This is the first book to provide a detailed history of the military parachute and its use to revolutionize warfare. The author provides an impressively researched account, and a very good b&w photo-plate section gives illustration in support of the text. – Very Highly Recommended
NAME: Airborne Landing To Air Assault, A History of Military Parachuting FILE: R3274 AUTHOR: Nikolaos Theotokis PUBLISHER: Pen and Sword BINDING: hard back PRICE: £25.00 GENRE: Non Fiction SUBJECT: Parachute, paratroop, air assault, air landing, vertical insertion, light infantry, shock troops, elite troops, covert operations, special forces, high value targets, hold till relieve ISBN: 1-52674-699-9 PAGES: 284 IMAGE: B3274.jpg BUYNOW: tinyurl.com/y5rktjh3 LINKS: DESCRIPTION: This is the first book to provide a detailed history of the military parachute and its use to revolutionize warfare. The author provides an impressively researched account, and a very good b&w photo-plate section gives illustration in support of the text. – Very Highly Recommended
The basic concept of the parachute is ancient but it was an invention awaiting something else, the aeroplane, balloon and airship. The initial use of military parachutes was a chequered history. It was considered in WWI as a logical piece of equipment for issue to observers operating from captive balloons. The cumbersome size of the captive balloon made it an obvious target, both to machine gun and artillery fire from the trenches , and from armed aeroplanes. As it took time to winch the balloons down and the commanders had direct telephone communications with the crew, no one thought of any obstacle to issuing parachutes. For pilots and crew of aeroplanes it was a different matter, with senior commanders fearing that they would jump out of their aeroplanes rather than fight the enemy.
By 1918, the use by German and Austro-Hungarian pilots and crew had become commonplace. Whether it weakened their resolve in the face of the enemy is debatable, but their commanders had realized the benefits of saving trained personnel from unnecessary loss. For the British it remained a taboo subject even though their pilots could see the enemy surviving combat damage by using the parachute.
It did not take long before military personnel began thinking of the use of parachutes to vertically insert troops into battlefields and behind enemy lines. The pioneers were the Soviets and the Germans, although the Soviets were happy to dispense with the cost of parachutes for many drops, with their airborne troops having the climb out onto the wings of their transport and free-fall into the snow in the hope they would survive impact. The Germans also put much more effort into developing gliders and that may have been the result of a greater use of gliders to get round the Treaty obligations after WWI, when future fighter pilots started off by learning to fly without an engine.
The British and Americans did consider and experiment with the use of parachutes to insert troops but did not really built up experience until after the Germans demonstrated the use of parachutes and gliders to surprise attack Belgian fortifications and disable them to enable the Panzers to roll through Belgium and into France.
Parachutes also appealed to Churchill as he ordered the setting up of commandos to attack the enemy by sea and air. They were also in widespread use for military aviation and saved many lives on both sides. They were a particular benefit for the RAF during the Battle of Britain because the action was over home soil, meaning that trained pilots could fight, escape from fatally damage aircraft, to parachute to friendly ground safely, and be rapidly back in action with a fresh aircraft. It was less of a benefit to the Germans because their crews were rounded up after landing and be shipped off to POW camp until the end of the war. The Allies also benefited when they took the air war to the Germans, many airmen parachuting to safety and being hidden and taken down escape routes through Spain and Portugal and back to Britain, helped by very brave Belgian and French Resistance Groups.
The creation and rapid expansion of airborne forces by Churchill was to revolutionize land warfare. The American forces benefited from British experience and together formed a battle winning partnership.
Initially, the British deployed paratroopers in relatively small numbers on commando raids and in support of Resistance Groups. The invasion of Sicily saw larger numbers employed to take key strong points in support of the beach landings. On the Sicily/Italy experiences, very strong airborne forces were employed in Normandy and for the Rhine crossing, again in support of land forces. Although Op Market Garden failed to achieve all targets, the taking of bridges through to Arnheim, it demonstrated the new power of airborne forces, but also the need for improved communications, heavier weapons and battlefield logistics. The final objective of Arheim Bridge was achieved, but then lost, because the land force failed to arrive in time to relieve them and transport aircraft and gliders were not available in sufficient numbers.
After WWII, the helicopter has proved significantly more effective than either gliders or paratroops, even flying in vehicles and artillery, and then moving the force around the battlefield. However, the parachute continues to provide a necessary and viable device, specially for covert insertions. The HALO tactic is very stealthy with the aircraft flying beyond ground visibility and the paratroops opening their chutes at very low levels.
The logistics have been transformed by low level palletized air-drops and large assault transport that can land, fully laden, on unprepared rough airstrips. This means that vehicles and guns can be dropped from low level and even delivered directly to the battle by assault transport aircraft. In-flight helicopter refuelling now adds the ability to fly helicopter gunships in to provide very close support, particularly against enemy armour. The result is that air assault now offers a wide range of options for insertion and extraction of air assault troops and reduces the need to parachute them in.
The author has explained the detailed history very clearly and this is an important military history for practitioners and enthusiasts.