Fallschirmjäger – Germany’s Finest – WW2 Special Episode

Fallschirmjäger – Germany’s Finest – WW2 Special Episode


In 1784, Benjamin Franklin asks: “Where
is the prince who can afford to so cover his country with troops for its defence, as that
10,000 men descending from the clouds might not, in many places, do an infinite deal of
mischief before a force could be brought to repel them?’ Dropping your troops onto the enemy positions
behind the frontlines would render defensive lines useless. Well, in 1940 this is no longer a fantasy
but in fact, very much a reality. I’m Indy Neidell. This is a World War Two In Realtime special episode. Thanks to new inventions such as static line
cords, The Soviet Union and Italy have been developing paratroop units. The Soviets showcase the possibilities of
airborne combat in 1935 to an awestruck international audience. One thousand troops parachute into the Ukranian
countryside and are quickly reinforced by 5000 more from the ground. British then-Colonel Archie Wavell is present
and describes his experience, saying “If I had not been an eye-witness to this event
I would never have believed that such an operation was possible.” Minister of the Prussian Interior, Herman
Göring, is also present and can’t contain his enthusiasm. This isn’t that surprising. He was already dreaming about it in 1922,
telling a friend: ‘Our whole future is in the air. And it is by air power that we are going to
recapture the German empire. To accomplish this, we will do three things. First, we will teach gliding as a sport to
all our young men. Then we will build up commercial aviation. Finally, we will create the skeleton of a
military air force. When the time comes, we will put all three
together— and the German Empire will be reborn.’ After witnessing the Soviet exercise, he wastes
no time and transforms Prussian police units into parachute troops in January 1936. They are later to be called Fallschirmjäger
– parachute hunters. Training facilities are set up at Stendal,
not far from Berlin and Germany begins training airborne troops that year. After eight weeks of light Infantry training,
recruits follow a 16-day parachute course. It is all intended to mold them into the elite
of the elite. They consist exclusively of volunteers, but
only one in four makes the cut. They are Germany’s finest. One of their commandments is:’ Keep your
eyes wide open. Tune yourself to the topmost pitch. Be nimble as a greyhound, as tough as leather,
as hard as Krupp steel and so you shall be the German warrior incarnate.’ The 7th Flieger-Division is established in
1938 as the first Fallschirmjäger division to enter service. A 22nd Air Landing Division was already formed
in 1935, though, which uses the gliders that make up the Weimar German ‘air force’
under the Versailles Treaty restrictions. The 22nd are the back-bone of the Fallschirmjäger
– intended to reinforce them once they are established. In 1938, the Fallschirmjäger are incorporated
into the Luftwaffe under the command of Major-General Kurt Student. Their purpose in action is simple: seize critical
points in the enemy’s rear to block reserves, or assist the main assault as light-infantry. Equipped with light arms, machine guns, and
light field artillery, Fallschirmjäger are mobile, flexible, and disruptive. They are vulnerable to armor or well-defended
positions, but when used properly…they are deadly. Student’s work enjoys the personal support
of Adolf Hitler himself. To him, paratroopers represent precisely the
kind of warfare he favors. Hitler also knows that the elite nature and
unique uniforms of the paratroopers will appeal to the German public. It is no accident that the Fallschirmjäger
are selected to lead the annual Wehrmacht parade in Berlin in 1939. They are not just a trophy division though,
and they are quickly put to the test. The first significant use of the Fallschirmjäger
is to seize airfields during the Invasion of Denmark and Norway in April 1940. Results are stunning. Used as light infantry and in combined-arms
tactics, the Fallschirmjäger prove to be an invaluable asset. A month later, they are deployed in the Netherlands
and Belgium, targeting Rotterdam, Moerdijk, and Dordrecht. While spectacularly successful in some places,
other engagements reveal severe flaws: They cannot sustain an attack on their own without
proper reinforcements. This causes some units to be badly mauled
when encountering well-fortified or unexpected concentrations of defenders, with casualty
rates sometimes as high as 50%. There are also problems with their equipment. Their static lines – the line attached to
the plane that means troops don’t need to pull a cord – are designed to accommodate
jumps from as low as 100 meters high. Though this gives them less exposure from
enemy fire, the shock from the parachute opening can to cause severe injuries. To make matters worse, the men jump with little
more equipment than a handgun. Rifles and heavier weaponry are dropped separately,
exposing the Jäger after landing. Blinded by the successes, the German High
Command fails to take note of the flaws. And one stunning battlefield success takes
place in Belgium at Eben Emael, the largest fortress in the world. It is considered to be impenetrable, but it
takes fewer than 100 Fallschirmjäger engineers to capture it. At 5 AM, the jäger drop down on. Armed with handguns and small explosives,
they secure the crossing of the Albert Canal within twenty-four hours. Their amazing victory allows the German panzer
to roll into Belgium towards France. Historians will later marvel at this ‘centrepiece’
of German advancement on Western Europe. The allies are in a state of shock, and Fallschirmjäger
instantly become national heroes back in Germany. They turn up in magazines, books, even children
games, and the newsreels can’t get enough of their adventures. And nor can Hitler, who is eager to see them
succeed again. But some clouds are slowly forming. A year after their first successes, the Germans
will attempt to deploy their celebrated fallschirmjäger once more. In fact, they will perform the first airphibious
invasion ever to capture the island of Crete, with an initial wave exclusively consisting
of airborne landings. The facts that the troops need a flawless
supply line and reliable reinforcements are not taken into account by the German leadership,
and the whole airborne operation ends up a catastrophe t, with 33% losses, though the
Germans do soon take the island. Losses are so high that Hitler will only after
this deploy fallschirmjäger as elite light infantry units – on land. But while the German airborne actions are
spectacular, dramatic and short-lived, other belligerent nations are watching. The Americans and British are putting together
their very own airborne units, and they are willing to pay the high price in lives for
the tactical advantage it provides. But that is a story for another time. If you would like to learn more about the
invasion of The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France in May 1940, you can click right
here. Please support us on Patreon so we can continue
making specials just like this one. Don’t forget to subscribe and ring that
bell! See you next time!

57 Comments on “Fallschirmjäger – Germany’s Finest – WW2 Special Episode”

  1. This is the first of many proper specials that we want to do to add on the weekly World War Two episodes, The War Against Humanity series, the Biographies, our Out of the Foxholes Q&A series and our upcoming On the Homefront sub-series. In these specials, we'll cover any additional topics in depth – think about hardware, tactics, special forces, bills or decryption systems. We're interested to hear your suggestions! What do you want to see covered in an upcoming special epsiode?
    Cheers, Joram

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  2. Fun fact: the US planned to have the first airborne drop over Metz in 1919, but the war ended before that could happen. There’s a vast wasteland of, basically, WWII tech in WWI drag. Like something out of alternate history.

  3. Ah the ascari dell'aria. In origin se used the colonial troops because we launched from the Hull of fighters . Then we used specific aircraft after the death of several officers. The folgore division was the result . And they were the best unit in the italian army.

  4. Interesting how different the jump technique was from the US paratroopers. Looks like the Fallschirmjäger jumped in "modern" style, their arms and legs spread, while the US seem to jump in upright position, legs pointed down, even today.

  5. The mention of these soldiers ending up in children's games reminds me of a board game I saw in Rotterdam. There, there is the "Rotterdam Museum: 1940 – 45" that is all about the Nazi occupation. They have a version of Hungry Hippos, where instead of Hippos you have B2 bombers that try and collect as many bombs as possible.

    Maybe there is enough material do a special on how kids coped with the war through toys?

  6. 1:00 Sir Alfred William Fortescue Knox: I have always been convinced that Russians are a nation of dreamers…

  7. After the surprise attack on Denmark and Norway in March 1940, the Dutch army installed airfield defences and deployed mobile reserves to counter the airborne threat. Therefore the battle for The Hague (Slag om de Residentie) to capture the Dutch government, High Command and royal family in one swift move failed spectacularly. This to great surprise of the Germans who thought there would be very little resistance anyway.

  8. You should really align your new content with the week by week series, not to reveal too much about it's future content

  9. Hey Indy and crew!
    I recently found a video which shows how to copyright claim your own video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ieErnZAN5Eo This trick is used to deal with copyright claims on your videos. However I think you could also work around demonetization this way. I am NOT 100% sure but it seems worth a try.
    There is also a more in-depth tutorial on how to do it by the same youtuber.
    Anyhow keep up the great work!

  10. i really hope that when the the german paratroopers invade crete, you will talk about the losses the germans suffered on the hands of the local population and the remnants of the greek army and that you dont make another youtube video talking about the commonwealth forces and how they retreated. thank you for doing these series, keep it up.

  11. Just a side note here for who cares,
    Fallschirm, valscherm or fallscreen.
    Is something different than a parachute. Parachutes can be steered, fallscreens can't. Also missed the part that fallschirmjagers had their belt on their waist and back, later on this was altered in attaching on the shoulders and breast/back. So the landing is easier!

  12. We only had 3 weeks of parachute training after our infantry training… and I fought successfully in 2 wars!

  13. Who would win? The most elite german units, dropping behind enemy lines, against a small and unprepared nation.
    Some tall cheese eating bois

  14. Airborne operations are fraught with enormous risk that many commanders will not accept. After Crete Hitler gives up on airborne drops because so many guys got killed. He says never again.

  15. I love this channel and have been a patreon of it from the start (and of The Great War, back in the day 😉) But we should not lose sight of the fact that all the German armed forces in WW2 were employed in a war of aggression. They may have fought with the utmost skill, but look at it this way: if a man breaks into your house and you confront him, does he earn your respect because he fights back? No, he deserves to be destroyed.

  16. Looking forward to Operation Mercury in May! Please cover how faulty, and most likely misleading, Abwehr intel led to much of the initial airdrop casualties.

  17. Indie: Makes Fallschirmjager episode
    Fallschirmjager reenactors: :))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))

  18. I wonder how British and American ambassadors reacted when they were at the march led by the parachutes hunters in 1939.

  19. If you're going to do a series on the various "special ops" units of the war, you GOTTA spotlight some of Italy's absolute MADLADS like the Flottiglia Decima MAS or the Auto-Sahara (AKA, the guys from whom the British copied the idea for the LRDG) – there's also the Alpini and the Folgore. Like, specialty units might be the one military area in which Italy utterly blew the other belligerents out of the park.

    Not an Italian unit, but the allied 'Beach Jumpers' are a criminally underrated group. Their entire job was to basically attack enemy beachheads with blaring sirens and music and fireworks and make it seem like it was a full-on invasion as a diversion for actual landings.

  20. It's a little ironic that one of their key weaknesses came from their parachutes being already out of date (thus requiring the very light load) when Luftwaffe air crews had much better parachutes. I guess no one really looked around to see what could be had, or they just couldn't afford to update the 'chutes.

  21. Check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Upham I saw an interview with him. In an understated way he talked about shooting soooo many German paratroopers, like a turkey shoot.( also of note was the British knew the invasion of Crete was happening as they had broken inigma – but hey it was defended by colonials and you know screw them….

  22. good series

    despite the worst voice sound on youtube . He who sold the microphones must be glad he got rid of it.

    So bad

  23. My Granddad fought these bastards when they invaded the Netherlands in 1940. He was an officer in the air defense of Ypenburg airbase during the invasion. His units destroyed dozens of Ju-52s and they assisted the ground troops in killing and capturing hundreds of these filthy rats. They had witnessed Fallschirmjager using captured Dutch soldiers and civilians as human shields so they weren't too keen on keeping captured Germans alive either. After the bombardment of Rotterdam the airbase garrison surrendered and my granddad and his men became POWs. The base commander was not so lucky, he was executed by the Germans. My Granddad spent some time in a POW camp but was later "allowed" to do Arbeitseinsatz (forced labour). The Germans did allow him to visit my grandmother one time after she had given birth to my uncle. He decided not to return to duty but went into hiding like many of his comrades had also done. He thought about joining the resistance but since he had a newborn at home he decided not to do that.

  24. I hope they do one of these videos for other paratroopers from other countries to see and compare the similarities and differences of how they were developed and used.

  25. 4:56 In the picture: Max Schmeling who fought Joe Louis for heavyweight champion in 1938. He then served as Fallschirmjäger during the war.
    More on him and his lifelong friendship with Joe Louis after the war can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Schmeling

  26. And, even when they had their wings clipped, they were still extremely effective infantry units.

  27. great video. short and crammed with info. yes late in the war the Fallschirmjäger was converted into a ground fighting force

  28. Great episode as ever.

    Is anybody aware of the story of Bert Trautmann, who played Goalkeeper in 545 matches for Manchester City between 1949 and 1964, fought for 3 years in the Fallschirmjager on the Eastern front, got transferred to the Western front, capured and then housed in Lancashire as a POW and then refused repatriation to Germany after the war.

    He went on to appear in, and win the 1956 FA Cup Final, even after breaking his neck 17 minutes before full time whilst still making crucial saves to secure a 3-1 victory and winning the Football Writer's Association "Player of the Year" award. He went from receiving 20,000 complaints over a British football team recruiting a former Axis paratrooper to becoming one of the nation's most beloved, receiving the OBE for promoting Anglo-Germanic understanding through football.

    True German legend.

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