Operation Keokuk

This was the US gliderborne delivery of reinforcements to Major General Maxwell D. Taylor’s 101st Airborne Division after its ‘Albany’ assault and ‘Chicago’ reinforcement operations in ‘Overlord’ (6 June 1944).

On the evening of D-Day two additional gliderborne operations, ‘Elmira’ and ‘Keokuk’, brought in additional support in 208 Waco CG-4A and Airspeed Horsa gliders towed by Douglas C-47 Skytrain aircraft of Colonel William B. Whitacre’s 434th Troop Carrier Group within Brigadier General Paul L. Williams’s IX Troop Carrier Command of Lieutenant General Lewis H. Brereton’s 9th AAF. Both operations were completed before the fall of night on 6 June, and were heavily escorted by Lockheed P-38 Lightning, Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and North American P-51 Mustang fighters.

‘Keokuk’ comprised a single serial of 32 tug/glider combinations which took off from Aldermaston in southern England beginning at 18.30. It arrived at 20.53, coming in over 'Utah' beach to limit exposure to ground fire, into a landing zone clearly marked with yellow panels and green smoke. The German forces around Turqueville and St Côme du Mont, 2 miles (3.2 km) on either side of Landing Zone E, held their fire until the gliders were coming down, and while they inflicted some casualties, were too distant to cause much harm. Although only five gliders landed on the LZ itself and most were released early, the Horsa gliders landed without serious damage; two of them landed within the German lines, however. The mission is significant as the first Allied daylight gliderborne operation, but was vital to the success of the 101st Airborne Division.

The gliders delivered 157 signal, medical and staff personnel, 40 vehicles, six guns and 19 tons of equipment and supplies.