A Controlled Crash
That above is a glider of the model used by the Allied forces during D-Day. A glider, if you are not familiar, is a plane shaped vehicle that has no engines, is towed by another plane and when released, glides gently to the ground.
That is until you load it with infantrymen, equipment, and everything needed to confront the Nazi’s. At that point it basically becomes a rock that falls quickly and instead of the nice soft landing, generally becomes a controlled crash. Sounds terrible doesn’t it? Well, it was, but it served a really good purpose.
First of all, gliders once released from their tow plane are basically silent. No noise means they are more difficult to find in the sky and thus more difficult to shoot down. It also makes it harder to determine where the will land.
Second of all, the troops that were parachuted onto a battlefield, they would often scatter and be dispersed. This means that it would take longer to get them into the fight and time would be lost getting them organized. Coming in with a glider meant the troops would land in the place and in theory be ready to get into the fight. (If they survived the landing.)
Lastly, they were cheap. Most of the trips for these were one way, as many did not survive the experience. So they were made of the wood and cheaper materials, which meant the could be mass-produced cheap.
End of an Era
The end of WWII saw pretty much the end of gliders. The advent of helicopters pretty much replaced them for military use. Unlike gliders, helicopters can pick the troops back up after the battle is over. Today some special forces teams will use gliders for their missions, but pretty much the gliders were something that had its one specific moment in time.