AvStop Magazine Online
ALLIED AIRBORNE OPERATIONS IN WORLD WAR II
The following discussion is based mainly on three major airborne operations in western Europe-Normandy in June 1944 (the invasion), Nijmegen and Arnhem in September 1944, and north of Wesel in March 1945. The author had little data at his disposal concerning the actions against Allied airborne operations in Sicily in 1943, but this will hardly impair the validity of the following statements, since the airborne landings in western Europe as well as the defense against them were based on lessons of the Sicilian campaign. Any analysis of these operations will therefore cover by implication the earlier experiences in Sicily, so far as they have not been superseded by more recent information.
[Field Marshal Kesselring's comments on Allied airborne operations in Sicily:
The first Allied airborne operations in Sicily preceded the American and British landings by sea. After jumping, the parachutists were scattered over a wide and deep area by the strong wind. Operating as nuisance teams, they considerably impeded the advance of the Hermann Goering Panzer Division and helped to prevent it from attacking the enemy promptly after the landings at Gela and elsewhere. This opposition would not have made itself felt so strongly if General Conrath had not organized his troops in march groups contrary to correct panzer tactics.
The second airborne operation of British parachutists took place in the night of 13-14 July 1943, close to the Simeto bridge on the highway between Catania and Lentini. The Commander in Chief, South (OB SUED) anticipated an airborne operation in the Catania plain, even if an amphibious landing were not attempted there. He therefore had ordered that those parts of the plain which were west of the Catania airfield be denied the enemy through installation of wooden obstacles. The antiaircraft units protecting the large airfields in the Catania plain had been specially charged with defense against airborne troops. During the first day of the landing operation, every Allied air landing in the area around Catania could be attacked from the north by reserve of Brigade Schmalz of the Herman Goering Panzer Division and by troops of the 1st Parachute Division, which had been flown in to the eastern coast of Sicily.
Even assuming the most favorable conditions for the enemy parachutists, no great Allied success could be expected, at least no success which justified such a large commitment of men. Thus it was inevitable that the British parachute attack in the night of 13-14 July 1943 was crushed. Even their purely tactical success in occupying the Simeto bridge was only of a temporary nature and had no effect on the over-all situation.]