It was Hitler who first used gliders as silent assault vehicles in his surprise penetration of the heavily fortified Belgian frontier. His air commandos had stupendous success, and then glider attack went downhill as a tactic, even for Hitler, and he abandoned the whole idea after vast paratroop losses in Crete. The Allies didn't know this, however, and went on to build their own glider divisions--and the most hazardous air activity ever known was born. Allied losses were horrendous: the battle of Arnhem (now being filmed) cost Britain over 650 glider pilots and 7,500 airborne troops. Dank, himself a glider pilot on three air invasions, has interviewed many of the dwindling numbers of his fellow pilots and paratroops. Almost to a man they speak ironically about the daredevil madness of glider warfare, and the even greater insanity of volunteering for it. Some shrug, saying it was a job to do. But not one air force today maintains a glider command. Smooth, horrible, with plenty of last-ditch humor.