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Subject: The "other" airborne assaults rss

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Jason Russ
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Everybody knows the biggies: Crete, Normandy, Holland, Sicily.

There are many more examples of course - there were quite a few drops in WW II and many after the war as well. Some other well known ones: the Chindits in Burma or Operation Varsity across the Rhine.

Some assaults are hardly known at all. See Operation Squatter, for example. Or some Indo-Pakistani war drops.

I'd love to know more about the Japanese at Palembang, Russians on the Dnepr, and the Brits at Suez (1956?).

So how about these lesser known assaults? Which were important - or interesting?


Cheers,
Jason
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Bill Lawson
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There are several good accounts of the Soviet airdrops in WW2. John Erickson "The Road to Stalingrad" and "The Road to Berlin". There is a good account from the German side on the Dnepr air drops in "Scorched Earth" by Paul Carell.
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Bill Eldard
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There were a number of small airborne assaults in WW2 that often get overshadowed by the big ones.

German airborne forces dropped on the Netherlands (1940) and the fortress at Eben Emael (Belgium - 1940). I think there were some drops in Norway earlier as well.

As MacArthur had some small scale drops around New Guinea, and a regiment (or smaller) of the 11th Airborne Division dropped on Corregidor in the Philippines.

There was an ill-fated British parachute battalion that was dropped in either Algeria or Tunisia in 1943; the operation -- which involved airborne ceasing an airfield and being relieved by an armored task force breaking through to them -- was cancelled, but the paratroopers were in route to the drop zone and no one could communicate to them that the mission was aborted. They were all killed or captured.

British 1st Airborne Division dropped into southern Italy during the 1943clandings, and elements of the US 82nd Airborne Division dropped at Sicily (where many of them died when the US Navy shot down their transport planes) and Salerno, where they served as emergency reinforcement to the amphibious landing force.

The Red Army also dropped paratroopers during their 1939-40 invasion of Finland -- many of the paratroopers reportedly had no parachutes, but were dropped into large snowbanks identified from the air by the pilots of the planes. According to what I read years ago, many surprisingly survived the fall, but because their center of grativity was high, they dropped into the banks inverted and helpless, where Finnish ski troops would look in to see the soles of Soviet's boots, and kill them.

The only significant US airborne assault in the Korean War was by the 187th Airborne Combat Team, and the only significant airborne drop of the Vietnam War was by the 173d Airborne Brigade, though there were smaller-scale drops by US Special Forces and affiliated units on special operations.

And the Italy-based US 173d Airborne Brigade made a drop into northern Iraq during OIF, though I believe there was little or no opposition.

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There were many smaller airborne operations - battalion to regiment sized - during WW2.

We mostly only hear about the Western front divisional airborne assaults.
 
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Jason Russ
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Eldard wrote:

The Red Army also dropped paratroopers during their 1939-40 invasion of Finland -- many of the paratroopers reportedly had no parachutes, but were dropped into large snowbanks identified from the air by the pilots of the planes. According to what I read years ago, many surprisingly survived the fall, but because their center of grativity was high, they dropped into the banks inverted and helpless, where Finnish ski troops would look in to see the soles of Soviet's boots, and kill them.



I've heard of this before and would love to know more. I believe Russia used this technique (if it could even be called "technique"!) against the Germans as well.


Cheers,
Jason
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Brent Pollock
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Is it just me or does anyone else think that 'Eben Emael' sounds more like an Arab Israeli War kind of battle locale? I never think 'Belgium' when I hear it...not even in a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy sense...
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Lance McMillan
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ftarzanin wrote:
I think para drops are a thing of the past. Too risky with modern weapons.


Not so sure that's a supportable statement.

In '78 the French & Belgian airborne forces were dropped into Kolwezi province of the Congo in Operation LEOPARD.

U.S. airborne forces were dropped into both Grenada (Operation URGENT FURY) in '83 and Panama (Operation JUST CAUSE) in '89.

Planning for Operation RESTORE HOPE in Somalia in '93 also briefly considered, but ultimately rejected, an airborne drop.

U.S. forces conducted a combat jump into northern Iraq as part of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.

That's a pretty fair number of airborne operations in recent memory against "modern weapons."
 
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Confusion Under Fire
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I have, for a few years wanted to make a game out of The attack on the Merville Battery. This was one of the first drops of D-Day but the problems faced, I think would make for a good game or scenario. Only 150 of the 650 dropped made it to the battery and that was before any ground combat had commenced. It makes good reading of problems faced by paratroopers before combat starts.
 
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Ben Vincent
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Here's a list of U.S. combat jumps.

Here's a long thread on Red Army airborne forces in WWII. I only skimmed it, but it's skeptical of the "snow bank" drops (near the end of post #9).
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Lance McMillan
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SabreRedleg wrote:
Here's a long thread on Red Army airborne forces in WWII. I only skimmed it, but it's skeptical of the "snow bank" drops...


Back in the mid-'70s when I was a high school student living in Turkey, I met a GRU (Soviet military intelligence) officer through my father who worked for the CIA at the time. The GRU officer, impressed by the fact that I was interested in and knew a fair amount about the Great Patriotic War, was happy to talk with me about his many exploits during the war. Amongst his many other claims (and to most of the other Russians we spent time with, this guy was something of a war hero), he claimed he'd been dropped behind German lines to coordinate partisan operations during the winter of '43 using this "jump into the snowbank" technique. He said it wasn't an often used technique, and was typically done into pre-arranged sites that had already been surveyed/prepared by elements already in the area, and it was a technique most certainly not used for a general airborne assault, but rather solely for clandestine/special operations insertions. They used old biplanes which flew extremely low to the ground (almost, or in some cases, actually touching down) at near stall speeds -- and even so it was incredibly risky and more often than not ended up with the "jumper" breaking a few bones (he said he'd fractured a wrist and dislocated a shoulder during his jump).
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B. Marsh
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Lancer4321 wrote:
ftarzanin wrote:
I think para drops are a thing of the past. Too risky with modern weapons.


Not so sure that's a supportable statement.

In '78 the French & Belgian airborne forces were dropped into Kolwezi province of the Congo in Operation LEOPARD.

U.S. airborne forces were dropped into both Grenada (Operation URGENT FURY) in '83 and Panama (Operation JUST CAUSE) in '89.

Planning for Operation RESTORE HOPE in Somalia in '93 also briefly considered, but ultimately rejected, an airborne drop.

U.S. forces conducted a combat jump into northern Iraq as part of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.

That's a pretty fair number of airborne operations in recent memory against "modern weapons."


http://www.military.com/features/0,15240,103998,00.html

We still jump into combat.

Stink

RLTW


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Mark Luta
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Another part of Western military doctrine has been to hold airborne troops as reserves not only if needed for some disaster at the front (as in the Battle of the Bulge), but also with the idea it would force the enemy to devote large resources to rear area security, on the theory they would always have to be prepared for an airborne attack. The US certainly kept large security forces in rear areas in France, knowing the '17th Parachute Army' was deployed against us--when word of German Paratroopers dropping in December 1944 reached Paris, Eisenhower was rushed to safety and protected, just in case Germans dropped from the sky to capture him (in fairness, the stunning mountaintop jailbreak of Mussolini by German commandos had happened just a year earlier, so this sort of operation had occurred--for the 'next step' of airborne troops moving important people by surprise, I recommend the movie 'The Eagle has Landed' which has nothing to do with Moon landings!).

This doctrine is probably of questionable effectiveness. It is doubtful the North Koreans much altered their operations because the US held airborne troops in reserve. In Vietnam, airmobile operations were effective, but again probably had little deterrent effect. On the other hand, even unsuccessful actual airborne operations the enemy does have to devote resources away from the front to respond to the air drops. There was a brief theory of 'tri-cap' divisions in Europe during the 1970s which would include helicopter, armour and infantry elements for the triple threat, but the concept was soon abandoned.

In terms of smaller scale airborne operations, Japanese paratroops were used to sieze oilfields in Borneo during WWII. Both sides conducted small air drops on New Guinea. Air drops were conducted by the British in Burma, both the Chindit commandos and some more specific operations.
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Rob A
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The 173rd jump into northern Iraq gets my hackles up... We were there a couple weeks before they jumped in, there was no opposition as it was long held Kurdish territory. While it was a sucky jump, lots of mud and hypothermia for the guys, it was not a "combat" jump... we airlanded in the same spot weeks earlier (and some of those planes got shot up pretty badly coming in over vic Tal Afar - one barely able to abort to Turkey).

Sorry, had to rant about that...
 
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Lance McMillan
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RobUSAF wrote:
The 173rd jump into northern Iraq ... was not a "combat" jump.


True, but it was "advertised" as such. I was attached to 5th Fleet in Bahrain at the time it happened and remember the looks of confusion that went around the room when the Admiral was briefed about the operation as being a "combat drop." The common reaction was, "Didn't we already have SOF elements on the ground working with the Pesh Murga up there? And wasn't that airfield already abandoned? How's this a 'combat drop?'" In the end we just kinda shrugged and figured there was more to it than we were getting through channels.
 
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tc237 wrote:
Many very good examples, however...here is the main question
Which one will make a good game?


I think the 503rd at Corregidor would make for some interesting scenarios.

Check out
http://www.amazon.com/Corregidor-Rock-Force-Assault-Flanagan...
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olivier R
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Isn't this russian airborne troops dropping in snow without parachute one big myth?
 
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Read the rulebook, plan for all contingencies, and…read the rulebook again.
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The Japanese did a few parachute operations in the Dutch East Indies in the opening stages of their assault on the Pacific. One to seize an airfield took place on Menado, Celebes Island, 11 January 1942. Another one took place on Palembang, Sumatra Island, 14 February 1942 to seize oil refineries. Another airdrop took place on Dutch West Timor Island, 20 February 1942 to seize airfields.

All three of these operations were very small compared to German and Allied drops.

Later, on December 6, 1944, a Japanese force of 750 parachutists attacked U.S.-held airfields in the Burauen area on Leyte Island in the Philippines.

During the Battle of Okinawa, a parachute-trained suicide group (maybe two dozen raiders) staged an airlanding raid on U.S.-held Yontan Airfield on the night of May 24, 1945. The raiders destroyed a few aircraft, but were quickly eliminated. The force was supposed to consist of five transports fully loaded with raiders, but only one transport made it to the airfield.

Fianlly, an abortive German parachute attack was made by a Colonel von der Heyte during the second night of the German offensive during the Battle of the Bulge. (December 17, 1944?) While a couple of their parachute divisions were already operating as straight-leg infantry during the battle, the planners could only put together enough spare planes, pilots, and equipment to carry 1,000 trained parachutists into Allied territory. That 1,000 quickly dwindled to 200 that actually made the drop as delays, misdirection, and inexperience led two-thirds of the air transport astray from the intended drop zone. Once on the ground for a couple days with no relief in sight, the paratroopers spent most of their effort just trying to get back to the German lines.

The old Avalon Hill game Air Assault on Crete/Malta allowed players to stage the planned-but-never-attempted assault on the British-held island of Malta using German and Italian "Folgore" parachutists in addition to a host of airlanding and sea-borne support.
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Jason Russ
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SabreRedleg wrote:
Here's a list of U.S. combat jumps.

Here's a long thread on Red Army airborne forces in WWII. I only skimmed it, but it's skeptical of the "snow bank" drops (near the end of post #9).



Great links!


Cheers,
Jason
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Charles Samardza

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there are two games for Eban Emal
although it's glider instead of parachute there is also Operation Pegasus.
Does anyone knoe of any other's
 
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Bill Eldard
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markluta wrote:
Another part of Western military doctrine has been to hold airborne troops as reserves not only if needed for some disaster at the front (as in the Battle of the Bulge), but also with the idea it would force the enemy to devote large resources to rear area security, on the theory they would always have to be prepared for an airborne attack.


In the case of the US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, they were technically "in reserve" because they were still refitting after Operation Market-Garden and the subsequent battles. They were committed to the Bulge because Eisenhower didn't really have any other effective divisions in reserve.

markluta wrote:
The US certainly kept large security forces in rear areas in France, knowing the '17th Parachute Army' was deployed against us--when word of German Paratroopers dropping in December 1944 reached Paris, Eisenhower was rushed to safety and protected, just in case Germans dropped from the sky to capture him (in fairness, the stunning mountaintop jailbreak of Mussolini by German commandos had happened just a year earlier, so this sort of operation had occurred--for the 'next step' of airborne troops moving important people by surprise, I recommend the movie 'The Eagle has Landed' which has nothing to do with Moon landings!).


I'm not familiar with the 17th Parachute Army. Was that an Allied mis-identification of Student's 15th Flieger (or was it Fallschirmjaeger?) Army?

markluta wrote:
There was a brief theory of 'tri-cap' divisions in Europe during the 1970s which would include helicopter, armour and infantry elements for the triple threat, but the concept was soon abandoned.


While the Tri-Cap experiment of the early '70s was abandoned, it has pretty much re-emerged since the '90s in US Army combat divisions. Each division has an aviation brigade (the 'fourth brigade') making it more capable than a Tri-Cap division.

As far as I know, the 1st Cavalry Division at Ft. Hood, Texas was the experimental tri-cap division in the early '70s; I'm not aware of any US divisions in USAREUR/Seventh Army that were configured that way. Ironically, the 11th Airborne Division -- re-designated as 11th Air Assault Division -- was the experimental airmobile division in the mid'60s, and just prior to deploying to Vietnam in '65, it was re-designated as 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). During and after the war, the 1st Cavalry Division was often referred to as the "1st Air Cav."

 
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Manuel Perez Ron
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Wargames about red air assaults:

Kanev (SPI)
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/5264

Red Parachutes : Soviet Airborne Assault Across the Dnepr (AP)
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/3070

Regards, Manuel
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perezron wrote:
Wargames about red air assaults:

Kanev (SPI)
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/5264

Red Parachutes : Soviet Airborne Assault Across the Dnepr (AP)
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/3070

Regards, Manuel


Own them both.

Have played Kanev - 3W version. A pleasant one map wargame.

Red Parachutes - lovely looking game. One map, with enough counters to cover 4 maps. They apparently took a brigade/division level game, and broke the units down to companies, battalions and batteries.

-----------------

There was this Paradrop in Sicily that had the distinction of being the only time in history that opposing sides dropped paras on the same target at about the same time. IIRC, there was a SL/GIAV scenario for that.
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Jason Russ
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Wilhammer wrote:


There was this Paradrop in Sicily that had the distinction of being the only time in history that opposing sides dropped paras on the same target at about the same time. IIRC, there was a SL/GIAV scenario for that.



Primosole Bridge, I believe. Germans dropped the day before the Brits.


Cheers,
Jason
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kypros wrote:
Wilhammer wrote:


There was this Paradrop in Sicily that had the distinction of being the only time in history that opposing sides dropped paras on the same target at about the same time. IIRC, there was a SL/GIAV scenario for that.



Primosole Bridge, I believe. Germans dropped the day before the Brits.


Cheers,
Jason
www.wargamedepot.com


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Fustian
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Timothy Young
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Although the D-Day landings are well documented, there are interesting descriptions in some books of the original planned landings which were much further inland, expecting American paratroops to take and hold German airfields before relief, possibly several days later.

Considering what happened in Arnhem, it is very fortunate that this did not go ahead, particularly since the D-Day advances were far less than expected and how important the parachutist's contribution to the support of the forces coming off the beaches was.
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