The Events That Transformed ‘Little Groups of Paratroopers’ into Absolute Airborne Legends
Not every military encounter goes as planned, and a group of paratroopers learned that quickly when winds reaching speeds of 40 knots blew them significantly off course. The men were heading in to conduct two airborne assaults, but the weather seriously impacted their descent, and the group suffered significant losses before they even touched down.
The paratroopers were supposed to create a buffer zone in Sicily on the night of July 9-10, 1943, supporting an upcoming amphibious assault by the 7th Army.
Approximately 3,400 men took part in the assault, though many perished before their boots had a chance to hit the ground.
Instead of looking for cover or spending hours coordinating their efforts, the men who became known as “Little Groups of Paratroopers,” or LGOPs, decided to take action.
The LGOPs grabbed their gear and began destroying any assets that appeared to belong to German or Italian military forces. They attacked infrastructure and ripped down communications line, even setting up random roadblocks, along with planned barricades, to help slow the advance of Axis forces.
LGOPs also set up ambushes, killing any enemy soldier who happened upon them. At one point, the paratroopers took out a collection of 16 German pillboxes even though they had far fewer men than were originally assigned to the mission.
The Axis forces assumed that the paratroopers were operating at full strength, though some of the groups attacking each spot consisted of only a handful of men. A report even overstated the one group’s numbers by 10-fold.
German forces struggled as the onslaught continued, with many fearing they were being overrun by large groups of American troops. Some even surrendered even though the LGOPs had nowhere near the manpower the German’s thought were attacking.
While the operation sustained heavy losses, it was ultimately deemed a success thanks to the efforts of the LGOPs who tore through the landscape.