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"Notes on Axis Parachute Troops" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following WWII intelligence report on German, Italian, and Japanese airborne troops was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 8, Sept. 24, 1942.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


a. Germany

The following information concerning the organization of the German parachute battalion has been learned from prisoners recently captured in North Africa.

The battalion is composed of 3 rifle companies and 1 heavy company, each of a strength of 180 men, a signal platoon of 45 men, and an engineer platoon of 30 men.

Each company consists of 3 platoons of about 45 men each, and each of these platoons in turn is composed of 3 rifle squads and a light mortar squad. Certain details of the armament and equipment of the battalion are also of interest. Each rifle squad is armed with 2 light machine guns, and 1 company has a squad equipped with 2 heavy machine guns, as well as antiaircraft and antitank guns. In action each man is equipped with from 10 to 15 hand grenades. In addition, approximately one-fourth of the riflemen are armed with a rifle-grenade attachment and 6 rifle grenades.

b. Italy

While thus far there have been no reports of the employment of Italian parachute troops in any theater of operations, it is known that the Italians have recently been stressing this aspect of modern warfare in their training programs. The following details, also learned from captured prisoners, concerning the equipment and training of Italian parachutists are of interest.

(1) At the time of jumping, each parachutist is equipped with the following: a Beretta machine carbine strapped to his right leg, 400 rounds of ammunition, a haversack containing 40 grenades, 3 days hard rations, and 1 quart of water.

(2) Guns and ammunition are dropped in sacks by blue parachutes. For the purpose of easier identification, these sacks are marked with certain distinguishing symbols. Thus the sack containing the gun barrel is marked a yellow flag, that containing the wheels and trail with a blue circle, and that containing the carriage with a black circle. The ammunition is dropped in a sack marked with a red circle.

(3) In the training of Italian parachutists, jumps are never made below an altitude of 300 feet. A feature of the training is the emphasis on speed in unloading a plane, and the jumping schedule calls for seven men jumping in an interval as small as 4 seconds.

c. Japan

Details are now available on the effective part played by Japanese parachute troops in support of sea-borne landings on Timor.

Paratroops were employed on 2 successive days during sea-borne landings, with the object of cutting lines of communication. A parachute battalion of 700 men was dropped--350 on each day.

Landings were made at about 0830 hours in bright sunlight with no wind. The country was relatively flat and timbered (varying from thick undergrowth, to high palm trees 15 to 20 feet apart). Each day the principal landings were made about 5 miles from the fixed defenses and astride lines of communication. Paratroops were transported in carrier planes, each holding 15 to 24 men. Protection was given by fighters and bombers, the latter in flights of 9 in arrow formation. During the actual landing the supporting planes machine-gunned and bombed places nearby.

Paratroops were released in groups of six to eight men from a height of 300 feet. Squad leaders came down in blue parachutes and platoon leaders in red. During the operations parachute troops wore rubber boots and green uniforms buttoned at the neck. They carried compasses strapped to the wrist, and were armed with Tommy guns, which were fired during the descent. Their equipment included small mortars and a liberal number of radio sets with batteries. Emergency rations wrapped in cellulose consisted of rice and compressed fish. There was no evidence that special containers for arms and supplies were dropped.

The Japanese were well trained. Unlike the paratroop attack on Palembang the operations at Timor were undoubtedly successful. In one instance they landed within 1 1/2 miles of a company position, and on another occasion surrounded a battalion and prevented it from breaking through. On the other hand, at no time was there any air opposition, so that landings were made close to the scene of operations, and escorting planes were left free to bomb and machine-gun the area.


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