Airborne Operations [2-3.7 AC.F] - TAB B
AIRBORNE TROOPS IN GROUND OPERATIONS
WORLD WAR II
Because of the specialized nature of airborne troops and their equipment and of the time and cost involved in the training, a basic tenet for employment of airborne troops during World War II was that airborne forces should be supported by ground or naval forces within approximately 3 days and that they should be relieved from the fighting line as quickly as possible in order to hold down casualties. Similarly, they were not to be employed "on missions that can be more expeditiously and economically performed by other forces," i.e., as regular ground troops.*
* See W.D. Training Circular No. 113, 9 October 1943.
Both these tenets were honored more in the breach than in the observance.
Accounts of operations in which airborne troops were kept for long periods in the line after an airborne operations and of others in which they were employed as regular ground troops follow:
[ i ]
Following the air drop in the invasion of Sicily in early July 1943, the 82d Airborne Division was provided several days for reorganization and then attached to the Provisional Corps under Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Keyes, which was to participate in a 100-mile drive to Palermo, beginning on 19 July. On the 16th, the division received 24 21 -ton trucks and 7 3 -ton trucks from the Provisional Corps for use during the remainder of the operation. For the move to the area of the Provisional Corps, the division was accorded temporary use of 83 21 - and H -ton trucks loaned from the 9th Division's 39th Regimental Combat Team.
On 17 July the 39th RCT itself was attached, along with the 83d Chemical Battalion (4.2-inch mortars), the 3d Reconnaissance Battalion, the 20th Engineer (C) Battalion, and the 26th Field Artillery Battalion. Before the jump-off on 19 July, the division also received as attachments the 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Battalion [sic], the 62d Armored and 34th Field Artillery Battalions, and a detachment of the 56th Medical Battalion.
The attack itself turned out to be little more than a road march against faltering Italian resistance. When one parachute infantry regiment, preceded by reconnaissance troops, gained 25 miles the first day, the corps commander put a special task force composed of two battalions of Rangers in the lead, while the airborne division merely blocked to the north to cover assembly of an armored division that was to be committed later. The 39th RCT, the battalion of the 77th Field Artillery Battalion [sic], the 62d Armored Field Artillery Battalion, and the
- 1 -
3d Reconnaissance Battalion were relieved from attachment on 20 July.
As the enemy collapsed, Palermo fell on 22 July. At this point, General Keyes reinforced the airborne division further with the two Ranger battalions to sweep to the western tip of Sicily. There was a minor fight before the town of Trapani, but for the most part this advance too was a road march. The 82d Airborne Division then assumed occupational duties.
- 2 -
Add to P. 2, SICILY, (Tab B) in
SUMMARY OF WORLD WAR II AIRBORNE OPERATIONS
On the evening of 13 July, the British 1st Parachute Brigade jumped into Sicily to seize the Primasole bridge (7 miles south of Catania) over the Simeto River and establish a bridgehead on the north bank of the river. The transport aircraft came under heavy fire from British ships off the coast and German antiaircraft batteries on land. Only two transport planes were hit and downed, but 19 turned back without releasing their paratroopers. The others scattered their loads up and down the coast. Of approximately 1,900 men who jumped, only about 200 reached the bridge. These landed atop the machine gun battalion of the German 1st Parachute Division, which had jumped only a few hours earlier at almost the same spot to reinforce German units. The British paratroopers had a rough fight of it but managed to hold onto the bridge or to cover it with fire until relieved by ground troops the next day.
[ 2 a ]
Having entered the Allied beachhead at Salerno as reinforcements, the bulk of the 82d Airborne Division* was attached to the 36th Division
* Two battalions of the 504th Parachute Infantry arrived by parachute the night of 13 September, the entire 505th Parachute Infantry the night of 14 September. The 325th Glider Regimental Combat Team came in by LCI's on the 15th, along with the third battalion of the 504th.
under the U.S. VI Corps for five days. Records of the division for this period reveal little about attachments, but the airborne units had access to the artillery support of the division and corps and to naval fire support. On 18 September 1943, tanks of the 191st Tank Battalion assisted the paratroopers in capturing the village of Altavilla.
The 82d Airborne Division then passed into Fifth Army reserve, apparently on 19 September, but on the 20th, the Army commander attached the 325th Glider Infantry and a battalion (less a company) of the 504th Parachute Infantry to a task force of U.S. Rangers reinforced by the British 23d Armoured Brigade to secure a pass in the mountains of the Sorrento peninsula as support for the main Allied drive on Naples. When this force proved too small for the task, the entire 82d Airborne Division* assembled on the peninsula and took control of the Rangers
* Less some 2,300 men either still in Sicily or en route to Italy and some 650 still in North Africa.
- 1 -
and the attached 23d Armoured Brigade. The force numbered 13,000 men.
The 82d and its reinforcements started a general advance the night of 27 September. Aided by a German withdrawal, the troops began to debouch onto the Naples Plain early the next morning. Along with British units, the 82d Airborne Division entered Naples on 1 October as resistance from a German rear guard melted away.
While the 82d Airborne Division remained in Naples, one regiment, the 504th Parachute Infantry, was attached on 27 October to the VI Corps. Two days later this regiment entered the line to protect the right flank of the corps in an advance northward in the vicinity of the Volturno River. The regiment fought on this assignment until 22 November.
On 10 December the regiment was committed in the San Pietro area in conjunction with Ranger battalions and the First Special Service Force (a Canadian-American unit of approximately regimental size). In what was essentially a flank protection mission for the main effort by the II Corps, the regiment fought for 19 days.
Pulled out of the line on 27 December, the 504th began to prepare for the Anzio landings. The regiment came ashore amphibiously on D Day, 22 January 1944, and remained committed for two months in primarily defensive assignments. For much of the period the regiment was attached to the 3d Division. The 504th departed the beachhead on 24 March.
From 11 November through 14 December, the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion fought with the 504th and also landed with the 504th in the Anzio beachhead. When the 504th left the beachhead, the battalion stayed with the VI Corps until capture of Rome on 5 June.
- 2 -
After jumping in southern France on 15 August 1944, the 509th fought as infantry until 23 November. It was subsequently committed as an attachment to divisions in the Ardennes from 22-30 December and from 20-29 January 1945. The battalion was disbanded on 1 March, its personnel joining the 13th and 82d Airborne Divisions.
- 3 -
Following their D Day parachute drops and glider landings on 6 June 1944, both the 82d and 101st Airborne Division remained in the line in Normandy for several weeks. The last big action for the 101st was on 15 June with the defeat of a German counterattack on 13-14 June. From this date until 29 June, the division held defensive positions near Carentan, then assembled in a reserve position on the Cherbourg peninsula. The 101st moved back to England on 13 July. The 82d remained in line until 7 July.
Attachments for the 82d during this period were as follows:
Troop B, 4th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, 1-23 June.
87th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 1-8 June; 14 June-8 July.
Co. C, 746th Tank Battalion, 1-11 June.
Co. A, 746th Tank Battalion, 13-21 June; 1-8 July.
456th Field Artillery Battalion, 8-10 June; 15-17 June.
188th Field Artillery Battalion (155 How.), 12 June-8 July.
172d Field Artillery, 16-19 June.
87th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 18-19 June.
Co. C, 899th TD Battalion, 1-19 June.
Co. A, 607th TD Battalion, 19 June-4 July.
801st TD Battalion, 30 June-1 July.
803d TD Battalion, 1-8 July.
Co B, 87th Chemical Battalion (4.2-inch mortars), 15-21 June.
Co D, 87th Chemical Battalion, 1-4 July.
The following were apparently attached throughout: 3809th QM Truck Company; 3810th QM Truck Company; 1st Platoon, 603d QM Graves Registration Company; 1st Platoon, 464th Ambulance Company, 31st Medical Group; 493d Collecting Company, 179th Medical Battalion; 374th Collecting Company, 50th Medical Battalion; 429th Litter Bearing Platoon; 591st Collecting Company.
- 1 -
The following were attached to the 101st Airborne Division for the periods indicated:
1st Platoon, Battery A, 474th AAA (AW) Battalion (SP), 9-11 June.
Co. D, 70th (L) Tank Battalion, 6-16 June.
Co. A, 70th (L) Tank Battalion, 7 June (date of termination unknown).
1st Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, 17-26 June.
Cos. B & C, 87th Chemical Battalion (4.2-inch mortars), 11-12 June.
65th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 6-26 June.
87th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 10-14 June.
188th Field Artillery Battalion (155 How.), 11-12 June.
951st Field Artillery Battalion (155 How.), 12-15 June.
14th Field Artillery Observation Battalion, 13-16 June.
Also attached for some portion of the period were the 238th Engineer (C) Battalion; Troop C, 4th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron; and the 1st Platoon, Co. B, 899th TD Battalion. The 3808th QM Truck Company was attached for the entire period.
- 2 -
HOLLAND - OPERATION MARKET
Because of shortage of divisions and multiple responsibilities, the British 21 Army Group retained the 82d Airborne Division in the line for 57 days beyond D Day in Operation MARKET (until 13 November 1944) and the 101st Airborne Division for 71 days (until 27 November). For most of this time, the two divisions held defensive positions but were subjected to strong German counterattacks.
The following units were attached to the 82d Airborne Division for the periods indicated:
1st British Coldstream Guards Armored Battalion, 19-22 September.
5th British Coldstream Guards Infantry Battalion, 19-22 September.
2d Irish Guards Battalion, 16 September-23 October (2 sqdns. until 10 November).
Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, 19 September-10 October.
Royals Reconnaissance Battalion, 19 September-9 October.
Polish Parachute Brigade, 25-30 September.
231st British Brigade, 30 September-1 October.
3d British Guards Battalion, 30 September-1 October.
79th British Field Artillery Regiment, , 30 September-2 October.
304th British Antitank Battery, 30 September-3 October.
506th Parachute Infantry, 1-3 October.
502d Parachute Infantry, 3-4 October.
130th British Infantry Brigade, 5-6 October.
2d Grenadier Guards Battalion, 6-7 October.
13/18 Hussars, 10 October-10 November.
Canadian 27th Armored Regiment, 10-12 November.
Two other units were attached for all or most of the entire operation: Unit A, 50th Field Hospital, from D Day (17 September); the 666th QM Truck Company from 19 September.
The following units were attached to the 101st Airborne Division:
British 502d Light AA Battery, starting date unknown, ending 14 November.
British 44th Armored Regiment, 19-25 September.
13/18 Hussars, 18-22 October.
4/7 Dragoon Guards, 2-11 November.
- 1 -
British 53d Reconnaissance Regiment, 5-6 October, 13-19 October.
British Squadrons A & B, Royal Scots Greys, 6-7 October.
British 61st Reconnaissance Regiment, 6-12 October.
Squadron C, Royal Scots Greys, 6-17 October.
Squadron C, 61st Reconnaissance Regiment, 10-12 October.
British 4th Royal Field Artillery Regiment, 12-18 October.
British 147th Field Artillery Regiment, 18 October to undetermined date.
British 6th Field Artillery Regiment, 8 November to undetermined date.
British 5th Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, 5 October to undetermined date.
British Sherwood Rangers, 22 October-2 November.
British 152d Infantry Brigade, 19-26 November.
509th Parachute Infantry Battalion, 22-27 November.
116th Royal Artillery, undetermined dates.
British 304th Antitank Battery, 12-13 October.
British 74th Antitank Battery, 9-13 November.
Throughout the entire operation, Unit B, 50th Field Hospital, and General Surgical Team 15, 1st Auxilliary [sic] Surgical Group, were attached, as was the 397th QM Truck Company through most of the operation.
- 2 -
When the Germans launched a major counteroffensive in the Ardennes on 16 December 1944, the only strategic reserve immediately available to Allied Supreme Headquarters was two U.S. airborne divisions, the 82d and 101st, both of which were located near Reims following relief from the 21 Army Group in Holland. On 17 December, both divisions were directed to move to the road center of Bastogne, though this was subsequently altered to send the 82d to the north shoulder of what became known as "the bulge" where it came under the XVIII Airborne Corps. The 101st at Bastogne was under the VIII Corps.
The bulk of the 82d Airborne Division reached the north shoulder in the vicinity of Werbomont early on 19 December. Here the division fought defensively until joining a major offensive of the First and Third Armies on 3 January. From 10 through 27 January the division was in corps reserve, though one of its regiments was from time to time attached to other attacking units. The division was relieved on 4 February, then from the 8th through the 12th assisted in an attack on the Roer River Dams.
Attachments were as follows:
Battery C, 563d AAA (AW) Battalion, 18-25 December.
14th Tank Battalion, 9th Armored Division, 23-24 December.
Co. B, 86th Chemical Battalion (4.2-inch mortars), 25 December-11 January.
254th Field Artillery Battalion, 20 December-12 February.
551st Parachute Infantry Battalion, 25 December-12 January, 21-27 January.
703d TD Battalion, 20 December-1 January.
591st Field Artillery Battalion, 20 December-11 January.
740th Tank Battalion, 29 December-11 January, 27 January-5 February.
- 1 -
628th TD Battalion, 1-11 January.
517th Parachute Infantry, 1-11 January, 1-4 February.
634th AAA (AW) Battalion, 5-12 February.
887th Airborne Engineer Company, 25 December-12 January.
Co. A, 87th Chemical Battalion (4.2-inch mortars), 25 January-5 February.
643d TD Battalion, 25-31 January.
400th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 25 January-12 February.
32d Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, 28 January-5 February.
629th TD Battalion, 31 January-18 February.
Co. B, 744th Tank Battalion, 9-19 February.
Co. C, 90th Chemical Battalion (4.2-inch mortars), 13-19 February.
596th Engineer Company, 2-11 January, 3-5 February, 8-9 February.
460th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, 24 January-5 February, 8-9 February.
987th Field Artillery Battalion (less two batteries), 15-19 February.
3d Battalion, 112th Infantry, 23-25 December.
Two platoons, 893d TD Battalion, 9-11 February.
All the 101st Airborne Division had reached Bastogne by early morning of 19 December. Here the division would fight defensively through 1 January, engage in limited objective attacks on 2 January, and participate in the major offensive by First and Third Armies from 3 through 17 January. On the 18th the division moved out of the line for transfer to new positions in Alsace.
Attachments to the 101st were as follows:
Two platoons, Co. B, 796th AAA (AW) Battalion, 9-10 January.
Batteries A, B, & C, 61st Airborne AA Battalion, 11-18 January.
2d Tank Battalion, 19-30 December.
Combat Command R, 9th Armored Division, 20-31 December.
Combat Command B, 10th Armored Division, 20 December-18 January.
Combat Command B, 4th Armored Division, 8-10 January.
755th Field Artillery Battalion (155 How.), 19 December- 12 January.
969th Field Artillery Battalion (155 How.), 19 December- 15 January.
775th Field Artillery Battalion (4.5" Gun), 19 December- 15 January.
333d Field Artillery Group, 20-28 December.
559th Field Artillery Battalion (155 Gun), 1-3 January, 11-12 February.
687th Field Artillery Battalion (105-How.), 12-18 January.
770th Field Artillery Battalion (4.5" Gun), 13-14 January.
193d Glider Infantry, 3-7 January, 14-18 January.
705th TD Battalion, 20 December-18 January.
Co. B, 811th TD Battalion, 3-11 January.
Co. C, 704th TD Battalion, 4-6 January.
Co. A, 602d TD Battalion, 4-6 January.
- 2 -
611th TD Battalion, 6-7 January.
Co. B, 704th TD Battalion, 9-11 January.
Co. C, 609th TD Battalion, 11-12 January.
In Alsace, the 101st Airborne Division held a defensive sector from 26 January until 25 February. Attachments were as follows:
Batteries A, B, & C, 61st Airborne AA Battalion, entire period.
567th AAA (AW) Battalion, 23-25 February.
Co. A and 1st Platoon, Co. D, 781st Tank Battalion, 26-28 January.
Co. A, 47th Tank Battalion, 5-14 February.
Co. A and 3d Platoon, Co. D, 781st Tank Battalion, 6-7 February.
1st Platoon, Co. D, 47th Tank Battalion, 7-13 February.
2d Platoon, Co. D, 47th Tank Battalion, 13-19 February.
Co. B, 47th Tank Battalion, 14-25 February.
807th TD Battalion, entire period.
242d Field Artillery Battalion (105-How.), entire period.
499th Armored Field Artillery Battalion (105-How. SP), undetermined period.
A third airborne division, the 17th, entered combat in the Ardennes on 3 January northwest of Bastogne as part of the Third Army's VIII Corps. As part of this corps and later (26 January) III Corps, the division had reached the German frontier at the Our River by 31 January. For five days the division held defensive positions, then on 6 February launched a limited objective attack to secure a bridgehead over the Our. On 10 February the division reverted to strategic reserve.
Attachments for the combat period were as follows:
398th QM Truck Company, entire period.
802d Field Artillery Battalion (105-How.), 3-5 January.
630th TD Battalion, 3 January for an undetermined period.
811th TD Battalion (SP), 17-27 January.
761st Tank Battalion, 15-27 January.
Co. C, 15th Tank Battalion, 31 January-7 February.
Co. C, 707th Tank Battalion, 3 January for an undetermined period.
447th AAA (AW) Battalion (less Battery A), 3 January for an undetermined period.
- 3 -
274th Armored Field Artillery Battalion (105-How.), 3 January for an undetermined period.
Ambulance Platoon, 416th Medical Collecting Company, 18-28 January.
1st Platoon, 623d Medical Clearing Company, 20 January-10 February.
- 4 -
After dropping beyond the Rhine River near Wesel in Operation VARSITY on 24 March 1945, the 17th Airborne Division fought as part of the general drive eastward under XVIII Airborne Corps until 3 April. The division then moved south and on 6 April established a bridgehead across the Rhine-Herne Canal to participate in elimination of the Ruhr Pocket. Contact with the enemy ended on 18 April.
Attachments were as follows:
British 1st Commando Brigade, 25 March only.
771st Tank Battalion, 25 March-2 April.
Two companies, 784th Tank Battalion, 10-18 April.
In addition, the XVIII Airborne Corps troop lies for 25 March showed the following additional attachments to the 17th Airborne Division but with no indication as to how long they remained attached:
605th TD Battalion (3" Towed with 55 DUKWs)
692d Field Artillery Battalion (25-pounder)
387th AAA (AW) Battalion
Co. A, 3d Chemical Battalion (4.2-inch mortars)
One self-propelled antitank battery (17-pounder)
A British artillery group was assigned to direct support of the division from the start of the drop, but no date is indicated as to when this assignment ceased. The group included the following: 81st Field Regiment, 83d Field Regiment, 133d Field Regiment, 17th Antitank Regiment, 25th Light Antiaircraft Artillery Regiment, 77th Medium Regiment, and one battery of the 382d Heavy Antiaircraft Artillery Regiment.
Beginning on 4 April 1945, the 82d Airborne Division held defensively along the west bank of the Rhine River facing the Ruhr Pocket. Enemy contact ended on 18 April. Attachments during this period were as follows:
341st Infantry, 4 April only.
417th Field Artillery Group, 4-25 April.
672d Field Artillery Battalion (155-How.), 4-14 April.
805th Field Artillery Battalion (155-How.), 5-17 April.
746th Field Artillery Battalion (8"-How.), 4-25 April.
541st Field Artillery Battalion (155 Gun), 4-25 April.
546th Field Artillery Battalion (155 Gun), 10-17 April.
790th Field Artillery Battalion (8"-How.), 4-14 April.
942d Field Artillery Battalion (155-How.), 19-24 April.
74th Field Artillery Battalion (105-How.), 18-25 April.
661st Field Artillery Battalion (8"-How.), 18-25 April.
294th Field Artillery Observation Battalion, 25 April only.
3d Co., 22d Belgian Fusilier Battalion, 21-25 April.
12th TD Group (headquarters only), 18-25 April.
1130th Engineer (C) Group, 25-26 April.
74th Chemical Generator Company, 4-21 April.
On 30 April the division established a bridgehead across the Elbe River at Darchau, and the division reconnaissance platoon on 3 May made contact with Russian forces from the east. Attachments were:
13th Infantry, 29 April-1 May.
121st Infantry, 30 April-1 May.
605th TD Battalion (Towed), 29-30 April, 2-7 May.
3d Field Artillery Battalion (105-How.), 28 April-1 May.
56th Field Artillery Battalion (105-How.), 30 April-1 May.
280th Field Artillery Battalion (105-How.), 30 April-7 May.
Hq & Hq Battery, 205th Field Artillery Battalion, 2-7 May.
207th Field Artillery Battalion (8"-How.), 2-7 May.
768th Field Artillery Battalion (155-How.), 2-7 May.
580th AAA (AW) Battalion, 28-30 April.
445th AAA (AW) Battalion, 1 May only.
4th Battalion, Royal Tank Regiment, 29-30 April, 2-3 May.
Cos. A, & C, 740th Tank Battalion, 30 April-1 May.
Combat Command B, 7th Armored Division, 1-4 May.
644th TD Battalion, 29 April-1 May.
89th Chemical Battalion (4.2-inch mortars), 29 April-1 May.
The 101st Airborne Division also was committed defensively along
- 1 -
the Rhine facing the Ruhr Pocket on 4 April. All enemy contact ceased on 18 April. Attachments were.
250th Field Artillery Group, 7-11 April.
790th Field Artillery Battalion (8"-How.), 7-11 April.
942d Field Artillery Battalion (155-How.), 7-17 April.
490th Field Artillery Battalion (155-How.), 10-17 April.
805th Field Artillery Battalion (155-How.), 12-17 April.
529th Field Artillery Battalion (8"-How.), 14-17 April.
529th Field Artillery Battalion (8"-How.), 15-17 April.
On 4 May the 101st Airborne Division entered combat again, this time with the XXI Corps of the Seventh Army in southern Germany. The next day, the enemy facing the division surrendered. Attachments were as follows:
2d Platoon, Battery D, 910th AAA (AW) Battalion, 5-9 May.
113th Tank Battalion, 5-8 May.
774th Tank Battalion, 5-9 May.
101st Cavalry Group, 5-9 May.
116th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, 8-9 May.
Co. B, 99th Chemical Battalion (4.2-inch mortars), 5-8 May.
48th Engineer (C) Battalion, 5-9 May.
969th Field Artillery Battalion (155-How.), 5-7 May.
522d Field Artillery Battalion (105-How.), 5-7 May.
342d Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 8-9 May.
813th TD Battalion, 5-9 May.
- 2 -
The first combat action of the 11th Airborne Division was as a regular infantry division on Leyte, beginning on 21 November 1944, when the airborne troops took over mountainous defensive positions from another unit. The division held these positions until 5 December, then began a systematic campaign to clear Japanese hold-outs that ended on 15 January 21945. During this period the division had the support of XXIV Corps and Marine artillery and at least two attachments: Battery D, 102d AAA (AW) Battalion and Cannon Company, 21st Infantry, 24th Division. One minor airborne operation was conducted (drop of an artillery battery).
On 31 January, one regimental combat team of the 11th Airborne Division staged a reconnaissance landing on Luzon. When resistance proved negligible, the Eighth Army commander decided to reinforce the combat team with the entire division. With the Sixth Army advancing on Manila from the north, the division would block Japanese escape routes in the south.
As the advance northward progressed, aided on 3 February by a minor airborne attack on Tagatay Ridge, the division on 10 February passed to control of the Sixth Army. On 17 February the division captured Fort McKinley outside Manila, and on 23 February rescued civilian internees in the Los Banos Camp. Organized resistance in southern Luzon ended on 3 May. The other action remaining for the 11th Airborne Division was a small scale ground-airborne attack in the Cagayan Valley on 23
- 1 -
June 1945 (see Summary of World War II Airborne Operations).
Attachments on Luzon included: Battery D, 102d AAA (AW) Battalion, and Cannon Company, 21st Infantry, 24th Division (entire period); two battalions, 9th Infantry, 24th Division (5-24 February); Co. A, 44th Tank Battalion, and Co. B, 637th TD Battalion (17 February-3 May); 760th Field Artillery Battalion (155-How.) (2 March-3 May); 756th Field Artillery Battalion (155-How.) (18 March-3 May); 472d Field Artillery Battalion (105-How.) (21 February through all subsequent operations); Co. C, 85th Chemical Battalion (4.2-inch mortars) (27 March-7 April); Co. B, 85th Chemical Battalion (7 April-3 May).
On both Leyte and Luzon, the airborne division experienced acute supply transportation problems from time to time, which were alleviated by attachment of 3 - and 21 -ton trucks and DUKWs from corps and army. Beginning on 10 March the 3498th Ordnance (Medium Maintenance) Company was attached to the division.
Medical units attached were the 407th Medical Collecting Company (until 10 March); 1st Platoon, 605th Medical Clearing Company (until 10 March); and the 5th and 7th Portable Surgical Hospitals.
- 2 -
The most striking fact about attachments to airborne divisions during World War II is the lack of continuity. Though this was true to some extent also with regular infantry and armored divisions, tank and tank destroyer battalions and some other attached units in many instances remained with the same divisions month after month, often throughout the entire campaign in the theater. This had the obvious advantage of familiarity. Although historical records of World War II airborne units contain no complaints about lack of continuity, one notes that the keepers of the record make a special point of mentioning those occasions when units were attached for long periods. Whether the lack of continuity affected operations can only be surmised.
Records of airborne units similarly fail to take note of the fact that combat support units of the division were lightly constituted when compared with similar units in regular divisions--the Signal Company, for example. Again one can only surmise whether this seriously affected operations. In at least one instance, the 1st British Airborne Division in Operation MARKET, communications difficulties did affect operations, but this was primarily because of inadequate radios. In all cases, airborne divisions in ground operations were attached to corps and in turn to army, so that deficiencies presumably could have been met by units from the superior headquarters.
The one deficiency that definitely did affect operations was the lack of heavy antitank weapons. The 37-mm. and even the 57-mm. antitank gun were inadequate against the armor to be faced in 1944-45. But this
- 1 -
affected the division's operations more in strictly airborne operations than it did in ground operations; fur just as were regular infantry divisions, the airborne divisions were usually reinforced with tank and tank destroyer units after contact with ground troops was established.
Small airborne units not incorporated into divisions (509th Parachute Infantry Battalion; the 504th Parachute Infantry for a time in Italy) appear not to have been reinforced with attachments but were instead attached to larger units.
In addition to attachments noted in the preceding studies, all airborne divisions appear to have had small detachments that were attached for special purposes--counter-intelligence, civil affairs, prisoner interrogation, etc. Yet this was hardly different from regular ground divisions.
During World War II, the British also employed their airborne divisions for sustained ground operations, notable the 1st Airborne Division in Italy and the 6th Airborne Division after Operation VARSITY. Following disenchantment with airborne operations after Crete, the Germans maintained their airborne units in name but employed them, usually without airborne training, as regular ground units.
- 2 -