The story of the glider assault on the Vercors is told in detail by Geoff Thomas and Barry Ketley. An important element of the German plan was an airborne assault by Kommando Schäfer, more formally known as the 3. Staffel of II./KG 200. On the organisation table for 21 February 1944 its status was “ground operations without aircraft”.
Neither the Kommando (sometimes Kampfgruppe) nor II./KG 200 figured in intercepted signals that often but those few instances do illuminate some aspects of its preparation for and deployment after Vercors.
8 March 1944
An Obltn. Sperling of KG 1 was directed report to II./KG 200’s Kommandeur at Dedelstorf after handing over his duties to another officer.
13 April 1944
Luftwaffenkommando Südost contacted III./LLG 1 at Alibunar in Serbia (about 50 km NE Belgrade) referring to two previous orders:
This transfer of eight glider pilots to II./KG 200 in Germany came just 10 days before Stab, II. and III./LLG 1 were allocated to Unternehmen Maibaum (Operation Maypole), an anti-partisan undertaking directed from Sarajevo and set to begin on the 26th.
On 1 May, 4./LLG 2 at Saint Yan (95 km NW Lyon) reported a strength of four He 111 Z tugs and 12 Go 242 gliders.
According to an unnamed prisoner taken in September (whose statements cannot always be corroborated) it was during May that II./KG 200 relocated from Hildesheim to Dedelstorf “where a headquarters existed for the 3rd and 4th Staffeln composing this Gruppe”, which does not appear to square entirely with the above signals. At this stage the unit was about 220 strong.
In early June the men were flown by Ju 52 to Nancy where they were married up with 17 Do 17 tugs and 14 DFS 230 gliders before personnel and aircraft transferred to Lyon-Bron a month later. His dates are questionable since he claimed that the Do 17s had been destroyed in an American air raid “on or about July 18th” when in fact the raids Bron were on 30 April and 14 August.
There had been a brief exchange of messages about I./LLG 1 in the days immediately before the Vercors operation. On 17 July, Luftgau VII told the aircraft park in Illesheim to send “at once” ten MG 81Z (twin defensive machine guns) to I./LLG 1 at Strasbourg-Enzheim.
Next day there was a telephone conversation between an Obltn. Lemke and Oberingenieur Weinberger regarding the equipment of 30 »Sturm DFS 230« (assault gliders). This was followed up on the 20th when 3. Ergänzungsgruppe (S) 1 at Strasbourg-Polygone was told that the depot in Pontfaverger-Moronvilliers near Reims could supply 24 fittings for fixed MG 17s in the DFS 230 and plexiglass for windows, as well as fabric for covering. Also on the 20th, the I./LLG 1’s Do 17 “rigid towing Staffel” was advised that it could collect 20 fixed towing carriers for He 111s from Pontfaverger and that the Fliegerführer of the Parachute Army should be notified when this was done. Next a message between officers of I./KG 66 noted that Strasbourg was occupied by I./LLG 1 and “envisaged for further transport units". It is (just) possible that this was all a last-minute scrabble in preparation for the Vercors operation but perhaps more likely that tugs and gliders were being readied similar missions in future. However the Allied breakout from Normandy and the landings on the Mediterranean Coast soon had the Germans more concerned with escaping France than pacifying it.
Surprisingly, the II./KG 200 prisoner did not mention the Vercors Plateau or any of its villages by name. He did however speak of two missions which may be a garbled account of the battle, relating that over 100 men of a Sicherungsregiment (Security Regiment) from Lyon had been flown by glider to the Grenoble area “where the German infantry had been surrounded by American troops”. A day later, supplies were dropped to the encircled forces. In fact the Germans pulled out of Grenoble overnight night of 21/22 August, ahead of the Americans’ arrival, and were never surrounded in the city, let alone fighting for it. Grenoble however lies right alongside the Plateau where from 21–24 July German airborne troops were surrounded by a Resistance force which included a small American contingent (OSS Operational Group JUSTINE). Elements of only one Sicherungsregiment, Sich. Rgt. 200, were involved in the battle, as part of the force cordoning off the western side of the Plateau, and the IV. Bataillon had been based in Lyon. After being relieved by 157. Res. Div. and with its part in the Vercors operation over, Kdo. Schäfer was returned to Nancy on the 26th.
Toward the end of July (the precise date was not given) the workshop section at Westerland signalled II./KG 200’s Technical Officer that spares for He 111 F7+BK (markings of 2./LLG 2) had not arrived but that it could be made serviceable in four days once they had been received.
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