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.
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
|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 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".The 1st Airborne went "A Bridge Too Far"...
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
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|
|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.
Oh yeah, how did our boys get to their drop zones?
|Yes, the US fielded five airborne divisions in WWII!|
|An American Paratrooper|
|The Battered Bastards of Bastogne|
|Hitler ist kaput!|
Oh yeah, how did our boys get to their drop zones?