The parachute rifleman, as a member of the German Air Force possesses an ordinary German Air Force uniform. This uniform has yellow collar patches (except possibly in the case of some specialists) and the name of the regiment embroidered on the cuff, but this is taken off before the soldier leaves the home station of the regiment. In action only the jacket of this uniform is worn, though the garrison (overseas) cap is also taken. The remainder of the combat uniform is peculiar to parachute troops.
These are like skiing trousers, quite long and loose, and gray in color. They have buttoned pockets on the sides of the thighs in which such articles as garrison (overseas) caps and swastika flags are kept.
This is round in shape, and is thickly padded with rubber, with a narrow brim and practically no neck-shield. It is varnished a matt blue-gray, or mottled, color, and bears ordinary German Air Force insignia. The strap forks below the ear, and is attached to the helmet at four points. The helmet is commonly worn with a cloth cover, frequently with a light-colored cross on top (the purpose of which is unknown) and with a band round it for insertion of camouflage; the band may be colored for purposes of recognition.
This garment is of waterproof gabardine, loose fitting and fastened by a zipper fastener up the front. The color is normally olive green (or gray-green), now usually mottled. The legs are cut short some distance above the knee; the sleeves are long and button at the wrist. On both sleeves are worn large-size "wings" as stripes of rank; on the right breast is the German Air Force flying eagle (Hoheitszeichen). There are two very capacious pockets on the thighs, two more on the chest, and slits at each hip; pockets are closed by zipper fasteners. The coveralls are worn over uniform and equipment for the jump; on landing, the garment is taken off and usually put on again under the equipment.
These are of padded leather, with long gauntlets which grip by means of elastic; sometimes woolen gloves are substituted. They are worn only for the jump.
These are of heavy leather, and have thick rubber soles with a V-pattern tread. They are laced up the side, and there is a seam up the front. They extend some way above the ankle, and the trousers are tucked into them; the tops fit tightly.
f. Knee Protectors
These are of rubber, in thick horizontal bars, rather like those which some U.S. basketball players wear. They are strapped on over the trouser knee, and are discarded after the jump.
g. Ankle Bandages
These are of linen, and are bound around instep and ankle, and about one-third of the way up the leg. The heel is left free, and the bandages are not removed after the jump.
h. Gas Mask
Of normal type, this is carried in a special canvas container. The new gas mask (Gasmaske 40) is made of pure and very strong rubber. An antigas cape of oilcloth is also taken.
The parachutist's badge, worn low on the left breast, is a diving eagle, golden-colored, in a wreath of oak and bay of oxidized silver color; the eagle holds a swastika in its claws. (The German Army parachutist's badge is slightly different.) This badge is not worn except at home stations. An identity disc is carried; but pay-books (Soldbücher) are handed in on leaving home stations, and a camouflaged identity card (Tarnausweis or Feindflugausweis) is taken instead.
Types RZ16, RZ1, or 36DS28 are known. Type RZ16--Rückenfallschirm Zwangsauslösung 16 (back-pack, compulsion-opening parachute, type 16)-—since the beginning of 1941 has been replacing the RZ1, which opens sometimes with a dangerous jerk. The RZ16, because of its ingenious construction, opens without shock, and its opening is said to be 100 percent sure. The parachutes used in jumping schools are pure silk and are valued at 1,000 marks apiece; but the combat parachutes, intended for use only once, are made of artificial silk, or "macoo." The suspension lines are drawn together a few feet above the belt of the parachutist’s harness, to the back of which they are attached by two hemp harness cords; in the air, the man seems to dangle from a single string. With the airplane traveling at 80 to 100 miles per hour, the standard height of drop is just under 400 feet. After a clear drop of about 80 feet, the parachute takes over and the subsequent rate of descent is 16 to 17 feet per second (11 miles per hour). Reports on colored parachutes are various--black, white or beige, brown, and green are all used; the principal purpose seems to be ease of recognition, though there may be some small camouflage effect against the ground (but not against the sky). A more technical description of the German parachute is given below in Appendix C.
k. IndividuaI Weapons
The combat pistol (Kampfpistole) is a kind of 25-mm (about 1-inch caliber) Very pistol (Leuchtspistole), but the barrel is rifled. Besides a signal cartridge, a special cartridge can be fired containing as projectile a light metal cylinder filled with scrap iron mixed with an inflammable, corrosive substance. The weapon has a strong recoil, and for that reason must be fired with both hands. The best range is about 55 yards, and bursts from the exploding projectile cover a radius of about 20 yards.
The automatic pistol 40 is a 35-caliber (9-mm) weapon with a length of about 20 inches. The sights, fixed at 110 yards, are adjustable to twice that distance. The 32-cartridge magazine functions poorly if filled with more than 24 cartridges. A good marksman can effectively fire in practice only about 4 charges of 24 cartridges per minute, though the pistol is said to have a decidedly higher rate of theoretical fire.
For the jump, the parachutist formerly carried only a large jackknife and an automatic pistol (Pistole 08) with two magazines. Men in the first platoons to land, however, might carry up to four hand grenades, and about one man in four of them a machine carbine. Since the end of March 1942, German parachutists have been required to jump with this latter weapon. Other weapons come down in weapon containers attached to "load parachutes." Experiments are being encouraged in which the individual is dropped with what he is normally equipped when operating in his combat section.
Rations taken, including those in the arms containers, may last German parachutists for 2 or even 3 days. Further supplies are dropped in "provisions bombs," which are described below. Special foods taken include Wittler bread, sliced and wrapped, which is supposed to last indefinitely until unwrapped (but, in fact, does not); chocolate mixed with kola (Schokokola), and with caffeine (Kobona), which is not believed to be any better than ordinary chocolate; and simple refreshing foods like grape sugar. Most of the food is quite ordinary.
m. Drugs and First-Aid Supplies
Parachute troops are not doped. But the following "drugs" are used: (1) energen or dextro-energen, in white tablets, a dextrose or glucose preparation, to produce energy; (2) pervitin, a drug allied to benzedrine, to produce wakefulness and alertness. Pervitin is said to create thirstiness.
The parachutist usually carries one large and two small field dressings. Each platoon has a noncommissioned officer as its medical aid man. The first-aid kit, with which he probably jumps, contains bandages, dressings, adhesive tape, safety pins, soap, ointments, iodine, antiseptics, and analgesics. Containers dropped by separate parachute have sometimes been found to hold small suitcases of extra medical supplies and surgical instruments. Each combat company has a stretcher. Since the rate of casualties may be high, the XIth Air-Borne Corps has four medical companies, one of which is probably an air-landing field hospital company. Ju-52's, which will carry eight lying casualties, may be utilized to evacuate the severely wounded to Germany.
n. Arms Containers
Such equipment as the parachutists do not carry in the jump may be dropped in containers. Four standard arms containers are carried in each Ju-52. Each container weighs 50 to 60 pounds empty and takes a load of up to 260 pounds. Three different models have been identified: (1) a cylindrical container 5 feet long and 16 to 18 inches in diameter, hinged along its length so that it can be opened in half; (2) a container of the same length but of square cross-section, 16 inches by 16 inches, with beveled edges and hinged along its length so that one long side opens as a lid; (3) a container similar to the preceding but hinged along one long edge so that it opens in half like a trombone case. This is probably an improved design. All three of these containers are dropped in a similar manner. They are painted in various bright colors, with rings and other markings denoting the unit for which intended. Some containers have been described as fibre trunks 6 by 1½ by 1½ feet. Further details are given below in Appendix D.
o. Contents of Arms Containers
Heavy mortars, weighing 125 pounds, and other equipment of the heavy weapons company would undoubtedly go into arms containers. Explosives of all kinds are taken, including AT and antipersonnel mines. Radio equipment goes into containers that are specially padded. Among miscellaneous articles that have been dropped by the container method have been antigas protective clothing, and particularly tools and spare parts, such as spark plugs, useful in operating commandeered motor vehicles.
p. "Provisions Bombs" (Versorgungsbomben)
These are carried in bomb racks and released like ordinary bombs, which they resemble in shape. Any bomber aircraft may be expected to drop them on positions where troops have been landed some time previously. The "bomb" is about 6 feet in length and 1½ feet in diameter, having a separate compartment at the end to contain the parachute. On release of the "bomb," this end cap is torn off and the parachute is pulled out. There is no shock absorber. On suitable ground and from a low altitude, "provisions bombs" may be dropped without parachutes. Even ordinary sacks of provisions are so dropped.
q. Heavy Equipment Dropped by Parachute
Much heavy parachute-borne equipment may be thrown out the door of the Ju-52, with or without a special container. Bicycles, stretchers, small flame-throwers, mines, large mortars, light artillery pieces, and perhaps motorcycles may be dropped. The 28/20-mm AT gun, model 41,2 has been dropped complete and ready for action, on wheels, in a container. There is no reason why a number of other weapons could not similarly be dropped complete. In most cases they are suitable for separation into several loads, but vital time may be saved by dropping them complete. The use of several parachutes together, common in the past, has sometimes proved unsatisfactory; large parachutes are therefore being made which will take loads up to 500 pounds.