Melvin N. Pliner
13 July 1921
29 Apr 1941
New York, New York
Squadron, 436th Troop Carrier Group.
Europe, Africa, Middle East Campaign Medal with two Bronze Stars, Air
Medal with two Bronze Stars, Purple Heart.
up in Brooklyn,
N.Y. and when he was 16, he
volunteered for the Citizen’s Military Training Corps and was trained in
field artillery. When World War II broke out and America began the draft, he was
certain he would be drafted, and his experience with the training corps
would almost guarantee that he would be sent into military artillery,
and he didn’t want that. So instead of leaving things to fate, he
enlisted himself into the U.S. Army Air Corps in hopes of becoming a
pilot. Unfortunately, everyone who joined the Air Corps also wanted to
be a pilot, and the Flying Cadet waiting list was long.
After basic training at Fort Dix, Mel traveled to Fort Benning,
Georgia to continue his training, but when he presented his orders, Mel
was asked what his civilian job was and when he told the sergeant that
he had experience in driving trucks, Mel was sent to the motor pool.
After driving for a while, Mel transferred to the 82nd
Materiel Squadron where he made repairs to aircraft. Later as his unit
was preparing to ship overseas, Mel was told that he would be required
to stay behind and train new recruits when, but during this time, a
telegram was circulating looking for volunteers willing to become glider
pilots; so Melvin signed up. Mel was soon on his way to begin his
training at the Kansas State Teachers College in Pittsburgh, Kansas
where he learned to fly L2, L3 and L4 aircraft. From Kansas, Mel
continued his training at Lubbock, Texas and then Victorville California
where he graduated in class 43-4 in April 1943 and was promoted to the
rank of Flight officer.
Mel was soon on his way again, this time to Baer Field, Kentucky
for combat training and then onto Alliance Field, Nebraska where he
joined the 82nd Troop Carrier Squadron of the 436th
Troop Carrier Group. The 436th was soon on the move again,
this time to Laurinburg-Maxton, North Carolina for transition training
before departing on the Queen Mary in December 1943 headed for England
and deployment to the European Theater of War.
On arrival in the United Kingdom, Mel’s unit was based at Membury
where they continued to train for the upcoming invasion of Fortress
Europe. Here Mel received training with the English Horsa Glider as well
as the US Waco CG-4A, but it was a Horsa carrying thirty three men that
he would fly into Normandy on June 7th 1944.
Being a glider pilot was a dangerous and often thankless job and
there were 162 injuries and 17 deaths during training from May 1943 to
February 1944. In the beginning, glider riders were not issued jump
boots or wings and did not receive hazard pay. A poster that circulated
during that time read: “Join the Glider Troops! No Jump Pay. No Flight
Pay. But Never a Dull Moment!” Glider regiments proved their mettle by
constantly landing behind enemy lines, and they were granted hazard-duty
pay and glider pilot wings in July 1944.
Melvin took part in most of the
major glider operations of WWII including the invasion of Normandy,
Southern France, The Netherlands and The Rhine crossing, where he was
wounded when coming in to land. He survived all these difficult missions
and is always willing to tell his story to future generations or how
this unique combat transport made a great impact in WWII.