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Unified Command: The Birth of the First Allied Airborne Army
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May 1944: George Marshall (Chief of Staff of the Army & driving force behind the combined chiefs of staff) saw these bunches of airborne forces (divisions and regiments), across the European theater without a centralized command body.
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Marshall wanted to harness all the Allied Airborne units consolidated under a single command to include the Troop Carrier units (the folks who maintained & flew the planes for the airborne units).
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At the time of the D Day insertion, the Division was the highest level of Airborne command. Marshall wanted to go bigger with the airborne concept.
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There was some opposition to the idea. Some commanders thought the differences between British vs US equipment and different staff processes justified keeping units separate.
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Part of this opposition came from the British side, concerned that there were significantly more US paratroopers than British. They didn’t want the Americans to rule all airborne operations.
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There were also concerns about the troop carrier pilots – mostly Army Air Forces officers – within the same command as Army airborne troops. Just like our @USAirForce and @USArmy today, these units maintained different processes and standards.
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Marshall (and Eisenhower) gave these concerns due consideration but, in the end, ordered all of the troops and equipment required for airborne operations under a single command.
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Toward that end, on August 2, 1944, the First Allied Airborne Army was born.
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The First Allied Airborne Army was responsible for all Allied Airborne units in Western Europe until the war ended.
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The IX Troop Carrier Command, an Army Air Forces unit responsible for air transport for all airborne forces in Europe, was also part of the First Allied Airborne Army.
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The First Allied Airborne Army also had a few independent units to include the Polish First Independent Parachute Brigade.
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Paratroopers would operate under the First Allied Airborne Army until they were on the ground and logistical support could be handed over to the ground forces commander.
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US Army Air Force Lieutenant General Lewis Brereton was chosen to be the first commander of this new organization.
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Louie Brereton. Odd choice for this job.
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For one thing he didn't wanna do it.
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Louie was a pilot, a Army Air Forces officer. He commanded the Ninth Air Force during the early part of the Normandy campaign. This Airborne thing was a step down for him.
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For another thing, Brereton didn’t even think this unified airborne command was a good idea. He made a counteroffer to take command of only American Airborne units, but Eisenhower said no
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Another note about Louie: Nobody could get along with him. He was what Eisenhower would refer to as “prickly.” British and American officers disliked him equally.
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Brereton only reluctantly agreed to his new appointment.
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So, we’ve got this new airborne command. Now, to find a way to use it. There was considerable pressure on Allied leaders to use all these big airborne forces that were formed for the war in Europe and hadn’t really done much of anything.
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In its first month, First Allied Airborne Army was tasked with many proposed Airborne operations. Some were nothing more than attempts to drop large airborne forces in Europe before the war ended. All of them were cancelled.
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These airborne operations were about as dumb. Their operational names were even dumber: Wild Oats, Transfigure, and Hands Up.
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As we’ve described, these Airborne operations were largely cancelled, in part, because the Allied advance into Europe after the Normandy invasion was faster than anticipated so there wasn’t really time to prepare and plan a proper Airborne insertion.
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Then, in early September, Allied forces approached the Siegfried Line and started to slow down as German resistance increased.
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An airborne assault titled Operation Comet was fully planned.
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Comet would have involved one Airborne Division, the British First Airborne Division with the Polish First Independent Parachute Brigade. But the plan was scrapped on 10 September 1944 after weather conditions and increasing concern of German counterattacks.
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Shortly after Operation Comet was cancelled, a new operation was proposed, which was basically the same plan but with three Airborne Divisions (instead of one).
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That operation had two parts: Market, an airborne assault, and Garden, a ground assault.
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Some appear to be offended that we referenced the film A Bridge Too Far.
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The movie helped shape a myth about Operation Market Garden. Will describe in detail in the days to come.

Sorry, but there is no way to tell this story without reference to that movie.

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More from @18airbornecorps

29 Sep
1 of 18:

The #WWII #Canadian Loan Program

An Operation Market Garden thread in 22 Tweets. #OMG Image
2 of 18:

Many people know about the #American and #British forces committed to Operation Market Garden. Some know about the #Irish Guards and the #Polish Brigade. But many don’t know about the #Canadians who fought during the operation. Image
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At the time of Market Garden, Canadian forces were advancing from #Belgium to the #Netherlands. While Canadian units were not involved in the Battle of #Arnhem, a number of Canadian Officers, like this one Ashton Kerr, were. Image
Read 18 tweets
28 Sep
1 of 84:

We’ve read more than 6,000 pages of contemporary and reflective accounts from Operation Market Garden. We’ve probably read more than a thousand individual stories from that operation.
2 of 84:

One of the most emotional stories we’ve ever heard and one appropriate for #YomKippur.
3 of 84:

It’s a truly American story, one filled with inspiration for all of us. It’s a tale that we should all hear, particularly in these divided times.
Read 84 tweets
27 Sep
1 of 31:

“My Place is Here: The Ballad of Delbert Kuehl”

This is the unforgettable story of a Chaplain under fire.

#SundayMorning Image
2 of 31:

We’ve observed some ugly leadership trends during Operation Market Garden: ambition, ego, personal gain.

The story of Chaplain Delbert Kuehl follows a different path. Delbert’s story is one of love, courage, and selflessness. Image
3 of 31:

His story forms around a biological urge to answer a call to help. To help his Nation at war. To help his men in spiritual distress. To help his men cross a river into the teeth of determined German forces.

Let's get started. Image
Read 31 tweets
25 Sep
Summing up on our livestream: the 82nd was given an extremely difficult mission that required land not well-suited for airborne forces. Gavin understood the 508 had the largest & toughest area. His instructions to Roy LIndquist, the 508 CDR were clear: seize the bridge.
By 4PM on D Day, the 82nd commanders were overwhelmed with the physical immensity & lack of defensible terrain (combined with limited assets).
The fact is the 508th was grossly over-stretched just on the outposts. On Sep 17, Gavin was all over the AO and could have easily directed Lindquist to seize the bridge but chose not to do so. Gavin was most concerned about just hanging on & holding the perimeter.
Read 4 tweets
24 Sep
1 of 10:

In many US accounts of Operation Market Garden, the Brit Montgomery is the reason for failure. In a certain telling, an overly-ambitious Monty, seeking a power grab after his demotion from control of all Allied forces, sets in motion an operation w/ no chance of success
2 of 10:

In this account, Jim Gavin, the courageous, "lead from the front" commander of the @82ndABNDiv, inspires his men to fight through impossible odds, cross the Waal River & almost salvage the mission. He is an exemplar of combat leadership while Monty is a reviled figure.
3 of 10:

But there's another telling of this history out there, one that has a truth all its own, in which Monty established a bold strike to bring the war to an end & Gavin, an immature division commander, was the cause of failure. So, here is a simplified version of that story
Read 10 tweets
22 Sep
1 of 12:

Friday, September 22, 1944


The landing of the @82ndABNDiv’s 325 Glider Infantry Regiment, scheduled to land near Overasselt on Sep 19th, was postponed, for the fourth time, due to bad weather in England (couldn’t take off)
2 of 12:

More of the 30 Corps tanks reached Nijmegen, allowing for reinforcement of defenses along 82d held ground. One British recce troop managed to reach the Poles at Driel. A double axis advance by two battalions, met heavy resistance.
3 of 12:

The German troops were still attacking The Corridor around Nijmegen, but they had thus far been unsuccessful in cutting The Corridor or completely stopping the American advance toward Arnhem.
Read 12 tweets

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