Friday, March 21, 2014

The Friday Flyby - 21 March

Airborne!
I was thinking of what to put up for the Flyby and it struck me, I did a post about gliders a while back and a post about transports. Okay, glider-borne infantry, transport aircraft, what am I missing?

D'oh!


Paratroopers! And to tell you the truth, the Army doesn't get enough love around here anyway. Time to throw some props in their direction. (But truth be told, there will be some Air Force types around, and not just the aircraft, German paratroopers - Fallschirmjäger - belonged to the German Air Force, the Luftwaffe.)

I might also add that this post is dedicated to the Band of Brothers, the men of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. But in particular to Staff Sergeant William J. Guarnere who left this veil of tears on 8 March 2014. You will be missed Bill.



The Russians were fans of the airborne concept very early. But they didn't really have the equipment for it -

Soviet paratroopers jumping from a Tupolev TB-3
Yup, they're clinging to the outside, and are NOT inside the aircraft!

Uh, that can't be fun. Cling to the outside of the bird, then jump into combat.

Damn!

The Germans were into the paratrooper business early on.
The Soviets were the first to demonstrate the military possibilities of airborne infantry in the 1930s with a series of maneuvers held in 1935 and 1936. Though somewhat crude (the Soviet paratroopers had to exit their slow-moving Tupolev TB-3 transporters through a hatch in the roof and then position themselves along the wings and jump together), the exercise managed to land 1,000 troops through air-drops followed by another 2,500 soldiers with heavy equipment delivered via airlandings. The gathered forces proceeded to carry out conventional infantry attacks with the support of heavy machine guns and light artillery. Among the foreign observers present was Hermann Göring.

Impressed, the ambitious Göring became personally committed to the creation of Germany's airborne arm in the 1930s. As the Bavairan Prime Minister of the Interior, he ordered the formation of a specialist police unit in 1933, the Polizeiabteilung z.b.V. Wecke, devoted to protecting Nazi party officials. The organization of this unit was entrusted to Polizeimajor Walther Wecke of the Prussian Police Force, who had assembled a special detachment of 14 officers and 400 men within just two days. On 17 July, the detachment was officially renamed Landespolizeigruppe Wecke z.b.V. (z.b.V. signifying zur besonderen Verwendung, "for special duties"), and was the first Landespolizeigruppe in Germany. On 22 December 1933, the unit was again retitled, becoming the Landespolizeigruppe General Göring. The unit carried out conventional police duties for the next two years under the command of Göring's ministerial adjutant Friedrich Jakoby, but it was Göring's intention to ultimately produce a unit that would match the Reichswehr.

In March–April 1935, Göring transformed the Landespolizei General Göring into Germany's first dedicated airborne regiment, giving it the military designation Regiment General Göring (RGG) on 1 April 1935 (after Hitler introduced conscription on 16 March 1935). The unit was incorporated into the newly formed Luftwaffe on October 1 of the same year and training commenced at Altengrabow. Göring also ordered that a group of volunteers be drawn for parachute training. These volunteers would form a core Fallschirmschützen Bataillon ("parachute soldiers battalion"), a cadre for future Fallschirmtruppe ("parachute troops"). In January 1936, 600 men and officers formed the 1st Jäger Battalion/RGG, commanded by Bruno Bräuer, and the 15th Engineer Company/RGG and were transferred to training area Döberitz for jump training while the rest of the regiment was sent to Altengrabow. Germany's parachute arm was officially inaugurated on 29 January 1936 with an Order of the Day calling for recruits for parachute training at the Stendal Parachute Training School located 96 km (60 mi) west of Berlin. The school was activated several months after the first parachute units were established in January 1936 and was open to active and reserve Luftwaffe personnel. NCOs, officers and other ranks of the Luftwaffe were required to successfully complete six jumps in order to receive the Luftwaffe Parachutist's Badge (instituted on 5 November 1936). - Wikipedia
German paratroops, 1940

How the German paras got to their drop zones -
the JU-52, Tante Ju

Maximillian Adolph Otto Siegfried "Max" Schmeling was a German boxer who was heavyweight champion of the world between 1930 and 1932. He was also a Fallschirmjäger.

That's Max Schmeling in the foreground, he served as a paratrooper until Crete in 1941.
He was not a favorite of the Nazis.

The Japanese had paras too.
The Imperial Japanese Navy fielded naval paratroopers during World War II. The troops were officially part of the Special Naval Landing Forces (SNLF or Rikusentai). They came from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Yokosuka SNLFs. The 2nd Yokosuka took no part in any airborne operations and became an island defensive base unit. They were under the operational control of the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (IJNAS or Dai-Nippon Teikoku Kaigun Koku Hombu). Rikusentai paratroopers should not be confused with the Imperial Japanese Army paratroopers, known as Teishin. - Wikipedia
Japanese Paras

The Mitsubishi Ki-57.
How the Japanese paras got to their drop zones.

Italy had its own paratroop units.
The first units of Italian parachutists were trained and formed shortly before World War II in Castel Benito, near Tripoli in Libya, where the first Military Parachuting School was located. Later the school was moved to Tarquinia in Italy.

On 1 September 1941 the Royal Italian Army raised the 1st Parachute Division in Tarquinia. The division was intended to be used in Operation Hercules – the planned Axis invasion of Malta. In June 1942 the division's name was changed to 185th Airborne Division Folgore and its regiments renumbered and renamed as well. In North Africa the division participated in the Battles of El Alamein, where the division was the protagonist of a strong resistance against the attacking Commonwealth forces, managing also to drive off some attacks conducted by tanks and heavy infantry. In the course of the Second Battle of El Alamein the division was completely destroyed and therefore officially disbanded on 23 November 1942.

Before embarking for Africa the 185th Parachute Infantry Regiment was detached from the Folgore and remained in Italy with one its battalions to help raise the 184th Airborne Division Nembo (Italian for Nimbus). After the Armistice of Cassibile between the Allies and the Italy most of the roops of the Nembo stationed on Sardinia decided to side with Italian King Victor Emmanuel III and began to fight the retreating German troops.

Subsequently the remnants of the Nembo were used to form the Folgore Combat Group of the Italian Co-Belligerent Army in 1944. The combat group was equipped with British materiel and uniforms and fought as part of the British XIII Corps in Italian Campaign.During the war the fascist regime in Northern Italy fielded the 1st Parachute Arditi Regiment Folgore, which also fielded a Nembo and a Folgore battalion. - Wikipedia
Italian paras of the Folgore division in North Africa

The Savoia-Marchetti SM.82
How Folgore got to their drop zones.
The British had two airborne divisions, the 1st and 6th Airborne.

The Pegasus Insignia was shared by the 1st and the 6th Airborne.

The 6th Airborne made its mark on D-Day.
The Allied invasion of Normandy started just after midnight 6 June 1944. The first units of the division to land were the pathfinders and six platoons from 'D' Company 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. While the pathfinders marked the division drop zones, 'D' Company carried out a coup de main glider assault on the two bridges crossing the River Orne and the Caen Canal. Within minutes of landing, both bridges had been captured and the company dug in to defend them until relieved. The company commander Major John Howard signalled their success by transmitting the codewords "Ham and Jam".

Shortly afterwards the aircraft carrying the 5th Parachute Brigade arrived overhead heading for their drop zone (DZ) to the north of Ranville. The brigade were to reinforce the defenders at the bridges, the 7th (Light Infantry) Parachute Battalion in the west, while the 12th (Yorkshire) Parachute Battalion and the 13th (Lancashire) Parachute Battalion dug in to the east, centred around Ranville, where Brigade Headquarters would be located.

The 3rd Parachute Brigade, had two DZs one in the north for the 9th Parachute Battalion who were tasked to destroy the Merville Gun Battery and the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion who would destroy bridges over the River Dives. The 8th Parachute Battalion would land at the other DZ, and destroy bridges over the Dives in the south. - Wikipedia
The 1st Airborne went "A Bridge Too Far"...
Operation Market Garden was an airborne assault by three divisions in the Netherlands in September 1944, to secure key bridges and towns along the expected Allied axis of advance. Farthest north, the 1st Airborne Division, supported by the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade, landed at Arnhem to secure bridges across the Nederrijn. Initially expecting a walkover, British XXX Corps planned to reach the British airborne forces within two to three days.

The 1st Airborne Division landed some distance from their objectives and were quickly hampered by unexpected resistance – especially from elements of the 9th SS and 10th SS Panzer Divisions. Only a small force was able to reach the Arnhem road bridge while the main body of the division was halted on the outskirts of the city. Meanwhile, XXX Corps was unable to advance north as quickly as anticipated and failed to relieve the airborne troops. After four days, the small British force at the bridge was overwhelmed and the rest of the division became trapped in a pocket north of the river – where they could not be sufficiently reinforced by the Poles or XXX Corps when they arrived on the southern bank. After nine days of fighting, the shattered remains of the airborne forces were eventually withdrawn south of the Rhine. The 1st Airborne Division had lost 8,000 men during the battle and never saw combat again. - Wikipedia
The Bridge over the Orne, seized by 6th Para on D-Day
Red Devil Mortar Team

The Bridge Too Far
Arnhem, Netherlands

British Paras in the ruins of Arnhem

Lt Col John Frost
His battalion seized the bridge at Arnhem.
They were never relieved and became POWs.
The Canadians and the Poles fielded paratroop units as well. All fought valiantly. But when you say "Airborne", it's American paratroopers most of us think of.

Yes, the US fielded five airborne divisions in WWII!

An American Paratrooper

Ike with the 101st, the eve of D-Day

Loading up
On the way
Pathfinders

The Battered Bastards of Bastogne

Hitler ist kaput!

Oh yeah, how did our boys get to their drop zones?

C-47
C-46


AIRBORNE!

23 comments:

  1. It bogles my mind the stones these men had.

    and today's service men as well.

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    1. Yup. Jumping out of a perfectly good aircraft is one thing. Doing it while people are shooting at you? Yup, stones.

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  2. Yet another tour de force. I loves me some C-47s, I do.

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    1. Thanks Buck. The Gooney Bird is one of my favorites as well!

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  3. My brother, an Army (and Oregon National Guard) Infantryman thinks the hype that the Airborne guys get is a bit overdone. Big deal if you jump out of a perfectly good airplane. Once you're on the ground you're just part of the infantry, but one who needs to be fed, watered, housed, re-ammo'd and otherwise supported since you didn't bother to bring your own stuff. He says Airborne guys are just too lazy to walk.

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    1. Airborne infantry and leg infantry have ever disdained one another.

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    2. I have lots of respect for their guts and physical fitness; not so much for their "we're better than you" attitudes. Remember a night at the Jolly Bar, Hanau, Germany (a high class watering hole, to be sure) when a group of Airborne learned certain "legs" shouldn't be bothered while the "legs" were pursuing their off duty pleasures. Especially if the "legs" were ditch boys and cannon cockers.

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    3. Same here WSF. Besides which, messing with "legs" can be hazardous. I concur with your "especially".

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    4. WSF, I was going to offer a generic comment but you made me think. I know a man who wore the Screaming Eagle patch all through Vietnam as a cannon cocker who got his start in the FA in Nurnberg, Germany with the 22nd FA, which, come to think of it, is where I got my start. :) I met a lot of guys with the chest plate but only a handful had spent any time in one of the airborne divisions.

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    5. Please bear in mind this is from a fifty year old memory, but I believe being Airborne qualified didn't guarantee assignment to an Airborne unit.In my unit, all the officers had been to jump school, and one had a Ranger tab. Several senior Specialists and Sergeants had jump wings. One cook jumped at Normandy and had been a POW. He was also in Korea but was content to remain an E-5 cook.

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  4. After I had been in my second squadron for a couple of years after returning from the Kun, I was in our flight's office listening to a Major talking to his assignment officer about his next assignment. The assignment officer had asked him what he wanted and he'd said "F-16". There must have been a bit of laughter on the other end of the phone, (Lawn Darts were brand new at the time) because the Major replied "No Really! and I'll do whatever it takes to get one". The assignment officer said "ALO?" and the Major said "OK, Now, I want one to Hill AFB". The assignment officer said "Jump ALO with the Rangers". The Major said "OK" and so it was written. He hangs up the phone and I ask him what in God's Green Earth was he thinking. He said, "Juvat, my boy, I've got myself a shiny new Lawn Dart (ok maybe not that) and all I have to do is jump out of a few airplanes and run around a bit. There's no war on the horizon." Off he goes to Jump School and Ranger School, does his ALO tour and then goes off to Hill in his shiny new Lawn Dart. I run into him a few years later and ask him how the ALO thing worked out. He said, "Well, in jump school, we did 5 jumps and the 5th was at night. We jumped at 1200 feet and the chute opened at 1000' and was kinda cool. (Don't quote me on the altitudes at school, I don't remember exactly but I do remember this last part!) My next jump was from the lead cell of C-130's into Grenada. The doors opened, 23mm tracers were arching above the airplane, he jumped at 500' the chute opened at 200' and as far as I was concerned, that was 198' too high".

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    1. Heh. Great story Juvat. I can't say I blame the good Major. The F-16 is like a hot sports car!

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  5. You left out the Marines... Just sayin... :-)

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    1. Geez, you're absolutely right Cajun.

      The first cohort of Marines paratroopers trained at NAS Lakehurst in New Jersey in October 1940, eventually becoming the 1st Marine Parachute Battalion. They were followed by a second group in December 1940, forming the 2nd Marine Parachute Battalion. A third class trained at Camp Kearny in San Diego, California in early 1941, eventually forming the 3rd Marine Parachute Battalion. After the United States entered World War II, the training program was stepped up, and a special training camp and parachute training school was opened temporarily at Camp Elliott in San Diego in May 1942, next to Camp Kearny, moving to purpose-built accommodation nearby at Camp Gillespie in September 1942. A second training camp and parachute training school opened at Hadnot Point on the New River in North Carolina in June 1942, but closed in July 1943.

      The 1st Parachute Battalion was attached to the 1st Marine Division for the invasion of Guadalcanal. On 7 August 1942 the unit conducted an amphibious assault on the small island of Gavutu and later seized the neighbouring island of Tanambogo with other Marine units. The battalion later moved to Guadalcanal fighting alongside the 1st Marine Raiders in the Tasimboko raid and the Battle of Edson's Ridge. The high casualties suffered by the Marine paratroopers led the battalion to be moved to Camp Kiser in Tontouta, New Caledonia in September. The 2nd Parachute Battalion performed a diversionary raid on Choiseul Island in October 1943 and later joined the 1st and 3rd Parachute Battalion on Bougainville.

      The three parachute battalions with approximately 3,000 members, had become the 1st Marine Parachute Regiment, of the I Marine Amphibious Corps. Four parachute operations were planned but never executed.


      So sayeth Wikipedia...

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  6. Dad had jump wings. He spent the summer of 1965 at Fort Benning while we remained in Helena, Montana. There was a Guard Unit in Deer Lodge that was attached to the MTNG that was a Special Forces outfit. I was 10 going on 11 when this happened.

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  7. As for me, my career path was that of not jumping out of perfectly sound airplanes or going aboard ships that sink on purpose. I elected to spend my career on targets..................so the Fast Attack Guys said anyway.

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  8. There has hardly been a paratrooper I've ever met who made it a career who didn't have all sorts of serious leg, knee, neck, back/shoulder problems in ret/old age.

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    1. PS: And several had ALL of them,,

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    2. Damn. I never thought of that. But yeah, a parachute landing with those old 'chutes was not a comfortable experience.

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  9. Circling back here, but the paratroops were the "Special Forces" of their time (AN entire book whose name I can't remember has been written about this) Unit commanders in the regular Army thought they cherry-picked the "best and the brightest" thus degrading the leadership of the regular Army (and getting it killed off) as well as hogging airlift capability by standing down air assets for long periods of time for contemplated ops that could have been used more effectively to supply th regular Army on a daily basis. Classic example was Patton who claimed he & his tanks could have been in Berlin but for the fact air-lift/fuel supplies were with-held while C-47s sat empty waiting for op Market-Garden to start. The same "stove-piping" of crucial key personnel for SF/SOF ops is a current critique by regular Army commanders. Also, the charge is made that it is difficult to promote talented Officers/enlisted because of the narrowness (stove-piping) of their command/leadership experience. Hence the creation of SOF/S Command so that people could be promoted to flag-rank.

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    1. Excellent points, Virgil. While an airborne capability was needed in WWII, sometimes the High Command looked for tasks for them when they weren't really needed. Market-Garden was not a great idea to begin with, Monty ignored a lot of the intel coming out of the Arnhem area. Including the fact that two SS divisions were refitting in the area. While they were under strength, they were nothing to sneeze at. As subsequent events showed.

      And while some Spec Ops capability is needed, again we have to ask, how much is enough. Does everyone in the Army need a Ranger tab?

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)