Troop Carriers officially redesigned Provisional Troop Carrier Air Division (PTCAD) on 16 July, which was commanded by General Paul L. Williams who installed his command post at Lido di Roma 18 miles southwest of Rome, near the headquarters of the 51st Troop Carrier Wing. It was here that the IX Troop Carrier Command ordered by Williams set up its headquarters on July 10, two days later this is the one of the Pathfinders and on July 16 of the Troop Carrier Wings. Here is the 904th Air Base Security Battalion which is responsible for keeping the facilities of the PTCAD and is attached to it during operations.
The 51st Troop Carrier Wing (without its 60th TCG) had already settled since the end of June in the vicinity of Rome and had installed its headquarters in Lido di Roma; The 62nd TCG is in Galera and the 64th TCG is in Ciampino. All 51st TCW glider formations have been in Sicily since May 1944 at the Glider Training Center in Ponte Olivo. On June 30, they are sent to the Marcigliana airfield.
Troop Carrier Wing Routing
On the evening of July 16th, the 50th TCW took off secretly from Greenham Common in England, followed by 197 aircraft and arrived in Gibraltar on the 17th without any problems except one of them having landed in Portugal. The planes were scheduled to take off on 15 July, but due to bad weather the take-off was postponed until the following day. Each of the four Troop Carrier Group made available 49 aircraft and three are part of the command detachment and each carry three to four Glider Pilot veteran of Normandy. The 439th and 440th Groups stopped in Marrakech to refuel and rest before arriving in italy. The 441st and the 442nd stopped in Gibraltar. The fact is that Marrakech and Gibraltar can accommodate only two Groups at a time. When arriving in Italy, the 349th, 440th, 441st and 442nd TCG are placed in order at Orbetello, Ombrone, Grosseto and Follonica. The HQ of the 50th TCG is established in Orbetello.
On July 20, this is the turn of the 53rd Wing to arrive also with 198 planes. The 435th and 438th had landed in Gibraltar while the 436th and 437th Group had landed in Marrakech. On takeoff from Gibraltar to the final destination, which is Canino Airfield, a C-47 of the 438th TCG crashes. Four crew members are killed and four passengers survive. The men killed are from the 89th Squadron. The causes of the accident are not known However, on July 23 an aircraft from the 88th Squadron is sent from Greenham Common to replace the one crashed. The 53rd Wing is based between the 50th and 51st Wings and is QG is established in Tarquinia just like the 435th TCG. The 436th, 437th and 438th are based in order to Voltone, Montalto and Canino.
Aside from the two Wings, 12 C-47 aircraft from the IX Troop Carrier Command loaded with equipment and personnel make the trip to Italy and are sent to the Marcigliana airfield. They brought with them veterans of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Division from the Patfhfinder Teams who fought in Normandy to serve as an instructor. They carry with them navigation and marking equipment. In total, 413 C-47 aircraft made the journey from England to Italy.
The 50th and 53rd TCW start training 2-3 days after they arrive. Both Wings, arriving freshly from Overlord, and do not actually need to perform training in training. However, the 50th performs one on July 30th, and an overnight exercise on the 31st. The airplanes swing bags with markers to see the precision of their release. On 5 August, a flight formation consisting of 45 aircraft from each TCW to fly to their departure area over Elba Island, which will be their first mission on D-Day. On 28 and 30 July, 53rd TCW sends all his group in formation of flight in V and the day after it made a drop training. On August 3, they simulated a night drop.
The two TCGs of the 51st Wing are flying simulation on the night of August 3rd to 4th carrying paratroopers of the 2nd Parachute Brigade using Rebecca, MF beacons and lamps. On the 12th, the Wing trains by towing gliders. After transporting his troops over the sea, the training leader drops his gliders 20 miles into the Sele valley. Upon learning this, General Pritchard commander of the British brigade informed Williams that he wished to be transported by a more efficient unit and Williams chose the 435th TCG aircraft instead of the 62nd in order to lead the Serial on D-Day.
An urgent task in preparation for the operation is the gathering of all gliders. Plans are being implemented for the use of 350 Waco gliders. Fortunately, the War Department authorizes on June 23rd that 350 gliders arrive from the United States the UGS 47 convoy which must arrive in July. On July 4, the AAF Service Command / MTO sends from the Cercola airfield, 12 miles from the docks of Naples, a detachment of 12 officers and 536 troop troops to receive glider delivery. To this group, the 51st TCW provided 30 technicians to assist in assembling and four glider pilots to be used as an advisor, inspector and test pilot. On July 15, the glider convoy arrives but 2/3 are not yet arrived and must arrive only at the end of the month. Between 26 and 27 July, the last gliders arrive at Circola and are towed.
The flight from the Elbe island to France must be at an altitude of 2000 feet and a speed of 140 miles per hour. The dropping must occur at 110 miles per hour at a height of 1800 feet on the DZ C and 1500 feet for the DZ C and O.
The first group to take off is the 442nd at Follonica, the most northerly aerodrome and closest to the Elbe. Its Serial of 45 aircraft designated to lead the mission, takes off between 01:50 and 02:08. In one hour he is joined by the others of the 50th Wing. The 440th TCG takes off in 13 minutes the best time performed compared to other Serials. The 439th, braked by the sand at Orbetello takes 30 minutes and has one of its planes crashing during takeoff. A 441st aircraft is damaged during take-off by one of its pararacks and must go back.
While the 50th Wing took off, the 53rd that had dispatched a Serial from the 437th to Montaldo and another from the 438th to Canino, had all its aircraft in the air at 2:43. At around 3am, the 437th exceeds the starting point of 53rd Wing in Cape of Uomo and is followed by the 438th heading towards the Elbe 45 miles away. Almost simultaneously with the 53rd, two groups of the 51st Troop Carrier Wing take off. The first plane of the 64th Troop Carrier Group took off from Ciampino at 2:11 am and the 62nd at Galera had its first plane in the air at 2:14. The 62nd Serial Leader joins Cape Linaro, the starting point of the 50th Wing at around 2:48 am and then heads to the Elbe, 93 miles away with the other three Serials in its wake.
The ten Serials flying over the island of Elba must have five minutes interval between 2:58 for the first Serial and 3:43 for the last. The gigantic formation making more than 100 miles from one end to the end aligns with a minimum of confusion.
The night is calm. The visibility on the sea is good. The navigation tools work well. The SCR-717 indicates the coast at 90 miles and is of great help in keeping the Serials properly spaced. When crossing the coast, the pilots enter a thick fog estimated between 500 and 1000 feet. This is more serious for the leading groups for DZ C and A not even knowing if the pathfinders have managed to tag the drop zones.