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Thursday, April 02, 2015

Filling a Hole I Did Not Know Was There

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I learned to jump out of airplanes while still a cadet. I did so, as I have noted before, because I wished to be in the infantry and was quite willing to jump from aircraft, repel from helicopters, or lumber forward through the surf to "close with and destroy the enemy."

Even so, my knowledge of previous airborne operations was rather limited.

I knew about the drops in the European theater (to include the German descent on Crete), but not a lot about the various failed operations conducted by the Soviet Union (for example). I knew there had been combat drops in the Pacific theater, and that the Japanese had done some, but I honestly thought that the Americans had only done one (on Corregidor).

Well, I finally reached the point in the stack of books I have to read where I am going to read a series of books on airborne operations once more. With malice aforethought I picked the book on Pacific airborne operations. The first thing I learned is that there were a total of a dozen airborne operations of note (these being the ones where parachutes were used, and the number of troops committed were there to "seize and hold" at a bare minimum, i.e. they were not simple raids.

Of these the Imperial Japanese conducted nearly half of them, five in number.

I was, until today, dimly aware that the Japanese had their own airborne units, and had conducted some kind of airborne operation in the early days of the war after Pearl Harbor (the Japanese had been at war longer than that, so for them it was not really the "early days of the war" which is why I reference Pearl Harbor). Turns out they conducted three airborne operations in 1942. My dim awareness of this was pretty much limited to a mention in some game somewhere of Japanese airborne units. This book is the first time I will actually get some data on what they were doing.

The last Japanese airborne operations were two years later in 1944. Again, I was dimly aware of this from a mention of it in another book I had read recently. Oddly enough, the book in question was on the operations of American Artillery Spotter Planes, which covered their operations all through World War II. Which may point to a larger weakness in my knowledge of ground operations in the Philippines from 1944 to the end of the war.

Still, I was somewhat surprised to learn that the 11th airborne division (apparently), or elements thereof (or perhaps the Marine airborne battalion will be mentioned), conducted not less than seven airborne operations, of which the only one I was aware of was Corregidor. Up to this point, except for Corregidor, my impression was that the 11th Airborne pretty much (except for Corregidor) operated as a normal infantry division in the Pacific theater (I have read of its troops being used to conduct amphibious assaults for example rather than airborne assaults).

I am looking forward to this book (I have just started reading about the first Japanese parachute drop in the Dutch East Indies in January of 42) as it will be a look at things that happened in World War II, a war I tend to think of myself as fairly knowledgeable about, that I know very little about.