The German Army is not relaxing its long-standing vigilance in the matter of taking precautions
against possible attacks by United Nations airborne troops. A German Army document of 8 April 1943
discusses methods that the enemy believes we are likely to employ, and summarizes the German
principles of defense against such attacks. The Germans admit that we can choose from a variety of
tactics in planning an airborne offensive, and that our chances of achieving surprise are very
great. Acknowledging that we may try to deceive them with ruses and stratagems, the Germans
warn their soldiers to be prepared for all kinds of unexpected and unpleasant surprises. They
point out that our parachute troops and air-landing troops are likely to be employed in "the
most fantastic ways," and explain that for this reason each German soldier must be trained to
meet any crisis decisively and with speed.
The following statements are paraphrased from the German document.
2. GERMAN ESTIMATE OF OUR TACTICS
The United Nations have an excellent understanding of the two main methods of airborne attack:
(a) A raid in which landings are made in the immediate vicinity of the objective, so that a
surprise attack may be undertaken.
(b) An attack in which landings are made at some distance from the objective, and at a place
where no effective immediate defense is anticipated. The United Nations units then group
themselves, and prepare to advance and launch a planned attack.
In the first type of attack, the opposition will attempt a number of separate small raids by
parachutists, in an effort to gain possession of important objectives as quickly as
possible. (The British, especially, will try to destroy these objectives at once in
order to cause confusion.) These small detachments of parachutists with special tasks to
perform may be dropped at night, some hours before the main attack. After landing, they
will make the most of natural concealment, so as to approach their objectives unobserved.
In the second type of attack, the landings are very often preceded by air bombardment, followed
immediately by the first wave of parachutists. However, it is always possible that, in order to
gain complete surprise, a landing will not be preceded by bombing—or even that the opposition
will try to create a diversion and deceive us by bombing an entirely different objective.
British parachute troops have been practicing night operations for a long time. Hence it is
necessary to be constantly alert. It must be expected that well-trained parachutists will be ready
to fight a few seconds after landing.
The United Nations can drop parachutists on terrain of virtually any type. It is quite feasible to
drop parachutists on stony, irregular ground (as at Narvik); on ground covered with thick, low
growth and even with orchards (as on Crete); and on ground crisscrossed by canals and ditches (as
in Holland). The dropping of parachutists is out of the question only on ground where there are
many high-tension cables, in deeply ravined or thickly populated: areas, or in woods where the
trees are tall. It is self-evident, however, that the employment of parachute troops on a fairly
large scale will call for open ground.
Since such a tremendous amount of ground is suitable for the landing of parachutists and
even of transport gliders—the latter can land in remarkably confined spaces—one
must select and indicate on maps only those areas which are especially advantageous for the
landing of large numbers of parachutists and gliders, or which are conceivably suitable for
landing transport planes.
A battalion of parachutists needs a jumping area of 800 by 300 yards. The landing and debarkation
of an air-landing battalion on an airfield of medium size takes 45 minutes, provided hostile
forces do not interfere. It takes longer if artillery is carried.
Since it is by no means necessary for transport gliders to land on airfields proper, these
aircraft must be regarded as especially dangerous. Small gliders can dive and get beneath
the fire of the defense. Also, since gliders are armed with machine guns, they can return
fire effectively. Although gliders can often be used at night, they require a certain
amount of light in the sky to land satisfactorily.
It must be expected that gliders will be used in carrying out isolated raids. For example,
two 30-seater "Horsa" gliders were used in a British raid near Trondheim. It is known
that the opposition is building a large number of these and of 60-seat "Hamilcar"
gliders, as well.
3. GERMAN PRINCIPLES OF DEFENSE
We [the Germans] must erect obstacles on landing grounds and in areas likely to prove inviting
to parachutists and gliders. Obstacles will be erected in front of, or all around, localities
strategically important to the defense—for example, entrances to areas containing important
Mines and wire can be especially effective against parachutists and air-landing troops. (The "S" mine
is excellent for this purpose.) In fact, the opposition is so aware of the danger of minefields
to airborne troops that they will respect and avoid any area that they have reason to believe
is mined. However, to help deter the opposition from attempting to land, dummy minefields, as well
as true mines spaced far apart, must be maintained as though they were dangerous, thickly laid fields.
All types of dummy defense works should be employed. The defenders, as well as the attackers, must use
imagination and cunning.
Poles, ditches, piles of wood and broken furniture, farm wagons piled with junk and with their
wheels removed, and large mounds of earth, stones, or manure can also prove effective obstacles.1
b. Protection of Defenses
Defenses must have all-around protection. For this reason important defense works must be
barricaded all-around against raids by airborne troops. Also, all the inhabited area within a
defended work must be covered by automatic weapons. Since batteries are very inviting targets, it
will be necessary to provide a sufficient number of sentries and machine guns to protect
them. Vehicles must never be concentrated in areas not adequately defended.
c. Observation Posts
Observation posts must be maintained on all high landmarks (such as church steeples); this must be
done everywhere, even in rear areas. Such observation posts are indispensable, especially in
occupied territory, for spotting parachutists in time to give warning.
d. Communicating an Alarm
Telephone lines are extremely vulnerable to destruction by airborne troops. Therefore, there
must always be an alternative method of communicating an alarm. Church bells, bugles, or
drums may be employed.
e. Preparation of Mobile Reserves
As a general rule, even in preparation for minor attacks, it is best to have mobile reserves
available to serve as "commando hunters." Machine guns, antitank guns, or 20-mm
dual-purpose guns should be mounted on the trucks that the reserves will use, so that it
will be possible to open fire from the vehicles. Machine pistols and hand grenades should
be provided, and—if possible—light portable searchlights.
Flak personnel can be employed locally as combat squads.
Tanks and armored cars, if available, will offer the best possible means of combatting airborne troops.
f. Defense Tactics
The defense must be conducted offensively. Therefore, do not split up your forces, but make
arrangements for a strong shock reserve. If observation posts and reconnaissance units have not
supplied precise information, attack decisively whichever hostile group seems to be
tactically the most dangerous. An extended period of inaction can have unfortunate
Use your reserves economically. All objectives of interest to the enemy must be adequately
manned, even if your own attack is in progress. The main thing is to have an intuitive grasp of
what the airborne attackers' real intentions are, and not to allow yourself to be deceived
by diversionary attacks, dummy parachutists, and so on.
g. Opening of Fire
The chances of your being able to hit parachutists during their descent are very slight. It
will be advisable to open fire only at close range. Experience has shown that fire is likely
to be most effective just after the parachutists have touched the ground, while they are
detaching themselves from their parachutes, and while they are trying to regroup themselves.
If it is not possible to cover with fire the locality in which parachutists are landing, there
may be some advantage in placing sweeping machine-gun fire on the attackers while they are
still in the air—even if they are not within close range.
Transport planes flying overhead should be subjected to fire as long as they are within
range. Just before parachutists are to be dropped, transports slow down and become extremely
It must be recognized that the British and Americans have made great progress in developing their
methods of airborne attack, and that they are capable of undertaking airborne operations on a
large scale. Whenever they believe that circumstances are favorable, they will attempt to achieve
decisive successes by using large numbers of airborne troops behind our coastal defenses. For
this reason we must continually examine our defensive measures and keep them up to date.
When an airborne attack occurs, we must be able to estimate the situation with lightning-like
speed, dispatch accurate information to the proper quarters, and launch a determined attack
without regard to losses, even if we are outnumbered.
1 See Intelligence Bulletin Vol. I, No. 11, pp. 4851 for
other Axis methods of obstructing airfields.