Re: Some observations about raising of US airborne divisions
- From: "John Anderton" <john1_anderton@xxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sun, 18 Sep 2005 20:42:21 +0000 (UTC)
Drazen Kramaric wrote:
> I followed the debate about the number of US airborne divisions raised
> and although my first instinct was to agree with the position that
> there were too many of them, eventually I asked myself, how was US
> Army suppose to know whether activating 13th Airborne in August 1943
> (when not even 101st made any combat jumb) was necessary or not.
Short answer, they weren't. That's not to say the decision was correct,
> In event, 17th Airborne missed Market Garden and 13th missed Rhein,
> although there's fair chance that but for a week or two, both
> divisions might have been included in the respective operations.
No, as mentioned elsewhere, the limiting factor for Market Garden (and
maybe the Rhine, I don't know) was transport aircraft, not available
troops. AFAIK British 6th Airborne could have been dropped in September
if there had been planes to do so.
> Did Airborne divisions have priority in shipping to Europe? If not,
> perhaps some delays were caused by the Atlantic bottleneck, so 82nd
> and 101st were forced to jump to Netherlands and 82nd again over the
As mentioned above, don't forget that there were four airborne
divisions (1st & 6th British, 82nd & 101st US) plus a Polish parachute
brigade available and at least one infantry division (53rd Welsh ?)
which could have been airlifted (At one point in the planning for
Market Garden it was thought possible to fly them to Deelen airfield
north of Arnhem) if transport was available. From an "available troops"
point of view there was no reason not to use an extra division or more
in Market Garden.
> The argument about the lack of sufficient air transport doesn't look
> as relevant.
>Suppose that US Army planned for two division jumps at
> any one time. That would mean that sufficient lift for two divisions
> should be built, but once first pair of divisions was dropped,
> wouldn't it be prudent to have another pair to be dropped if the need
> arise while the original pair is recuperating from the previous jump?
> I mean, the actual warfare in Europe saw three jumps (June, September
> and March) giving plenty of time for 82nd and 101st to participate in
> all of them, but it didn't have to be that way. What if European
> campaign saw more methodical advance where every major Allied
> offensive required some sort of airborne operation to precede it?
Actually there were a lot more than three jumps planned. Numerous
operations were planned between June and September and all were
cancelled (sometimes when the troops were about to embark) because the
ground offensive overran the objective. If the allied advance hadn't
been quite so fast, it's entirely possible that more than three/four
airborne divisions could have been productively used.
One point about the airborne forces that hasn't cropped up yet is that
not all divisions involved in large scale airborne operations have to
be Airborne (i.e. with parachute troops and limited heavy weapons).
British 14th Army in Burma carried out a number of operations using
non-Airborne units which were air-lifted and air-supplied. It could
have been feasible to use parachute formations to seize landing zones
and then fly in normal infantry divisions if transport aircraft were
available. This could have resulted in the formation of, say, three (2
US, 1 UK) Airborne divisions, each with two/three parachute brigades
and three/four extra infantry divisions. Thoughts, anyone ?
> As a comparison, Americans raised six marine divisions during the war,
> was there any occassion where all six of them were used in same
> operation? Correct me if I'm wrong, but no more than three
> participated in any one invasion. Does it mean that no more than three
> were required?
I'm no expert on the Pacific war but I assume there would have been
some R&R for each division after it had undertaken a major assault to
allow it to recover whereas the naval transport and support units would
be ready for the next operation rather quicker so there would have been
a need for more divisions than could be used in a single operation.
Similar to your comment above about having four Airborne and using two
at a time.
> On a different scale, I think it might be argued that airborne
> _divisions_ were waste of manpower, while airborne _batallions_ would
> have been far more efficient use of highly trained men.
I think it's fairly well known that airborne operations involving units
of about battalion size were consistently more successful than
operations using division sized units, so yes, with hindsight it's
probably true that training and using airborne troops for smaller
operations would have made better use of them.
>As members of
> Easy Company told us, "general Taylor asked for two days of hard
> combat in Normandy and than they would have been relieved with
> infantry". Since airborne operations in Normandy saw little actions by
> anything bigger than battalion sized formations, it seems that
> airborne units should have been something like rangers who know how to
> jump from the perfectly good plane.
I'd actually point at Normandy as being one of the few examples when
the use of large airborne forces was successful, mainly because there
was such a huge ground/sea force incoming which managed to support the
airborne forces with heavy weapons before the opposing forces got
organised and tore them apart.
Also, although the US divisions only operated in about battalion
strength (6th Airborne was less widely scattered) those battalion sized
units were what was left available of far larger formations which had
been scattered or suffered heavy casualties. If only battalion sized
units were used they'd have probably ended up at platoon size on the
- Some observations about raising of US airborne divisions
- From: Drazen Kramaric
- Some observations about raising of US airborne divisions
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