The Allied commanders of World War II saw the need for airborne troops in Europe during the German invasion of Crete in May 1941. Although German paratroopers nearly met with disaster, they eventually succeeded in taking the island. The German attack was the first time an invasion of an island was successfully accomplished by air, and though the near failure made the German high command wary of relying much on paratroopers, the Allies saw the advantages and began training their own airborne forces.
Paratroopers were valuable because they allowed the Allies to drop light infantry behind enemy lines, enabling them to deploy a fighting force without warning. Two of the most active of the American airborne divisions were the 82nd and 101st, though there were others, including the 17th, 11th, and 13th. American airborne troops fought in battles in places such as North Africa, Normandy, the Netherlands, Sicily, the Philippines, and elsewhere.
Fold3 has many records relating to the airborne troops of World War II, including numerous photos in the WWII U.S. Air Force Photos collection. Below are just a few of the photos you can find on Fold3 of paratroopers in World War II:
- Paratrooper’s equipment being inspected before leaving on invasion of Europe.
- British paratroopers landing on the Greek mainland from American planes of the 51st Wing, USAAF.
- Paratroopers entering a plane, North Africa.
- Paratroopers landing on Corregidor.
- American paratroopers on their way to Sicily.
- Paratroopers fixing their static lines before jumping to their objective.
- A paratrooper making a jump during the invasion of southern France at H-4, D-Day, 15 August 1944.
- Paratroopers leaving Douglas C-47s, in preparation for further landings somewhere in the Philippines. Luzon, Philippine Islands, June 1945.
- Members of the 11th Airborne Division dropping out of planes to start the attack on Appari Airstrip in Northern Luzon, Philippine Islands.
Do you have any family members who were paratroopers? Tell us about them! Or find more images and documents about the paratroopers of World War II by searching Fold3.