Voices of Veterans: U.S. Army Air Corps Veteran Willie Green shares his story of service during WWII and D-Day

AUSTIN Today, Texas Land Commissioner Dawn Buckingham is proud to introduce the next installment of the series highlighting the VLB’s Voices of Veterans oral history program. In this special episode, the service of Veterans who experienced D-Day is highlighted. Today, we hear the story of U.S. Army Air Corps Veteran Willie Green, a mechanic and copilot in the CG4A combat glider program.

To listen to Mr. Green tell his story, visit VoicesofVeterans.org.

Born in Hamilton County, Texas, Willie Green was raised on his family farm with three brothers and two sisters. The family worked the farm to grow corn, cotton, and maze and produce livestock feed. Mr. Green admitted that he didn’t realize he would one day join the military. However, when the war started while he was still in high school, he dropped out at barely 19 years old and volunteered to serve his country in WWII.

After basic training at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Mr. Green went to glider mechanics school. The CG4A glider took troops into combat towed by C-47 airplanes. Mr. Green recalled that the glider unit was “just like the paratroopers, that’s what we were… they called us the Airborne Troop Carrier.” When asked what flying in the gliders with no engines was like, Mr. Green chuckled and said, “Oh, you just had to go where the tow plane took you… they [the gliders] could land on a cow pasture or a cotton patch or anywhere else like that.”

When Mr. Green completed his glider training in the States, his unit went to England to join the war. Unfortunately, shortly after arriving across the pond, the glider school was shut down in the States. This meant Mr. Green would not be flying combat missions in Europe, but he expressed that there was more than enough work on the ground to support the gliders and troops.

Mr. Green’s experience of D-Day may have been from somewhere other than the air, but he was right in the thick of the action, ensuring the gliders were airworthy and ready for this crucial mission. When asked about his and his unit’s experience of D-Day, Mr. Green said, “Well, we were fully dressed, combat dressed, everybody. Just like we were part of it, but on the first mission… the initial Normandy D-Day mission my outfit flew, we flew the British Horsa Glider… and that glider would hold 40 men, fully equipped for combat.”

Preparing for the battle was hard, ceaseless work, but when the men took off to fight the Battle of Normandy, Mr. Green recalled a stirring of unique emotions. “I knew all the pilots, and I knew all the crews… and whenever you see them taking off like that on the Normandy D-Day initial invasion, it… it gives you a funny feeling. It was different.” He also shared, “Whenever the time actually came, you know, some of the guys didn’t come back, and that’s what hurt too.”

After his unit participated in the last invasion, where they “jumped the Rhine” and landed on German soil, Mr. Green said he was “ready to come back to Texas!” Though he was incredibly proud of the glider units and their part in WWII, Mr. Green admitted that it ” kinda hurts me to realize there’s a lot of people out there who don’t know about the gliders program.”

After the war and leaving the service, Mr. Green worked on his family farm for a year. He then moved to Midland, Texas, where he worked for the Texas-New Mexico Pipeline Company for 40 years. During these years, he and his wife had two sons. When asked what he would say to someone listening to his interview 100 years from now, Mr. Green let out his familiar chuckle and said, “Well…I don’t know what that would be… other than I’m still a’ kickin’ right now, and luck to everybody.”