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EAA Chapter 640 Sends WWII Troop Glider Restoration to Michigan Museum

By DJ Slater, Wausau Daily Herald, Wausau, Wisconsin, for Briefing

A World War II glider segment that has been sitting in Wausau, Wisconsin, resident Syd Cohen's hangar at the Wausau Downtown Airport for nearly four years is headed back to Iron Mountain, Michigan, this month.

Cohen initially planned to send his segment, the front fuselage, to the Menominee Range Historical Foundation in Iron Mountain sometime in 2010. Cohen's piece is the only one in Wausau; the other segments - the wings, tail and rear fuselage - were being built or restored in Iron Mountain by volunteers.

Those volunteers, however, finished building the wings and tail segments and restored the rear fuselage before Cohen could complete his work. Now, the volunteers want to take Cohen's work off his hands and finish it in Iron Mountain.

"In some ways I'm glad, and in some ways I'm disappointed I don't get to complete it," Cohen said. "I definitely have mixed feelings on it."

The United States used gliders during the war to deliver men, jeeps, ammunition, and other supplies behind enemy lines. Gliders could soar about 25 miles before gravity brought them back to Earth, Cohen said.

Back in early 2005, Jack Chmiel of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, an airplane mechanic and friend of Cohen, saw the glider segment sitting in the parking lot at the Menominee Range Historical Foundation in Iron Mountain.

The museum's staff told him they needed someone to restore the segment - the front section of a glider known as the Waco CG-4A "Hadrian" - and Cohen, 66, and his Experimental Aircraft Association friends decided to bring it to Wausau.

About 13,400 gliders were built during the war. The one that Cohen has, however, never saw combat. It was manufactured at the end of the war, so it was auctioned off to the public, he said. His glider was first used as a trailer and later as a deer-hunting shack before being donated to the foundation.
Cohen and his friends have put in about 5,500 hours on the project, reconstructing the steel-and-aluminum frame, rebuilding some wooden parts, installing pulleys for control cables, and replacing the wood flooring, among many other tasks, he said.

"I think he did a tremendous job," said Lester Schwarm, 87, of Wausau, who helped build the wood floor for the glider.

The remaining enhancements include installing the control cables, wiring, and landing gear as well as adding the fabric covering to the front fuselage, Cohen said.

Once that's finished, the glider segments will be reassembled and put on display at the foundation's museum in Iron Mountain.

"I'm proud to have been a part of this project," Cohen said. "It's a forgotten part of history."

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