1st Parachute Division (Germany)

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German 1st Parachute Division
1st Airborn Dvision Logo 1.svg
Unit insignia
Active 1938–43 (as 7. Flieger-Division)
1943–45
Country  Germany
Branch Balkenkreuz (Iron Cross) Luftwaffe
Type Fallschirmjäger
Role Airborne forces
Size Division
Engagements World War II
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Karl-Lothar Schulz
Kurt Student

The German 1st Parachute Division (German: 1. Fallschirm-Jäger-Division) was an elite German military parachute-landing division that fought during World War II. A division of paratroopers was termed a Fallschirmjäger Division. For reasons of secrecy, it was originally raised as the 7th Flieger-Division, or Air Division, before being renamed and reorganized as the 1st Parachute Division in 1943.

Operational history[edit]

The division was formed in October 1938 under the command of Major-General Kurt Student. At the start of World War II, the Division contained two parachute regiments; it was brought up to full strength in 1941. In April 1940, division took part in the occupation of Denmark and Norway, with varying levels of success.[citation needed] The German plan for the invasion of Belgium and the Netherlands in May 1940 called for the use of the 7th Flieger division to aid in the advance through the capture of key bridges and the fortress of Eben Emael.

The attack upon the Netherlands included the majority of the 7th Flieger Division in cooperation with the 22nd Air Landing Division. This force was jointly addressed as the 7th Fliegerkorps, and commanded by Kurt Student. The operation was called "Nord" [North]; the other goal was to secure a series of critical bridges in order to allow a German mechanized advance through the fortified outer positions of the Dutch defenses. Initially the attacks in the southern theatre were successful, but hard fought and some units took heavy casualties. The attack on The Hague was a failure: the high loss of transport planes grew to quite dramatic proportions. Many paratroopers and airlanding troops were captured, hundreds were killed or wounded and over 1,200 prisoners of both divisions were transported to England. The air landings occupied Dutch troops at a time when they were needed to slow the German land advance. The Rotterdam Blitz on 14 May 1940 led to Rotterdam's surrender.

The division took part in the Battle of Crete. The Allied forces on the island put up a stubborn defense and the troops of the 7th Flieger Division took heavy losses, with over 6,700 killed and wounded out of 22,000 men. With the aid of the follow-on reinforcements, however, the Allies were forced to evacuate the island by 29 May. On 24 September, the Division received orders to move to the Leningrad front in the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, in November, a regiment of the division was deployed to the southern sector to participate in the defense against the Russian winter offensive. By March 1942, the 2nd Regiment was posted to the Volkhov front, to the southeast of Leningrad.

The division then took part in the July 1943 to fight against the Allied invasion of Sicily. For the remainder of the war, the division fought in the Italian Campaign. From 14–27 December 1943, the division, under General-Lieutenant Richard Heidrich, saw action against the 1st Canadian Division in the Battle of Ortona. Later the division was concentrated in the defense of the Winter Line south of Rome, defending against the advance of the British Eighth Army, commanded by Lieutenant-General Oliver Leese. In February to March 1944, the 1st Parachute Division took part in the Battle of Monte Cassino, and later in May it fought against the Allied Operation Diadem later retreating to the north of Rome. They formed part of the German I Parachute Corps, along with the German 4th Parachute Division.

By January 1945, the German I Parachute Corps was deployed to the Adriatic coast behind the Senio Rivier. The Allied advance resumed on 8 April, and the 1st Parachute Division was forced into a steady withdrawal toward the Po River by the British Eighth Army. By 25 April, the division had completed the river crossing. They immediately set off on a final march toward the Alpine Mountains. Finally the German surrender in Italy came on 2 May 1945, and included the men of the 1st Parachute Division. The unconditional surrender of Germany followed a week later.

Commanders[edit]

Date Commander
September 9, 1938 Generalleutnant Kurt Student
May 16, 1940 Generalleutnant Richard Putzier
October 1, 1940 Generalleutnant Wilhelm Süssmann
May 20, 1941 Generalmajor Alfred Sturm
October 1, 1941 Generalleutnant Erich Petersen
August 1, 1942 General der Fallschirmtruppe Richard Heidrich
January 4, 1944 Generalmajor Hans Korte
February 21, 1944 General der Fallschirmtruppe Richard Heidrich
November 18, 1944 Generalmajor Karl-Lothar Schulz

References[edit]

  • Bohmler, Rudolf. Monte Cassino: a German View. Cassell, 1964. ASIN: B000MMKAYM