AvStop Magazine Online


The original German plan to use Army troops for this purpose and to equip and train them accordingly was abandoned early in the war. The 22d Infantry Division, which had been selected in peacetime for the purpose, participated in airborne operations only once, in Holland in 1940. It was found that their double equipment-one set for regular ground combat, the other for use in air-landing operations-constituted an obstacle; consideration for their special mission limited their employment for ground combat. When a fresh commitment in line with their special mission became a possibility in Crete, it was found impossible to bring them up in time. On the other hand, as early as the Norway campaign, mountain troops were flown for commitment at Narvik without much prior preparation. While in this case nontactical transport by air was involved, the previously mentioned commitment in 1941 of the 5th Mountain Division in the airborne operation against Crete took place after only short preparation and was entirely successful.

On the basis of these experiences the idea of giving individual Army units special equipment for airborne operations was abandoned. The German High Command set about finding ways and means to adapt all Army units for transport by air with a minimum of changes in their quipment. The results were never put into practice because after Crete the Germans did not undertake any other airborne operations on a large scale. Crete, however, proved that the German mountain troops, because of their equipment and the training which they had received, as well as their combat methods, were particularly suited for missions of this nature. In the future the goal must be to find a way of committing not only mountain and infantry divisions but panzer and motorized formations in airborne operations. Their equipment and organization for this purpose will depend upon the evaluation of technical possibilities which cannot be discussed in detail here The chief demand which the military must make upon the technical experts is that the changes required for such commitment be kept to a minimum. A way must be found to determine the best method for such a change so that the troops can undertake it promptly at any time.

The lesson learned from German airborne operations in World War II was that air-transported troops can be committed only if the success of landing and unloading is guaranteed by a sufficiently large landing zone. These troops are not suited to the purpose of capturing an airhead. With the exception of the technical details concerned with their enplaning, these troops require no special training. The logical conclusion to be drawn from this lesson is that parachute troops, who capture the airhead, must be increased in number and supplied with more fire power.