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The first opposed airborne attacks occurred during the Norwegian Campaign, first during the initial invasion when Fallschirmjäger captured the defended air base of Sola, near Stavanger. The Fallschirmjäger also had their first defeat in Norway, when a company was dropped on the village and railroad junction of DombĂ„s on 14 April 1940 and was destroyed by the Norwegian Army in a five-day battle.

After mid-1944, Fallschirmjäger were no longer trained as paratroops due to Nazi Germany's deteriorating strategic situation and fought as infantrymen. Near the end of the war, the series of new Fallschirmjäger divisions extended to thirteen on paper; the last three divisions to be created (11th, 20th and 21st) were never fully formed and saw no combat.

Fallschirmjäger MG 42 team
Fallschirmjäger MG 42 team
[Source: Bundesarchiv]

The 1st Parachute Division was formed pre-war in 1938. The 2nd Parachute Division was formed in early 1943 and fought in Ukraine in late 1943. In 1944 the division fought in western France. In one engagement, the 6th Regiment fought against paratroopers of the United States 101st Airborne Division in the Battle of Carentan and around Saint Lo. The majority of the division was then cut off and surrounded in Brest during the German retreat from France, resulting in the Battle for Brest, that lasted till September 1944.

The 3rd and 4th Fallschirmjäger divisions were formed in late 1943. The 4th also contained Italian paratroopers from the 184th Airborne Division Nembo. The 3rd fought during the Normandy Campaign; it was destroyed in the Falaise Pocket in August 1944. It was then reformed and took part the Battle of Arnhem, surrendering to US troops in April 1945. The 4th fought exclusively on the Italian front including the Battle of Anzio, Rome and on the Gothic Line. It surrendered to Allied forces in April 1945.

The 5th, 6th and 7th Fallschirmjäger were formed in 1944 in France and fought on the western front as regular infantry. The 5th was destroyed in the Ruhr Pocket in April 1945, the 6th and 7th surrendered at the wars end in May.

Fallschirmjäger with MG 42 in the Soviet Union, 1943
Fallschirmjäger with MG 42 in the Soviet Union, 1943
[Source: Bundesarchiv]

The 8th, 9th and 10th were Fallschirmjäger by name only, as they were rush formed in 1945 from a disparate collection of Luftwaffe units, including ground crews. Under-trained and mostly ill-prepared for combat, they fought on the rapididly collapsing Eastern Front, including within Germany. The 8th fought in the Netherlands before being destroyed in the Ruhr Pocket. The 9th fought in the Battle of the Seelow Heights and in the Battle of Berlin before being destroyed in April 1945, the 10th surrendered to Soviet forces in May 1945.

Gunston, Bill & Wood, Tony - Hitler's Luftwaffe, 1977, Salamander Books Ltd., London

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