Monday, May 10, 2010

Today In History: "You came in that thing? You're braver than I thought."

On this date in May 1940, the Germans launched one of the most audacious airborne assaults in history...

No, no, not the gliders and Fallschirmjäger at the fortress of Eben Emael. That was positively sane compared to what I'm talking about. I'm talking about Operation Niwi.

You haven't heard about Operation Niwi?

This was one of those battle plans that was obviously concocted at about 0200 on a Sunday in the middle of a pile of empty adult beverage containers...

"Hans, I've got an idea. We can speed up the advance of the 1st Panzer if we drop airborne troops on the crossroads in their rear and cut off all their communications. They'll panic and run if they can't talk to their rear areas."

"But Franz, all our airborne troops are already allotted to other attacks."

"So we'll use regular infantry and land them in transport planes. Get a couple of companies from, say, the Grossdeutschland division. They're not fully tasked yet."

"There's not enough room on these little country roads for transport planes to land and take off."

"Well, then use those little artillery spotter planes."

"But they can only carry two or three troops apiece!"

"So use a lot of them."

And so they did.

They rounded up almost every Fieseler Storch in the Luftwaffe and put them in a scratch squadron to train for the mission: 100 tiny planes delivering roughly 300 troops laden with antitank rifles to delay armored reinforcements, in two lifts, landing and taking off again from fields and country lanes. It would require precise timing and coordination. And they pulled it off, too.

On the morning of May 10, everything went down like... well, a whole lot better than you would expect a plan like this to work, actually. They actually seized the vital communications chokepoints in the Belgian rear areas, thus preventing clear instructions from reaching the troops at the front.

Unfortunately, the instructions which they prevented from reaching the frontline troops consisted of things like "Fall back and regroup," and "We need to borrow your anti-tank troops back here because we've got Jerries in the rear areas," and so the Belgian Chasseurs Ardennes held on in the face of 1st Pz. as best they could and even counterattacked a little bit instead of falling back and the German advance was held up a good day longer than if everybody had just stayed in bed that morning.

But that wouldn't have made as cool a story.


Owen said...

I love these strange little operations. Was the head shop HQ'ed in an abbey perchance?

Desertrat said...

Reminds me of the ancient joke about the guy with the flat tire, alongside the fence of the State Home for the Bewildered. In the course of changing it, he spills the lug nuts into some tall weeds. He doesn't know what to do. An inmate suggests he take one lug nut from each of the other wheels, allowing him to cripple along to a lug nut source.

"Hey, you're pretty smart! Why are you in there?"

"I'm here because I'm crazy, not stupid."

The German general staff was not at all stupid--albeit too accomodating to their insane Fuhrer.

Sorta reminds me of the Beltway Bandits, somehow...


Lewis said...

"War is the province of uncertainty."

Brian Dunbar said...

But that wouldn't have made as cool a story.

'And what did you do in the war, Grand-papa?'

'Well little Hans, let me tell you about the time me and some other guys were stuffed into these little bitty airplanes and invented 'Air Mobile' Infantry ..'

Right up to the time Hitler went insane and invaded Russia, it must have been pretty cool to be in the Germany Army.

After that, of course, it was all cold and misery and Stalingrad and Kursk and Russians underfoot and so probably not as much fun.

cma said...

"Operation Niwi"

Are you sure they didn't leave out a couple of t's (one in the middle and one at the end)?

Stretch said...

No more Hefeweizen for Fritz or Hans.

Anonymous said...

IIRC, the American Army during the attack on Germany did something very similar during a river crossing.

Dixie said...

Ah, the Nazis.

"Never interrupt your enemy while he is making a mistake." - Napoleon

Joe in PNG said...

Between this and Crete, them Nazis sure bolloxed up airborne ops.

Then again, Market Garden didn't go so well for us...

WV: no lie, it's "Spork"

Wolfwood said...

Skorzeny's rescue of Mussolini by way of gliders and a Storch went pretty okay for the Jerries, too.

Matt G said...

"Are you kidding, it's the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs."

And by that we mean about 100 knots. In a steep dive.

(I've always had a soft spot for the Storch. Damned useful little spotting planes, those.)