Thursday, December 26, 2013

A bad day for paratroops: 20 May 1941 at Heraklion

Due to the problems with getting aircraft over Keraklion on time and in sufficient numbers, the German paratroops suffered heavy losses. The II/1st Battalion was dropped in small numbers, scattered geographically and in time. The last men dropped were two-and-a-half hours late. Several of the transport aircraft were shot down and burnt on impact. Many of the men were killed during the descent, because they had to be dropped at 200 meters because of the terrain. In the east, they were dropped on the East Wadi. They lost all the officers but the battalion commander. He was able to gather sixty survivors under his command. The western group only had five survivors. The battalion lost 12 officers and about 400 men killed. Another eight officers and 100 men were wounded. The I/1st Battalion was dropped to the east and occupied the wireless station. Due to the shortage of aircraft, one company of the battalion was left in Greece on the first day. Two battalions landed west of the position and one moved up near the town of Heraklion and then backed off to the ridge just to the west of town. Another battalion was landed further west, but half of its companies were left in Greece, also due to the shortage of flyable transports. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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