(1st Airborne Assault Regiment)
German paratroopers at Eben-Emael
Luftlande-Sturm-Regiment 1 (also known as Versuchsabteilung Friedrichshafen or Sturmabteilung Koch) was a Nazi German Luftwaffe Fallschirmjäger Regiment which captured the Belgian Fort Eben-Emael during the Battle of Belgium, assaulted Crete, and fought on the Eastern Front during World War II.
Research Battalion (German: Versuchsabteilung) Friedrichshafen was formed at Hildesheim on 2 November 1939 from elements of the 1st Company of I./Fallschirmjäger Regiment 1 and the Engineer Platoon (German: Pionier-Zug) of II./Fallschirmjäger Regiment 1, but was soon renamed after its commander, Hauptman Walter Koch, as Assault Battalion (German: Sturmabteilung) Koch. It was intended to open the way into central Belgium by capturing the formidable modern Fort Eben-Emael defending the Albert Canal as well three bridges over the canal. The DFS 230 gliders of 17./KGr z.b.V. 5 were to be used to allow the assault groups to silently land virtually on top of their objectives, hopefully surprising the defenders and preventing them from either destroying the bridge or interfering with the German attack.
The battalion was divided into four Assault Groups (German: Sturmgruppen) for the invasion of Belgium on 10 May 1940. The four assault groups were named after the primary construction material of their assigned objectives. The bridge at Vroenhoven was primarily built out of concrete, iron was the material used in building the bridge at Kanne, and steel for the bridge at Veldwezelt. Sturmgruppe Beton (Concrete), with 96 men landing in 11 gliders, captured the bridge at Vroenhoven, suffering 7 dead and 24 wounded in the process. Sturmgruppe Eisen (Iron) consisted of 90 men in 10 gliders that captured the bridge at Kanne, losing 22 dead, 26 wounded, not least due to one glider being shot down by anti-aircraft fire with only 6 survivors. Sturmgruppe Stahl (Steel) had 91 men crammed into only 9 gliders to assault the bridge at Veldwezelt. It succeeded at the cost of 8 dead, 16 heavily and 16 lightly wounded. Sturmgruppe Granit (Granite) landed on top of the fort with 83 men in 11 gliders and neutralized the fort at the cost of 6 dead and 20 wounded. The Belgians were unable to muster any serious counterattacks against the paras before they were relieved on 11 May. They played no further part in the Battle of France, but were withdrawn back to Germany to recuperate.
Two more battalions were formed during the fall of 1940 and the unit was redesignated as the 1st Air Landing Assault Regiment (German: Luftlande-Sturm-Regiment 1). A fourth battalion was raised during the winter of 1940/41, although it was organized similarly to a regular infantry regiment's heavy weapons battalion with companies of single-barreled 150 mm Do-Gerät 38 rocket launchers, 37 mm Pak 36 anti-tank guns and 20 mm Gebirgsflak 38 mountain anti-aircraft guns as well as an engineer company. Details are unclear, but at least some of the anti-tank guns had been distributed among the fourth company of each line parachute battalion by the time of Operation Merkur.
The regiment did not participate in the opening stages of the invasions of Greece and Yugoslavia, but was kept in reserve until it was needed for the invasion of Crete. The 1st battalion was landed by DFS 230 gliders towed by Ju 52s of Luftlandegeschwader 1, but the rest of the regiment was parachuted in the vicinity of Maleme airfield on 20 May 1941. They landed almost on top of the New Zealand 5th Infantry Brigade, part of the 2nd New Zealand Infantry Division and suffered severely at their hands. However, reinforced by several battalions of the 5th Gebirgs (Mountain) Division that landed the next day they were able to force the New Zealanders to retreat. This was the only time in the war that the regiment fought as a complete unit.
The regiment required months to replace all of its casualties and it was not until 27 September 1941 that the II. Battalion was flown to Russia as a substitute for the missing II./Fallschirmjäger Regiment 1 when the 7th Flieger Division was called to reinforce the German defenses southeast of Leningrad against heavy Soviet attacks. There it would remain until the 1st Fallschirmjäger Regiment was withdrawn in mid-December 1941. In May 1942, it was redesignated as the II. Battalion of the new Fallschirmjäger Regiment (FJR) 5.
Next to be summoned east in the regiment's new role as elite 'firemen' was the IV. Battalion which would substitute for 2nd Fallschirmjäger Regiment's missing third battalion. It left Germany in mid-November to shore up German defenses near Stalino. There it remained until the regiment was transferred to the Novgorod area beginning 17 March 1942. The regiment finally began to return to Germany on 6 July 1942. IV. was transferred to the training area of Mourmelon-le-Grand in France in October 1942 where it was temporarily designated as Lehrbatallion der Erdkampfschule der Luftwaffe. It served as the school troops for the Luftwaffe's junior officer and NCO leadership schools there. In early 1943, it was redesignated as II./FJR 6 and assigned to the 2nd Fallschirmjäger Division.
I. Battalion was flown to Smolensk on 6 December 1941 and then moved to the Juchnow area, west of Kaluga, to bolster the German defenses there. It was transferred to France in May 1942. It was eventually redesignated as I./FJR 12 in January 1944.
The regimental Stab (Headquarters) accompanied I. Battalion to Russia, but was used to control many of the Luftwaffe units forced into a ground-combat role by the Soviet winter counter-offensive. It was redesignated as Stab Luftwaffe-Division Meindl in February 1942.
Sources are unclear on III. Battalion's activities during this period, but it is known that its 10. Company was sent to the Rzhev area on 3 January 1942, under the command of the Fallschirmjäger-MG-Bataillon (Parachute Machine-gun Battalion), to reinforce 9th Army's defenses. It was transferred to France on 10 April 1942. It was redesignated as III./Fallschirmjäger Regiment 5 in May 1942.
- Walter Koch, 2 November 1939-31 August 1940
- Eugen Meindl, 1 September 1940-21 May 1941
- Hermann-Bernhard Ramcke, 21 May-18 June 1941
- Eugen Meindl, 19 June 1941-26 February 1942
- Michael Holm. "Luftlande-Sturm Regiment 1" Retrieved 11 November 2007.
- "Luftlande-Sturm Regiment 1" German language article at www.lexikon-der-wehrmacht.de. Retrieved 11 November 2007.
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