German Airborne Operations 1940-1945 (P-2)


Throughout World War II the German parachute troops had the benefit of close cooperation on the part of the Luftwaffe reconnaissance. The main problem was to see to it that the parachute troops received good aerial photographs and, if possible, stereoscopic pictures of the area they were to attack so that they could familiarize themselves in advance with the terrain. It proved to be advisable to distribute stereoscopic equipment down to battalion level and to send members of the parachute units to the aerial photography school of the Luftwaffe for special training in the use and interpretation of stereoscopic pictures.

In this way, it was possible to offset to a certain degree the lack of terrain reconnaissance prior to an airborne attack. Finally, the air forces support the airborne operation by attacking the enemy’s ground forces. During the war all German airborne operations took place beyond the range of German artillery, and only in the case of the Ardennes offensive were parachute troops to be supported by long range artillery bombardment. This plan was never put into operation because the radio equipment of the forward observer assigned to the parachute troops failed to function after the jump. Ground strafing and preparatory bombing of the landing area proved to be the best solution everywhere. Air attacks upon enemy reserves being rushed toward the airhead can be of decisive importance because of the extra time gained for the troops which have been landed. Opinions are divided, however regarding the value of direct air support of the troop fighting on the ground after their landing.

On Crete, formations of the Luftwaffe’s Von Richthofen Corps solved this problem in exemplary fashion. Other experiences, however, would seem to indicate that it is impossible to support airborne troops, once they are locked in battle, by delivering accurate fire from the air or well-placed bombs. Lack of training and inadequate skill in air ground cooperation may have disastrous effects. Systematic training, in which well-functioning radio communication from the ground to the air and coordination between formations on the ground and in the air are emphasized, should achieve results just as satisfactory as those achieved between armored formations and air forces. It goes without saying that cooperation from the artillery, in so far as airborne operations are conducted within its range, is worth striving for, both in preparation of the landing and in support of the troops after they have landed.

German Airborne Operations & Atrocities - WW-2

Attention may be drawn to the Allied airborne operation north of Wesel in March 1945 where British and American artillery support is said to have been extremely effective. When airborne operations are effected on a beach, naval artillery takes the place of Army artillery. An increase in range made possible by the development of rockets will result in further possibilities for support. When troops landed by air are joined by forces advancing on the ground, the airborne operations are conducted against islands and coast lines, junction with amphibious forces has the same effect.

In World War II, accordingly, airborne operations were always conducted in coordination with ground or amphibious forces. How soon this junction with ground or amphibious forces will be effected depends upon the number of troops and volume of supplies, including weapons and equipment, ammunition, rations, and fuel, which can be moved up by air. This again depends upon the air transport available and upon control of the air to insure undisturbed operation of the airlift required for this purpose. If such relief cannot be provided in time, the troops landed will be lost. So far, no way has been devised of fetching them back by air. In the German airborne operations of World War II, supplying troops by air over long periods of time was impossible, not only because control of the air could not be maintained, but also because of a lack of transport planes.

In the German doctrine, the guiding principle was that as much airlift was needed to resupply a unit which had been landed by air with ammunition and weapons (excluding rations) for a single day of hard fighting as had been necessary for the transport of the unit to the drop point. While this fighting does not take place at all times and be all elements at the same time, consideration must be given to the fact that in addition to supplies it will be necessary to bring up more troops to follow up initial successes and give impetus to the fighting. Eventually, the troops will need to be supplied with additional rations and, if they break out of their airheads, with fuel. In this field, too, postwar technical achievements offer new possibilities. During the war the Germans believed that junction of an airborne formation with ground troops had to be effected within two to three days after landing. On the basis of conditions prevailing in those days, these deadlines consistently proved to be accurate in practice.

German Airborne Operations & Atrocities - WW-2

Section 2. Airborne Tactics

Three methods were used during World War II to land troops from the air at their place of commitment. Troops could be landed by parachute, by transport gliders released from tow planes, or by landing of transport planes. All three methods were used in varied combinations, depending upon the situation. In accordance with the lessons derived from World War II, the last method, for reasons which will be discussed later, is unsuitable for the initial capture of enemy territory from the air, that is, the creation of an airhead. Accordingly, only the commitment of paratroopers and glider borne troops will be discussed here. (German experiences in the technique and tactics of these two methods are described in detail in the appendix.) The advantages and the disadvantages of the two methods will be compared here and conclusions drawn as to their future use.

Commitment of gliders has the great advantage that they land their whole load in one place. Since debarkation is a matter of seconds, the troops can bring their full fire and striking power to bear immediately after landing. The almost noiseless approach of the gliders, which have been released from the tow planes far from the objective, increases the element of surprise. Furthermore, diving gliders are able to make very accurate spot landings within a limited area. Glider troops are also able to open fire with aircraft armament upon an enemy ready to repulse them. German parachute troops were convinced that this would have an excellent effect on morale. In practice the method was used only once, so far as is known, and that was on a very small scale in July 1944 at Vassieux against the French Maquis, but its success was outstanding. While the glider offers pronounced advantages during the first attack on an objective which is defended, in the subsequent phases of the airborne operation its advantages over the use of parachutes lie in the fact that it can deliver substantially greater loads, such as heavy weapons, guns, tanks, and trucks.

German Airborne Operations & Atrocities - WW-2

German Airborne Operations & Atrocities - WW-2

On the other hand, parachute jumps make it possible to drop very large numbers of troops at the same time within a certain area. Moreover, until the very last minute the commander can alter his selection of the drop point. He can accordingly adapt himself to changed conditions far more easily than is the case with gliders. The latter are released far from the objective and once this has been done there is no way of changing the landing area.

On this basis it will be seen that the glider is particularly suited for the capture of specifically designated and locally defended objectives, such as the Fort in Eben Emael, while parachutists are more effective for the purpose of capturing larger areas. Among the German airborne troops a marked preference developed for a method in which an initial attack by gliders was quickly followed up by mass parachute jumps. This plan is not, however, universally applicable. In each case methods will have to be adapted to the situation, terrain, type of objective, and amount of resistance to be expected from the enemy; the commander of the parachute troops will have to make his decision within the framework of his mission.

Albert Kesselring’s comments on the relative merits of parachute and glider landings : The comparative advantages and disadvantages of parachute and glider landings are well described. Nevertheless, I maintain that at least the same concentration of forces can be achieved with a glider landing as with a parachute jump. Experience shows that parachute landings are very widely scattered, so that assembly takes considerable time. Gliders, according to their size, hold ten to twenty or even more men, who immediately constitute a unit ready for combat. If the landing area is fairly large-the condition of the terrain is of little importance-and if the unit is well trained, the assembly of strong fighting units in a small area will not and even never present any difficulties.

A weakness in the commitment of gliders is to be found in the fact that once they have been used they are immobilized on the ground and, at least on the basis of German progress by the end of the war, cannot be used twice during the same operation. The German conclusion was that transport planes had to be used as soon as possible. There is no doubt, however, that in time a way will be found to get the gliders back to their base, for example, by the addition of light engines, or the use of helicopters.

Albert Kesselring’s comment on re-use of gliders : Abandoning gliders planes should not be considered a great disadvantage. Their construction is very simple and within the means of even a poor nation. Excessively complicated devices for glider recovery should be avoided. But this does not apply to the development of new types of air transport facilities, especially for peacetime and training requirements, which can perhaps also be used in particularly favorable military situations. It is important to clear the landing zone immediately so that more gliders can land in their turn.

When large-scale glider landings in successive waves are to be made, special personnel will have to be provided for the purpose. It must be mentioned in this connection that German gliders, patterned on those used in sport, had so-called ‘breaking points’ Sollbruchstellen, that is, joints of purposely weak construction, which would break first in crash landings or collisions with natural or artificial obstacles. This method brought about a substantial economy in construction of the gliders and simplification in procurement of spare parts and maintenance.

Section 3. Parachute Troops

The necessity of having airborne units for the initial commitment during air landings has been recognized. In both Belgium-Holland and Crete elements of Army units, in part by design and in part because of ignorance of the situation, were landed from transport planes in territory still occupied by the enemy or situated within sight of enemy artillery observers. This was recognized as a mistake resulting in serious losses. The only thing that saved the planes landing on the Maleme Airfield in Crete from being completely destroyed by direct enemy fire was the fact that the ground was covered with dust as a result of drought and that the planes actually landed in clouds of dust.

During the following war years, the parachute troops in Germany were steadily increased and improved. In accordance with the situation and the nature of their intended mission, the troops had to be trained for commitment either by parachute jumps or by transport gliders. The designation of parachute troops (Fallschirmtruppe) and parachutists (Fallschirmjäger) given these units in Germany is accordingly not quite accurate. Fundamentally a major part of the German airborne force was suited for transport-glider commitment only, since the plans of training them as parachutists could not be carried out. In practice, the percentage of trained parachutists steadily decreased with the result that, as the war continued, these troops were almost exclusively used in ground combat. The Wehrmacht, because of the scarcity of manpower, found it impossible to keep these units in reserve for their special duties. It is evident that only the ‘rich man’ can afford such forces, and that efforts must be made to withdraw these troops as soon as possible after each airborne commitment. Otherwise their value as special units will rapidly decrease, something very hard to remedy. One fundamental lesson derived from the first air landing was that even the very first elements reaching the ground must be fully equipped for battle. The parachutists landing on Holland and Crete had nothing but their pistols and hand grenades, the remaining weapons and ammunition being dropped separately in special containers.

After the Crete operation this was changed. It was realized that both parachute and transport glider troops must reach the ground as combat units ready for action. They must have heavy weapons, and especially, tank-destroying weapons adapted to this type of transportation, as well as a suitable type of organization for even the smallest units, making it possible for each to fight independently. In order to capture a usable airhead for the air-transported units, the parachute troops, over and above the initial landing, must be able to capture airfields, or at least terrain suitable for landing air transports, and to push back the enemy far enough from these areas to avoid the necessity of landing within range of direct enemy gunfire. In other words, the parachute troops must be capable of attacks with a limited objective, and of holding the captured terrain. Consequently, the parachute divisions were equipped with all heavy weapons and artillery; and an Airborne Panzer Corps was organized with one panzer and one motorized infantry division. However, organization of these units never got beyond the initial activation as conventional ground troops, and all plans to use them for airborne landings remained in the theoretical stage.

After the Crete operation no German parachute division was committed in airborne operations as a whole unit. The airborne panzer corps never even received adequate training. Only parts of the remaining parachute divisions, of which there were six in 1944 and ten or eleven at the end of the war in 1945, were trained for airborne operations. General Student gives a total figure of 30,000 trained parachutists in the summer of 1944. Most of them were in the 1. and 2.Fallschirmjäger-Divisions, of whose personnel 50 and 30 percent respectively were trained parachutists. Commitment of the divisions in ground combat continually decreased these figures so that parachutists from all units had to be recruited for the airborne attack in the Ardennes offensive. In the main, the training of these troops was inadequate. For instance, only about 20 percent of the parachutists committed in this action were capable of jumping fully equipped with weapons. This was a serious disadvantage because very few of the weapons containers dropped were recovered. Accordingly, the Germans had no practical experience in large-scale commitment of parachutists with really modern equipment, nor was it possible to test the organization and equipment of such formations in actual combat.

Earlier German experience points to two important considerations. In the first place, the parachute troops will be in need of a supply service immediately after landing. On the basis of the Crete experience, it would seem advisable to incorporate service units in the first waves of parachutists. The greater the scale of the airborne operation, the more thought will have to be given to the matter of motorized supply vehicles. Today their transportation in transport gliders presents no technical difficulties. In the second place, in cases where the intention is to follow up initial jumps with the landing of great numbers of air-transported troops, engineer units will have to be assigned to the parachute troops at an early stage for the purpose of preparing and maintaining landing strips for transport planes.

Even though the German parachute troops lost their actual purpose in the last years of the war, they preserved their specific character in the organization of their personnel replacements. The operations actually carried out proved that the special missions assigned to parachute troops call for soldiers who are especially aggressive, physically fit, and mentally alert. In jumping, the paratrooper must not only conquer his own involuntary weakness but upon reaching the ground must be ready to act according to circumstances; he must not be afraid of close combat; he must be trained in the use of his own and the enemy’s weapons; and, finally, his will to fight must not be impaired by the privations occasioned by such difficulties in supply as hunger, thirst, and shortage of weapons. For this reason, it is advisable for the parachute troops to take their replacements primarily from among men who have volunteered for such service. The excellent quality of the replacements which the German parachute troops were able to obtain until the very end explains why, even in ground combat, they were able to give an especially good account of themselves.

Good replacements, however, require careful training in many fields. Every paratrooper must be given thorough training in infantry methods, especially in close combat and commando tactics. This was shown to be necessary in all the operations undertaken. Only when the paratrooper proves from the outset to be superior to the attacking enemy can he be successful. Specialist training in the use of various arms and special techniques is essential. A mistake was made by the Germans in separating the initial jump training from the rest of the training program. Instead of becoming the daily bread of the paratrooper, jump practice accordingly evolved into a sort of ‘special art.’ All artificiality must be avoided in this branch of training.

Special emphasis must be placed on training officers for the parachute troops. One of the experiences derived from actual operation is that the officers must be past masters in the art of ground combat. The fact that the German parachute troops originated in the Luftwaffe caused a great many inadequacies in this respect. On the other hand, the parachute officer must have some knowledge of aviation, at least enough to be able to assess the possibilities of airborne operations. There is no doubt that a sound and systematic training program for the parachute troops demands a great deal of time and that in the last years of the war the German parachute formations no longer had this time at their disposal. However, the time required for training, combined with the high standards set for the selection of replacements, acts as a deterrent to their commitment. The higher command will decide to make use of the troops only when all preconditions for a great success are at hand or when necessity forces it to do so. To commit these troops in regular ground combat is a waste. Commitment of parachute divisions in ground combat is justified only by the existence of an emergency. Once the divisions are committed as ground troops they lose their characteristic qualities as specialists.

The original German plan to use Army troops for this purpose and to equip and train them accordingly was abandoned early in the war. The 22.Infantry-Division, which had been selected in peacetime for the purpose, participated in airborne operations only once, in Belgium and in Holland in 1940. It was found that their double equipment – one set for regular ground combat, the other for use in air-landing operations constituted an obstacle; consideration for their special mission limited their employment for ground combat. When a fresh commitment in line with their special mission became a possibility in Crete, it was found impossible to bring them up in time. On the other hand, as early as the Norway campaign, mountain troops were flown for commitment at Narvik without much prior preparation. While in this case non tactical transport by air was involved, the previously mentioned commitment in 1941 of the 5.Gebirgsjaeger-Division in the airborne operation against Crete took place after only short preparation and was entirely successful.

On the basis of these experiences the idea of giving individual Army units special equipment for airborne operations was abandoned. The German High Command set about finding ways and means to adapt all Army units for transport by air with a minimum of changes in their equipment. The results were never put into practice because after Crete the Germans did not undertake any other airborne operations on a large scale. Crete, however, proved that the German mountain troops, because of their equipment and the training which they had received, as well as their combat methods, were particularly suited for missions of this nature. In the future the goal must be to find a way of committing not only mountain and infantry divisions but panzer and motorized formations in airborne operations. Their equipment and organization for this purpose will depend upon the evaluation of technical possibilities which cannot be discussed in detail here. The chief demand which the military must make upon the technical experts is that the changes required for such commitment be kept to a minimum. A way must be found to determine the best method for such a change so that the troops can undertake it promptly at any time.

The lesson learned from German airborne operations in World War II was that air-transported troops can be committed only if the success of landing and unloading is guaranteed by a sufficiently large landing zone. These troops are not suited to the purpose of capturing an airhead. With the exception of the technical details concerned with their enplaning, these troops require no special training. The logical conclusion to be drawn from this lesson is that parachute troops, who capture the airhead, must be increased in number and supplied with more fire power.

Section V Troop Carrier Units

Transporting troops by air to their area of commitment is more or less a matter of transportation alone and in an efficiently organized modern air force presents no difficulty at all. However, the approach flight and dropping of parachute troops is a part of the operation itself and determines its subsequent success or failure. The inconclusive but rather disappointing German experiences in this field have been set down, from the point of view of an airborne field commander, in the appendix. Transport squadrons-including both the transport planes for the parachutists and the tow planes for the gliders are to the parachute troops what horse teams are to the artillery and motor vehicles to the motorized forces.

In each case correct tactical leadership for each mode of transport is a prerequisite for the correct commitment of the troops in time and space-consequently, they must be trained jointly. During commitment the transport squadrons must be subordinated to the parachute commanders, who must be trained to give orders to the transport squadrons in correct and systematic form. The ideal solution would undoubtedly be to incorporate the transport squadrons organically into the airborne forces, but this solution is expensive. Lack of sufficient material alone made it impracticable during World War II as far as the Wehrmacht was concerned. A compromise solution would be close cooperation in peacetime training. The transport squadrons will have to be made available to the parachute units well in advance of an airborne operation since joint rehearsals are a prerequisite of success. This fact increases the amount of time needed for the preparation of an airborne operation and at the same time endangers the secrecy surrounding the undertaking, because such a grouping of units can give the enemy valuable leads regarding one’s intentions.

The most important factor is the selection of the time and place of the jump and of the release of the gliders. This requires very precise orders and is subject to the decision of the commander of the parachutists. Again and again lack of care in this regard resulted in breakdowns during German airborne operations in World War II. Only twice did strict observance of this point result in smooth functioning-during the airborne operations to capture the Isthmus of Corinth in 1941, when the limited scope of the undertaking made it possible to commit transport squadrons having just finished thorough training in cooperation with parachutists; and during the capture of Fort Eben Emael in 1940, when the units participating in the operation had received joint training over an extended period. The principle of subordinating the transport squadrons to the parachute commanders makes it imperative that the training of these commanders be extended to include flight training. In this connection mention must be made of the so-called pathfinder airplanes, whose mission in relation to airborne operations at night is described in the appendix. What has been said above also holds good for them. Their proper use is essential for success and demands, above all, skill in navigation in order to calculate timing accurately.

Section 6 – Reasons for Success and Failure

In assessing the successes and failures of German airborne operations the following missions are taken into consideration :
– Belgium & Holland 1940;
– Corinth 1941;
– Crete 1941;
– Leros 1943;
– Ardennes 1944.
All other commitments of German airborne troops fall into the category of commando operations or of troop movements by air.

Belgium – Holland May 1940 – On the whole, the airborne operations against Holland, in spite of a number of critical moments and relatively great losses, must be classified as successful. This success was connected not so much with achievement of the tactical objectives, such as the capture of a number of bridges which were important to the attacking ground forces, as with the morale influence exerted upon the enemy by a wholly new method of fighting. The very fact that in this way large forces could penetrate deep behind Dutch defenses at the outset of the fighting undoubtedly broke the resistance of the Dutch and saved the German Army the cost of a serious fight in capturing Holland. Success is attributable mainly to the surprise provoked by this method, which was used for the first time in the history of warfare.

Albert Kesselring’s comments on airborne operations in Belgium and in Holland : First, I would like you to remember that you have to understand that this operation in the Low Countries, Belgium and the Netherlands, was the first military attempt to use paratroopers and glider troops in an joint airborne operation in the history. I believe that this deserve to be treated with somewhat greater detail. The operation was under the overall direction of the commander of 2.Luftwaffe. The tactical commander, for the preparation and for the action on the ground, was Gen Kurt Student. His combat headquarter was divided into a mobile forward echelon almost ahead of the combat troops, headed by Gen Student in person, and a stationary rear echelon, which was to assume special orders and needs sent out from the forward headquarters.

The operation was divided into the following parts : (1) An operation with gliders alone against the Fort in Eben Emael, Belgium, and the Maas bridge in Holland. With the capture of the Fort at Eben Emael, the enemy flanking actions against the Maas crossing were eliminated. The capture of the most important bridge guaranteed that the Maas River would be crossed according to plan and thus established the necessary conditions for the coordination of ground and air operations in Holland. The dawn missions succeeded surprisingly well. (2) A major airborne operation by two divisions to capture the Moerdijk bridges, the Rotterdam Airport, the City of Rotterdam, and the Dutch capital of The Hague and its airfields. Since the second part of the mission (22.Infantry-Division – The Hague) was not successful the subsequent operations in the Dutch coastal area failed to take place. The attempt at surprise was successful. Today one cannot even imagine the panic which was caused by rumors of the appearance of parachutists, supported by the dropping of dummies, etc. Nevertheless, the surrender of Rotterdam was the result of the bold actions of the parachutists and the air attack against the defended positions in Rotterdam. The operation had been organized by Student with the thoroughness characteristic of him.

In fact, it had been a small military masterpiece, particularly with respect to the following : (a) The deployment of troops and troop-carrier formations among the only airfields near the border, just within range of the most distant objectives. (b) The incorporation of escort fighter wings in the transport movement, for which Gen Osterkamp can claim both the responsibility and the credit. (c) The coordination of the bomber escort attacks with the landing operations, which had been rendered even more difficult because the commander in chief of the Luftwaffe had ordered an attack against reported enemy naval vessels on the previous evening. The success of the airborne operation with respect to its strategic effect is incontestable.

The Dutch Theater of Operations was practically eliminated. The failures and losses can be attributed to the following : (a) Interference with the plan of attack by the commander in chief of the Luftwaffe, mentioned above. (b) The inadequate strength of parachutists in the air attack group of the 22.Infantry-Division. (c) Defects in coordination between the 22.Infantry-Division and the troop-carrier formations and inadequate training of both in the tactical doctrine for carrying out an airborne operation. (d) Technical defects in the signal communications system which made it difficult or impossible for the parachutists and transport formation to cooperate with the 22.Infantry-Division and, similarly, hampered General Student in issuing orders to that division. (e) The command technique of Gen Student, who thought of himself as the commander of the Rotterdam operation and thus neglected liaison with the 2.Luftwaffe, especially during the most decisive hours.

However, all in all, the airborne operation proved successful as the first of its kind because essentially it was correctly organized and carried out with unparalleled verve. It taught us a great number of practical lessons, the application of which did not present any problems which were insurmountable from a technical or tactical point of view. It proved that an airborne operation needs its own command posts, both on the ground and in the air, as well as representation at a higher level.

Generaloberst Kurt Student (May 12 1890 – July 1 1978) was a German Luftwaffe general who fought as a fighter pilot during the First World War and as the commander of German Fallschirmjäger troops during the Second World War. Student was born in Birkholz, a village in the Landkreis of Züllichau-Schwiebus in the Prussian province of Brandenburg, in a region now located in Poland. Student entered the Imperial German Army as an officer candidate in 1910 and was commissioned a lieutenant in March 1911. After serving initially with a light infantry (Jäger) battalion, he underwent pilot training in 1913. He served from the beginning of World War I until February 1916 with Feldflieger-Abteilung.17 on the Galician Front, and then on the Western Front in aerial units of the Third Army, including Jagdstaffel.9 (which he commanded from October 1916 – May 1917). He scored six victories over the French aircraft between 1916 – 1917.

During the interwar period, Student tried to keep German military aviation from becoming technologically obsolete, since under the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was forbidden to maintain an air force. In the immediate post-war years, he was assigned to military research and development. He became involved in military gliders, since gliding was not forbidden by the treaty. He also attended the Red Army Air Forces manoeuvres, where he first came in contact with the idea of airborne operations. After Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, the Luftwaffe was secretly reestablished. Student transferred from the Army to the Luftwaffe and was appointed by Hermann Göring to be the head of its training schools, a position which became official when the Treaty of Versailles was renounced in 1935. In July 1938, he was named commander of airborne and air-landing troops, and in September commanding general of the 7.Flieger-Division, Germany’s first Fallschirmjäger division. Although the division played no part in the invasion of Poland, his troops proved their value during the Blitzkrieg of 1940 in the Low Countries, where troops under his command captured the Belgian Fortress of Eben-Emael. He was accidentally shot in the head by other German troops in Rotterdam following the Battle of Rotterdam. The wound put him out of action for eight months.

In January 1941, Student was named commanding general of the XI.Flieger-Korps, the newly formed command for the expanding German airborne forces. In this capacity, Student directed Operation Mercury, the airborne invasion of the Island of Crete in May 1941. Student is known to have proposed a similar operation in Northern Ireland along the same lines of Plan Kathleen, at the time Goering told him that his focus should be on the airborne conquest of Gibraltar via Operation Felix. Crete was taken, but the high casualties caused Hitler to forbid future airborne operations. Acting as its temporary commander, immediately after the surrender of Crete on May 31 1941, Student issued an order for launching a wave of brutal reprisals against the local population. In 1942, Student was designed as the CO for Operation Hercules, the planned invasion of Malta. However, this plan was never carried out.

In 1943, Student ordered Maj Harald Mors to plan Operation Oak, the successful raid conducted by a special Fallschirmjäger unit to free Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini. They landed with gliders and STOL aircraft on a hilltop while the well-known Waffen SS commando Otto Skorzeny took part in this operation. Student was transferred to Italy and later to France, where he was involved in the defense of Normandy in 1944. He was put in charge of the 1.Fallschirmjäger-Armee and took part in countering the Allied Operation Market Garden, near Arnhem. After a brief time at the Eastern Front in Mecklenburg in 1945, he was captured by British forces in Schleswig-Holstein in April of that same year, before he could take command of Army Group Vistula. He was held by the British as a prisoner of war until freed in 1948.

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