Paratroops
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General Student
Ju52
A Brit's view
Egon Radeck
Interrogation Report
Pilot's diary

  

The German Fallschirmjager, or Paratroops.
The parachute troops were an elite group in the German forces.  Still today paratroop units are considered to be not only the elite of a nations forces, but also "hard", the group you least want to come up against.  As well as being young, tough and well disciplined, there was a surprise and even a terror element to these units.  People were afraid, especially civilians, of the threat of the silent assault from the sky. 

 (On the right is a drawing of paratroops in their Ju52.)

A history of the paratroops, including their actions on Crete. Storming Eagles
I have been sent some information on Egon Radeck who was a paratrooper with the 2nd FallschirmJaeger Regiment.  I am very grateful to his grand-daughter, Nanette Murphy, for sending me the photos and some information on him.  Take a look at the separate page, Egon Radeck.

cover

Egon Konrad Radeck

The certificate on the left was given to those who qualified to wear the 'KRETA' armband, the one shown on the book above.  It has the date of 20 May 1941 and is signed by General Student.  I took the photo in the Imperial War Museum.

The Seventh Parachute Division under Sussmann was part of the XI Air Corps which came under General Student and so reported up though the Luftwaffe to Reichsmarschall Goering.  Following the events in Greece Student was able to add to his forces the 5th Mountain Division and elements of the 6th Mountain Division.  For transport he would have some 500 or so Ju52 transport aircraft.

  
Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mätauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.
German mountain troops waiting to embark for Crete
The following is from 'Crete 1941 Eyewitnessed, and is a German account of the run-in on Maleme;

"The airplanes approached Crete in closed wing formation.  Skimming the water along the east coast of the Peloponnesos, they headed toward the western part of Crete, then turned east, crossed the mountains on the west coast of Crete, and descended toward the targets.  reducing its speed over the targets, the wing dropped the parachuts units from a height of 120 m., then headed northward and again skimmed over the sea back to its bases."

The parachute units had many skills spread amongst them, to allow themselves to operate as self contained units on the ground until reinforcements could arrive.  Most were armed with machine guns, but there were also anti-tank units, demolition and engineer groups amongst their number.  The men themselves wore special round crash helmets, large boots that laced half way up the calf, and padding over their knees, chests and shoulders.  These were to protect them on landing, when they could then be discarded.  Because they were primarily assault troops who would expect reinforcement or re-supply within a couple of days of landing, they carried rations for only two days; chocolate, sugar, thirst quenchers.  Most of their weapons would drop with the troops, but in separate containers as their parachutes could not take the weight of a fully armed paratroop, so they jumped with only their pistols, and had to find their weapons when they landed.  Because of this they were particularly vulnerable during the descent and the period where they had to reform their units after landing.  Finding the weapons containers was a priority after landing.

One man leaves, in the crucifix position, another is just exiting the door.

The Ju52 could carry a "stick" of 15 paratroops, who would leave the aircraft through a door in the side of the fuselage.  Their static line was fixed to a wire in the aircraft, they would then dive out in the "crucifix" position and the static wire would then deploy their 'chute from their parachute pack.  The jumps were intended to be made at about 300 - 400 feet, with the 'chute opening after a fall of some 150 feet, so the troops would not be in the air for too long, a very vulnerable period.  The following is from von der Heydte who dropped near Maleme

"The feeling after the landing is quite different from the feeling of a normal soldier, because the normal soldier goes slowly into the battle but the paratrooper comes from peace-time into the battle in one minute.  And then the normal soldier has a front line, the normal soldier knows where the enemy is.   The paratrooper has an enemy everywhere, and especially in Crete because in Crete we hadn't got only the enemy soldiers against us but also the whole population." Paratroops boarding, their static line clip between their teeth. 
Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mätauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

For many the landing was the end of their battle.  Bodies of German airborne troops by the side of their glider transport. 

The following is an extract from  'Storming Eagles' (the book at the top of this page).
"Dawn came and went.  We flew on until below us we could see the dun-coloured, inhospitable-looking terrain with mountains blinding white in the sunlight.  These peaks ran along the length of the island like a spine.  Pillars of black smoke rose still and straight into the blue sky.  The Luftwaffe had been softening up the enemy and destroying his opposition.
There was little flak.  The Stukas had been most effective as had the men of the Assault regiment whose task it had been to attack the anti-aircraft guns.  But even without the disturbance of flak fire the machines bucketed about in the air turbulence.  The engines changed note.  The pilot was throttling back.  It would not be long now.  The light on the bulkhead showed red.  It was the signal "Make Ready!"  Two minutes to go.  The dispatcher walked along the body of the machine checking that each man's static-line hook was firmly fixed to the jump wire.  By the time he had completed his task the bulkhead light had changed to green.  "Ready to Jump!" and we moved forward to the exit door on the port side of the aircraft.  Two of the Ju crew had already removed the door and we could feel the air blowing in.  Our sergeant would be the first to jump.  He stood braced in the doorway looking slightly upwards as per the drill book.  He would not have seen that the light on the bulkhead had changed to white, but at the sound of the klaxon horn he flung himself forward and out of the machine to be followed by the rest of us in quick succession.  When each man jumped the Ju bounced upwards a little in the air as the aircraft load was lightened. 
There did not seem to be much firing from the enemy on the ground and we landed quickly on to a fairly rocky field.  It was surprisingly quiet - well, except for the sound of aircraft engines.  No small arms fire.  No artillery.  We doubled forward to the canisters, rolled them over to get at the locking pins, opened the flaps and collected our weapons.  It was comforting to have a firearm again.  It really is a terrible feeling to fall unarmed through the air knowing that you are unable to fire back at anybody on the ground who is firing up at you.  By the time that we had armed ourselves and were grouped into Sections and Platoons, runners had arrived ordering us to join the remainder of the Company.  At that concentration point the officers and NCOs were given their orders and we then set off towards our objective.  We were in Crete for the loss of only one man who had broken a thigh bone."

 The following are a few extracts from a book by Martin Poppel "Heaven & Hell, The War Diary of a German Paratrooper".  Poppel dropped on Holland and Crete, and then went on to the Eastern Front.  Their journey to Greece prior to the attack on Crete took a couple of weeks, but finally they were ready to go, but first they had to 'fill up the Junkers petrol tanks by hand!'  Poppel was to drop on Rethymnon, and they took off he says at 13.00 hours "Flying time will be over two hours, so I use the opportunity to grab some sleep."  They were over Rethymnon at 15.40 for the drop and he says they came down "about 12 km. east of the town ... and 1.5 km. north of Episkopi."  The weather was very hot, which the planners should have known "but we've been sent into battle in full uniform and with para jumping overalls as well.  Absolutely blood crazy!"  Their rations also contained salty ham, which would not do their thirst a lot of good.  Poppel does not spend a lot of time on the detail of the fighting, but it is obvious that they found it very hard, at one point he describes their mood as 'tired and dispirited'.  But as we know they did go on to take the island; "Crete was ours.  It was a heroic and bitter struggle but never forget what a tremendous toll it took in the lives of our troops.  Winston Churchill was to say that, here on Crete, the spearhead of the German army had leapt to its death.  He was right, We never recovered from it."