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A Breathtaking Spectacle - Our mission to champion the much maligned Troop Carrier aircrew.

Hi all, it's Adam here from the Warbird Coffee Company.

For those who don't know, aside from my role here with the TWCC, I am a historian and author, focusing most of my research on the Airborne operations of WW2, both from an Airborne perspective (Paratroopers, Glider Infantry, etc) and the Troop Carrier perspective.

Back in 2014 I started a project with Dutch historian and my good friend, Hans den Brok, to write a comprehensive history of IX Troop Carrier Command in Operations launched from England during WWII. For those unfamiliar, IX Troop Carrier Command was a tactical air support unit of the US 9th Army Air Force tasked with carrying out a variety of roles. They are best known, however, for operating the Douglas C-47 Skytrains that dropped Paratroopers of the Allied Airborne Divisions over Europe across no fewer than four major Airborne missions, as well as providing the Glider Pilots and Gliders that carried the Glider Infantry, Glider Artillery and various Glider-borne sub-units of the Airborne Divisions in the same missions.

Though perhaps not as popular as the Fighter and Bomb Groups that operated as part of the US Army Air Force in WWII, the Troop Carrier Groups of IX Troop Carrier Command, and indeed those assigned to other Commands in all theaters of the war, were just as vital to the war effort, as without them missions such as Operation NEPTUNE could not have taken place. IX Troop Carrier Command was a unit that, at its peak, boasted over 1,300 aircraft and some 1,800 Gliders. By December 1944 the Command had over 40,000 men and women serving across its 14 Groups, and 3 Wings. In September 1944, as the Allied Airborne Divisions thundered towards Holland as part of Operation MARKET GARDEN, Generaloberst Kurt Student, the German Commander of the First Parachute Army remarked, “Oh, how I wish that I had ever such a powerful force at my disposal.” In IX Troop Carrier Command the Allies had one hell of a weapon of war, a unit capable of delivering troops in ways that have not been matched since.

So why, therefore, do Troop Carrier pilots get such hate? Why such a lack of attention?Among the small community of historians dedicated to the history of IX Troop Carrier Command we often joke that the belief is the aircraft were flown by robots, or indeed that the Airborne Divisions flew them themselves. In fact, in at least one publication it was even suggested that the aircraft belonged to the Airborne Divisions and sat doing very little when not being used to deploy Paratroopers. Of course, we know this isn't true.

The Troop Carrier aircrew are often blamed for the missdrops on D-Day, accused of all sorts from cowardice to being poorly rated pilots. Almost everything published that cites lack of training or performing in the best interests of self-preservation is a work of fiction, poorly researched, and based on assumptions or the opinions of those not trained to provide them. I won't go into that here, but Hans and I have, among others, made it our mission to work on changing the general perception that the aircrew of IX Troop Carrier Command didn't amount to much.

"A Breathtaking Spectacle" started as an idea to publish a pictorial history of the Command, its men and women, their aircraft, home airfields, and details of their Missions. It became obvious fairly early on that it would become much more than that, and it led to a decision by myself and Hans that the book should be split into a 3 volume series, with each book focusing on one of the 3 Wings operated by the Command in England during WWII. We decided to start with the 52nd Troop Carrier Wing which, having dropped elements of the 82nd Airborne Division over Sicily and Italy, was by far the most experienced Wing of the Command and also, conveniently, was stationed at airfields a short drive from my home, making research that little bit easier. In the end, we were left with a 596-page book containing close to 1,000 wartime images, the majority of which have never made a publication. The important aspect of this book, and those that will soon follow, is that it focuses on the day-to-day life these service personnel led at airfields that were 4,000 miles from home. It looks at how they existed, what their quarters were like, the facilities they had available, and, of course, the missions they flew. It also looks more personally at those who failed to return from those missions, often putting a face to a name that might be carved into a memorial situated down a quiet track in Normandy where their aircraft crashed.

We have now moved on to Volume 2, which focuses on the 53rd Troop Carrier Wing. This Wing mostly deployed the 101st Airborne Division in WW2, operating from bases in Wiltshire and Berkshire. The material obtained for this volume is so extensive that we may have to print two books, to sell as one, as we're having to pick from over 2,000 photographs. We're confident that Vol 1 and Vol 2 are the most comprehensive histories of IX Troop Carrier Command to date.

For more information on Vol 1, and to pick up a copy, head to

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