German parachutists (Fallschirmjaeger) are members of the Air Force who have met high physical requirements and have completed a rigorous course in one of the several large jumping schools, which are under the command of Brigadier General Ramcke. Jumping School No. 1, at Stendal, is said to have closed in December 1940; No. 2, at Wittstock, 55 miles northwest of Berlin, still exists; No. 3, at Braunschweig, 120 miles west of Berlin is said to have closed about March 1942; what is called Maubeuge Jumping School opened about January 1942 in the neighborhood of Paris, France. Each active school is said to graduate between 1,000 and 1,500 trainees a month, who then normally return to their original units. Parachute school graduates, especially selected for toughness, are given further specialized training in assault tactics and assigned to assault or parachute regiments. In the spring of 1941, great attention was suddenly placed on an immediate increase in parachute troops. Numerous officers, who had seen action on the Western Front, reported to advanced instructors' schools. Training was given both in open and rugged or mountainous country, and in dropping of equipment and supplies in flights both day and night. It is estimated that more than 50,000 soldiers of the German Army now wear the diving-eagle badge of the trained parachute trooper. In each parachutist is instilled a high esprit de corps; he is taught that parachute troops perform a very important function.1
a. Progressive Training Program
The training program is divided into ground and air phases. Recruits begin their course by learning to fall on the ground without injuring themselves. Next they learn to use the parachute harness in practice jumps at a low height from the doors of dummy airplanes. Then they are taught how to control their parachutes in the air by being suspended in their harnesses from a pulley-operated training arrangement. They are also taught to disengage themselves quickly from the parachutes as soon as they have landed. Very definite details about the training of one of the men of the German 5th Parachute Regiment are given in Appendix A.
b. Care and Packing of Parachutes
One of the most important features of the ground phase is the course in the care and packing of parachutes. Each trooper is made personally responsible for his own equipment, and no man jumps unless in a parachute packed by himself. (In this, as in many other aspects of their training, the Germans are not ahead of U.S. practice.)
c. Jumping Requirements
Having mastered the ground instructions, the pupil begins the air phase. This consists of 6 jumps, the first of which he makes alone from an altitude of about 600 feet. His next 2 jumps are made in company with 4 or 5 other trainees from an altitude of 450 feet. The fourth jump is made from this same altitude with about 10 other students, either at dawn or sunset in order to experience the light conditions of an actual attack. The fifth jump is made in combat teams of 10, each team being carried in one of 3 aircraft flying in formation. The sixth and final jump is made under simulated combat conditions from 9 aircraft flying in formation at altitudes slightly below 400 feet.
d. Training for Ground Combat
German parachutists receive thorough ground combat training. Their individual instruction includes such subjects as marksmanship, scouting, and mechanical training on weapons. Their unit training emphasizes combat problems, demolition work, and strenuous field exercises. The training of German parachutists for ground combat resembles in many respects that given by the British to their commando units. Parachute units, of course, must practice extensively with air units, and occasionally with air-landing units.
e. Possibility of Special Sabotage Training
The captured documents relating to the attack against Crete do not indicate that German air-borne troops were expected to commit sabotage in the true sense of the word. Damage was to be inflicted, but prisoners maintained that they had not been trained to wear, and would not wear, foreign uniforms. It has been pointed out, however, that there may well be a separate German organization for the dropping of small parties of parachute troops, possibly speaking foreign languages and wearing foreign uniforms, to create confusion, conduct sabotage, and contact fifth columnists. If so, these "parachutists" should be distinguished from the parachute regiments, which are used for large-scale open attack on important military positions.