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higher German commanders, had lost confidence in airdrop tactics after the many casualties suffered by the German paratroopers in the Crete jump. Then too, in late 1944 the necessarily Lengthy training for paratroop units was a luxury denied by the huge drain of battlefield losses. Apparently it was Model who suggested that paratroop tactics be tried once again, but undoubtedly Hitler seized upon the proposal with alacrity although there was no longer a single regular paratroop regiment active in the Wehrmacht. Model wanted the jump to be made in the Krinkelt area, and one may wonder what effect such a vertical attack might have had on the fight put up at the twin villages by the American 2d and 99th Infantry Divisions. Hitler, however, had one of his intuitive strokes and ordered the jump to be made north of Malmedy.


His choice for commander devolved on Col. Friedrich A. Freiherr von der Heydte, a distinguished and experienced paratroop officer then commanding the Fallschirm Armee Waffen school where the nominal parachute regiments were being trained as ground troops. Colonel von der Heydte was ordered to organize a thousand-man parachute formation for immediate use. Four days later von der Heydte received his tactical mission from the Sixth SS Panzer Army commander during an uncomfortable session in which Dietrich was under the influence of alcohol. The paratroopers were to jump at dawn on D-day, first opening the roads in the Hohes Venn leading from the Elsenborn-Malmedy area toward Eupen for the armored spearhead units, then blocking Allied forces if these attempted to intervene. Colonel von der Heydte was told that the German armor would reach him within twenty-four hours.


The preparations for Operation Hohes Venn were rushed to completion. The troops received their equipment and a little jump training (many had never attended jump school); 112 war-weary, Junkers troop-carrier planes were gathered with an ill-assorted group of pilots, half of whom had never flown combat missions; 300 dummy figures were loaded for drops north of Camp Elsenborn to confuse the Americans (this turned out to be about the most successful feature of the entire operation); and the pilots and jump-masters were given instructions-but no joint training. It must be said that these preparations for what would be the first German paratroop assault at night and into woods left much to be desired.


On the evening of 15 December Colonel von der Heydte formed his companies to entruck for the move to Paderborn, where the planes were assembled. The trucks never arrived-they had no fuel. Now the jump was ordered for 0300 on the 17th. This time the jump was made on schedule, although not quite as planned and into very bad cross winds. One rifle company was dropped behind the German lines fifty kilometers away from the drop zone, most of the signal platoon fell just in front of the German positions south of Monschau, and the bulk of the command and the weapons packages were scattered almost at random. Despite this bad beginning about one hundred paratroopers reached the rendezvous at the fork in the Eupen road north of Mont Rigi. Since this group was obviously too weak for open action, Colonel von der Heydte formed camp in the woods and sent out patrols to pick up information and harass the Americans in the vicinity. These patrols gathered in stragglers until some three hundred paratroopers had assembled, but it was now too late to carry out the planned operation. On the night of the 21st the paratroopers were ordered to find their way back to the German lines believed to be at Monschau. Von der Heydte was taken prisoner two days later. The tactical effect of this hastily conceived and ill-executed operation proved to be almost nil although American commanders did dispatch troops on wild-goose chases which netted little but a few paratroopers, empty parachutes, and dummies. [11]


[9] The original Brandenburg Division seems to have been none too happy that Skorzeny's group was given the name of the Brandenburgers. H. Kriegsheim, Getarnt, Getauescht und doch Getreu: Die Division "Brandenburg" (Berlin, 1958), p. 305.


[10] The story of the Hohes Venn operation is given by its leader in MS # P-051, Airborne Operations: A German Appraisal (Generalmajor Hellmuth Reinhardt). Cf., the C.S.D.I.C. U.K. documents S.I.R. 1377 (n.d.) and G.R.G.G. 359 (c) 24 Sep 41;.


[11] The reports of enemy paratroopers did result in numerous troop alerts in the American rear areas. For example, the 1102d, 1107th, and 1128th Engineer Groups were alerted. (VIII Corps, G-3 Jnl, 16 Dec 44.) The German soldiery, surprisingly, were told of Colonel von der Heydte's failure in an article entitled "Operation Mass Murder" which appeared in the Nachrichten Fur Die Truppe (the German equivalent of The Stars an Stripes) on 22 December 1944. This article, as the title implies, is extremely bitter over the lack of troop training and preparation.