Tuesday, February 18, 2014
The airborne attack on Crete in 1941
With our hindsight, we can see that the German airborne force was insufficient to achieve a successful attack on Crete. We might say that in May 1941, everyone was a novice at mounting large airborne attacks. Crete was an opportunity for the Germans to have analyzed the battle and learned from the battle so as to better be able to make airborne attacks in the future. Instead, the Germans were afraid to mount another attack of the scale of Crete. The Allies were the ones who learned from Crete and built and used effective airborne forces. They were first used on a large scale in the attack on Sicily in 1943 and then again at Normandy. In many ways, the attack on Normandy repeated some of the German mistakes from 1941. Making the assault at night was asking for trouble, and then they made little attempt to drop the paratroops on the planned locations. That was one of the major mistakes at Heraklion on 20 May 1941. Most of the German paratroops were dropped in the wrong locations. Those who were dropped onto defended areas with troops ready to respond took heavy losses, as paratroops in the air in daylight with a long drop time were easily killed. By late 1944, there was no excuse for the bad planning involved with Operation Market Garden, the "A bridge too far" operation at Arnhem.