The story of the glider landings 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 to 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 nine 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. There seems to have been a delay for orders to Fliegerführer Croatia for 28 April were: “Support of Unternehmen Maibaum in close co-operation with V. SS-Gebirgs-Korps. Air landing operation as development of ground situation may require”.
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.
As the prisoner told it, 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.
A German document offers supporting evidence for the June deployment: a message to Luftflotte 3 and KG 200 on 10 June tasked the Geschwader with “a commando operation in the Allied beach head in Normandy”. The II. Gruppe was to assemble a force of 200–250 men, among them some »Total-Einstzmänner« (those who had committed themselves to die in achieving their assigned objectives. The group would be commanded by Oberst Heinrich Heigl, KG 200’s Kommodore, and subordinated operationally to Lfl. 3. It was to move to the area south of Paris where the details of its mission would be worked out—an air landing was envisaged in conjunction with, for example, an attack by armour. Accordingly I./LLG 1 in Strasbourg-Mars La Tour was told speedily to attain operational readiness while orders to move to a jumping-off base would follow. To get the commandos from Dedelstorf to France, 20 transport aircraft were to be held at four hours’ notice. These orders came with the usual caveats about the air situation, exploitation of cloud cover and the need to fly either at evening twilight or at night. On 16 June, after discussing the matter with Generaloberst Alfred Jodl, OKW Chief of Operations, his Luftwaffe counterpart, Gen. Karl Koller, authorised release of the new MP 44 assault rifle for »Einsatz Heigl«. When and why the hoped-for operation was called off is not known.
continued on next page …
PART ONE OF THREE
© Nick Beale 2022–23