Glider planes had an important role in the success of the Normandy Beach Invasion that ended World War II.
The Silent Wings Museum is dedicated to preserving the memory, as well as the history, of these gliders.
The only museum in the world dedicated to the glider program is located near the Lubbock International Airport, on the edge of the city. In 1971, former pilots of the United States Army Air Force Glider Program formed the National World War II Glider Pilots Association. The main goal of the Glider Pilots Association was to preserve the history of the glider program.
From the inception, the Glider Pilots Association set out to collect artifacts, archival material, and personal accounts of pilots and people working in the program. The main goal the Association wanted to achieve was the procurement of a WACO CG-4A glider.
Pilots from the program in the Dallas area found out about a CG-4A glider sitting on top of a building in Fresno, California. The aircraft was being used as an advertisement for a store. The glider was purchased, and restoration efforts began. It was completed in 1979.
Once the restoration of the glider was complete, efforts began to build a museum to house the CG-4A. The first Silent Wings Museum opened its doors in November of 1984 in Terrell, Texas.
In 1997, the pilots who ran the museum as volunteers realized the glider needed a more permanent home. The majority of the pilots of the Glider Pilots Association trained in Lubbock, so the City of Lubbock offered to provide a site for the museum. The Terrell site was closed in 2001, and the new location in Lubbock opened in October 2002 at the former site of the South Plains Army Airfield, where the CG-4A glider sits as the centerpiece of the museum.
Sharon McCullar, curator for the Silent Wings Museum, said, “We have one of only seven fully restored CG-A4 gliders in the world.”
The U.S. Army established a large training facility in Lubbock in 1942, known as the South Plains Army Airfield, for an advanced glider program. The program trained pilots to fly unarmed gliders into enemy territory, land and unload cargo such as anti-tank guns, anti aircraft guns and small vehicles such as jeeps and light tanks.
The South Plains Army Airfield trained 6,000 to 7,000 glider pilots who earned Advanced Training in gliders and the Silver ‘G’ Wing from July 1942 to January 1945.
The glider squadrons played an important role throughout World War II, as they were silent and could fly closer to the front to unload cargo. The gliders also played an important role in the D-Day invasion, landing before dawn and helping to unload Jeeps as well as anti-tank guns, Howitzer anti-aircraft guns, and quarter-ton trailers full of ammunition and supplies.
The Douglas C-47 Skytrain was the main tow plane used for leading the gliders into combat.
The museum is supported by the City of Lubbock for operating costs, according to McCullar. The museum is also supported through memberships. The Silent Wings Museum Foundation helps to obtain grants and get funding for exhibits and projects.
McCullar also said that the busiest time of year is around April, near the end of the school year, when there are a lot of field trips. She added that the annual visitation is around 20,000 people.
Other exhibits at the museum include information about other military training and operations in and around the Lubbock area. One of these programs was the Civilian Pilot Training Program, a nationally-sponsored program at select universities. In September 1939, Texas Technological College was accepted into the program with a quota of 40 students.
In July 1940, the Civil Aeronautics Authority designated an advanced flight training course at the college. The course began in October 1940 with an enrollment of 20 students.
In 1942, the college became the screening program for potential military pilot candidates.
The Silent Wings Museum is located at 6202 North I-27 in Lubbock. It is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays, and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. each Sunday.
Admission prices are $8 for general admission, $6 for senior citizens 60 years of age or older, and $5 for children ages 7 to 17, while children under 6 are admitted free. They also offer free admission to museum members and Active Duty Military.
For more information about the Silent Wings Museum, call (806) 775-3049