George I. Theis

96th Troop Carrier Squadron
440th Troop Carrier Group

I was still a child and I really wanted to fly and at the age of 18, when others are passionately fond of cars, I wanted to enter in the army air corps to become an air pilot but regrettably I failed on eye test, which was poor 20/40 and astigmatic. However, I had the opportunity to apply to become a glider pilot, the eye test being less strict. I joined the army air corps in October 1942, was 18 years old, and became a private with the army serial number 13143960. After having successfully passed my tests, I became a flight officer I wanted to be and my serial number changed into T-134158.  That rank allowed me to be named Sir by the soldiers of lower grades and had the same benefits of an officer ( could have access to officers mess for example ) except for the allowance, which was more a guarantee rather than a commission ( as officers)and of a lower level. What was the rank of a flight officer? In fact some responsible of plans to make everything possible at the start of the war, had proposed that the patented glider pilots at the end of their formation, who were then master sergeants (the cadet was nominated master sergeant, during his formation, except the one who were already officers since the start) could be ranking as officers, as they had the control of an engine and were responsible of the life of the passengers. They should have been nominated 2d lieutenant. Obviously the power-driven airline pilots who had a more pushed training did not hear it of that ear and made everything to prevent it (they did not want to be for the same level as an airline pilot without engine with less training). In the impasse the responsible had created from the rank of Warrant  officer (reserve officer or administrative officer without command, intermediate rank between sergeant and 2d lieutenant) the rank of Flight officer which would be delivered then specifically to commissioned pilots of glider. The badge of Flight officer consists of an egg-shaped brooch in edges gilded with the blue inside separated in two parts by a golden line (red-brown inside for the warrant officer).
Operation Varsity : it was the last one, one of the biggest after Normandy and the most successful by the airborne operations of the war.It took place around Wessel in Germany and its purpose was to by-pass, to surround and to drill the German defences defending the region of the Ruhr on the Rhine's banks in support of the 9th US Armored Division and the 2d British Armoured Division, which they were going to cross the Rhine. It implied the 17th US Airborne Division, of which the soldiers never had disputed otherwise as infantryman during the battle of the Ardennes (except the soldiers of the 507th PIR attached to the 82nd Airborne till after Normandy) and the 6th British Airborne. For the first time the landings zone of gliders would not be secured by the paras and for the first time also every C47 (or C46 already) would pull 2 gliders at the same time.   
In this period I was part of the 98th Troop Carrier Squadron, itself  part of 440th Troop Carrier Group integrated into the 50th Troop Carrier Wing of the 9th Troop Carrier Command of the 9th US Army Air Force. The nickname of my glider (which was also mine) was Little Crow (Small Crow) and the glider also wore the name of the wife of my main mechanic Margie D II, my co-pilot was Flight Officer Unruh (a true pilot contrary to Normandy where many pilots often saw sitting down next to them, soldiers who had little experience or even not pilot at all. For this mission I had to carry a jeep and 3 soldiers, we took the air from the aerodrome A50 Bricy near Orleans on Saturdays morning March, 24, 1945 and the flight lasted 3 hours to the landing zones around "N". The formation of tractors planes and of gliders was called Glider train and from the beginning to the end it was 500 miles long. Planes tractors flew by group of four, in my case each pulled only a glider and the order were: infantrymen for gliders 1 and 2, jeep for 3 (mine) and trailer of jeep with ammunitions for 4. Over the Landing Zone we had to have the signal of detachment the number 1, had to turn 270 ° on the left then 2,3 and 4 to land, without in the case of my group the number 4 was not able to make its bend its commands having died, all that he could make was to fly quite straight ahead (I learned later that he had settled in an orchard of apple trees and that he had torn away wings). After a landing free from problems, we unloaded the jeep under the fire of snipers or isolated elements and the soldiers disappeared with the jeep. It is as well at this moment there that I lost sight of my co-pilot. I began to set off in the direction of the PC of grouping.   (NOTE: George at this moment does not speak about his co-pilot and I have personally doubts on the famous snipers who if they were really marksmen would have liquidated them before they unload the jeep, doubtless rather isolated soldiers who fired at random towards gliders).  
On the road I met a ancient classmate who was in another squadron and he was with a general (I believe it was General Miley but I am not sure) who had been released far from his men and who had lost his aids-de - camp and his cards. When my friend asked me for my cards to give it to the general I realized that I had left my shoulder bag with cards in the device immediately Miley gave me the order to return to look for them and to come to join him again as quickly as possible. By taking a shortcut through a row of bushes 2 young German soldiers without weapons appeared by raising arms in the air and by shouting "Kamerad, Kamerad", as they looked like so frightened that I told them to get closer in German (Kommen sie hier) and I arrested them. I returned them towards the glider and I asked another soldier who passed by there to hold them in sagging cheek, while I photographed them in front of the glider.  Having got back cards, we started to join the general, I gave prisoners to a patrol of the military police which passed by there and was finally able to give these cards to Gl Miley. Later I learnt why 2 German had been so afraid when they saw me, to see to it that they fight up to the end their officers had said to them that the Americans would not arrest, what turned out false seen that I did not fire to them above. I finally took back my road towards the PC of grouping and having been registered, one gave me a place where to dig my foxhole for night.   
The next day we all put back on the march at first along a railroad then through a rest before arriving at a vast field where collected more than 2000 prisoners were. Our job consisted to return with those prisoners towards the Rhine where they were taken care by the police military and interned in camps. For our part we crossed the Rhine in DUKW and having been driven by truck towards an aerodrome (certainly in Holland) where we had to wait for planes coming from Bricy who had to repatriate us in our respective units. This night there we slept in couchettes under tents in a place called "Rhine Hotel".  It was my only mission of fight there, after the end of the war I was promoted 2nd Lieutenant, my number roll became O-2026732, I received a payment in the form of committee and the lower soldiers of rank addressed me by saying Lieutenant or Sir.
After the war he returned to the (civil) technical school to become a mechanic of plane and a pilot of instruction. It re-engaged then in the new US Air Force where he served at first as mechanic flying on B29 and B50. Having followed the lessons of navigation he ended his career military as sailor on supply craft KC135 and as systems analyst and time switch. He had reached at this moment the rank of Lieutenant-colonel (not bad for a lad who undertook as private) after 26 years of service. Later he worked in computer companies computing till his retreat. He had the occasion to come back several times in Europe in particular around from Wessel where he made friends with pilots of German gliders what allowed him to redo a flight in civil glider for 50 years of Varsity, to glance through again his landing zones and to settle again near the same place as in 1945. Since 2000 he and his wife resold their house and measure the USA in their mobil home.
Important to say, Mr. Theis became national Treasurer of the National World War 2 Glider Pilot Association and has been very active in organizing reunion.
Airborne Troop Carrier - Their Story
Left: F/O Theis before take-off to cross the Rhine River. March 24, 1945. (G. Theis photo)
Right; After landing two German soldiers surrendered to F/O Theis. (G. Theis photo)
Left: F/O Theis played saxophone in ‘the Serenades’. (G. Theis photo)