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"Parachute Troops (German)" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   A report on German parachute troops and new jump procedures, from the Intelligence Bulletin, May 1943.

[Editor's Note: The following article is wartime information on enemy tactics and equipment published for Allied soldiers. In most cases, more accurate data is available in postwar publications.]


The German parachute troop organization is continually expanding. For nearly two years, however, there have been no major air-borne operations. Since the campaign in Crete, German parachute troops have chiefly been employed as infantry, and today they are encountered more and more often in this role. This should not be interpreted as meaning that the German paratrooper is now merely an infantryman who has received training in parachute operations. Actually, he is recruited and trained as a specialist. While infantry tactics are a basic part of the instruction, special emphasis is placed on training for surprise attacks directed toward securing and holding small vital areas until the arrival of reinforcements. Instruction in demolition work and guerrilla warfare is also included.

Originally, the Ju 52 transport was used both in training and in actual operations, but recent reports indicate that the He 111 bomber is being used for training purposes. Jumps from altitudes as low as 275 feet were made from the Ju 52; however, the higher speed of the bomber makes it hazardous to jump from altitudes under 600 feet. This has necessitated a revision of landing tactics. When the members of a machine-gun unit jumped in quick succession from a Ju 52, they were able to land fairly close together, whereas the same men jumping from a bomber are likely to land about 250 feet apart—altogether too great a distance for a tactical unit.

The new jumping procedure is interesting. The aircraft fly in close vees of three, with the center plane slightly higher than the other two. A tactical group is distributed among the three planes: No. 1 man in left-hand plane, No. 2 man in the center plane, and No. 3 man in the plane on the right. When these three men jump, they are separated only by the distances between the belly turrets of the bombers, and therefore are likely to land approximately 35 feet apart. This enables them to assemble and go into action much more quickly.

It should be noted that He 111's carrying paratroops may be accompanied by active bombers of the same type, and that carrier identification by ground defenses may therefore be difficult. The possibility of surprise is also increased.

A further innovation involves smoke. The escorting bombers may be expected, at times, to fly ahead and drop high explosive and smoke bombs, creating a wall of smoke into which the carriers fly and drop their troops.

In the early stages of paratroop operations, it was considered very difficult for a man to land safely if he carried any weapons other than an automatic pistol and a large jackknife, although the men in the first platoon to land were equipped with one to four hand grenades, and every fourth man carried a light automatic carbine. Accordingly, rifles, ammunition, light field guns, and mortars were dropped in separate containers, and in loads up to 260 pounds. It is now reported that, in addition to their usual equipment, parachutists jump with light machine guns, machine carbines, or rifles, and that they have drum magazines strapped to their waists. The light machine gun is wrapped either in a blanket or in a special zippered case, and may be put into action immediately. (In some instances a belt of ammunition is adjusted in the machine-gun feeder before the jump.) The separate containers are still used, of course, for additional ammunition and the heavier types of equipment.

Ground-air communications have been improved. Upon landing, the signal section, which consists of two noncoms and five especially picked men, establishes radio communication with the German Air Force planes and guides them in, using a powerful transmitter. If there is a hitch in establishing radio contact, smoke signals are used more often than identification panels.

The Germans are now well aware that if parachute troops or other air-borne troops are to be employed successfully, well-coordinated air support is a necessity.

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