Battle of Fort Eben-Emael - Battle

Battle

For reasons of security, Sturmabteilung Koch was dispersed around several locations in the Rhineland until it received orders for the operation against Fort Eben-Emael and the three bridges to begin. Preliminary orders were received on 9 May, ordering the separated detachments to move to a pre-arranged concentration area, and shortly afterwards a second order arrived, informing the assault force that Fall Gelb was to begin at 05:25 on 10 May. At 04:30, forty-two gliders carrying the 493 airborne troops that formed the assault force were lifted off from two airfields in Cologne, the armada of gliders and transport aircraft turning south towards their objectives. The aircraft maintained strict radio silence, forcing the pilots to rely on a chain of signal fires that pointed towards Belgium; the radio silence also ensured that senior commanders of the assault force could not be informed that the tow-ropes on one of the gliders had snapped, forcing the glider to land inside Germany. Another pilot of a second glider released his tow-rope prematurely, and was unable to land near its objective. Both gliders were carrying troops assigned to Group Granite and were destined to assault Fort Eben Emael, thereby leaving the group understrength; it also left it under the command of Oberleutnant Witzig's second-in-command, as Witzig was in one of the gliders forced to land. The remaining gliders were released from their tow-ropes twenty miles away from their objectives at an altitude of 7,000 feet (2,100 m), which was deemed high enough for the gliders to land by the three bridges and on top of the fort, and also maintain a steep dive angle to further ensure they landed correctly. After the Ju-52's released the gliders and began turning away, Belgian anti-aircraft artillery positions detected them and opened fire. This alerted the defences in the area to the presence of the gliders.

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