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Posted on Aug 20, 2004 in War College

Rescue at Remagen

By Randolph Hils

Plans to execute the glider "snatch" air evacuation of the wounded moved quickly. On March 17, 1945 pilot Gerald C. (Bud) Berry of the 91st Squadron of the 439th TCG received orders to proceed with his specially equipped glider pick-up C-47 to Rheims, France. On March 18, 1945 Berry demonstrated for the assembled brass, the feasibility and safety of picking up loads of wounded men in a combat area. The pick-up of unloaded gliders was not as tricky as the pick-up of a fully loaded CG-4A glider and these demonstration pick-ups were to utilize CG-4A’s fully loaded with simulated litter patients. According to Bud Berry, "Not only did the high-ranking officers witness the demonstration but they actually participated in the flight. They split into two groups, on the first demo snatch one group riding in the glider and the other in the airplane with me. They then reversed places for the second snatch so they all experienced the actual shock from both positions. On the third demo they wanted to see how much stress would be placed on the patients so they left one litter patient unstrapped on the litter. After landing I was told that the patient had moved 6 inches back on the litter."


The steel cable, wound about the drum inside the pick-up unit mounted in the aircraft was not permanently attached to the drum. The unit could be adjusted from anything to a severe jolt, with the minimum of cable deployed, to a much softer takeoff with most of the cable deployed. Trouble could arise if too much cable was put out, the cable, upon reaching its end would detach from the drum brake and possibly destroy the glider in flight as the cable separated from the tow aircraft. With three successful pick-ups at Rheims the high-ranking officers who participated in the demonstration ordered the plan to proceed.

On March 22, 1945 the pick-up C-47, piloted by Bud Berry, Robert D. Neu, co-pilot, Albert L. Furr, crew chief and radio operator Joseph D. O’Donnell departed the 439th TCG base at Chateaudun for an airstrip near Rheims. Awaiting the pick-up team was the glider loaded with medical supplies, and glider pilot, Major Howard H. Cloud. On board were flight nurse, Lt. Suella Bernard and Captain Albert D. Haug, chief surgeon of the 816th MAES (Medical Air Evacuation Squadron). According to Bud Berry, "Howard Cloud, in a phone conversation told me that Suella Bernard was the 816th MAES nurse on his glider yet in a letter from Suella in 1998 she told me that she was not on that glider. It was her memory that Capt. Albert D. Haug flew on the first glider." Berry landed and the glider was hooked up and towed into flight by the 439th aircraft. Joining the mission 9th TCC dispatched a P-38 fighter piloted by a 9th TCC A-3 officer who escorted the unarmed planes and photographed the mission from the air.

Meanwhile, at the bridgehead, a makeshift landing strip for the gliders was quickly bulldozed out of a potato patch sandwiched between an apple orchard and the Rhine River. Anxious and curious soldiers watched as the odd combination of aircraft appeared out of the horizon. Bud Berry flew in low and released the glider, which circled the field in a series of smaller circles. Suddenly Cloud dropped the glider into the patch, the sound of the air rushing past the fuselage and wings was very loud. The heavily loaded glider bounced once and coasted to a stop in less than fifty yards.

Front view of the glider ambulance, cockpit in the raised position for loading. Photo courtesy of Howard Cloud.

Waiting with the wounded and medics Army Signal Corps cameramen were on hand to record the historic event. Wasting no time the nose of the glider was lifted to open access to the cargo area and the much-needed supplies were quickly unloaded as field ambulances backed up to the glider rigged with stretchers. Cloud who had been busy checking the glider and talking with a couple of colonels had not been watching. "Are we pulling dummies on this trip or are they really wounded?" he asked. "Oh they are plenty wounded," one of the lieutenants answered, "and you also have a couple of Krauts." "To hell with the Krauts" the major exclaimed. "I don’t go for that. I don’t mind coming down here for American kids, but there are no kraut gliders doing the same for us." When the wounded were informed they would be transported to the field hospital by glider, none objected.

Flight Nurse Suella Bernard looks on as the wounded are loaded. Photo courtesy of Howard Cloud.

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1 Comment

  1. Dear Sir,
    I read Your report with great interest. But could You give me an idea where the airfield? near remagen was exactly located?
    Yours faithfully
    Heribert Selzer
    Auf Jägert 7
    53572 Unkel (Rhein)