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Subject: Paratroopers rss

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Steve Pole

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For the purposes of allocating CVs/MFs, special rules, etc, does anyone have any ideas about how best to rate paratroopers as compared with standard infantry in WWII? The more I have read/thought about this, the less certain I have become; hence this request for assistance.

I appreciate, of course, that any such difference will vary from unit to unit; but, there seems to be ample evidence that, in general, the ability and morale of these troops was better than that of their peers. The performance of the Italian Folgore Division in North Africa, for example, is a case in point.

Against this, for obvious reasons, a division of paratroopers would be less well supported in terms of heavy equipment: the defeat of the 1st Airborne Division at Arnhem is a prime example of the difficulties which could result from this.

There is also the issue of suprise. This is complicated because it might favour either the paratroopers or their enemy, depending upon where the former landed in relation to the latter. The success of the fallschirmjäger during Operation Weserübung in contrast to the losses sustained in Crete bears testimony to the importance of this factor.

I should make clear that I'm thinking about a divisional-scale game.

Thanks in advance for your help.
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Dan The Man
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I think of them, on the Div scale, as elite light infantry with the ability to insert behind the lines.

US also had Glider troops, which were regular infantry (light because of equipment) that were also insertable on a large scale. Germans had gliders, but not used on the same scale (except possibly Holland).
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Pete Belli
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I should make clear that I'm thinking about a divisional-scale game.


I might be tempted to portray the airborne units at the regiment/brigade level (to demonstrate their flexibility and their weakness) unless it was a strategic game at a very high scale, like the original D-Day by Avalon Hill.
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Jason Cawley
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Paratroops were generally selected troops with more training than regular infantry, though there are exceptions to that rule (e.g. late war German FJ were just the forces from Goering’s fiefdom within the Nazi hierarchy and were neither more selected than other draftees nor parachute trained).

But they also generally had much less in the way of supporting artillery and anti tank weaponry and especially any form of supporting vehicles or armor, because vehicles beyond the lightest jeeps could not be air landed and without heavy vehicles only the lightest artillery pieces or mortars can be moved and supplied.

The result tended to be that airborne in ground fighting fought only about as well as other units and took heavier casualties doing it, as they had to make infantry quality stand in for missing artillery firepower. They were a bit better on the defense, tactically, and they were better against enemy infantry than against enemy armor, for the same weapon mix reasons. In action their loss rates frequently ran 50 to 100% higher than those of normal infantry formations of the same length of time engaged.

Some of that reflected them getting the hardest missions, but much of it just reflected the fact that the regular infantry could send 155mm artillery shells or attached tank support to do jobs that the “leg” airborne had to do with an infantry battalion and balls of brass.

Some other light infantry arms had the same relationship - German Gebirgsjaegers, Jaegers, US rangers and Marine raider battalions, British and allied Commando units - all were equipped as light infantry to be more readily lifted or moved in their relevant operating environments, then given more extensive training or fitter men or both to make up for their lack of heavy weapons.

Again there are differences in nationalities and time periods that depart from these stereotypes. The Herman Goering Panzer division (and eventually, corps) was a purely ground formation that was “parachute” in name only, for example, and was just a rather lavishly equipped panzer division. It was only “FJ” because it answered to the head of the Luftwaffe as a party boss.

US ordinary infantry divisions typically had an entire tank battalion and frequently also a self propelled anti tank battalion attached, making them nearly the strength of other nation’s armor divisions with up to 90 medium AFVs. They also featured 12 155mm howitzers, 36 105mm howitzers, and 18 additional 105mm pack howitzers each - so naturally they fought harder than pure light infantry formations with nothing remotely like that level of heavy firepower.
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Abe Delnore
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Some additional questions and thoughts:

First, are you thinking about paratrooper units that are being used in the paratrooper role (e.g., British 1st Airborne at Arnhem, German 7th Flieger/1st Fallschirmjager at Crete) or that are being used as infantry "fire brigades" (e.g., Italian Folgore at El Alamein, US 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne)?

Paratroopers who have just been airdropped will be somewhat disorganized and understrength owing to the confusion and losses inherent in the process. Of course they will not have much heavy equipment. On the other hand, the same unit fighting as "fire brigade" infantry, which everyone did, could be very well equipped and supported, at the same level as normal infantry or more, and were frequently given extra motorized transport at least to get them to the battlefield if not around it.

Second, if you might be airdropping these divisions, how does your system handle this? Is it scripted or do the players make it up?

Games handle this in various ways. Some games make you roll, say, lose a step or suffer some other penalty, perhaps subject to modifiers for things like terrain and enemy units. In some games paratroopers have to land in empty hexes; in others they can land right on top of the enemy.

You mention surprise, which I see as an airdrop issue. You might want to consider leaving this out of the paratrooper ratings entirely and instead providing some kind of modifier to the combat immediately following the drop or building it into the airdrop process.

Third, are what kinds of ratings does your putative system have? Are there step losses? Can divisions have different numbers of steps? Do you distinguish attack and defense values?

We see airborne units excelling at defense, either in the airdrop role ("hold until relieved") or as "fire brigades" (the whole point of which is to prevent any enemy breakthrough). We do not really see them being used in a shock troop role to take strongly-defended ground. You might consider giving them a high defense value compared both to their own attack value and possibly the standard infantry's. You might also consider giving them a greater number of steps. As another poster commented, sometimes this can be achieved by moving the paratrooper units down to say regiment level, which can give you more steps but somewhat less attack power.

Fourth, when are you talking about? Early in the war just about everyone's paratroopers are elite formations of picked men. Later in the war, perhaps not so much, but then again the standards for ordinary infantry were also sliding. Also keep in mind that many armies used "glider" or "airlanding" troops alongside or even within their airborne divisions that were drawn from the same manpower pool as ordinary infantry and were not jump-trained. For example, US Army glider infantrymen were simply assigned to their regiments and did not get the special pay and uniforms of their paratrooper brethren until after Normandy, even though they were both assigned to airborne divisions. Similarly, ordinary British infantry battalions were simply assigned the glider role and put into airborne divisions alongside proper beret-wearing paratroopers from the Parachute Regiment. Both were really not considered elite by their own armies; how your system rates them is your call.
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Marty Sample
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Abe Delnore wrote:
Some additional questions and thoughts:

First, are you thinking about paratrooper units that are being used in the paratrooper role (e.g., British 1st Airborne at Arnhem, German 7th Flieger/1st Fallschirmjager at Crete) or that are being used as infantry "fire brigades" (e.g., Italian Folgore at El Alamein, US 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne)?

Paratroopers who have just been airdropped will be somewhat disorganized and understrength owing to the confusion and losses inherent in the process. Of course they will not have much heavy equipment. On the other hand, the same unit fighting as "fire brigade" infantry, which everyone did, could be very well equipped and supported, at the same level as normal infantry or more, and were frequently given extra motorized transport at least to get them to the battlefield if not around it.



Depends on the time scale to a certain degree. While the initial period after the landings they are scattered , they also usually dropped at full strength, whereas the 101st at Bastogne was still absorbing replacements after being on the line in Holland long after Market Garden had concluded. While 101st certainly deserves a lot of credit for Bastogne, there were a lot of support units as well as stragglers from the 9th and 10th Armored that help round out the defenses. So I don't think you can say that such a "fire brigade" role meant they were better equipped. Now to be fair, at a division level Bulge game, you might just beef up the 101st counter anyways to reflect those supporting elements if you wanted to.

Bottom line w/o know more things like scale and the action being depicted, its hard to give advice.
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Carl Fung
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Be careful mixing in all types of paratroopers for different armies.

The only true "light infantry" airborne divisions through the war were the American and British which coupled Parachute Infantry Regiments/Brigades with Glider/Air Landing Regiments/Brigades.

The Italian Folgore Division mentioned were well trained troops and jump qualified, but never were used in an airborne operation. They were hence used as regular infantry.

The same applies to the German Fallschirmjager. Note that no German FJ division ever jumped as a whole division, Crete was done by only a single regiment and Eban Emael was even smaller. After the large losses at Crete, the Germans didn't attempt anymore parachute operations and used their FJ divisions as large regular infantry divisions with a great number of the men not being jump qualified.

The Soviets initially had Airborne Brigades and performed perfunctory paradrops but nothing en masse. They later formed Airborne Divisions but likewise just used them alongside their Rifle Divisions as regular infantry.

So for the "pure" Airborne Divisions (US and British), they were good on defense, limited on offense (but were good on that shock, low level type attacks), but limited movement.

And remember why the 82nd and 101st were used in the Bulge, they were not waiting for the next jump, they were recuperating and used as strategic ground reserve because all the available infantry divisions were on or near the front lines. They acted in their airborne role as regular infantry (holding ground well against superior forces).

Pete has it right that true airborne should be represented broken down (if possible).

Separate from Airborne divisions is each nations' capabilities to transport their airborne forces. Only the British and Americans could lift entire divisions. The Italians, Germans, and Soviets could not.
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Bill Eldard
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Combat Power:

1. Vulnerability: The vulnerability of airborne/parachute divisions are that their combat power begins diminishing as soon as they hit the ground. This can be mitigated by robust resupply, but the airborne units must secure their drop zones, and if the enemy can interdict the resupply, the capabilities of the airborne troops rapidly deteriorate as soldiers suffer exhaustion, and ammo and fuel are expended. This is why they are used in operations in which friendly troops are expected to break through to them before they become combat ineffective.

2. Elite soldiers: Being picked volunteers, paratrooper of WW2 were generally better motivated, more physically fit, and better trained than their non-airborne counterparts. In wargames, this is often reflected in a morale factor of some sort.

3. Weapons: In US airborne units of WW2 at least, the heavy weapons were generally of lower caliber than their non-airborne counterparts. They had 75mm pack howitzers instead of 105mm. They didn't have 4.2 inch mortar because of the portability issue. Likewise with anti-tank guns.

Surprise:


This is a key element for paratroopers, but very situation dependent. In Normandy, the Germans expected airborne drops behind the beaches, and that -- combined with the scattering of the American paratroopers at night -- contributed to the limited effectiveness of the airborne assault.

But surprise only gives the airborne units so much time to organize and capture their objectives before the enemy reacts. In the daylight drops of Market-Garden, surprise was very high and the units general hit their drop zones, but the Germans were able to react strongly because of the location of two SS panzer divisions coincidentally refitting in the area.



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Mike Hoyt

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Rubenpup wrote:

I should make clear that I'm thinking about a divisional-scale game.


A lot of great answers above. I suspect which parts of those answers you pick from will depend a great deal on how you would answer my question, which may be a personal failure to understand the lingo, but....

By "divisional-scale" do you mean each unit is a division, or the whole game encompasses the activities of a single division? Other interpretations are possible I suppose...
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Michael Sanches
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Rubenpup wrote:

I should make clear that I'm thinking about a divisional-scale game.


If the paratroop unit is a division, the best example is AH's Rise and Decline of the Third Reich, in which the paratroop units perform the following functions:

1. Strength - Same as regular infantry for reasons given above.

Their advantage is how they are used with this different ability.

2. Highly mobile allows them to enhance defense because they can get to where the fire is. This is shown in 3R by allowing free stacking. (Bastogne in real life, London in 3R)

3. Individually not that strong. Their job is not to replace an infantry/armor unit, which is better in most situations. They are for those situations infantry/armor units cannot handle.

4. Attack #1 - Can take islands or other places ground units cannot drive to. (Crete)

5. Attack #2 - Can take weakly defended rear areas, usually choke points, and hold them until the regular forces arrive (Holland, Market Garden).

6. Attack #3 - Be inserted into the rear and set up defensive positions and delay reinforcements until wiped out, extracted, or relieved (D-Day).

7. They are expensive and rare. But, since they have their special capabilities, they can often cause as many problems just being a "force in being."

Now, if the scale is a paratroop division vs. regular troops, AH's Air Assault On Crete/Invasion of Malta: 1942 is a good example in that you see how weak the individual units are and how unspecific they are landed, while attacking units that are weaker than line units and are usually in known bivouac areas. Their only purpose in this game is to open areas for the regular troops to land, who will actually do the conquering.

As someone said before, their counter numbers should be the same as other infantry, maybe less. You have to make a whole set of extra rules and abilities just for them.
 
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Steve Pole

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Guys,

Many thanks for your helpful suggestions.

By way of clarity, I should explain that most units in the game will be brigades/divisions.

It is a "what if" scenario loosely based around Sea Lion. The Operation begins earlier than it would have done historically (late July) and the Luftwaffe is able to secure a measure of control of the airspace; but, despite this, the hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned Kriegsmarine is unable to prevent the Royal Navy from inflicting substantial losses on the invasion barges.

The result is that only that part of the landing force - that destined for the area between Brighton and Bexhill - arrives in anything resembling good order. They are effectively cut off.

Rather than attempt to withdraw, the decision is taken to continue with the Operation by relying upon air power to provide supplies and reinforcements in the form of paratroopers. For the purposes of the game, it is envisaged that the latter will range from fully trained units to units comprising untried and untested paratroopers hastily put together from standard infantry divisions in Northern France.

The scenario begins at this point.
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Bill Eldard
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Rubenpup wrote:
Rather than attempt to withdraw, the decision is taken to continue with the Operation by relying upon air power to provide supplies and reinforcements in the form of paratroopers. For the purposes of the game, it is envisaged that the latter will range from fully trained units to units comprising untried and untested paratroopers hastily put together from standard infantry divisions in Northern France.

The scenario begins at this point.

I would suggest that in the scenario you pose, training standard infantry division to jump out of airplanes is impractical. If the goal is to reinforce and supply the established bridgehead by air, it would make more sense to fly those infantry units from airfields in France to captured airfields in England. This is cheaper, faster, and safer than dropping them from overhead.

But there are factors to consider even under ideal battlefield conditions:

- The Luftwaffe's capability to airlift heavy weapons and vehicles to England.

- The capacity of the Luftwaffe to sustain the German force in England with ammunition, fuel, food, spare parts, etc. The more troops you add to the bridgehead, the more capacity required to sustain it.

- Severe weather will impact the ability of the Luftwaffe to sustain the bridgehead.

You might want to consider the Stalingrad model in determining how much the Luftwaffe could actually lift to an isolated ground force.

Also, check out how long it took the Germans to establish and train the 7th Flieger Division, which assaulted Crete. That should give you a yardstick for how much time would be required to create new trained airborne divisions. Operation Merkur in 1941 was the largest German airborne assault attempted in WW2; the drops in 1940 were by much smaller units attempting to seize/hold bridges and other points and await the arrival of mobile ground forces.
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Bob Zurunkel
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The Germans did manage at least three more airdrops after Crete. Sicily in 1943 (successful reinforcement), Leros in 1943 (successful) and the Ardennes in 1944 (unsuccessful).

Their air transport situation in 1940 would have been better than at Stalingrad, as they would not yet have suffered the losses at Crete and in supplying the Eastern Front during the winter of 1941-42. Arguably, the losses in pilots and equipment in '41-'42 had a greater effect on German air assault capability than Crete.
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Jason Cawley
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A few responses to some of the claims above...

First re Third Reich, it is not a good model, as it has about the most overpowered airborne units and operations in wargame history, resulting in perfectly comical game tactics to which nothing corresponds in WW2 reality. It is perfectly normal in 3R to conquer Russia by first dropping an airborne corps (which as an air landed unit Germany never even possessed) on a front line one to facilitate a deeper armored breakthrough, as though the Eben Ebel raid could readily be duplicated on a corps scale or as though operations like Market Garden would have been routinely successful for anyone attempting them at any point in the war.

Second re comments that when airborne divisions were used in the line rather than dropped, they “could be” at least as heavily equipped as normal infantry divisions, this just isn’t accurate for any side at any point in the war. The whole point of the things as organizations was their superior operational mobility from their lightness, and even when used as ground fire brigades that is what was being exploited - along with the fact that they generally weren’t in the line unless they had just been dropped, to be sure. They were truck liftable more easily for the same reason they were air droppable; the Russians flew them to friendly airfields to reposition them for the same reason, because being light (and used to loading onto aircraft for training if nothing else) they could be moved that way. As a result, even in action in the line they did not have 155mm howitzers or large div arty parks with full motorized supply columns to keep them fed or attached armored battalions and the like.

At most, occasionally they were put into the line alongside other formations that did have such heavier weapons and cooperated with them. The same happened when they were fighting after air landing, once they met up with friendly ground forces. At Caretan, US armored division forces were already cooperating with US airborne 6 days after the invasion. In Market Garden, US airborne provided river crossing forces while 30th corps supplied armor and artillery support. In the Bulge, remnants of US armored division forces and TD battalions fought alongside US airborne infantry inside the Bastogne perimeter, not as something planned but simply because they were pocketed together when the Germans bypassed and surrounded the town. But none of these situations saw extra 155mm howitzer battalions actually assigned to any of these formations - they remained light infantry, with a div arty park down a tube size and half range pack varieties, lighter mortars and few of them, lighter AT and no organic armored vehicles, etc.

Then there was the statement above that the Russians dropped only a few brigades but never anything large scale. That is misleading - they certainly attempted a large scale airborne operation to support the crossing of the Dnepr river in the fall of 1943, but it was an utter fiasco. They also routinely dropped single brigades into German rear areas to support partisans and pockets and raiding forces infiltrated between German “hedgehow” defenses confined to settled areas, including cavalry and ski forces infiltrating through forests and frozen marshes in winter, etc. Bascially they exploited the ability to send them places other units could not readily get, but with very indifferent results because modest amounts of light infantry in the backwoods simply didn’t have much impact on the German war effort. They also used them as fire brigade front line infantry in major battles, along the lines of US use for the Bulge, including notably 1941 use along the main highway to Moscow and 1943 use on the north face of the Kursk salient at Ponyri.

As for the Germans, they are different and need to be divided into periods, and the institutional set up of Nazi politics understood. Goering was powerful in Germany as a party boss, former head of the police and interior ministry, economic boss in the pre war build up etc. He was also head of the Luftwaffe as a WW1 pilot, and used it as a personal fief within the regime, seeking new resources and power for it every which way. This led to things like the Luftwaffe Field Divisions in 1942-3, which failed, alongside the earlier and much smaller true parachute FJ. After Crete, the actual parachute force was divided into cadres for a big expansion of the FJ and that expanded ground force replaced the failed Luftwaffe Field division type. But these later war FJ were basically just infantry divisions, with somewhat less tube arty and somewhat more Flak substituted simply because the Luftwaffe had more than enough 88mm Flak guns and not enough army howitzers. They were never really meant to be air droppable and received no parachute training. They were not picked men either, although a few regiment sized forces received cadres (sgts and lts) from the old actual airborne, pre Crete FJ.

As for the Sea Lion era, the FJ of that period would be lucky to put together a single division of light infantry. They trained to capture airfields and supplement the actual parachute dropped men with “air landed” men, meaning flown in on transport aircraft but just landed normally on captured runways. They did that in Norway and they did it again on Crete - it was their standard operating procedure. A regiment landed on chutes would grow into a division landed by plane over the course of a couple of days of ferry flights.

Absolute control of the air was required for this - JU-52s don’t take well to being intercepted, as losses in the Stalingrad airlift and in the supply of Tunisia later showed. These are frankly coup de main tactics, designed to intimidate weak defenders more than to seriously fight full formations of enemy ground troops. As Crete showed, even the air land supplemented light infantry FJ took ruinous losses in fights against ordinary Allied ground formations. They took Crete is large part because they did get total control of the air and were able to sink Allied shipping off shore to isolate the island, and run in their own convoys. But they destroyed the small FJ doing it, against frankly weak and disorganized ground opposition, certainly nothing like the scale they would have faced in a Sea Lion operation.

Assuming they did first get control of the air and could seize airheads to fly in air landing forces, the most they could expect to do afterwards would be to seize a port for sea borne forces to reach them. That again requires such command of the air as to keep the Royal Navy off the crossing sites. The ground war would then start - for all practical purposes - with whatever those could bring over and supply. Germany had basically no amphibious warfare capability and no dedicated ship types for it - they would need a fully functioning port to land and supply anything using normal merchant shipping. The model for doing that successfully is Norway - but that was against very weak opposition, far from British bases, with air to keep most of the British navy away etc. And with therefore only a modest force “ashore” to keep supplied, in low intensity operations, etc.

There was no prospect of an air landed and air supplied force seizing even any appreciable portion of defended England on their own, without such sea borne back up. An airhead and coup de main to seize a port is about the most they could hope for, if they caught the British napping somewhere (perhaps in Cornwall, say, rather than Kent).
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Steve Pole

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Bill/Bob,

Many thanks.

We are looking at Stalingrad as a basis for calculating the likely supply position.

In effect there are no captured airfields for the Germsns to use, initially at least. The lack of airfields was one of the reasons why we selected the Eastbourne area as the only place where the invasion was successful. In terms of designing a game, it makes things much simpler! (As I'm sure you know, Deanland wasn't built until 1943 and Friston was a small civilian aerodrone, albeit it was used by the RAF for emegency landings.)

Hence the emphasis on paratroopers.

Of course, if they are able to build up suffcient forces to breakout from their beachhead the Germans will have the possibility of capturing a number of large and useable airfields; much of the game hinges upon their success in doing this.

Regards and thanks again,



Steve
4.11.17



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Carl was technically correct on the Soviets: the Kanev drop was only two brigades due to lack of planes, so they couldn't do a divisional drop. Crete, on the other hand, was a 4-regiment drop. So the Germans were capable, but only for one battle.
 
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Steve Pole

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Jason,

Thanks for this (which crossed with my previous post).

As far as I am aware, everyone agrees that Sea Lion, had it taken place, was doomed to fail. The scenario we are gaming reflects this failure; however, it aims to explore what might have happened if a fairly substantial force had managed to get ashore. In purely military terms - and in terms of VPs - it is a question of how long they can hold on, and how much damage they can do in the meantime, particularly if they manage to break out and capture useable airfields.

Incidentally, we actually thought about having the successful landing take place in Lyme Bay (as envisaged by Sea Lion); but, this seemed to create more problems than it solves in terms of plausibility. For example, the time at sea for the barges would have been three times that of sailing to the Eastbourne area; the tides and shoreline in the south west are less benign for a seabourne invasion; and, the rugged countryside is made for defence.

Regards, and thanks again,


Steve
4.11.17


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The two main problems of wartime parachute operations were the overall newness of the idea and its equipment, and more importantly the requirement for air transport, and the pilots to operate it, at a time when air forces tended to take the skilled men for combat aircraft. Shortly before the war commercial passenger aircraft were categorised as either safe and/or comfortable, or neither. During the war multi-engined aircraft still sometimes fell out of the sky due to mechanical dysfunction. Also, most importantly, airborne operations were probably better handled by a peerless commander such as Goering, who brought men and machines under one firmly-directed aegis. In Britain there were bunfights between the RAF, British Army, War Office and Air Ministry whenever ground forces attempted to overlap with aircraft. Thus in 1940 the Germans had Stukas and we didn't.

The primary reason why Market failed was the sortie rate of the US Troop Carrier units, which was reasonably but inalterably limited to one a day.

JasonC wrote:
First re Third Reich, it is not a good model, as it has about the most overpowered airborne units and operations in wargame history,

Their parachutes weren't very good. The chute attached to a harness at a point located over the upper back, the idea being that the fallschirmjaeger would meet the ground in a sort of angled all-fours posture, so breaking the fall in this manner. Also they tended to drop without weapons, which were dropped in marked containers. Neither theory worked well in combat.

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Second re comments that when airborne divisions were used in the line rather than dropped, they “could be” at least as heavily equipped as normal infantry divisions, this just isn’t accurate for any side at any point in the war.
1st Airborne had 17lbers attached for Market. The great majority of all ordnance weighed either less than two tons/2000 kg or more than four. The 17lber weighed three tons, and so was dangerous enough to land by glider [along with its mover, a cut-down quad] that one supposes they didn't do any dress rehearsals.

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Then there was the statement above that the Russians dropped only a few brigades but never anything large scale. That is misleading - they certainly attempted a large scale airborne operation to support the crossing of the Dnepr river in the fall of 1943, but it was an utter fiasco.
I recall the ASL scenario that mentions one of their drops missing the target by 40 miles, which points to pilots' navigational ability and the associated difficulties of the steppe environment.

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They were not picked men either, although a few regiment sized forces received cadres (sgts and lts) from the old actual airborne, pre Crete FJ.
Some smaller units were elites, and these attacked and defeated poorly-manned Canadian armour in their last action of the NW Europe campaign, before marching gaily into captivity.

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As Crete showed, even the air land supplemented light infantry FJ took ruinous losses in fights against ordinary Allied ground formations. They took Crete is large part because they did get total control of the air and were able to sink Allied shipping off shore to isolate the island, and run in their own convoys. But they destroyed the small FJ doing it, against frankly weak and disorganized ground opposition, certainly nothing like the scale they would have faced in a Sea Lion operation.
The point then is opposed versus unopposed landings, which clearly influenced Market, as well as not dropping at night. The 6th Airborne memoir of a private landing in a greenhouse is interesting because of the number of other memoirs that mention the sound of breaking glass as they landed ie. at first they were within earshot of each other, and then they dispersed into isolation.

I think the terrain of Crete played a role, and England would have been different in that respect. Also this was the era of "send three & fourpence", where radio technology was about as well understood as parachuting, so the overwhelming response may have been days in coming. The defences on Crete, comprising a number of famous regiments that had a bad war [eg. the Black Watch] would have been rather more effective than the Home Guard of 1940.
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Jason Cawley
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"airborne operations were probably better handled by a peerless commander such as Goering"

Is this a joke? Because it is kind of laughable. Goering was a disfunctional heroin addict who weighed 300 lbs and ate whole bakeries, in between bouts of looting half of Europe and running the German air force into the ground. Bombastic over-promise followed by pathetic under-delivery was his normal pattern. If the small early war FJ was capable it certainly wasn't because of him. And it was only capable of coup de main ops because of the newness of the entire tactic and form of war, making opponents unready to face it.

As for dying on Crete, I don't think the critical thing was landing unopposed vs not. It was the fight after they got on the ground, when FJ were nothing but light infantry facing better armed normal infantry formation opponents. They could not afford to trade man for man with enemy line regulars - they were way too scarce and expensive to train for that to make any operational or strategic sense.

The best airborne forces of the war were the late war US and British ones, because they had such select material, such long training, and such peerless air arms operating in their support. They very clearly accomplished the most and it isn't even remotely close.

My comment about 3rd Reich was about the wargame, the old Avalon Hill classic, and its insanely overpowered depicted of all airborne units, on all sides, not about German FJ units in that game or in the real war. There are lots of realism failings in that game, but some of the biggest concerned airborne ops and the timing of events manipulations they could be abused for in the system. (E.g. take a port by air drop then SR into it without possible naval interception, without even needing any rea air superiority at the landing point.) It was purely a failing of a particular game system comment. (Later titles like World at War dealt with some of those issues, but not all).

As for landing 17 pdrs, yes the 1st Airborne dropped a dozen of them into the Arnhem airhead, with jeeps to move them about. There is precious little evidence they helped very much once there, since the armor fighting that mattered was in built up city by the time German heavies were on the field. The early German armor around the perimeter was old tanks and light armor, and a 6 pdr was all that was needed against them.

But even so, this is a lot less AT capability than a 1944 US infantry division with typically 50 plus Shermans and 36 M-10 SP TDs, on top of the usual organic 6 pdrs. Full medium AFVs are simply far more capable AT weapon systems than towed ATGs, because they get where they are needed and concentrate instead of being spread out etc. Every side's airborne infantry were outgunned on the ground by non airborne formations, in pure weapon mix terms.
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Fred - the corrections are friendly, thanks. I believe in the case of the Dnepr dropped they did plan on more, but the first ones were so awful that they stopped after 2 brigades had been landed. They were basically wiped out without accomplishing much of anything. The earlier and smaller ops in the previous winters to supply pockets and partisans arguably accomplished more. FWIW.
 
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Michael Sanches
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I am not sure the idea of Operation Sealion being unfeasible is correct. It would be interesting to have a game with the accurate resources of both the Germans and British available when France surrendered.

With Poland and France conquered, Italy allied, and Russia observing a non-aggression pact, Germany could afford to throw everything at England. Even with horrendous losses, they would be little compared to later years.

At this time England had no heavy weapons. So, German units flown in, though technically light infantry, would be equal to British infantry.

What if every single air unit was sent to the theater along with all available supplies and all usable ground forces? Even with 50% losses in crossing, the conquest of England is just too valuable to ignore.
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Eddy Sterckx
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huskerdude wrote:
I am not sure the idea of Operation Sealion being unfeasible is correct. It would be interesting to have a game with the accurate resources of both the Germans and British available when France surrendered.


That's how historians tend to look at it : purely looking at the resources and then concluding it can't be done.

But that's not how warfare works - if you just looked at the resources there's no way Germany could defeat France that quickly in 1940.

The BEF that got back through Operation Dynamo was not an army, it was a beaten mob. There was a sentiment in British society to call it quits and accept the peace offered. Who knows what another big psychological push - like an actual invasion - would have triggered.
 
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Steve Pole

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Almost everyone agrees that Sea Lion would have failed; but, how the failure would have played out is less clear.

The scenario we are devising envisages most invasion barges being sunk by the Royal Navy; but, the contingent planned to land in the Bexhill/Brighton area make it ashore with only 75% casualties. (There's no rationale as to why these escaped the carnage, other than we wanted the landing to be in an area devoid of useable airstrips.)

Although cut off, rather than surrendering they continue fighting and are reinforced from the air, initially by paratroopers.

There is a political dimension in that if the Germans manage to secure and hold an airstrip(s), retain a degree local air superiority, so that reinforcements arrive in significant numbers, and put forward a basis for an armistice which the doves within the Cabinate could conceiveably live with, the British may agree to talks.

This is a fairly unlikely outcome, however; generally any German "victory" will be gained by simply surviving for 12 game turns.

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The thinking has been an Operation Sealion like a reverse D-Day. Instead, I would like to see what would happen:
(This presupposes NO bonuses for the Germans - no capture of troops at Dunkirk, no help from the Italians, such as the Italian Air Force, etc.)

1. June 4th, 1940. Dunkirk evacuated. Germany realizes the French are now hopeless and will surrender soon, and, the British army is defanged. Operation Sealion is ordered for FS-Day + 3. All paratroopers, gliders, and Stukas are withdrawn from the front and assembled in eastern Germany, as well as all mortars and small AT guns. An airport in Southern England is chosen as the target.

2. June 22, 1940 - FS-Day! France signs surrender document. A supply depot near an airport opposite the target British airport is built (maybe 5 - 10 of them.)

3. June 25, 1940 (FS-Day + 3) - All available paratroopers and gliders are dropped on the target airport and it is captured. Reinforcements are brought in hourly by air. Naval vessels and barges are assembled on the French coast in case the Royal navy is neutralized. U-boats, Stuka Dive Bombers, and Fighters are gathered at kill zones at the entrances to the English Channel, first in the East and later in the west.

Then, it becomes a battle of enlarging/shrinking the invasion area around the target airport. The complete German Air Force is committed to Operation Sealion.

If 100 men per hour can be brought in, that is 2,400 per day, or a division of 10,000 men every 4 days.

It would probably be doable to draft all cargo planes in Axis Europe. If the British lose enough ships while intervening the channel, though no German Navy is there, then you can start sending men/supplies by sea.
 
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Bill Eldard
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huskerdude wrote:
The thinking has been an Operation Sealion like a reverse D-Day. Instead, I would like to see what would happen:
(This presupposes NO bonuses for the Germans - no capture of troops at Dunkirk, no help from the Italians, such as the Italian Air Force, etc.)

1. June 4th, 1940. Dunkirk evacuated. Germany realizes the French are now hopeless and will surrender soon, and, the British army is defanged. Operation Sealion is ordered for FS-Day + 3. All paratroopers, gliders, and Stukas are withdrawn from the front and assembled in eastern Germany, as well as all mortars and small AT guns. An airport in Southern England is chosen as the target.

2. June 22, 1940 - FS-Day! France signs surrender document. A supply depot near an airport opposite the target British airport is built (maybe 5 - 10 of them.)

3. June 25, 1940 (FS-Day + 3) - All available paratroopers and gliders are dropped on the target airport and it is captured. Reinforcements are brought in hourly by air. Naval vessels and barges are assembled on the French coast in case the Royal navy is neutralized. U-boats, Stuka Dive Bombers, and Fighters are gathered at kill zones at the entrances to the English Channel, first in the East and later in the west.

Then, it becomes a battle of enlarging/shrinking the invasion area around the target airport. The complete German Air Force is committed to Operation Sealion.

If 100 men per hour can be brought in, that is 2,400 per day, or a division of 10,000 men every 4 days.

It would probably be doable to draft all cargo planes in Axis Europe. If the British lose enough ships while intervening the channel, though no German Navy is there, then you can start sending men/supplies by sea.

Ah, yes, the German fantasy scenario. It ignores that the RAF would contest the Channel during the day, and the Royal Navy would enter the Channel at night (no Luftwaffe to contend with), destroy the amphibious fleet, and be out of the Channel by day break.

Try doing the math on reinforcing and sustaining an invasion force through a single English airport, especially when the RAF Bomber Command destroys it nightly.
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