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Thread: Parachute Operations

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    Default Parachute Operations

    Dear All,
    I am trying to get some sort of a ‘handle’ on the methods used by Luftwaffe/RAF Pilots/Navigators to get aircraft carrying paratroops into the right place (in 3 dimensions) to ensure that the troops ended up on the ground in the right place for subsequent military operations
    Now I know the meteorology/mechanics/physics of parachute dropping (both personnel and stores). What I don’t know is what methods the Navigators used (assuming the Pilots did as they were told!).
    There are two main methods.
    One: GRP (Ground Release Point). This requires some sort of ground indication which, in turn, requires the pre-insertion of some sort of pathfinder unit(s).
    Two: CARP (Calculated Air Release Point) where the Nav works out where he has to be (and the Pilot gets him there!) before the “Green On”. There are problems with both! I spent a few years of my Met career trying to resolve these – both mathematically, and on the DZ!
    I am looking, particularly, at:
    (a) Eben-Emael 10 May 40.
    (b) Crete 20 May 41.
    (c) OVERLORD (both RAF and USAAF) Jun 44
    (d) MARKET GARDEN 17 Sep 44
    (e) VARSITY 24 Mar 45.
    The Eben-Emael may have been a precision drop par excellence – or did they just use the ‘scatter-gun’ approach and hope enough ‘grunts’ would arrive at the right place to do “the bizz”.
    Crete ditto.
    OVERLORD: there were some considerable problems with landings and concentrations.
    MARKET GARDEN (and I have to admit this is my prime aim!). There is a considerable body of opinion that high-level military decisions (Montgomery, Browning, etc) were in error. The MARKET GARDEN Meteorological Annexe to the 38 Group Met After Action Report (AAR) has, strangely, “gone missing” (on all copies!). I suspect for political reasons to save the faces of senior commanders who made decisions for reasons of ego, and not military/meteorological planning. It would also, I believe, have vindicated the views of the Polish General Sosabowski – which would not have been particularly popular post-WW2.
    VARSITY was, I suspect, the ‘scatter-gun’ approach?
    When I started my meteorological para education/observation I was told that ”No longer will Paras be dropped into enemy territory. They will be dropped behind a “Crumbling Front” to prop it up” - as a rapid re-inforcement.
    I am not proposing to start an endless Thread on this subject. But if anybody wishes to “chew the fat” on this subject I would be interested to hear their views. Agreed positions might be published to the Forum?
    Rgds
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Well what about Sicily (1943) and South of France (1944).

    In both cases there were major issues with getting the airborne forces into battle.

    I suggest that the glider borne assault is as important as the parachute assault, although there are certain 'flexibilities' with using a glider which are denied to the parachutist.

    You have opened a 'can of worms' with this Thread (in the nicest possible way), it is so wide and deep a topic, I doubt you will be able to put the lid back on it!!

    An example of 'precision attack' was the raid on Bruneval and how not to do it was Tragino Viaduct and the deployment of airborne forces in Greece in 1945.

    An important point is that WWII were the formative years of airborne warfare but also the peak of it. Yes, the Brits and French landed at Suez but by time one moves in to the 1960s, the favoured option is a heliborne assault, although small groups continue to be dropped using HALO techniques.

    Good luck, very interesting topic.

    Old Duffer

    PS Just a word of caution: don't take any notice of those who decry the role of Sosabowski; he was the only general who had a clear appreciation of the risks/consequences of Market Garden and his treatment afterwards was an absolute scandal and disgrace to the British Army (Browning in particular!!)

    Rant over.

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    Peter, I have some knowledge on how agent insertions were made, but I am not sure if it applies to your question. They were visual, with the 'ground controlled' approach, either by simple signalisation or by use of homing devices like Rebecca.
    I understand, that the major airborne operations were based on pathfinder groups or partisan groups establishing and marking drop zones, and providing essential visual signalisation. I think the approach was made by a pilot in visual conditions, and green signal made, taking in mind drift. I think it is still not too late to ask veterans themselves, though.
    Market-Garden is a subject for great debate, but would not it be too far off topic? It is very political matter.

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    Rebecca was developed specifically to aid paradrops. It required a transmitter in place near the drop zone, so I suspect that by late in the war a two-stage approach would have been used, similar to what is still done today (just with different gadgets).

    First, a small lead force is droped with transmitters, flares and other markers. In the large scale Arctic training exercises in Canada in the late 1940s ground columns carried Rebecca transmitters with them, to set up supply drops.

    Finally, the main force aircraft would home on the markers/beacons etc. provided by the lead force.

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    Combined arms research digital library has many original documents on Market Garden, Overlord etc.
    The link below is for the advance search page:-
    http://cgsc.cdmhost.com/cdm4/search.php
    A search for "Operation Market" will give all the plans, weather,intelligence and post operation documents.
    Search for "Bigot" will bring up all invasion documents.....there are hundreds all marked Top secret.

    Alan.

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    Hello All,
    Mni tks for your responses. Interesting reading.

    It was not my intention to re-open debates on the ‘why’ of many WW2 airborne assaults (para or glider) although that is a fascinating topic in its own right. My original intention was to see if there was any, one, place – or places – where the mechanics of para/glider assault/re-supply were covered.

    You cannot, for example, fly your a/c directly towards the Rebecca (or torches) on the DZ and let the paras go when overhead. The a/c has to be positioned (in 3 dimensions) such that when the para exits (or the load is pushed out) it goes through all the mechanics and then drifts with the wind to come down on the DZ. Sometimes this can be quite a long way away!! At one stage in my career I did a great deal of work on parachuting.

    This current interest was sparked by looking at Eben-Emael on GE. My immediate thoughts were “Nice little DZ/LZ on the top”!!!!!

    Old Duffer: Agree all you say – particularly your rant! [Browning’s subsequent posting to be CoS to Mountbatten in India couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke! LOL] The more carefully controlled rants the better!!

    Franek: Agree most drops were of variations on the GRP (Ground Release Point) approach with pre-inserted pathfinders – or partisan groups - marking the DZ (but see my words of caution, above, about the MEDW (Mean Equivalent Dropping Wind)). I was intrigued when asked to work on CARP (Calculated Air Release Point) when it was already known that the policy was never again to drop UK paras into ‘enemy territory’. Paras – as rapidly deployable re-inforcement – would have been dropping into (al least) partially ‘friendly territory’!!

    Bill: We (that is the RAF and 16 Para Bde) played with a number of variations. On Exercises, when the Grunts had come down they rolled their chutes up and walked towards the Alpha on the DZ counting the steps as they went. They arrived and said to the DZ Safety Officer “Bloggs 123 – 67 paces”. The DZSO noted this down (and the direction from which Bloggs had walked in). This meant that Bloggs was accounted for, and not lying in some ditch with a couple of broken legs. It also gave me (the Met Man) the data from which I could backtrack where the exit point had been. I could compare this with any pilot-balloon winds I’d found (or The Forecast!!). I could relate it to the positioning of the fluorescent marker panels on the ground, and could – if necessary - go and formally “play ‘ell” either with the pilots (for not getting the a/c in the right place), or the dispatchers (for not getting the ‘grunts’ out smart enough after the Green-On!). I would be supported by those who had landed in the slurry from the pig-farm off the end of Everleigh DZ on Salisbury Plain!!!

    Alan (AL90): Your link looks like being the best thing since sliced bread! It will take some time to go through many of those – but thanks for the info. What little I’ve read so far seems to vindicate my view that the RAF 38 Group (Met) WW2 After Action Report (Arnhem Annexe) was “tampered with” to protect the guilty!

    Thank you all for your time/effort to reply. If anybody wishes to continue “chewing the fat” then it is possibly best done by PM or email. Any results of “Outstanding Natural Beauty” will be reported to the Forum.

    Rgds
    Peter Davies
    Last edited by Resmoroh; 14th December 2010 at 14:21.
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Peter
    All drops I know of were GRP, unless DZ was not found, and agents decided to jump anyway. In Polish jargon it was called a wild drop, but wild in Polish means also something primitive or provisional. I do not know of any British term. I have never heard of CARP drops.
    In regard of wind drift, do not forget, those drops were usually made from a low altitude, and round canopies of the period were not so prone for wind. This means, a properly trained pathfinder or partisan may set Rebecca or lights or fires the way, the drop will land in the field anyway. I must check, I think I have seen a copy of an instruction for DZs. I will also ask a friend, who did dosens of drops during the war, but I am not sure if he is home right know.

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    Just a small point Franek: round canopies are fully subject to the wind. They have only limited means of correcting for wind, due to their low horizontal airspeed and poor directional control. The paratrooper is basically along for the ride. Modern "square" chutes have greater control of both airspeed and heading (and therefore track) and can, when properly used, correct for the wind to a much greater degree than the old round chutes.

    The extreme example of this is modern HAHO operations with GPS being used to make pin-point landings several miles from the point at which the aircraft was left.

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    Franek/Bill,
    This precisely the sort of thing I was looking for.

    Franek: If the Rebecca (or torches) was set up actually on the DZ then the pilot would have to offset from the DZ to allow for the MEDW. If, on the other hand, the Rebecca, etc, were to be located where the pilot would release the load (para or stores) then it would mean that the "reception party" would be at two locations, thus increasing the chances of detection.

    Bill: This is where my memory comes unstuck. I think the WW2 PX-28 round chute was not very steerable. In addition it could go into uncontrollable oscillations. This was later cured by putting a 1 ft (30 cm) mesh "skirt" around the edges of the canopy. IIRC we used to work on a drift of 28 yds per knot of MEDW (sorry, Franek, I'm too old to convert that to 'metres per metre-per-second'!!) from a day drop height of 1200 ft AGL (1500 ft at night). This gradually came down (I think to 800 ft by day and 1000 ft by night) as the more responsive chutes were introduced (mainly for Special Forces). The RAF PJIs (Parachute Jump Instructors) and Spec Forces could land safely in some horrendous DZ weather conditions!!

    Both: It would seem likely that in the next few years the UK Services will have very little parachute capability left (with the exception of the various Spec Forces). The Parachute Museum (now at Duxford) is mainly concerned with Hardware - and the Personnel. There does not seem to be anywhere where the tecnhiques of how the 'people' operated the 'things' is going to be saved for posterity. I was hoping that some RAF ex-jumper might surface as a result of this and set us straight. But, as the Paras used to say, "Never jump out of a serviceable aeroplane unless it's on the ground"!! But many did in WW2 - and many (both military and agents) paid the ultimate price. Pity to see how they did it not recorded for posterity!

    Tks yr help
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Peter,

    I understand that the airborne assault on Eben-Emael was conducted by a Coy(-) of 1st Fallschirmjäger Division. The assaulters all landed by DFS230 glider, which were, in turn, towed by Ju52 tug aircraft from airfields near to the Dutch/German border. Once again it is my understanding that nobody actually parachuted onto the fort during the assault.

    Rgds

    Jonny
    In fond memory of Corporal James Oakland AGC (RMP), killed in action in Afghanistan on 22 October 2009. Exemplo Ducemus.

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