“The advent of the helicopter made large-scale airborne operations largely obsolete. Yet, a number of armies still conducted parachute landings in the Post War era.”
AIRBORNE WARFARE REACHED its zenith in 1945 with Operation Varsity — the largest one-day combat parachute drop in military history.
The massive March 24 airlift saw 16,000 British and American paratroopers along with glider-borne infantry descend onto a cluster of landing zones in Wesel, Germany.
The first units began touching down just north of the city at 10 a.m. Within two hours, the entire force was on the ground and in action. The operation coincided with a large-scaleAllied crossing of the Rhine. The airborne’s objective was to cut off German units dug in along the eastern bank of the river just a few thousand meters away.
The Wesel assault was to be the last major combat drop of the Second World War. And after 1945, the advent of the helicopter and the changing nature of warfare itself, made large-scale airborne operations like it largely obsolete. Yet despite this, a number of armies still conducted parachute landings in the Post War era. Here are some notable examples:
The U.S. only mounted two major airborne operations during the Korean War. The first occurred on Oct. 20, 1950 at Sunchon. With UN forces pushing deep into communist territory above the 38th Parallel, the American 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Teamjumped from C-119 transport aircraft north of Pyongyang. Their objective was to cut off enemy forces retreating towards the Chinese border. Six months later, more than 3,000 paratroopers from the same outfit, along with an Indian army field hospital, jumped 30 miles behind enemy lines to help encircle North Korean and Chinese troops at Munsan. It was the last airborne operation of the conflict.
On Nov. 5, 1956, several hundred British and French paratroopers and commandos landed on key points along the Suez Canal in advance of an Israeli thrust into the Sinai. The invasion followed Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser’s move to nationalize the strategic waterway. While militarily successful, the operation was a diplomatic and political disaster for Britain, France and Israel.
Read the Remainder of the Operations at Military History Now