Into The Valley by Col. Charles H. Young

World War II USAAF Airborne Troop Carrier Patch

Into The Valley is the story of USAAF Troop Carrier in World War II, by Col. Charles H. Young, war-time commander of the 439th TC Group. This 616-page book contains first-hand accounts of the airborne assault missions that spearheaded the invasions of Normandy, Holland, North Africa, Sicily, Southern France and the Rhine River crossing into Germany. The book also includes detailed maps and more than 600 photos, many of which are rare. 

From the Book Author Reviews Foreword Historical Overview


his is the story of the aircrews and other members of USAAF Troop Carrier, pioneers of the airborne assault, the third dimension in warfare. It includes the story of the intrepid Airborne troopers they delivered into battle behind enemy lines. This history was recorded by those who were there, from commanders to enlisted men, pilots, radio operators, crew chiefs, glider pilots, gliderborne and airborne troopers, members of the ground echelon, flight nurses, French and Dutch underground fighters, even German soldiers. The first-hand accounts are accompanied by detailed historical summaries based on declassified material, after-action reports and World War II analyses. The story is told in chronological order, threaded together by the author’s personal war diary. Col. Young was one of 15 Group Commanders in the U.S. Ninth Air Force’s Troop Carrier Command. His vantage point is the cockpit of a lead ship in some of World War 2’s most historic missions, including Normandy, Southern France, Holland and the crossing of the Rhine River.

To read a sample, click the From the Book. The current selection is from Chapter 14, “The Crossing of the Rhine River.” This was Operation VARSITY, the invasion of Germany, on 24 March 1945. It came as no surprise to the Germans. “Axis Sally,” German radio propagandist, announced to American aircrews and airborne troopers the day before the mission that the Germans knew the invasion was coming near Wesel, and noted that the flak would be so thick troopers wouldn’t need parachutes or gliders, but could “walk down” on it. VARSITY was the single largest one-day airborne assault of World War 2; the Troop Carrier formation alone took more than three hours to pass a given point.

The 439th was one of four groups towing two gliders per aircraft. It included 72 C-47s and 144 CG-4A gliders (see photo below). Though all gliders were delivered, winds were high and airspeeds were marginal, as the tugs strained to pull two fully loaded gliders. Glider pilots took 15-minute shifts flying in the rough air.

The gliders brought in by the 439th landed in LZ S, a hotly contested area. Many took several hits before they could get down, but most were able to land. A number of aircraft were shot down. This story is of courageous C-47 pilot, William Grieb, who after delivering his gliders to LZ S, his ship on fire, stayed at the controls in an effort to get his crew out. Two made it. One of the survivors, Radio Operator Bill Kline, describes his experience, which was no less eventful once he reached the ground. Click the From the Book tab, above.

World War II, Invasion of Germany, Rhine River Crossing, 439th formation on runway, before takeoffs

Left: Marshaled for takeoffs in Operation VARSITY, the front of the 439th Troop Carrier Group, 23 March 1945. Destination LZ S, east of the Rhine River. This mission, the last major airborne assault of the war in Europe, delivered the XVIII Airborne Corps in the largest combat glider double-tow in history. Airfield is A-39, Châteaudun, France. C-47 towships are positioned more than half-way down the west runway, and the first 10 aircraft, including Col. Young's Argonia at the head of the southern stream, finished their takeoff rolls in the wheat field beyond the end of the runway (see photo, looking west). The gliders became airborne before the towships. Note the patched bomb craters on runways. See Sights & Sounds for a ride across the Rhine with Mutual correspondent Paul Manning as he recorded his report from The Argonia as the 439th flew into heavy flak. The one-day invasion formation took more than 3 hours to pass a given point. 



Right: The run-in to the drop zones in Normandy, just after 0100 on D-Day, 6 June 1944, at the beginning of World War 2's most famous invasion. These aircraft flew 100 feet apart from nose to nose within elements, without self-sealing gas tanks, their navigation lights off. Pilots wore infantry helmets as required flight gear. At right, author’s ship, The Argonia, depicted in an oil painting on the book's dust jacket. For a description of the run-in to DZ C in Normandy from the cockpit of a lead aircraft, see Col. Charles H. Young's wartime diary.  

World War II, Normandy invasion, formation ready for green light

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Last modified: 16 Mar 2014