AvStop Magazine Online


Transporting troops by air to their area of commitment is more or less a matter of transportation alone and in an efficiently organized modern air force presents no difficulty at all. However, the approach flight and dropping of parachute troops is a part of the operation itself and determines its subsequent success or failure. The inconclusive but rather disappointing German experiences in this field have been set down, from the point of view of an airborne field commander, in the appendix.

Transport squadrons-including both the transport planes for the parachutists and the tow planes for the gliders are to the parachute troops what horse teams are to the artillery and motor vehicles to the motorized forces. In each case correct tactical leadership for each mode of transport is a prerequisite for the correct commitment of the troops in time and space-consequently, they must be trained jointly. During commitment the transport squadrons must be subordinated to the parachute commanders, who must be trained to give orders to the transport squadrons in correct and systematic form. The ideal solution would undoubtedly be to incorporate the transport squadrons organically into the airborne forces, but this solution is expensive. Lack of sufficient materiel alone made it impracticable during World War II as far as the Wehrmacht was concerned.

A compromise solution would be close cooperation in peacetime training. The transport squadrons will have to be made available to the parachute units well in advance of an airborne operation since joint rehearsals are a prerequisite of success. This fact increases the amount of time needed for the preparation of an airborne operation and at the same time endangers the secrecy surrounding the undertaking, because such a grouping of units can give the enemy valuable leads regarding one's intentions.

The most important factor is the selection of the time and place of the jump and of the release of the gliders. This requires very precise orders and is subject to the decision of the commander of the parachutists. Again and again lack of care in this regard resulted in breakdowns during German airborne operations in World War II. Only twice did strict observance of this point result in smooth functioning-during the airborne operations to capture the Isthmus of Corinth in 1941, when the limited scope of the undertaking made it possible to commit transport squadrons having just finished thorough training in cooperation with parachutists; and during the capture of Fort Eben Emael in 1940, when the units participating in the operation had received joint training over an extended period.

The principle of subordinating the transport squadrons to the parachute commanders makes it imperative that the training of these commanders be extended to include flight training. In this connection mention must be made of the so-called pathfinder airplanes, whose mission in relation to airborne operations at night is described in the appendix. What has been said above also holds good for them. Their proper use is essential for success and demands, above all, skill in navigation in order to calculate timing accurately.