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
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
|(Headquarters and Signals)|
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.
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.
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.