1st Parachute Army (Wehrmacht)
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|1st Parachute Army
|Active||1 March 1943 – 8 May 1945|
|Size||Over 3,000 men|
|Engagements||World War II|
|Disbanded||8 May 1945|
|Generaloberst Kurt Student|
The German 1st Parachute Army (1st Fallschirm-Armee) was formed in September 1944 to consolidate the various Luftwaffe Fallschirmjäger-Units. It was given the task of defending the 60 mile stretch of the Low Countries between Antwerp and Maastricht with a force of just over 3,000 men.
Its first commander was Colonel General Kurt Student, the Wehrmacht's airborne pioneer. During the Allied Operation Market Garden, Student's men played a vital role in delaying the Allied advance across the south of the Netherlands. The 3,000 paratroopers were likely the only combat-ready reserve forces in Germany at the time.
Student was transferred to the Eastern Front, and on 18 November 1944, command of the First Parachute Army passed to General der Fallschirmtruppe Alfred Schlemm, who opposed the Canadian First Army during the Battle of the Reichswald. Schlemm's troops were a motley but effective collection of under-strength infantry divisions and battle groups entrenched in the West Wall (Siegfried Line). Schlemm disagreed with the current view that the next Allied attack would be further south and ensured that his troops built formidable defences.
The Canadian First Army and Lieutenant-General William Hood Simpson’s U.S. Ninth Army compressed Schlemm’s forces into a small bridgehead on the west bank of the Rhine opposite Wesel. On 10 March 1945, the rearguard of the 1st Fallschirm-Armee evacuated their bridgehead, destroying the bridge behind them, and Schlemm prepared to meet the inevitable Allied crossing of the river. Schlemm was wounded in an air attack on his command post at Haltern eleven days later and on 20 March 1945, command passed to General der Infanterie Günther Blumentritt.
Just before Operation Varsity, First Parachute Army had three corps stationed along the river; II Parachute Corps to the north, LXXXVI Corps in the centre, and LXIII Corps in the south. Of these formations, II Parachute Corps and LXXXVI Corps had a shared boundary which ran through the proposed landing-zones for the Allied airborne divisions, meaning that the leading formation of each corps would face the airborne assault — these being 7th Parachute Division and 84th Infantry Division. After their retreat to the Rhine both divisions were under-strength and did not number more than 4,000 men each, with 84th Infantry Division supported by only 50 or so medium artillery pieces.
In the final days of the war, command passed once more to Student (10 April) and finally to Erich Straube.
- Generaloberst Kurt Student, 1 March 1944 – 4 November 1944.
- General der Fallschirmtruppe Alfred Schlemm, 4 November 1944 – 28 March 1945.
- General der Infanterie Günther Blumentritt (Heer), 28 March 1945 – 10 April 1945.
- Generaloberst Kurt Student, 10 April 1945 – 28 April 1945.
- General der Infanterie Erich Straube (Heer), 28 April 1945 – 8 May 1945.