Sunday, September 30, 2012

Lubbock's Silent Wings Museum

It's not often that I post things about Lubbock—and part of that may be that I see so many exciting things while I travel. But yesterday's visit to our Silent Wings Museum, located in the old terminal building of our airport, deserves an entry of its own.
The museum is housed in the old terminal building on the west side of Lubbock International
For years I had thought about coming out to this museum, but for one reason or another I had never made it. But with an invitation to take advantage of Smithsonian Magazine's "Museum Day Live!" offer of  free entry to various museums I decided to save $5 in admittance (you know how as retirees on a fixed income we have to count every penny) and turn a wet and dreary Saturday into a cultural experience. I had a vague idea that Lubbock at one point had been a training center for military glider pilots, but I had no inkling how big this program was during a few years of World War II or what important roles it played during the invasion of Normandy or the Battle of the Bulge, among others.
One of many educational interpretive displays at Silent Wings
Altogether, almost 14,000 (!) CG-4A combat gliders were built and deployed (and many, many of them lost in what were often slightly better than suicide missions) between 1942 and 1945, and most of the pilots were trained at Lubbock's SPAAF (South Plains Army Airfield), one of three airports in the city at that time.
The display shows two soldiers opening the CG-4A's cockpit to unload a jeep
The bare-bones cockpit of the CG-4A
The payload sat right behind the pilots
The gliders were amazingly large with a wingspan of almost 90 feet. They could carry a jeep, several troops, ammunition, and other supplies; the army even developed a small bulldozer (which is also on display) that could be flown in to improve landing sites quickly. The skeleton of the planes was made of steel, but it was simple canvas that was stretched over the fuselage, making it possible for enemy flak to easily penetrate the CG-4A. The gliders were pulled by C-47 transports until they were within reach of their target sites—yet still out of range to be detected by the enemy—and then released on a no-return-possible mission that often ended in crashes and tragedy. The front of the plane was equipped with ski-like runners to make it possible to land in rough terrain.
The CG-4A is the large plane
As crazy as it sounds that these men ventured behind enemy lines with these contraptions (used in Burma, Sicily, Holland, France, and of course Belgium), you should see the 15-minute historic documentary that shows how the gliders were quite often picked up by a flying C-47 that would capture a rope attached to the plane (containing a pilot and troops!!!) and lift it back off the ground in one of the most daring maneuvers I've ever watched.
On display: The world's first true flight simulator
In addition to the glider and other planes the museum is chock-full of other highly interesting items, such as the first truly functional flight simulator. There are weapons, uniforms, photos, and countless other items that give an amazing glimpse into this aspect of WWII, and Lubbock's vital role in it.

If you do get a chance (and have $5) you should make it out to the museum as it is truly unique. To get there, just take the second airport exit coming from the city and follow the brown sign to the museum. You won't regret it, and if you have kids they will be mesmerized as well.

PS: For more info, just use these links. and


  1. It is an amazing place Jurgen! I passed along a link to your blog to the museum Director. We rarely get anyone saying good things about our organization. So thanks!


  2. Thanks, Wes. I wish the City concentrated in its efforts to advertise itself on p[laces such as the Silent Wings or the equally unique Windmill museums. Prairiedog Town is a disgrace to mankind.