of combat training and the director of glider operations in the Pacific Theater, assumed the position as head of the glider program. Another interesting fact to add from my research is that the du Pont brothers had founded an airmail service called the All American Aviation Company, which later became US Airways.

Glider troops participated in many of the major campaigns in the European Theater of Operations including the invasion of Sicily, the Normandy invasion (D-Day), Operation Market Garden and the crossing of the Rhine. They also participated in the war in the Pacific. In all military missions made by the glider troops, causalities were unavoidable so safety precautions were practiced. However, I found it interesting that glider troops were not required to wear parachutes.

Photograph of a C-47 Skytrain towing a Waco CG-4A glider.

Photograph of a C-47 Skytrain towing a Waco CG-4A glider.

Today, gliders are no longer used in military service except by the U.S. Air Force for training purposes. The American glider program became defunct soon after the end of World War II but it is interesting to mention that the United States produced 14,612 gliders of all types and trained over 6,000 glider pilots between 1941 and 1945. I will also add that the 305th Troop Carrier Squadron, currently the 305th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron that operates from the New Castle Air National Guard Base, dropped paratroopers and released gliders with reinforcements in the invasion of Normandy and in Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands in June and September 1944.

In my next blog, I will discuss the B-17 Flying Fortress long-range bomber.

The images in this blog were selected from the William D. Willis World War II Photographic Collection, one of the permanent collections preserved by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. Mr. Willis of Dover, Del. served as a photographic technician with the Army Air Force during the Second World War. A display of items from the collection, “World War II Through the Lens of William D. Willis,” was on view at Legislative Hall in Dover from March 4, 2015 to Feb. 21, 2016 . 


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