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"Organization, Training, and Employment of German Parachutists" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following intelligence report on German airborne troops was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 11, Nov. 5, 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. Organization

German parachute units are a part of the German Air Force and come under the immediate control of Flieger Division VII. They consist of parachute rifle regiments together with parachute antitank, antiaircraft, signal, engineer, medical, supply, and other auxiliary units. Four parachute rifle regiments have been definitely identified, and there are possibly six in existence. Including the auxiliary units, there is thus a total of 18,000 to 20,000 fully trained and equipped parachutists.

Air-landing operations come under the control of Fliegerkorps XI. In a large-scale air-landing operation, the corps would command not only the parachute units but also glider troops, air-landing troops, and transport aircraft as shown below.

Fliegerkorps XI
(Headquarters and Signals)
Storm Regiment       Fliegerdivision VII       Army Units
Glider Units Parachute Units Air-Landing Troops

Parachute rifle regiments are organized like infantry regiments. This fits in well with the organization and tactical use of the transport squadrons. The basic organization is a section of 12 men armed with 2 light or heavy machine guns, rifles, and revolvers; or 8 men with a heavy mortar. Either load is suitable for one Ju-52 airplane. Three sections form one platoon which is carried in a flight, or Kette, of three Ju-52's. A rifle company consists of 12 sections, which are conveniently carried by a German squadron, or Staffel. A battalion comprises 3 rifle companies and 1 weapons company, with a total of about 600 parachutists and 200 non-parachutists. This is the load, including battalion headquarters of a GAF Gruppe of 53 Ju-52 transport aircraft. Battalion organization is shown in the accompanying diagram.

b. Parachute Jumping Course

Originally this course lasted 6 weeks, was then reduced to 4, and is now compressed into 16 days. During bad weather it is not possible to complete the courses in the prescribed period, as initial jumps are carried out only under ideal conditions. During the winter 1941-1942, the weather was so bad that one school was closed for several weeks.

The instruction given has not altered from that of the longer course but is necessarily much more intensive. Previously, more time was spent on ground exercises before jumping was attempted.

For the first 10 days of the course, instruction includes the following:

(1) Lectures on parachute packing, theory of parachute control during descent, etc.

(2) Practice in parachute packing as much as 3 hours a day.

(3) Instruction in movement and jumping out of a skeleton Ju-52.

(4) Jumping from a platform approximately 9 feet high on to matting about 4 inches thick. Full jumping uniform and equipment (minus parachute) are worn. The height of the platform is not varied. Men are taught the correct method of falling, this being practiced for about 1 hour a day.

(5) Practice on a suspension device. This includes instruction in control of a parachute during descent, how to counteract drift, how to maintain a normal hanging position, and control of a parachute on landing. This is practiced for 2 hours daily. The suspension device is moved by artificial currents which produce conditions experienced during an actual descent.

On each of the last 6 days of the course, jumps are made from altitudes starting at 900 feet and gradually reduced to 350 feet. The number of training jumps is six. For the first five jumps, only parachute clothing is worn; for the sixth, full equipment and rifles are carried, and a light machine gun is dropped With the section.

[Organization of a Parachute Rifle Battalion]

The following jumping drill is taught. Besides the pilot and gunner, there is an Absetzer (controller) who issues the orders to jump as follows:

(1) "Get ready."

(2) "Get ready to jump."

(3) Whistle--blown by the controller.

The men jump in the following order:

(1) Section leader or assistant leader.

(2) Three light machine-gunners.

(3) Four riflemen.

(4) Three light machine-gunners.

(5) Assistant section leader or section leader.

c. Employment

In full-scale air landings such as in the Crete campaign, parachutists and gliders with air-borne troops have their place in the operations. The glider troops are used in the initial phase to attack batteries and antiaircraft gun positions and silence them in preparation for the arrival of the parachutists. (In Crete the parachutists arrived 15 minutes after the gliders.) On landing, the parachutist discards his parachute, collects his equipment, and assembles with his section as quickly as possible. In the first few minutes after landing, while under the shock of the jump and before they have regrouped, parachutists are highly vulnerable. In many cases where they have been attacked immediately after landing, whole units have been wiped out. If not attacked, however, the parachutists rapidly collect together and proceed to the attack. In this they frequently have the advantage of surprise, while their very heavy fire power, particularly at short range, makes them formidable opponents. One of their first objectives is frequently an airdrome or landing area suitable for Ju-52's carrying troops. These troops usually consist of infantry or mountain regiments. These reinforcements join the parachutists and continue operations against the opposing forces. Further supplies and reinforcements continue to be landed by air as required.

Smaller-scale parachute operations may be undertaken with the object of seizing key points, such as roads, bridges, strongpoints, etc. in the rear of the enemy. These attacks are carried out particularly in conjunction with land offensives when the parachutists may expect to have to hold their position only for a few hours, or at the most, a day or two, before being relieved by their advancing forces. The number employed in such operations may vary from a platoon to a battalion in strength, according to the objective.

A common use of parachutists in connection with an attack is to drop individuals or small groups behind the enemy lines. The object is to cause the maximum amount of disruption and panic by sabotage of communications (cutting telephone wires, blowing up railways, etc.), issuing false orders, spreading rumors, misdirecting traffic, etc. These agents may be disguised and have a perfect knowledge of the enemy's language.


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