I believe that US troops also paradropped into Sicily or Crete?
They werne’t necessarily trained JUST for D-Day. Once it was shown that paratroopers could be used, it guaranteed that they would be.
The Germans also had paratrooper units, as did just about everyone else, but not everyone had the logistical ability to use them. In fact, I think the FJ forces of WW2 Germany never actually made a combat drop?
There were two US airborne divisions formed in 1942: the 82nd (which participated in the invasion of Sicily and Salerno, Italy, in 1943, D-Day, Market-Garden, and the Bulge in 1944), and the 101st (which participated in D-Day, Market-Garden, and the Battle of the Bulge in 1944.
No. The first US combat drop (of any size) when my old outfit (the 509th PIR jumped into North Africa (from bases in England). So that would November of 1942.
So yes, the airborne soldiers in the 82nd and 101st Divisions trained for a good long time. But the other lesser-remembered units (the 11th 13th and 17th ) did not train as long. Why did the first two train so long? They were simply formed before the Americans entered the War, so they had the time.
Well, did they train for “a predetermined block of 2.5 years before being allowed to fight,” or did they train for “all the available time until there was a mission they could be used in, and that time just happened to be 2.5 years?” So far I haven’t seen anything clarifying this.
It’s specifically the Crete drop that deterred Hitler from ever dropping them again in any quantity. Unlike later American and British doctrine of dropping away from the battle and assembling, the Germans dropped directly onto occupied positions at Crete.
Because the Crete defenses were disorganized and indifferently led, despite the courage of the troops themselves, the Germans eventually won. It was a narrow victory, although eventually a complete one. But they were savaged; taking by far the worst German losses of the war to date. It was a huge waste of training, material, and military potential – and that’s despite being a surprise attack against shaky defenses too.
When the best of your best jump badly-organized enemies by surprise and are massacred, where do you place the blame? It was clear that the tactics were the problem; many Germans were riddled in their chutes while floating slowly down toward dug-in British and Commonwealth troops.
The logical conclusion was “never do that again,” and Hitler stood by it. I believe the later American and British doctrine of not dropping directly into active defenses was formed from the Allied conclusions about Crete as well. I am not sure why the Germans didn’t try that.
My understanding is that they trained for as long as possible until used. They continued to train after being pulled back to England after Normandy. This isn’t just to keep the men sharp and in shape, although those were the primary reasons. Troops get bored and into mischief unless kept busy. Also, training helped integrate replacements with the veterans.
My grandfather was in the 101st Airborne Division and jumped on D-Day. His training lasted about a year. At that point in the war, no country had the luxury of training someone for 2.5 years. Unfortunately he ended up breaking his back but was rescued and spent the next several months in a UK hospital. Maybe the extra training would have prevented that. On the other hand, he was jumping at night, behind enemy lines, and without the benefit of night vision equipment. It’s a wonder more of them weren’t similarly injured.
The Germans were also handicapped compared to US/British paratroops by their practice of dropping their weapons and equipment in separate canisters, so that they had to find these and unpack them before they could fight. The German Fallschirmjäger dropped with only a pistol and a special knife (for use if they had to cut their way free of the chute after landing). Their chute harness also attached the parachute to a single point in the centre of the back, rather than to twin shoulder straps, so there was little or no steering capability during the drop.
Militaries are odd things. Compare to the history of the 10th Mountain Division. First units organized in late 1942. Activated July 1943. A few got to participate in the mess that was the Kiska invasion. But they didn’t see actual combat until January 1945 in Northern Italy. I don’t know why they weren’t used in Italy a year earlier.
There was a PBS show on them that aired here last week. The US Army really didn’t know what to do with them. Spent a lot of time in Texas. Even once they were shipped overseas, their mountain gear was left stateside. SNAFU.