. XVIII AIRBORNE CORPS .
It is in Georgia, with Fort Benning, on June 26, 1940 which was created the first Parachute Test Platoon. The tactics of the airborne have progressively proven frightening for the United States Army. This was evident by the successes of 82nd Airborne in Sicily then in Italy. Moreover, the spirit of corps shown by 82nd and 101st Airborne during the critical days following the operation “NEPTUNE” ensured that airborne tactics and operations remained an integral part of US Army operation.
By midsummer of 1944, it was evident to the SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) that a certain unit in the direction of different airborne division in order to entirely exploit their power.
The airborne British’s Units were in the same position.
So improving and of coordinate efforts, First Allied Airborne Army (FAAA) under the orders of US Army Lieutenant General Lewis H. Brereton.
He took the direction of the British and American Airborne forces as well as the Troop Carrier Units on all the European theatre of operation (ETO).
This single structure of single command involved the formation of XVIII Airborne Corps and of 1st British Corps.
On 27 August 1944, Headquarters and Headquarters Company and Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, Corps Artillery, XVIII Corps arrived from the United States at Ogbourne St. George, England, to learn that as of that date it had been redesignated the U.S. XVIII Airborne Corps. It was immediately placed under the command of Maj Gen Matthew B Ridgway, who until then was the Commanding General of the 82nd Airborne Division. Meanwhile, Assistant Division Commander, General James Gavin was also promoted and assumed command of the 82nd Airborne. Under Gen Ridgway's new command were the 82nd, 101st and 17th Airborne Divisions. The 82nd and 101st Divisions were already in England after the successful completion of Operation Neptune, the airborne operation for the invasion of Normandy. The 17th Airborne Division was in the process of disembarking in England from the United States. It was at this time that the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) which was part of the 82nd Airborne Division during Operation Neptune was permanently assigned to the 17th Airborne Division.
A whole series of objectif was planned for an airborne attack, the sectors of Rambouillet – Chartres – Stamps, sectors of Lille – Tourcoing – Tournai, the Walcheren Island. However, each time, points of the armies which crossed France, arrived there and made the operation unnecessary.
In conclusion, also quickly the potential targets appeared, also quickly, they disappeared…
Finally, an occasion came from used the Airborne Force like “spearhead”, it was for operation “MARKET GARDEN”.
This plan, invented by British Field Marshall Montgomery, would be the first daylight airborne attack on enemy lines since the invasion of Crete by the Germans.
This operation, similar to the German’s operation, dated September 17, 1944, was to use the paratroopers and glidermen of the 82nd and 101st airborne division as well as English’s divisions on Holland, daylight, with for mission to seize roads, bridges and the key communication cities of Eindhoven, Nijmegen and Arnhem, thus to facilitate the advance of the armored tanks to the German border.
Although all elements composing it XVIII Airborne Corps achieved their objectives, because of the defeat of the other allied units in Arnhem, the door towards the industrial heart of Germany will not open in September 44.
On December 16, 1944, the Germans launch their last big offensive by the Ardennes forest in a sector little defend and taking completely by surprise the American Forces.
The 82nd and 101st Airborne after having taken part the operation Market Garden has were in rest in the Reims area - Suippes – Sissone, France. The 17th Airborne was in training with the base camps in Wiltshire and Surrey, England.
The initial success of the German offensive resulted in a decision by General Eisenhower, Supreme Commander, SHAEF to detach the XVIII Airborne Corps from the FAAA and attach it to the 12nd Army Group. While waiting, another measurement was taken, sends the 101st and 82nd Airborne in Belgium to support 1st US Army.
The 17th Airborne, in England did not take part in the engagements directly, it fought later with 3rd US Army.
Through the initiative, a cooperation and communication, the 82nd and 101st Airborne were assembled, rationed, supplied and sent by truck in Belgium. On the road, the 101st Airborne received the order to move in the Bastogne’s area to be attached there to VIII Corps. The HQ of XVIII Airborne Corps remaining with the 82nd Airborne to move towards Werbomont, Belgium.
The area of the Ardennes present a very uneven ground, with forests. The engagements were battles for crossroads and for the communication ways. The defense line between Malmedy in North and Bastogne in the south was inserted by the Germans, they tried to sink full West and towards north to take the fuel deposits particularly those of Vervier and Liege. To achieve these objectives, the Germans it was imperative to force the salient to open wider at Malmedy and Bastogne.
The XVIII Corps mission was to first stop the German advance and to expel them from the northern part of the salient. The 3 key road centers were St Vith held by the 7th Armored Division, reinforced by elements of the 9th Armored Division and the 28th and 106th Infantry Division. Houffalize already in enemy hands and Bastogne held by 101st Airborne.
The 30th Infantry Division with elements of the 3rd Armored division were in a deadlock with the 1st SS Panzer Division in the west of Malmedy. Moreover, there was no contact between the 30th Infantry Division and the 7th Armored division. It was through this gap that the German columns of panzer, in the west of St Vith to attack the exposed right flank of the 7th Armored division.
82nd Airborne was immediately thrown into this gap. By midnight,
on December 20th, the 82nd had established a bridgehead over the Salm
River at Trois Ponts. Finally contact between XVIII Airborne Corps
and the 84th Infantry Division was establishes.
By December 23rd, the situation became extremely critical. The positions before St Vith were no longer tenable. The 7th Armored division and the elements of 28th and 106th Infantry Division were withdrawn and given defensive positions. The 84th Infantry Division was pushed back on the northern side of the salient as the Germans made an all out effort to break through the Corps front lines to Vervier and Liege.
December 24th found the 82nd Airborne dangerously out in front of a jagged irregular front line. To shorten the line, it was ordered to withdraw and did so under the cover of darkness.
The following days saw the desperate attacks of the Germans to bore American defenses. Each offensive being repulsed. In north on the road towards Manahay, the situation was particularly critical, but finally, the enemy was repulsed.
Germany – April 1945
In early February 1945, a precise evaluation of the engagements were to determine where and when the 2nd British army would be ready to force a crossing of the Rhine River. This passage would coincide with an airborne operation by XVIII Airborne Corps.
The sector selected for the assault was in the vicinity of Wesel, just north of the Ruhr. The date was fixed on 24 March 1945. Operation “VARSITY” was the last Airborne operation of the WWII and the assignment went to the 6th British Airborne division and the 17th American Airborne division with the 507th PIR spearheading the assault dropping at the southern edge of the Diesfordter Forest, 5km of Wesel.
In the morning of 24 March 1945 is very misty with the top of the landings zones. The sky was not cleared. Moreover, the fire of the German FLAK was very nourished. But no pilot hesitated and by noon, two divisions were on the ground.
The result was a complete vertical envelopment of German defenses of Rhine River in this sector. After noon of the D-day, all the objectives, the bridgehead on other side of Issel River, had been captured.
Exploitation of the gap torn through the enemy positions was relentless and decisive during the 5 next days. During the 6 days period, 24 to 30 March 1945, the advance was daily with an average of 11km. They made more than 8.000 prisoners, destroyed the 84th German Infantry Division and captured or destroyed 124 artillery and AA pieces and 26 panzers.
This operation, relatively small, imparted a momentum which was maintained through the Ruhr pocket during April 1945, and which carried out the Allies until The Baltic where the war was over.
On May 7, 1945, General Alfred Jodl signed the instrument of surrender in Rheims, France. The ceremony was repeated the next day in Berlin with the profit of the Russians. The American president, Truman declared May 8 day as victory day, V-DAY.