A Short History

82nd Airborne Division

101st Airborne Division

6th Airborne Division

Allied Gliders

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Former German heavy weight boxing champion, Max Schmeling.
demonstrates himself as a Fallschirmjäger
He jumped on May 20, 1941, during the attack on the Island of Crete, as part of
4. Kompanie/1. Bataillon/Fallschirmjäger-Regiment 3/7.Flieger-Division

After tests by Russia and Italy, is it Germany who, at the end of the thirties, introduced the parachutist as a new weapon. The 'Fallschirmjäger' dropped behind enemy lines had a strategic freedom which was an overwhelming demotivation for the counterpart. When Winston Churchill notices the fighting potential of the German paratrooper in Holland and Belgium, he presses for a same unit in Great Britain. The British developed a new parachute, the so-called 'X-model'.

The X-Model was also used by the American airborne units

This was a parachute that deployed gradually and was less straining on the body, in contrary with the German that opened with a hard jerk. Was the German paratrooper hanging as a ragdoll under his chute, the British variant gave the paratrooper some sort of stable position during the descent, thanks to the positioning of the straps. The straps came together in one clasp that could be released with one smack after landing. The paratrooper could release himself fast from his gear. The 'X-model' was built from 28 segments, that together made a 8.50 metre wide parachute. Every segment was built up from four strips. The outer strip was woven tighter than the inner strip (the top), so the air could gradually escape through the fabric and this prevented swinging (see the outline below on the left). The Americans used the same parachute as the British during World War Two.

Fallschirmjäger (left) and the this American paratrooper (82nd Airborne Div.),
Standing tall,… those men are ‘fighting machines’

The German and American paratrooper folded their own parachute, the British left this to a woman, the WAAF (Woman Auxiliary Royal Air Force). This saved a lot of time in the education, because there was no individual training in this procedure. The biggest problem during operating with paratroopers was the transport of sufficient supplies. The paratrooper carried usually just his rifle or a sub-machinegun.

Turqueville, June, 6, 1944; 'They don't like it up'm, the cold steel!'
This paratrooper holds this German at bay with his M1 Garand with the bayonet fixed.
An MKIIAI hand grenade hangs in his M1936 fighting webbing, and on his ankle
an M3 dagger. He also has a German cantine onto his M1936 pistol belt

For the first fast action the personal weapon was enough, but in the long term the heavy weapons were indispensable. These had to be dropped by special delivery. Germany developed a container with a length of 1.20 metre that was carried under the wing of a Ju52. This went almost terribly wrong when the Germans invaded Crete. There was valuable time lost during the search for these containers (one of the reasons Hitler lost its confidants in this elite corps).

A posed picture of a Fallschirmjäger and a DFS 230 glider

The Allied forces had the same problem, they gave the paratrooper an extra package of 50 kg that was tied to the leg. Unfortunately this package was often lost during the jump when it was jerked from the leg. To bring in the necessary heavy weaponry and other supplies the allies used great numbers of gliders and transport planes. The Germans used gliders as well, such as the DFS 230, but far too few to supply the 'Fallschirmjäger'

During an exercise a Jeep is loaded into a Horsa glider

On D-Day there were three airborne divisions active, the American 82nd and 101st Airborne Division and the British 6th Airborne Division. Despite of the losses that the Americans suffered on the peninsula Cotentin, the both divisions were of great value. The protection they gave to the amphibious landings was invaluable. The losses on UTAH Beach were very slim.

A clear message, British para’s on their way to main land Europe

Just as in the British sector where the 6th Airborne Division was operating east of the Orne. The sending in of these divisions prevented that the Germans could bring in reinforcements from the rear and the east and west flanks. This brings me to the question: Why were there no airborne units dropped behind OMAHA Beach? Without the threat of attacks from the rear, the German troops could focus on the destruction of the amphibious landing over there. The German reinforcements that were brought in, had not to deal with the interference from behind enemy lines dropped allied units. Is it possible that if there were paratroopers dropped at the rear of OMAHA the landing on the beach would have been easier and less bloody, like UTAH and the British SWORD sector? (This with the note that, especially the American para-divisions on the Contentin had enormous losses, due through drowning and crashing gliders.

Posters were used to get young men into the elite units,…

Finally, I like to bring your attention to a something odd. It remembers the German'Fallschirmjäger'in a strange way. There are still propaganda CD’s for sale with old songs on these fighting units. Songs as Auf Kreta im Sturm undim Regen, Wirsind die MännervomSchirmer, Es donnern die Motoren, Unsgehört der blaueHimmel, FallschimjägersindmutigeGesellen, Wirtragen nicht Schmuckund Orden schwer, Wirsind die grünenTeufel, Fallschirmschützentretetan, Abgeschmiertaus 100 Metern and Ichhatt´ einen Kameraden are obvious enough.

82nd Airborne Division

101st Airborne Division

6th Airborne Division

Allied Gliders

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