AvStop Magazine Online


German specialists in airborne tactics (General Student and others) adhered to the theory that the best defense against an enemy air landing was the launching of airborne operations into the enemy airhead. However, no practical knowledge was gained concerning such operations. During World War II there was only one case in which air landings were effected from both sides in the same area and in quick succession. In 1943 in Sicily, south of Catania, British parachutists jumped into an area where, unknown to the British, German parachutists brought in by air to serve as reinforcements had also jumped a short while before. German reports at hand vary in their appraisal of this incident.

One report mentions a complete victory gained by the British troops with heavy casualties among the German parachutists. Another report speaks of the annihilation of the majority of the British paratroopers. What actually happened was that one small British group did succeed in reaching its objective, the bridge at Primosole, but then lost it.

Whether or not this occurred because of or in spite of dual airborne operations can hardly be determined without a more thorough investigation of facts. An air landing into an enemy airhead will always result in confusion on both sides. It will, of necessity, lead to chaotic hand-to-hand fighting, similar to the cavalry battles fought centuries ago, in which ultimately the tougher and more tenacious fighter will be victorious. The initial advantage is definitely gained by the opponent who is aware of the situation and jumps into the enemy airhead deliberately. If, in addition, he is supported from the outside by a concentrated thrust on the ground, it is quite likely that he will succeed in achieving a complete victory. The only question is whether, in the case of a large scale airborne operation which definitely presupposes the air superiority of the attacker, the defender will be in any position to carry out an air landing. At night this might be conceivable. In any event, such a counter-jump likewise requires preparations and is therefore possible only if the attacker lands in an area where the defender has taken such preparatory measures.