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Russian Paratroopers in crossing of Dnjepr.
When in autum 43 Russian forces were advancing towards river Dnjepr.Stavka realised,that AB forces could be used to get a stronghold from Western side of the river.In early September,1st,3rd and 5th Guards AB Brigades,who were still in training,were subordinated to Voronez Front.Half of men did have 7-10 training jumps but half were without jump training.Medical staff were women.A Corps was founted from them and CO was vice-commander of AB troops Generalmajor I:I:Zatevakh.
On 16th September a detailed plan was made with airforce transport units.The drop was sceduled for 26.9 in West of Kanev and Bukrin in Dnjepr.The distance from airfields to dropzone was 175-200 km,some 1 hour flighttime.The dropzone was 20km West of river and 30X25 km wide.Much too big.The drop was sceduled for 2 nights with 200 planes and 21 gliders.Aerilal recon was flown 5 days before and airforce was supposed to attack German units in the area.Zukov inpected the pan on 19.September.
On night of 21/22 September 3rd Guards Tank Army crossed Dnjepr in Bukrin,but Germans mounted a rapid counterattack.Germans did bring more units and Russian bridgehead was under great pressure.Vatutin met AB commanders 23.September and ordered a drop of 2 brigades for night of 25/25 to different zones that they were planned.
3rd Guards AB Brigade new dropzone was SW of Popatsy and 5th Guards AB Brigade West of Koval.Brigades were supposed to hold a line of 50km and check germans attack from West and South,untill 40th Army comes to their rescue.1st AB Brigade was held in reserve,it was planned to be dropped North of Kanev in 27-29 September.
Those lastminute chances did greate a massive chaos.AB troops were 200 km from airfields and trucks were in short supply.Roads were full of traffic and in bad shape.Brigade commanders did gave orders to Battalion commanders 1 1/2 hours before takeoff and Company commanders to Platoon leaders 15 minutes before takeoff.Men were briefed on flight!!.
There was no info about enemy forces in dropzones,data from aerial recon was 5 days old,because of bad weather and no dat was availeble from partisans.Seeds for disaster were sow.
In airfieds fueling of planes was slow,planes were old and in bad shape,so for planned 20 men/plane only 15-18 was loaded.Many commanders left radio teams in ground,which made communications later hard.18.30 in 24.September first planes carrying 3rd AB left.5th AB was late and didn't left untill 1.am on 25.
3050 men from 3rd AB and 1525 from 5th AB and 660 parachuteunits of supplies flew towards Dnjepr.2017 men and 45mm at-guns of 3th AB remained on airfields.The planes flew in 600 meters abd searched their dropzones with searchlights.1 plane dropped its men to Dnjepr,1 to Russian side of river,2 planes dropped its men far too rear in Germans side and 13 planes returned because they failed to find dropzone.parts of 3rd AB was dropped in mids of German 19th Panzerdivision,when they were coming to fight Russian bridgehead.Division 4x20mm aa-guns were ready and opened fire.Some planes were shot down,others dropped men over the area.Because of flak some planes rise to 2km altidute and dropped men from there,so men were scattered in wide area.The drop lasted 1-1,5 hours.
On the ground men started to re-group.They were scattered over 90 km long and 30km wide area.A big area for 4500 men.1500 of them were dropped over 19th Panzerdivision.After one day,Germans had killed 692 and captured 209 of them.In 25.September there were some 2300 Russian paratroopers in Germans rear.
For some reason Russian 40th Corps or 3rd Guards tank Army didn't start a attack from bridgehead in same time as AB attack,neither did Russians tried to cross Dnjepr from othet places,so Germans had no problem to destroy Russian paratroopers.
Surviving paras tried to re-group,but area was too big and only 5 of radios were in working order.CO of 5th AB Liutenantcolonel Sidorshuh did established a contact via radio to Russians in estern bank of Dnjepr on 28.September.That night 3 more radio tems were dropped.They vanished before they were found.Next night a plane was send to drop more radios.It was shot down.Germans started to comb area to find Russian paras but because of wide are they were diffucult to find.Wiking and parts of 7th Panzerdivision also were engaged against paras in South of Kanev.
Some 600 paras did join together in the woods of Kanev and Tserkassy.They fought with partisans against Germans.Some 200 men were in Tsernysh and there were also some Company sized and smaller units,who started to fight against Germans.lack of ammunition and food made operations hard.In October some 1700 paras and partisans fought under Liutenantcolonel Sidorshuk.Planes flew supply dropps to them and in 22.october one unit of it destroyed a HQ of German Battalion and blew a train in Korsunj but it had heavy casualties.That was probably biggest succes of paras.
11th of October unit was ordered to assist a Russian attack over Dnjepr in Tserkassy.They had been in Germans rear 40 days and had moved 100km.Now they had to move tens of kms to South.13th October they attacked against Germans,while 52nd Army tried to cross Dnjepr.The crossing failed and Germans afflicted heavy casualties to paras.Next day crossing was succesfull and paras made contact to main Russian forces.Even after that they fought with 13 days with 52nd Army!!!.When they were send to rest,only 40% of them were left alive.
So ended the ordeal of 3rd and 5th AB Brigades.They had fought unbealibly hard for 2 months but had achieved little.If the drop would have been made closer the river and Russian had attacked at the same time cross Dnjepr,the paras could have create enough confusion that a rapid Russian advance could have been achieved.Instead they fought alone and operation was a disaster.
Source:Pekka Kantakoski-Punaiset Panssarit
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I agree with you but would quantify this by saying that the drops at Eindhoven & Nijmegan were a success and that the failure at Arnhem was a hairs breath away from achieving its goal.
Much like the German air drop on Crete only turned into a victory because the British couldn't/didn't bring Maleme airfield under exacting fire, thus stopping German re-inforcements arriving.
Andy from the Shire
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