The west part of the Peninsula had been defended by the 243rd Static Infantry Division, which could not work to its full potential due to the outdated weapons that it possessed. It is possible that the German troops on the Cotenin Peninsula had not been properly prepared for an attack because the Nazis did not expect one. Even if they had been expecting an attack, it is certain that they did not expect one of such importance.
The 91st Air Landing Division has been positioned in the middle of the Cotenin Peninsula, between the 243rd and the 709th. The men in the 91st had apparently been better trained than those in the other two divisions, but they had been disadvantaged because they had just arrived in the area, in May, 1944. Also, the 91st only had 7500 men a few days before the Allied invasion. However, they were joined by a unit of paratroopers on D-Day, the 6th Fallschirmjager Regiment.
Both the 82nd Airborne and the 101st Airborne had been extremely trained army units, with most of the people in the 82nd having fought in Italy, and, nearly all of the people in the 101st having volunteered to join their division. The main mission that the two divisions had, had been to secure the grounds between the Douve and Merderet Rivers in the west and the coastal floods in the east, until the army units from Utah beach would accompany them. There had been some initial setbacks in making the plan, with the 91st Air Landing Division coming to the Peninsula.
Little from the planes succeeded in dropping their people on their assigned drop zone, and, this resulted in people being dispersed on tens of miles across the land. It seems that this unfortunate event had actually been fortunate for the Americans, with Germans having anticipated that the Allies would drop troops in certain areas which had been favorable for landings. The 3rd battalion from the 506th managed to land near its allocated drop zone, but, its apparent success quickly turned to dust when the Germans ambushed the battalion and murdered a large part of it. The battalion's commander, Lt. Col. Wolverton, and his executive officer, Maj. George Grant, died within minutes of their landing, along with a great number of their men. The only ones to survive from the 3rd battalion had been those that had been dropped in a wrong drop zone. Apparently, the battalion's remaining contingent managed to complete the mission that their battalion had. All of the men from the other battalions fought courageously in small groups until they met the rest of their unit, advancing towards their targets. Eventually, just before the sea landings occurred, the airborne divisions had managed to secure important land behind the beaches.
The fact that most of the U.S. troops failed to land in their assigned drop zones worked in favor of the Allies, with the Germans becoming confused, learning that the enemy was spread across the peninsula. Moreover, the fact that Americans had been scattered in either small or large number across the land made the Nazi leaders believe that the attack had been a stratagem, intended by the Allies to distract the Germans from a much more important mission.
The 2nd Battalion from the 506th has had limited success consequent to their landing, as the fact that they had landed in the north of the peninsula meant that they had to advance to the south. There they encountered German resistance which managed to slow them down, and, the battalion only succeeded in reaching its target after 12:00 P.M. The murdering of the 91st Air Landing Division's commander, General Wilhelm Falley, by a group from the 101st airborne had played an important role in the distress experienced in the German camp.
While fate had seemingly acted against the U.S. airborne divisions, they had actually managed to accomplish their objectives, having an important involvement in the victory that the Allies have had at Utah beach. Even with the interest expressed by General Dollman, the German Seventh Army's commander, to have the 709th, the 91st, and the 6th divisions intercept the enemy, the army units had been out of shape and disadvantaged because of several factors.
Operation Overlord had had an indisputable success, even with the fact that the Allies did not expect to crush the German forces at such a rate. Observing that the German resistance could not be a match for the powerful Allied forces, the Allied leaders felt confident that their troops could perform other successful missions deep in enemy territory. While the Allied leaders prepared another attack on German occupied territory, the Nazis continued to underestimate the level of Allied campaigns. Hitler was known to be skeptical when concerning his opinion on the danger presented by the western forces. Apparently, he believed that the D-Day troops had had lesser experience in combat and had not been dedicated to fighting for their countries. In contrast, he believed that the Soviets had been the ones to present an actual threat to the forces of the Third Reich.
At the end of the summer, British Field Marshal Montgomery came up with a plan to launch an air assault of great proportions, during daylight, similar to the German air assault on the island of Crete. The plan would be called operation Market Garden, and, it involved the Allied airborne forces cutting Holland in half, creating a passageway for British army units to reach the German border. Montgomery's involvement in the war encouraged Germans to believe that the overcautious British leader would never launch a campaign which involved such great risks.
The mission started on the 17th of September, 1944, with the Allied air force destroying several key objectives in Holland. Fighter airfields, anti-aircraft guns, and largely everything that could interfere with a successful airborne mission had been destroyed in the process. Again, the Germans did not predict the events that had been about to happen, since it had been rather usual for the Luftwaffe to be put out of service by the more superior Allied air forces.
The amount of forces involved in the operation had been immense, with more than two thousand aircrafts being part of the mission. The initial German resistance had been negligible, as the anti-aircraft positions in Holland had been already bombed twice by the Allies. However, resistance had started to intensify near Eindhoven, and, as a result, a large number of Allied aircrafts had been lost. Even with that, the overall number of forces employed by the Allies in the operation had been too large for it to be influenced by the loss of a few dozen aircrafts.
The 101st U.S. airborne had the mission to enter Holland through the south, and, they successfully entered the country, arriving north of Eindhoven. The 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment landed north of the Sonsche Forest. Because of the minor setbacks encountered by the regiment, it arrived a day late at its target location in Eindhoven. Every counter-attack that the enemy launched had been quickly put down by the fierce warriors of the 506th. Shortly after the landing of the Allied airborne units, the first British armored units could move into Holland, without encountering any resistance in the way.
Operation Market Garden did not register the success experienced by operation Overlord because of various factors involving matters such as the Germans having the advantage of fighting deeper inland, and, them being alerted that the Allies would employ large contingents in Europe. Because of the forces that they involved in operation Market Garden, the Allies had exposed parts of the Ardennes region, making it possible for the Germans to conceive a plan of counterattack in the area.
The Germans had launched an attack on the Allied positions on December 16, 1944, through the lightly-guarded sector of Ardennes Forest. The capturing of Bastogne had been one of the main intentions that the German forces had had, with the town being connected to a number of roads which were indispensable for the Nazi war machine. The 101st airborne division received the mission of guarding the town of Bastogne, and, in spite of the heavy casualties that they suffered during the process, they managed to hold it until December 26th, when Patton's 4th Armor Division arrived and pushed the Germans back.
The 506th continued to move through Europe, taking over chief targets in Belgium and in France. The final wartime mission successfully finished by the Currahees had been the capturing of Berechtesgaden, Hitler's Eagle Nest.
1. Hinsley, Francis Harry. (1979). "British intelligence in the Second World War: Its influence on strategy and operations." Cambridge University Press.
2. Levine, Alan J. (2007). "D-Day to Berlin: The Northwest Europe Campaign, 1944-45." Stackpole Books.
3. Polk, David. (1991). "World War II Army Airborne Troop Carriers." Turner Publishing Company.