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WWII - AIRBORNE OPERATIONS A German Appraisal

This is a discussion on WWII - AIRBORNE OPERATIONS A German Appraisal within the Military Strategy and Tactics forum, part of the Global Defense & Military category; AIRBORNE OPERATIONS A German Appraisal PREFACE This study was written for the Historical Division, EUCOM, by a committee of former ...


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Old August 26th, 2004   #1
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WWII - AIRBORNE OPERATIONS A German Appraisal

AIRBORNE OPERATIONS A German Appraisal

PREFACE
This study was written for the Historical Division, EUCOM, by a committee of former German officers. It follows an outline prepared by the Office of the Chief of Military History, Special Staff, United States Army, which is given below:

1. a. A review of German airborne experience in World War II.

b. An appraisal of German successes and failures.

c. Reasons for the apparent abandonment of large-scale German airborne operations after the Crete operation.

2. a. German experience in opposing Allied and Russian airborne operations.

b. An appraisal of the effectiveness of these operations.

3. The probable future of airborne operations.

It is believed that the contributors to this study (listed on page iv) represent a valid cross-section of expert German opinion on airborne operations. Since the contributors include Luftwaffe and Army officers at various levels of command, some divergences of opinion are inevitable; these have been listed and, wherever possible, evaluated by the principal German author. However, the opinions of Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring are given separately and without comment wherever they occur in the course of the presentation.

The reader is reminded that publications of the GERMAN REPORT SERIES were written by Germans and from the German point of view. Organization, equipment, and procedures of the German Army and Luftwaffe differ considerably from those of the United States armed forces.

This study is concerned only with the landing of airborne fighting forces in an area occupied or controlled by an enemy and with the subsequent tactical commitment of those forces in conventional ground combat. The employment of airborne units in commando operations, or in the supply and reinforcement of partisans and insurgents, is not included in this study, nor is the shifting of forces by troop-carrier aircraft in the rear of the combat zone. Such movements, which attained large size and great strategic importance during World War II, should not be confused with tactical airborne operations.

THE CONTRIBUTORS
Generalmajor (Brigadier General) Hellmuth Reinhardt, committee chairman and principal author, was Deputy Chief, General Army Office, 1941-43, and later Chief of Staff, Eighth Army, on the southern front in the Ukraine and Romania.

Contributors on German airborne operations:

Generalleutant (Major General) Werner Ehrig, operations officer of the 22d (Army Air Landing) division during the attack on Holland.

Oberst (Colonel) Freiherr von der Heydte, an outstanding field commander of German parachute troops, author of the "Appendix."

Generalfeldmarschall (Field Marshal) Albert Kesselring, commander of the German Second Air Force during the Netherlands campaign, and later Commander in Chief, Southwest.

General der Fallschirmtruppen (Lieutenant General) Eugen Meindl, regimental commander during the attack on Crete, later airborne division and corps commander.

Generalleutant (Major General) Max Pemsel, Chief of Staff, XVIII Corps, which included the ground forces committed in the attack on Crete.

Generaloberst (General) Kurt Student, the chief of German parachute troops during the entire war.

Contributors on Allied airborne operations, and on German defense measures against them:

General der Infanterie (Lieutenant General) Guenther Blumentritt, Chief of Staff, OB West.

Oberst (Colonel) Albert Emmerich, G-3, German First Army.

General der Flakartillerie (Lieutenant General) August Schmidt, in 1944 commander of Luftgau VI, which provided the mobile troops to combat Allied airborne landings at Nijmegen and Arnhem.

General der Kavallerie (Lieutenant General) Siegfried Westphal, the chief of staff of OB Southwest in Sicily and Italy, and later of OB West.

Oberst (Colonel) Fritz Ziegelmann, G-3, 352d Infantry Division.


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Old September 10th, 2004   #2
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I think the Germans were first who started Air Borne operations in the world by attacking Norway.
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Old September 10th, 2004   #3
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Re: WWII - AIRBORNE OPERATIONS A German Appraisal

Many nations experimented with paratroops in the 1930s. Germans were first to deploy in combat, in Norway German paratroops secured airfields for air transports. Next massive landings in Netherlands. Here, some 1300 para's that had dropped around Rotterdam and The Hague (to capture vital bridges, government and royal family) were captured and shipped to Britain, much to the irritation of the Germans who hadn't figured to loose so many of their limited supply of highly trained paratroops permanently. Also, some 250 Ju 52 were lost and badly damaged, the effects of which could still be felt by the time of the invasion of Crete (last major german para landings): shortage of transports.
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Old September 11th, 2004   #4
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The German Planing was best but they didnt made any reservses.
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Old September 11th, 2004   #5
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Re: WWII - AIRBORNE OPERATIONS A German Appraisal

if it wasn't for the US then britian and france and the whole of bloody europe whould have been history
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Old September 11th, 2004   #6
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I think Russia and Britain played a larger role than the US in beating Germany in continental Europe. Esp Russia, the Brit's put a halt to the German western expansion, whereas the Russians just plain owned the German's with amazing land warfare tactics and strategies.
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Old December 26th, 2004   #7
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Re: WWII - AIRBORNE OPERATIONS A German Appraisal

Wow!
This is a great site!
I look forward to learning a bit more of the history (in detail) of WW2. So I can develop war gaming senarios for the 'Spearhead' minitures ruleset.
Mostly Western Front battles at the moment. Hedgerow battles!
I figure I will have to grow the collection over time for Eastern Front warfare.
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Old December 26th, 2004   #8
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Re: WWII - AIRBORNE OPERATIONS A German Appraisal

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Originally Posted by NewHampshireOne
Wow!
This is a great site!
I look forward to learning a bit more of the history (in detail) of WW2. So I can develop war gaming senarios for the 'Spearhead' minitures ruleset.
Mostly Western Front battles at the moment. Hedgerow battles!
I figure I will have to grow the collection over time for Eastern Front warfare.
Welcome to DT, We hope you enjoy your visits.
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Old December 27th, 2004   #9
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Re: WWII - AIRBORNE OPERATIONS A German Appraisal

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Originally Posted by P.A.F
if it wasn't for the US then britian and france and the whole of bloody europe whould have been history
Try reading some history books first before you make these kinds of statements. It was the Russians and the Brits that held the Germans at bay long enough for the US war machine to get ready to fight as there simply was very little US military in existence in 1939-1941.

It was the Russian war machine that seriously wore down the German military and the combined US and UK air power that wore down German industry and transportation.

Without those efforts and achievements in the early years there would have been no allied victory, which came when after the full weight of the US war machine was added to that of the Russians onslaught in the East and with landing in various parts of Europe (Italy, Normandy, Southern France).

USSR casualties are about 50 million, US casualties pale in comparison.
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Old December 27th, 2004   #10
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whereas the Russians just plain owned the German's with amazing land warfare tactics and strategies.
Although the Russians employed quite some excellent tactics that was not the decisive reason for most of their victories IMO. Rather more decisive was the manpower they had available (take for example the battle of Kursk) and a military industry that, when finally working, produced an endless stock of material. These two things combined resulted in a fighting force that could be replenished in sheer endless numbers.
The germans on the other hand were able to field perhaps the most effective industry even under the impact of the allied bombing raids. However since such crucial ressources as fuel and rubber were no longer available in sufficient numbers that combined with a lack of additional troops (esp. veteran units) resulted in a no win-situation. Add to this poor leadership by Hitler who took over command from his generals and influenced the course of war to considerable effect with poor decisions and you got Russian troops in Berlin.

All in all I find such comparisons as who had most part in bringing down Germany/the Axis in WW2 rather pointless since there is no answer. The Soviet Union suffered most with whole cities devastated, populations annhiliated. It was their already mentioned manpower and industry that brough down Germany in the east. However the S.U. wouldnt have survived that long if it hadnt been the US who delivered considerable numbers of material for use with the red army earlier in the war. Also they fought against the Japanese on their own thus relieving the Russians in the far east. The Brits were responsible for bringing down the Luftwaffe and its loss of a great number of veteran pilots that would have been more than useful in the later course of the war when enough aircraft such as the Me-262 where available but no or only untrained pilots to fly them. Its an allied victory not that of a single nation and that alliance was necessary since Germany most likely woud have won against any of these nations on their own (winning against the US in this case means complete conquest of Europe without the US being able to prevent it).

just my two cents
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Old January 1st, 2005   #11
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Re: WWII - AIRBORNE OPERATIONS A German Appraisal

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I think Russia and Britain played a larger role than the US in beating Germany in continental Europe. Esp Russia, the Brit's put a halt to the German western expansion, whereas the Russians just plain owned the German's with amazing land warfare tactics and strategies.
Sri you can't be serious! First of all, and it is an undisputable fact that the Russians and British would have starved without US aid in the first years of the war in europe. True enough the RAF smashed the Luftwaffe to point where it would never totally recover during the Battle of Britain but the the British army was kicked out of europe in 1940 by what could only be described as a complete rout. Likewise the Russians had their butts handed to them big time in 1941 and were it not for the American life line of aid would have caved in. It took the Russians 3 years to totally regain the initiative from the Germans, and that was by a simple stroke of fate. When the allies landed in Sicily Hitler pulled 2 critical divisions from operation Citadel, the 2 divisions that would have expolited the tactical victory they Germans were on the verge of succeeding with. As it was, the loss of those 2 divisions (they were diverted to Italy) forced German command to consolidate their forces, end their offensive and begin preparations for Soviet counterattacks by Armies that were on the verge of being completely destroyed. Had those 2 divisions remained in place, the Russians would have fallen back to their defensive posture and with the massive loss of entire armies success with Citadel would have garnered, their war would have for the most part been lost to the point of no return. Compare Russian losses to German losses, they succeeded only through brute force, and massive numbers of soldiers. The Russians were so tactically and strategically inept it's hard to even fathom. So in reallity, the invasion of Sicily was as much or more responsible for Russian success than anything else.

The strategic air campaign was likewise nearly totally fruitless. Aside from bombing the heck out of Germany, the only real contribution to the war it made was the destruction of the Germans petroleum production. They could have bombed Ploesti like they did, and not dropped another bomb throughout the war with the same effect. German war time production hit an all time high in December of 1944, kinda demonstrates how ineffectual the strategic air campaign was wouldn't you say? Allied air powers greatest weapon were the fighter bombers, who denied the German army freedom of movement AFTER the allies invaded France.

In summary, the critical events leading to allied victory and in order are:

Battle of Britain-Removed the Luftawaffe's superiority and allowed Britain to become the staging point for allied invasion of europe which was trememdously important.

US aid to Russia and the commonwealth-The amount of material supplied is unbelievably staggering.

The Sicily invasion-Pulled 2 critical divisions from the Germans Citadel offensive which was on the verge of a victory that would have bagged so many Russians the war in the East would have been quite different.

Invasion of Europe-Obviously drew even more resources from the eastern front.

Hitler was a horrible tactician, but you have to admit his audacity and refusal to take the conservative approach recommended by his generals early in the war was responsible for Germany's greatest victories.

Getting back on topic, airborne operations proved critical to the Germans and Allies a number of times throughout the war. In all cases the airborne aspect of each operation was successful. Market Garden failed, but that failure fell on the shoulder of regular ground forces...the paratroopers did remarkably well.
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Old January 1st, 2005   #12
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Re: WWII - AIRBORNE OPERATIONS A German Appraisal

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Hitler was a horrible tactician, but you have to admit his audacity and refusal to take the conservative approach recommended by his generals early in the war was responsible for Germany's greatest victories.
well didn't he partially cause german blunders later on in the war?
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Old January 1st, 2005   #13
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well didn't he partially cause german blunders later on in the war?
Generally speaking Hitler did cause a great deal of blunders. But I think it's interesting to note that time after time he embarked on campaigns against the advice of his general staff which resulted in success. His biggest shortcoming which ultimately cost him the war was his failure to grasp the importance of intercontinental warfare/campaigns and their affect on the war in europe/Russia. In reallity, the German general staff were more of a cause for Germany losing WW2 than Hitler himself. I find it fascinating that there were so many high ranking generals that knew the war would be lost, knew Hitler was evil yet didn't lift a hand to stop him. There were a good number of them that could easily have assasinated him. Amazing that professional soldiers could so easily ask their men to sacrifice their lives in combat, yet not one of them was willing to do the same thing for the sake of their country.
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Old January 4th, 2005   #14
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Re: WWII - AIRBORNE OPERATIONS A German Appraisal

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Generally speaking Hitler did cause a great deal of blunders. But I think it's interesting to note that time after time he embarked on campaigns against the advice of his general staff which resulted in success. His biggest shortcoming which ultimately cost him the war was his failure to grasp the importance of intercontinental warfare/campaigns and their affect on the war in europe/Russia. In reallity, the German general staff were more of a cause for Germany losing WW2 than Hitler himself. I find it fascinating that there were so many high ranking generals that knew the war would be lost, knew Hitler was evil yet didn't lift a hand to stop him. There were a good number of them that could easily have assasinated him. Amazing that professional soldiers could so easily ask their men to sacrifice their lives in combat, yet not one of them was willing to do the same thing for the sake of their country.
You have to understand the German military's Prussian history, especially in the high command. Most generals didn't want to break the oath to support Hitler that they had sworn. Also, don't forget there was an absolutely ruthless security apparatus in place (Gestapo, SD/SIPO, SS).

Hitler's penchant for forbidding any retreat as well as for looking only at units on paper rather than in terms of quality and power in the field cost the Germans dearly. Stalingrad, for example, would not have happened had the German army been allowed to pull out in time to avoid encirclement. And it is documented how the number of divisions was increased on paper by making existing ones smaller. The new units, intended as make good earlier losses, consisted of a small core of experienced troops fleshed out with poorly trained (6-8 weeks!) second and third rate replacement troops.
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Old January 4th, 2005   #15
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Re: WWII - AIRBORNE OPERATIONS A German Appraisal

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In summary, the critical events leading to allied victory and in order are:
Battle of Britain-Removed the Luftawaffe's superiority and allowed Britain to become the staging point for allied invasion of europe which was trememdously important.
US aid to Russia and the commonwealth-The amount of material supplied is unbelievably staggering.
The Sicily invasion-Pulled 2 critical divisions from the Germans Citadel offensive which was on the verge of a victory that would have bagged so many Russians the war in the East would have been quite different.
Invasion of Europe-Obviously drew even more resources from the eastern front.
Oh then what about stalingrad and Kursk,two worst battles for in history of mankind.
Do u think if Sicily was not invaded at that time,would Germany army win kursk?
Ya only kursk nothing else.After german army moves some miles from kursk,millions of russian soldiers and thousands of T-34's will stop german advance.
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Germans Citadel offensive which was on the verge of a victory that would have bagged so many Russians the war in the East would have been quite different.
Guy the german Strategy was Blitzkrieg,it needs surprise.
Simple logic for Blitzkrieg,when Surprise is lost then germans would lose.
They lost the surprise in 1941 and after it was only the war of numbers.
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US aid to Russia and the commonwealth-The amount of material supplied is unbelievably staggering.
Truly staggering,it was becoz of US,Britain and Russia got critical supplies.
again it was becoz US german U-boats could be defeated.

Even if RAF did not make so many losses for lufwaffe in Battle of britain,US might have managed by destroying lufwaffe.Me-109 was no match for P-52.

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The strategic air campaign was likewise nearly totally fruitless. Aside from bombing the heck out of Germany, the only real contribution to the war it made was the destruction of the Germans petroleum production. They could have bombed Ploesti like they did, and not dropped another bomb throughout the war with the same effect. German war time production hit an all time high in December of 1944, kinda demonstrates how ineffectual the strategic air campaign was wouldn't you say? Allied air powers greatest weapon were the fighter bombers, who denied the German army freedom of movement AFTER the allies invaded France.
May be ploesti had little or no defence unilike the German Cities.
German should have got the North Africa,Rommel was genius but he too needs weapons to fight which he did not get.

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Allied air powers greatest weapon were the fighter bombers, who denied the German army freedom of movement AFTER the allies invaded France
No only fighter-bombers it was also bombers for tactical missions which supported US army at every city in 1944.
Even if Strategic Bombing did not met with much sucess,on a whole we can US Air-Power was the real weapon for US in defeating Axis.
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