AvStop Magazine Online
Section IV. ANTIAIRCRAFT DEFENSE FIRE
A report made in June 1944 by Army Group B on the battle of Normandy includes the following statement: "The designation of areas to be taken under fire by all weapons while opposing the landing of airborne troops has proved satisfactory. (Fire by 20-mm. guns directed at enemy landing forces proved to particularly effective.)" Countermeasures taken by the attacker include landings at night or during poor visibility. In this connection, the same report says, "Rainy weather and low clouds are favorable for airborne operations, because the planes are able to dive and land without being hit by flak."
It is undoubtedly advisable to inflict the highest possible losses on airborne troops while they are still in the air and while they are landing. To this end, it is necessary for all weapons within whose range an enemy plane is landing to take such a plane under fire. At Arnhem the British troops that landed in the vicinity of the Deelen airfield suffered heavy losses inflicted by German antiaircraft fire. By the same token, however, it true that antiaircraft fire alone cannot succeed in preventing an air landing, since enemy troops descending by parachute cannot by held off or turned back by overwhelming fire, as might be the case during ground combat. They have to come down, whether they want to or not, and some of them will always succeed in reaching the ground in good fighting condition. It would be a mistake to say that on that account that antiaircraft defense offers no chance of success.
On the contrary, it is the very moment of landing which holds out the greatest promise of success for antiaircraft defense, for the enemy troops which are landing are without cover; they are defenseless to a certain degree and likely to suffer very heavy casualties. At this juncture, it is impossible for the attacker to protect the troops from the air or by long-range artillery fire. Only gliders can use their arms against the firing defenders, and then only if they happen to be landing at the appropriate dive angle. The losses suffered by airborne troops while jumping and landing will greatly impair their combat efficiency and power of resistance. This will facilitate the task of subsequently annihilating them, and thus frustrate the landing attempt. For instance, the German invasion of Crete illustrates that it is possible to inflict serious casualties by antiaircraft fire. The same example, however, also demonstrates that the employment of antiaircraft fire alone is not sufficient to effectively resist an invasion. It can be achieved only through attack. If the defenders of Crete had not contented themselves with using antiaircraft fire alone but had immediately attacked the troops which had landed, the entire invasion would have failed at the outset.