Another failing German parachute plan.
Also in the April 2016 European trip, I drove in a track day
/ driving experience at the famous Spa-Franchorchamps race
track in Belgium. The current track is much smaller than the
original pre WWII one, or the famous 1950s - 1970s version.
I enjoyed touring the area and viewing areas the old track went
through and some of the area's history.
I had done some searching about ways the area figured in the
Battle of the Bulge in December 1944.
I found this excerpt interesting: http://www.history.army.mil/books/wwii/7-8/7-8_11.HTM
(or, when you start running out of people, materials, training ,
and time, bad things just keep compounding!!!)
"The airborne phase of Operation Greif, whose code name was Hohes Venn,
seems to have been completely an afterthought, for the orders setting up the operation were not issued until 8 December.10 Hitler, like most of the
higher German commanders, had lost confidence in airdrop tactics after the
many casualties suffered by the German paratroopers in the Crete jump. Then too, in late 1944 the necessarily lengthy training for paratroop units was a luxury denied by the huge drain of battlefield losses. Apparently it was
Model who suggested that paratroop tactics be tried once again, but
undoubtedly Hitler seized upon the proposal with alacrity although there was
no longer a single regular paratroop regiment active in the Wehrmacht. Model wanted the jump to be made in the Krinkelt area, and one may wonder what
effect such a vertical attack might have had on the fight put up at the twin villages by the American 2d and 99th Infantry Divisions. Hitler, however,
had one of his intuitive strokes and ordered the jump to be made north of Malmédy.
His choice for commander devolved on Col. Friedrich A. Freiherr von der
Heydte, a distinguished and experienced paratroop officer then commanding
the Fallschirm Armee Waffen school where the nominal parachute regiments
were being trained as ground troops. Colonel von der Heydte was ordered to organize a thousand-man parachute formation for immediate use. Four days
later von der Heydte received his tactical mission from the Sixth SS Panzer Army commander during an uncomfortable session in which Dietrich was under
the influence of alcohol. The paratroopers were to jump at dawn on D-day,
first opening the roads in the Hohes Venn leading from the Elsenborn-Malmédy area toward Eupen for the armored spearhead units, then blocking Allied
forces if these attempted to intervene. Colonel von der Heydte was told that the German armor would reach him within twenty-four hours.
The preparations for Operation Hohes Venn were rushed to completion. The
troops received their equipment and a little jump training (many had never attended jump school); 112 war-weary, Junkers troop-carrier planes were gathered with an ill-assorted group of pilots, half of whom had never flown combat missions; 300 dummy figures were loaded for drops north of Camp Elsenborn to confuse the Americans (this turned out to be about the most successful feature of the entire operation); and the pilots and jump-masters were given instructions-but no joint training. It must be said that these preparations for what would be the first German paratroop assault at night
and into woods left much to be desired.
On the evening of 15 December Colonel von der Heydte formed his companies to entruck for the move to Paderborn, where the planes were assembled. The
trucks never arrived-they had no fuel. Now the jump was ordered for 0300 on
the 17th. This time the jump was made on schedule, although not quite as planned and into very bad cross winds. One rifle company was dropped behind
the German lines fifty kilometers away from the drop zone, most of the
signal platoon fell just in front of the German positions south of Monschau, and the bulk of the command and the weapons packages were scattered almost
at random. Despite this bad beginning about one hundred paratroopers reached the rendezvous at the fork in the Eupen road north of Mont Rigi. Since this group was obviously too weak for open action, Colonel von der Heydte formed camp in the woods and sent out patrols to pick up information and harass the Americans in the vicinity. These patrols gathered in stragglers until some three hundred paratroopers had assembled, but it was now too late to carry
out the planned operation. On the night of the 21st the paratroopers were ordered to find their way back to the German lines believed to be at
Monschau. Von der Heydte was taken prisoner two days later. The tactical
effect of this hastily conceived and ill-executed operation proved to be
almost nil although American commanders did dispatch troops on wild-goose chases which netted little but a few paratroopers, empty parachutes, and dummies.11 "
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