General Kurt Student was a senior figure in the Luftwaffe during World War Two. He helped pioneer the use of para-troops in warfare. Student played an important part in the attack against Crete, the biggest airborne attack by Germany in the war.
Born in 1890, Student joined the Imperial German Army in 1911. He transferred to the German Army Air Service in 1913, which would later become the Luftwaffe. Student flew bombers and worked as a reconnaissance pilot during World War One.
In 1934 Student signed up to the Luftwaffe, and subsequently played an important role in its development. Student was made to create Germany's first parachute battalion in 1938, in keeping with Guderian's Blitzkrieg strategy. The USSR had already started training Red Army parachutists, but this type of battalion was still very rare at this point. Parachutists were play an important role in the 'lightning war' strategy.
Student's new unit did not take part in the attack on Poland. The German military was already strong enough to invade easily, and Hitler wanted to hide his new unit until Blitzkrieg was released against Western Europe.
German paratroopers were made use of in the Norway, Belgium and Holland campaigns. They were particularly successful in Rotterdam, where the parachutist attack decimated Dutch defences.
Student got shot in the head during the attack on Holland and suffered such bad injuries to the head that he did not fight again until January 1941.
Hitler was impressed by the impact of Student's parachutists and they were used again in May 1941 for the attack on Crete. Despite their eventual victory, Student's parachutists experienced significant losses. Hitler found the amount of men killed in action shocking and subsequently banned the use of parachutists in large-scale military operations.
After this ban, Student's men did not conduct any further large scale raids by parachute. When the D-Day landings were over, the 1st Parachute Regiment was used on the ground to try and scupper Montgomery's headway to the Rhine.
Student was tried for war crimes carried out in Greece and Crete in May 1946. He was given five years in prison but received a medical discharge in 1948. He died thirty years later at the age of 88.
See also: General Alexander Vandegrift
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