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Bob Swenson, World War II U.S. Army Air Forces Combat Glider Pilot

The Waco CG-4A Combat Glider

Time: Saturday, May 10, 2014 - 1:00pm - 2:00pm

Event Type: Public Programs

Location: Murdock Theater

World War II veteran pilot Bob Swenson will talk about his experiences flying troop-carrying gliders in massive airborne assaults over Europe in 1945. Swenson served with the 435th Troop Carrier Group during Operation Varsity, an Allied invasion of western Germany that consisted of over 3,000 gliders, fighters and transport aircraft.

After landing their gliders during this operation, Swenson and other glider pilots joined Allied troops in heroic combat while defeating their German attackers in what became known as the "Battle of Burp Gun Corner." Speaking with Swenson will be Patricia Overman, whose father E. Lee Whitmire also served in Swenon's glider Group. The 1 p.m. lecture is free with admission to the Museum.

During WWII, gliders were used extensively as the second wave of airborne operations. In addition to carrying infantry troops, or ‘Glider Riders’ as they were called, gliders had the advantage of being able to carry equipment such as jeeps, field artillery pieces and trailers that were too heavy to be dropped by parachute. After landing and unloading their cargo, the glider pilot’s primary duty was to get back to their air base as soon as possible in order to be available to fly another mission. During Operation Varsity, Swenson and fellow glider pilots helped secure the area they landed in, fighting the Germans long into the night alongside the infantry men they had flown into the combat area. It wasn’t until 1995 that all the men in the 435th Troop Carrier Group were awarded the Bronze Star.

Patricia Overman is the daughter of Major E. Lee Whitmire, also of the 435th Troop Carrier Group.

More of Major Swenson’s story can be read in this Seattle Times article.

This program is free with daily admission to the Museum of Flight.