Glider accident 73rd Troop Carrier Squadron/434th TCG 21 February 1944
The 434th Troop Carrier Group arrived in the European Theatre of Operations on October
7th, 1943. She was the first Troop Carrier Group to arrive in England.
The Group was made out of four squadrons. The 71st, 72nd, 73rd and 74th Troop Carrier
The group continued training for the day of the invasion of Western Europe.
The evening of February 21st called for another training flight. Eight C-47s with
gliders were ready for take off. The 434th TCG would fly mainly glider missions to
Normandy some months later.
Glider 42-77432 was flown by F/O Leon C. Doelger and F/O George F. Heath flew as
co-pilot. They were flying in the end of the formation, the No. 8 position. Take
off was normal and the flight proceeded as planned.
F/O Doelger stated: I cut loose from tow plane a few seconds after No. 7 released.
Made a normal turn to the left, speed of 105 MPH. Slowed glider speed with use of
spoilers and also to avoid getting to close to No. 7 glider.
On the final approach I stayed to the right and to the rear of No. 7. It was then
I came into the prop-wash causing a loss of 150’. Believing I was still making the
proper approach I began holding the glider off the ground as long as possible to
make up for the lost altitude. Looking to the ground I could see nothing, it was
then we hit C-47 # 42-100507 causing damage to the left wing tip, left wing, left
de-icer boot and aileron. Then our right wing hit the other C-47 # 2-24039 damaging
the left wing and wing tip, the left propeller and aileron and accessory cowling
section, that swung the glider around the front of the plane causing damage to the
right wing leading edge and de-icer boot.
The glider damage was: right wing smashed and loose in it’s connection to the fuselage,
left wing badly torn and also loose from the fuselage. Fuselage at the wing boots
was bent and torn and the pilots greenhouse was damaged slightly. The right hand
door didn’t open.
The fuselage was slightly bent.
The accident investigation officers concluded that:
The pilot of the glider failed to release at the proper time and landed short of
his objective. Prop-wash may have contributed to loss of altitude but was only indirectly
responsible for the accident.
F/O Doelger had at the time of the accident 60:25 hours flight experience with gliders.
2:05 hours were night flights and those were flown in the previous 30 days.
The investigation officers recommended that the pilot was given more night training.
Eventually, F/O Doelger flew a glider to Normandy during the ‘Keokuk” mission on
the evening of June 6th 1944. F/O Michael A. Treichak flew as co-pilot on that mission.
C-47 # 42-24039 flew another day. It seems that the plane was transferred to the
436th Troop Carrier Group later in the war. The picture of the damaged tail comes
from the collection of a 436th TCG navigator. The damage visible in the circles is
caused during the Market Garden operation.
C-47 # 42-100507 was at the end of the war involved in an accident. The plane was
then in service of the 71st Troop Carrier Squadron. The pilot at the time of that
accident was Herman R. Fonseca.
Information on this accident will follow later.
Photo left shows the tail section of 42-24039. This photo shows damage suffered during
the Market Garden operation. The plane was in service with the 436th Troop Carrier
Group at that moment.
Visible on the tail is the old radio call sign when the plane was in service with
the 434th Troop Carrier Group. The V is painted over the roughly overpainted H.
Photo courtesy T. Vail.
On the webmasters previous website, following was posted by Mr. Litke, 71st Troop
Carrier Squadron veteran:
Fonseca was leading a small formation into an abandoned grass airstrip He peeled
off into a 180 turn and approached the center line of the rather short field. I was
#2 ship and followed at about a 5 second interval. Fonseca touched down and his a/c
immediately stopped and went tail up ending on it’s nose. I immediately pulled up
and led formation in a circle of the field and attempted to locate a drier spot to
land on. In less then a minute Fonseca came up on the radio stating he was OK and
pointing out a less muddy part of the field to land on. Mission completed, no injuries,
damaged a/c abandoned. Capt Marvin Litke 71st TcSq,