The Troop Carrier D-Day Flights: A Fully Documented Review

By Lewis E. Johnston
June 1, 2004

A Little background about these reports--why they were written at this late date--why they are presented together—and why you might like to read them.

Seeing this to completion has been a long haul for an 82-year-old greyhead—but it needed doing—and it was worth the effort. I am pleased with the results, and I am also pleased to offer you a free copy of a CD of the full report for a limited time. I can do this only if enough of you voluntary contribute a few loose dollars toward the cost of shipping and handling.


The documents described here will interest anyone who is at all curious about how the very first troops in the invasion force were delivered on that fateful morning. It will be of special interest to anyone ever involved in Troop Carrier, Airlift, Airborne, Glider, Tanker, and Transport—as well as families, friends, survivors, children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. These reports will also appeal to historians and archivists striving for truth in an area where it has been stretched and embellished quite a bit. There is a difference between war stories and documented history that is often overlooked.

The heart of the matter–The D-Day Flights World War II historians—writing about the airborne invasion of Normandy—say very little about the planning and organization of the D-Day flights by Supreme Headquarters AEF, or the planned execution by Ninth Troop Carrier Command. They concentrate instead on what happened after the pilots flew into the "surprise" fog over the French coast. That is where the surprises were, that’s where all the excitement began—and that’s where many of the widely differing views of the events of that mission were formed. It was a very confusing day.

It is also interesting to note that the 821 C-47s that spearheaded the invasion are not mentioned at all in the commonly published rosters of airpower over Normandy. The Troop Carrier flight crews also seem to have been taken for granted in these same reports—even though there were about 4,500 men.

This imbalance is why I have worked over three years on this documentation. It started out to be the only collection of D-Day flights to be presented in one place without the limitation of being a single unit history. It grew and grew as more material surfaced that I just couldn’t ignore. This is not a collection of dull statistics, but some of the very best first-hand experiences of the Troop Carrier D-Day Flights that are to be found anywhere.

It includes first-hand reports of the adventures of the Pathfinders, and portions of books by Radio Operator Martin Wolfe, Pilot Joe Harkiewicz, Crew Chief Bob Bramble, Pilot Bill Brinson, Radio Operator Bob Callahan, Pilot Don van Reken, Radio Operator Michael Ingrisano, and Pilot Charles Young. There is also a very brief challenging look at the published works of Dr. Stephen Ambrose.

There are also personal recollections of colorful Troop Carrier veterans like Crew Chief Bing Wood, Co-pilot Dave Mondt, Radio Operator Arthur Een, Jumpmaster Neal Beaver, Glider Pilot Pete Buckley, Pilot Harvey Cohen, Pilot Richard Randolph, and Pilot Charles Cartwright.

There are numerous photographs, maps, charts and copies of records, like a declassified list of all the Ninth Troop Carrier unit commanders on D-Day, and a copy of the 50th Troop Carrier Wing field orders for that day. This has all been printed in two volumes bound together.

The 180-page Supplement (included) is filled with equally intriguing material—including interviews with pilot George Merz about a night water landing in Sicily with only the trim tab for vertical control—and then his escape from Holland after being shot down in Operation Market Garden. Then we find him later in Indo China commanding an air-sea rescue mission to escort a 61st Troop Carrier Squadron C-119 through a hazardous over water flight into Manila. George’s WW II unit was the 61st Troop Carrier Squadron.

For those who prefer the coffee table feel of a real book, a 266 page full color printed version, with a color cover by well-known aviation artist Gil Cohen, is available from the Air Mobility Command Museum Foundation at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. It is also a better way to share copies with friends and family, or to donate to favorite archives. It would also be a great gift from Troop Carrier or Airlift veterans to leave for their survivors. It is typical of what many of us did.


I should say before going any further that this is not a commercial venture. No money comes to me; my interest is strictly historical. All proceeds from this current printing will be used for a fourth printing, and to furnish copies at no charge to various research libraries and other historical institutions. Every book sale supports this.

The selling price for this special edition is a reasonable $30, plus $5 shipping and handling for a single book. If you should wish to order more than one book in one shipment, the shipping & handling cost lowers to $2.00 for each additional book. Send check, money order, or credit card information including: the issuer of your card (Visa or MasterCard only), the name the card was issued to (exactly as on the card), and expiration, date to:

BOX 02050


Also, if you have comments, questions or suggestions—or if you have material to contribute for future editions, you may wish to contact me as well as the museum. My position in all of this is "volunteer." This is a status that began for me in a USAAF recruiting station in Ohio the day after Pearl Harbor. My email address is

Both the D-Day Flights and The Supplement reports included on disk were produced in Adobe Acrobat (pdf), which is readable by most computers. It does, however, require "Acrobat Reader " to be installed as part of your software. Chances are it already is, but if not, it can be downloaded at no charge from Adobe at Those with special needs for editable text are invited to contact me.

Book Review: Reviewed by Randolph Hils.

THE GREAT SNAFU FLEET: 1st Combat Cargo/344th Airdrome/326th Troop Carrier Squadron in World War II's CBI Theater

By Gerald A. White Jr., published by XLIBRIS Corporation, 2000. Library of Congress Number 00-192201, ISBN# Hardcover, 0-7388-3834-9, Softcover, 0-7388-3835-7, 274 pages with photos, with appendixes, bibliography, glossary, endnotes and index. Available online at:

XLibris, the publisher, changes prices on a regular basis, right now it's $18.69 (15% off "normal" retail) for paperback and $28.79, 10% off retail for hardback. Note: All royalties in excess of publication costs are assigned to the Air Mobility Command Foundation, Dover AFB, Delaware.

Historically, coverage of Troop Carrier operations in WWII has been thin overall in the histories of WWII. Perhaps the least covered has been Combat Cargo and Troop Carrier operations in the CBI (China, Burma, India) Theater of WWII. As retired USAF General Ronald A. Fogelman, Chief of Staff, notes in the book's forward, "If it wasn't for the coverage of General Chennault and his Flying Tigers, few people today would even know we had been there, yet that is where much of our airlift heritage was forged." Gerald A. White, Jr. took a huge step to correct this oversight with the publication of The Great SNAFU Fleet in 2000.

Rich in detail, the results of meticulous research and interviews with veterans of the Combat Cargo and Troop Carrier squadrons, White has fashioned an important work of USAAF history. Beginning with a detailed look into why the need for Combat Cargo came about when it did, White offers us new insights into the workings of the USAAF command structure. General Hap Arnold, Army Air Forces commander and the primary designer of American air power during WWII, has long been criticized in airborne histories for his neglect and resistance to the Troop Carrier concept in support of the regular Army airborne forces. White's research into the quick formation and deployment of the Combat Cargo groups suggests that these critics of Arnold may have been mistaken. It is apparent from White's research that Arnold took personal interest in forming first the Air Commando units and later the Combat Cargo units in response to agreements fashioned by Roosevelt and Churchill and from appeals by theater commander Mountbatten and Chindit leader Wingate. Between March 1944 and September 1944 when the new units arrived in theater, it was Arnold's influence that pushed the project ahead despite War Department resistance.

The rugged mountains, dense jungles and numerous rivers of Southeast Asia, combined with an almost total lack of roads, railroads or waterways usable for transportation, presented a logistical nightmare to planners and ground commanders. It was the need to overcome these obstacles, quickly, that Combat Cargo was born. The idea was to have a quick response airlift capability at the disposal of ground forces hard pressed to repel the Japanese offensive in 1944. Their role expanded into China from the jungles of Burma as the might of the Japanese military machine was broken. White details the important contributions of the Combat Cargo and Troop Carrier units to that effort and the effect their pioneering had on modern airlift.

The slogan, "Great Snafu Fleet" was a GI's bastardization of Eastern Airlines pre-war advertising slogan promoting its "Great Silver Fleet." While White gives us a comprehensive look into the planning and preparations of Combat Cargo, he skillfully tells the stories of the men who were the Combat Cargo, their lives and their losses under the extreme conditions and hazardous flying of Burma, the Hump and China. Continually at the mercy of disease, foul weather, high altitudes and Japanese fighters, White does full justice to their remarkable skills as pilots and air crews, their tenacity in carrying out their missions in the face of these dangers, for the most part, with little recognition. These men, like their Troop Carrier counterparts in the Europe, took pride in their wartime role, knowing with absolute certainty the vital importance of their missions to the ground campaigns. This good book is a significant contribution to their history and I enjoyed it completely.


Gerald White has spent almost 30 years in aviation and defense work. Making a career of the reserves his expertise in intelligence, communications and a twelve-year stint as a C-5 loadmaster in the Air Force Reserve as well as a graduate student in history marks his unique qualifications to write this story. The Great Snafu Fleet is his first book.

BOOK REVIEW: Reviewed by Randolph Hils

D-DAY + 60 YEARS: A Small Piece of History

By Jerome J. McLaughlin, 2004, AuthorHouse Publishing, Library of Congress Number 2004090871, 6x9, soft cover, (also available in hardcover), 204 pages with a 76 page appendix, numerous, photos, maps and documents. Ordering information, available from the website at any time. Circa June 15 it will be available from, Barnes + Noble or Borders (on their websites, or special order through the stores). Finally, they can order it from the author at, $25.00 for hard copies and $17.00 for soft, including postage and a signature, along with an inscription if requested.) Payment with checks or money orders is fine.

What began as a nephew's private search for answers in the death of his uncle, Troop Carrier Navigator, 1st Lt. Joseph J. Sullivan on D-Day, June 6, 1944, ends more than twenty years later as the author puts it, " a small piece of history." Small it is not. McLaughlin's search becomes an odyssey destined to touch many lives, tell many stories and bring together, 56 years on, the survivors of a mission as they gather to honor their fallen comrades in the fields of France. Through out it is the heartfelt and personal narrative of those who were there, delivered, with insight and eloquence of men who hold nothing back.

The story is that of three planes of the 77th Troop Carrier Squadron of the 435th Troop Carrier Group. A three plane flight of C-47's loaded with paratroopers of G Company, 501st Paratroop Infantry Regiment descends into the dark night, a small part of 821 Troop Carrier transports delivering the first blow to Fortress Europe on D-Day. Two are shot down and destroyed the third, piloted by Jesse Harrison makes a valiant run back into the hailstorm of enemy flak and fire that later garners the pilot the Distinguished Flying Cross. Paratroopers who jumped from Harrison's plane and survived were mad as hell for the drop they got. It is McLaughlin's meticulous research that reveals for them the truth of what happened to them decades earlier.

As McLaughlin sifts through the documents and later interviews the men who were there and lived to tell this story he seems satisfied that he has reached the end of the story but time and again a new twist leads to a new chapter. Compelled by details from the people he has come to know intimately, McLaughlin reveals their war experiences with clarity and powerful emotion.

Popular historians have tended to paint a relationship of adversaries between the troop carrier airmen and the airborne paratroopers. McLaughlin moves beyond the myth to a genuine story of camaraderie between pilot Jesse Harrison and paratrooper Jack Urbank. Three times fate brought these two men together during the war. Each would later credit the other for their survival at different times. McLaughlin's search for the story of his uncle's death unites the two men a fourth time and brings full circle their amazing story.

This story is but one of many in this book that, as we approach the 60th anniversary of D-Day Normandy deserves our attention. With the plethora of books on WWII and Normandy McLaughlin's work clearly stands out as a refreshing and compelling look that is a fluently written, riveting and an honest account of men at war.

Often overlooked by historians, Troop Carrier was dubbed by one writer, "the forgotten command." McLaughlin's "small piece of history" will live on as an important chronicle of the "forgotten command" This incredible story, lavishly illustrated, belongs to both the Airborne and the Troop Carrier and is highly recommended here.

About the Author

Jerome (Jerry) McLaughlin is a native of New York. No stranger to service to our nation he served with the US Army from 1969 to 1971 and retired from the Central Intelligence Agency. He currently resides with his wife Denise in Alexandria, Virginia

BOOK REVIEW: Reviewed by Randolph Hils

World War II Prairie Invasion

By Gloria Clark, 1999, Morris Publishing, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 99-98254, 6x9, soft cover, 86 pages with photos. Ordering information; Send check or money order to, The Knight Museum Partners P.O. Drawer D, Alliance, NE 69301. $15.00 + $2.00 S&H; or $3.75 S&H; for Priority Mail.

World War II Prairie Invasion is one of those little discoveries one makes doing research that tends to make up for the many hours spent looking for leads that go nowhere. The book details the short life of Alliance Army Airbase and its effect on the town of Alliance, Nebraska as well as the men and women who built it, trained there or were stationed at the base. It will be of profound interest to veterans and family members of the airmen, paratroopers, glider pilots and glider infantry that trained at the giant base before departing for the European Theater of WWII.

Don't let the size or number of pages give you pause for purchasing the book. Gloria Clark is a master of her subject. Weaving primary sources with first hand accounts Ms. Clark gives the reader a fascinating unvarnished account of life on and off base within the context of the war and the war effort on the home front.

Beginning with a brief historical background of the area Clark guides the reader through the politics and geographical attributes that brought the US Army to consider the area, originally as a glider training base. One Army officer assigned to inspect the area as a possible site for a base was observed to have commented, "when he observed hawks gliding in a wind updraft, he felt that the area would make a good glider training base."

Comprising 31,489 acres, construction began in the spring of 1942 and almost immediately the town of Alliance was faced with the influx of thousands of construction workers followed by thousands of airmen and soldiers. The mass movements of workers and troops would plague and challenge the resources of the town of Alliance till wars end.

Writing of how the people of Alliance rose to the challenge, opening their homes as housing shortages continued, providing USO clubs, meeting the troop trains with refreshments, dealing with shortages, racial conflicts and camp followers Gloria Clark captures the essence of the times. That makes this little book a great read.

For veterans who were there, family members or historians who want to know what it was like, and any student of World War Two, World War II Prairie Invasion comes highly recommended.

Valor Without Arms

a History of the 316th Troop Carrier Group, 1942-1945
by Michael N. Ingrisano Jr.

The 316th Troop Carrier Group was formed at Patterson Field, Ohio, in February 1942. By November, the Group air echelon consisting of Headquarters, 36th, 37th, 44th, and 45th Squadrons, flew to Egypt, its first overseas post. There, staff sergeant pilots flew their C-47s in support of the British 8th Army across North Africa from Egypt to Tunisia, delivering supplies and pioneering in air evacuation.

The Group began their long association with the 82nd Airborne Division with the invasion of Sicily on 9-11 July 1943 (operations HUSKY 1 and 2). In February 1944, the Group moved to Cottesmore, England, its base for participating in the invasions of France (Normandy, D-Day), Holland (MARKET GARDEN), and Germany (VARSITY).

After 30-months of overseas duty, the 316th Troop Carrier Group returned to the US in May 1945, and trained with the 82nd for the pending invasion of Japan. That mission was aborted when Japan surrendered in August 1945. Group personnel wore nine battle stars, three Distinguished Unit Citations, Silver Stars, numerous Distinguished Flying Crosses, Air Medals, Purple Hearts, and Soldiers’ Medals

VALOR WITHOUT ARMS, based primarily upon official records, also contains personal recollections from members of the Group. -218 pages; - footnoted; -93 photos and illustrations; -29 maps and charts; -appendices of Air Echelon and Combat Crews; -Bibliography; -over 2700 names in Roster. Students of the air war in World War II, especially of vertical deployment of troops, and genealogists will find this to be an excellent history and source.

Copies can be obtained signed and inscribed direct from the author, sales tax and shipping charges additional as applicable:

Michael N. Ingrisano, Jr.
1839 Rupert Street
McLean, VA 22101-5434

And Nothing Is Said

Wartime Letters, August 5, 1943 - April 21, 1945
by Michael N. Ingrisano Jr.

“Dearest Bette, It seems strange to be sitting where I am and realize that only a short while ago you were in my arms. To satisfy your concern the only thing that I can say is that I am healthy and extremely happy.” And so began 343 letters from wartime Africa and Europe to one of the many American girls left behind during World War II. Corporal Mike Ingrisano first met Bette Hill on a Saturday evening in early March 1943, at a USO dance in Kansas City, Missouri. As a hostess, she was dancing with a soldier much too short for her tall and elegant frame. Mike just had to ‘rescue her,’ so he cut into the dance as she cut into the rest of his evening.

Just five weeks after that first letter and while sitting in the cockpit of his plane somewhere in North Africa, Mike proposed marriage. In those war years, long before cell phones and instant e-mail messaging, he waited a full month to received Bette’s acceptance.

During the 21 months of letters from bases in Egypt, Tunisia, Sicily and finally England, he wrote of his love and confidence in their reunion. He wrote about his interest in far off lands while trying, mostly successfully, to follow the strict censorship restrictions. Fiercely protective of Bette’s feelings, Mike guarded his words and emotions, even as that became more difficult after the D-Day invasions of France, Holland, and Germany.

Copies can be obtained signed and inscribed direct from the author, sales tax and shipping charges additional as applicable:

Michael N. Ingrisano, Jr.
1839 Rupert Street
McLean, VA 22101-5434

An American Glider Pilot's Story

By Gale R. Ammerman

The book, An American Glider Pilot's Story is published by The Merriam Press, 218 Beach Street, Bennington, Vermont 05201-2611,

Books may be purchased from the publisher or author, Gale R. Ammerman, 172 Quail Trail, Aliceville, AL 35442,

The book is152 pages, w/ photos & documents. Hardcover, ISBN 1-57638-215-X, $39.95 + S&H; or softbound, ISBN 1-57638-214-1, $29.95 + S&H.;