- 5 -

(b) The airborne force must be landed sufficiently far in rear of the main enemy defences to enable it to get organised before it starts its work. The most value will not be obtained if we land it in an area full of German troops. Somewhere between 10,000 yards and 20,000 yards behind the front is thought to be correct.

(c) If it is felt that the attack by the main force is certain to succeed without the co-operation of the airborne force, then there is no justification for using 1 Airborne Division in that operation. It is a valuable expendable commodity and we must be quite sure that we are going to get the utmost value out of it.

"During the early weeks of the invasion all efforts must be concentrated to ensure that we do not get pinned down. The operation must be kept fluid. 1 Airborne Division must be held in reserve until it is clear that we may be unable to break out of the ring without its assistance. Then it must be used in conjunction with the main attack to make sure that we do break out.

"The timing of the use of 1 Airborne Division must depend upon the prospects of success, bearing in mind that there should be a junction between the main and the airborne forces within 24 hours. If the initial operation is a slow and difficult one involving the crossing of a major obstacle, forming a bridgehead across a river and afterwards constructing bridges, then it is a very risky business to use the airborne division at the start. If things go slower than we anticipate, it will generally be better to delay the airborne operation until it is clear that the bridgehead has been firmly established,

"If on the other hand, the initial attack is over suitable ground and is well supported in every way - if the prospects are really good - then it may be advantageous to use the airborne division during an early phase.

"The two ways of using the airborne forces are:-

FIRST When success has been gained by the main forces on the ground, to turn enemy withdrawal into retreat - or retreat into rout. That is considered the ideal use of an airborne division.

SECOND To co-operate ultimately with the main forces on the ground in order to gain success. This is a use not to be lightly undertaken and needing careful planning. It is, for the airborne division, a hazardous operation, involving many risks and the probable loss of a large number of tug aircraft on the return journey, Knowing well what the risks are it may be desirable to carry it out; and 1 Airborne Division is all ready to do it."

"The machinery for handling airborne forces once Headquarters Second Army is in FRANCE is that the Airborne Corps Commander and certain staff officers will be at Tactical Headquarters Second Army. Directly the decision is made to employ 1 Airborne Division with one of the corps, the Airborne Corps Commander and staff officers of corps and 1 Airborne Division will join the selected corps headquarters to plan the operation. 1 Airborne Division will be given warning orders so that it has 48 hours notice of the operation. The plan having been made, the airborne officers will return to ENGLAND to issue orders to the division."

(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)

Found an error?

Found an error with this archive item? report it here!

Archive: Extracts from Second Army History, 1944 Apr

Page: Page 27