- The German Army  1657-1945


By the spring of 1938 Hitler's ambitions for expanding 'Greater Germany' were well under way, starting with a covert plan to annexe Czechoslovakia, finalised as Fall Grim (Case Green) in May.This necessitated some hasty military planning and ne use of airborne troops was seen as a way of getting behind the strong Czech ::rder defences.To organise the airborne arm from the forces already available, the experienced Kurt Student was appointed with the rank of Generalmajor and inthe way the Luftwaffe had of designating their air combat commands, the Luftwaffe airborne forces became 7. Flieger-Division from 1 July 1938, and Student's command became effective from that date. However, he had to work fast because the division was required to be combat-ready by 15 September in time for Case Green to start. Student, enthusiastic and hard-working was up to the task, which was why he had been selected, but he also had the advantage of commanding Goring's respect and confidence which allowed him to plan, train, and organise in the way he thought best. This freedom of action was almost certainly helped by the fact that at the time nobody else of high rank knew anything about the subject!

Student set up his divisional HQ at Berlin-Tempelhof airfield with Hauptmann HeinzTrettner as chief of staff and a small planning team picked from trusted Luftwaffe colleagues. Such directives on airborne operations that had by then emanated from the Armed Forces High Command (OKW) saw the use of paratroops largely for securing airfields to allow the Luftwaffe to fly in troops, or sabotage or raiding operations in small units behind enemy lines. Student started planning afresh, however. His conception was that airborne operations would ideally take place in three phases. First would be the landing of shock troops by glider to take out key positions and defence posts. Secondly paratroops would secure airfields or areas big enough to land aircraft, or attack defence lines from the rear. Thirdly air landing troops would be brought in to the landing zones already secured by the paratroops to pave the way for the arrival of regualr infantry and heavy weapons. Student described these as shock tactics deliberately intended to cause 'surprise, fright and panic' combined with speed of events.

For the Case Green operations the Army parachute battalion was taken under command of 7. Flieger. At the time the division comprised Division HQ; 1st Battalion of 1. FJR (Oberstleutnant Bra'uer), the Army Parachute Infantry Battalion (Major Heidrich), Air Landing Battalion 'Regiment General Goring (Major Sydow), an infantry gun company (Oberleutnant Schram), a medical company and a signals company. Also included was a newly formed glider company commanded by Leutnant Weiss. This was equipped with the new DFS 230 glider which had been ordered in 1937 after a demonstration in front of Kesselring, Milch, Udet and other senior Luftwaffe officers. The famous test pilot Hanna Reitsch had flown the prototype on that occasion and impressed the watchers with her fast precise landing from a 1,000m cast-off by the towing Ju 52. Eight soldiers demonstrated a fast exit from the aircraft. All other tests were successful and a small initial order was placed. The DFS 230 had been designed in 1933 for meteorological research but when the influential aviator Ernst Udet saw it he recognised its potential as a load or personnel carrier for military use and used his contacts to secure development of a sturdier military prototype. For Case Green six wings of Ju 52s were put under command, but the division was still short of men for the air landing component and the Army could not be persuaded to put more units under Luftwaffe control. To make up the numbers Student asked Goring if the Nazi Party's top SA unit, the Regiment Feldherrenhalle, could be assigned and quickly be given some field training.This was done, though its fighting value would have been doubtful had the invasion of Czechoslovakia gone ahead. 

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