It is remarkable that the distance from departure airdromes to the scene of operations in Crete was approximately the same as it was previously in the attack on Holland, namely about 200 miles. If the departure airdromes are too near to the objective, they may be discovered in time (the concentrations of transport planes being conspicuous), and the advantages of surprise will be forfeited, even if the force is not, as is likely to happen, shot up before it starts. On the other hand, there are many reasons why the distance from rear headquarters to objectives must not be very great:2
(1) If fighter support is to be provided, the distance must be kept within the radius of action of that type of aircraft. (2) Over longer distances, more aircraft are needed to keep up ferrying. (3) Over longer distances, decisions made at the rear take progressively longer to affect the action.
(4) Troops going into action should not be kept seated in aircraft too long.
(5) The attack itself cannot begin at dawn, unless the take-off is made by night; there is, however, everything to be said for attacking early in the day, and therefore for taking off at dawn and not spending too long on the journey. A journey of even 200 miles takes, with gliders, 2 hours (actually, it took the gliders 3 hours to get from Tanagra to Canea).
(6) In general, the operation becomes progressively more difficult for pilots over longer distances.
2 One must not forget that it is difficult to state definitely any particular limitation on aircraft that will hold good for an indefinite period. Overloading has been systematically practiced for years for the purpose of attaining a certain objective. Refueling from the air was regularly practiced in British transoceanic passenger demonstrations some years ago. Extra tanks added to the Me-109 made possible a 310-mile radius (620-mile range), and the immediate use of belly tanks by the Japanese raised the normal range of their fighters from approximately 800 to 1,200 miles. Recent reports have stated that U.S. parachute troops have been flown 1,500 miles to combat in North Africa.