Adolf Hitler Ardennes forest Axis Belgium Blitzkrieg Brandenburg Commandos Czechoslovakia Dunkirk Eben-Emael Fallschirmjäger fort eben-emael Gembloux German Sixth Army Hand Grenade Jean Jottrand Maginot Line Meuse River Movies Netherlands oberkommando des heeres (okh) Sturmabteilung Walter Koch WWII

Captured! Belgium’s Mighty Fort Eben-Emael

How did the World’s first gliderborne assault grab the worlds strongest fortress?
How did the World’s first gliderborne assault grab the worlds strongest fortress?

How did the World’s first gliderborne assault seize the world’s strongest fortress?

By Roy Stevenson

At four:25am within the predawn darkness of Might 10, 1940, 9 German gliders silently skidded to a cease on the hilltop of probably the most closely defended fortress in Europe, disgorging 71 extremely educated German Fallschirmjäger.

These paratroopers have been about to assault what was thought-about probably the most impregnable fortress in Europe—a mission that was considered nothing in need of suicidal. But, by 11:30 am the subsequent day a Belgian officer clutching a brush deal with with a white bedsheet hooked up, and accompanied by a trembling bugler, appeared on the entrance of Fort Eben-Emael to give up the huge concrete fortification to the German forces. Solely six German Fallschirmjäger have been killed and 15 wounded, whereas 780 dispirited Belgian troops marched out of Fort Eben-Emael’s casemate, arms held excessive in give up.

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Adolf Hitler’s huge gamble on this early strike of World Warfare II had labored. The gateway to Belgium had been pressured. The German offensive rolled over the Albert Canal and into the neighboring nation. By Might 28, after solely 18 days of preventing, Belgium had capitulated and German panzers had plunged deeply into France via the inexperienced, rolling hills of the Belgian Ardennes Forest, outflanking the French Maginot Line.

Not solely had Belgium fallen, however Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and France had additionally surrendered or have been on the brink. By the top of Might British and French forces can be pressured to evacuate the Continent at Dunkirk. This marked the start of 5 lengthy, darkish years of German occupation till Europe can be liberated by Allied forces after the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944, and by Soviet forces coming from the east.

World Warfare II literature is crammed with examples of shock assaults the place sheer audacity, mixed with swift motion in a shock lightning strike, has resulted in a small variety of well-trained commandos overcoming a numerically superior pressure of enemy troopers briefly order. Though comparatively unknown outdoors Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany, the dramatic lighnting strike that led to the autumn of Fort Eben-Emael is, for a lot of causes, World Warfare II’s most spectacular instance of such a shock motion. Regardless of its relative obscurity, the basic airborne invasion and seize of Fort Eben-Emael in Might 1940 continues to be used immediately at West Level and different army schools as a basic textbook instance of the effectiveness of airborne operations.

German glider infantrymen dash across open space during the Eben-Emael attack on May 10, 1940.

German glider squaddies sprint throughout open area in the course of the Eben-Emael assault on Might 10, 1940.

The seize of Fort Eben-Emael is famend for a lot of army firsts. It was the world’s first gliderborne assault, the place specifically educated glidermen have been inserted into an enemy’s defensive place. It was the primary time that hole shape-charge explosives have been used to breach metal and concrete fortifications that have been thought-about impregnable. And the assault on Eben-Emael (and the adjoining Albert Canal bridges) additionally marked the primary useof Hitler’s Blitzkrieg techniques. This daring motion modified the best way army strategists would prosecute struggle sooner or later, and it nonetheless closely influences army planning right now.

The Strategic Fort Eben-Emael

Why did Hitler select to assault probably the most closely armed fortress in all of Europe as his opening thrust in World Conflict II? Fort Eben-Emael lay inside 15 miles of the German border, south of the Dutch metropolis of Maastricht, and adjoining to the Meuse River, the border between the Netherlands and Belgium. The fort was located to cowl the Vise Hole by means of which it was anticipated that German forces would pour once they started their invasion of the Netherlands and Belgium. It was additionally the portal to the Gembloux Hole that led to routes into central Belgium; if Eben-Emael fell, the guts of Belgium can be open to invasion.

Eben-Emael was the foremost central bastion in a big chain of 12 formidable and closely manned Belgian fortresses interspersed with pure obstacles of marshlands, rivers, valleys, and mountains that ringed the town of Liège and guarded the entry to the flatlands of central Belgium. This ring of fortresses was named Place Fortifiée de Liège.

Fort Eben-Emael was designed to be the showstopper. Mendacity alongside the newly constructed 50-yard-wide Albert Canal, dug as a strategic defensive barrier, the fort had giant gun casemates emplaced into the aspect of the canal. Their perform was to put overlaying hearth up and down the canal to guard the three giant metal bridges that a German military must cross to enter Belgium and the Netherlands.

The significance of those three bridges can’t be underestimated. Hitler’s divisions first wanted to cross the Kanne, Vroenhoven, and Veldwezelt Bridges to enter Belgium. If Hitler’s advance forces might be stopped chilly right here, or so the thiking went, there can be sufficient time for the Belgian and the Dutch armies to organize defensive positions farther inland, and the invasion can be held up lengthy sufficient for the French and British armies to hurry to the scene.

In charge of the lightning raid was Hauptmann Walter Koch, who commanded 420 glider troops and 42 glider pilots.

In control of the lightning raid was Hauptmann Walter Koch, who commanded 420 glider troops and 42 glider pilots.

Thus, Eben-Emael’s strategic place was a linchpin in overcoming different defenses behind it. If Eben-Emael couldn’t maintain, Belgium and the Netherlands can be unable to include an invasion, and their defenses would possible unravel, exposing the guts of Belgium.

A Pricey Defensive Construction

The fort was constructed between 1932 and 1935 on Saint Peter’s Hill, a robust defensive place and pure overlook from which hostile army motion could possibly be seen  miles away. It was actually constructed into the hill at a price of 50 million Belgian francs, an enormous value on the time for a small nation like Belgium. 

Eben-Emael’s design rendered it nearly unassailable by typical floor forces; in truth, it was constructed to “deter an aggressor from the east from considering breaching Belgian neutrality.”

Formed like an arrowhead or diamond, with the sharp level dealing with north, the fort measures three,600 ft from north to south and a couple of,600 ft from east to west, and occupies an space the dimensions of 70 soccer fields. The fort’s defenses took benefit of pure and engineered obstacles that might make it too pricey to assault. The Albert Canal, operating alongside its japanese edge, lined with near-vertical concrete sides greater than 130 ft excessive, rendered assault from that quarter inconceivable. To the west, the fort was bordered by the Geer River and strengthened by an antitank ditch. To the south it was defended by a 30-foot-wide antitank ditch 20 ft deep.

A Fort of Immense Firepower

Fort Eben-Emael’s offensive and defensive capabilities and weaponry have been superior, even by right now’s requirements. To intimidate anybody considering attacking the fort, it boasted a complete of 16 gun emplacements. The highest of the fort, 120 ft larger than the entry blockhouse on the base, was dotted with seven fortified blockhouses armed with 60mm antitank cannon and machine weapons, topped with small concrete remark domes.

Six different thick, concrete casemates have been sprinkled across the prime of the fortress, 4 of which have been armed with triple 75mm weapons with a variety of seven miles. Two of those casemates have been positioned to fireside to the north the place the Albert Canal and Maastricht have been situated, thus they have been referred to as the Maastricht casemates. Two casemates confronted south towards the small city of Vise, and have been named Vise 1 and Vise 2. These casemates coated the southern bridges throughout the Albert Canal and may be used to fireside on the opposite fortresses round Liège in the event that they got here underneath assault.

Three giant, flying-saucer-shaped cupolas with 12-inch-thick, 360-degree rotating armored domes fitted with twin 75mm weapons that would hearth in all instructions have been additionally positioned on prime of the fortress. The domes might rise 4 ft above the casemate for higher remark and firing elevation after which be retracted for reloading. Coupole Nord (Cu 120), the middle cupola, had the most important weapons within the fort—two 120mm weapons positioned alongside one another for max firepower impact. Three false cupolas product of skinny metal have been emplaced across the fort’s perimeter to additional confuse and deter potential attackers. Every casemate or cupola had electrical elevators to offer ammunition to the gun emplacements.

Strategically located on commanding heights overlooking the Albert Canal and several key bridges, the mammoth fortress of Eben-Emael could only be successfully penetrated from the air—by glider troops.

Strategically situated on commanding heights overlooking the Albert Canal and a number of other key bridges, the mammoth fortress of Eben-Emael might solely be efficiently penetrated from the air—by glider troops.

Two blockhouses have been sited on the banks of the Albert Canal to fireside north and south to guard the bridges and have been thus named Canal Nord and Canal Sud. Six outdoors artillery statement posts have been linked to the fort, overlaying the more than likely enemy approaches. Moreover, 5 giant, closely defended concrete blockhouses protected the south and east sides of the fort, with Bloc 1 being the fort’s important entrance. Gun crews consisted of 16 to 30 males, relying on the sort and variety of weapons within the emplacement.

And, as if all of those positions weren’t formidable sufficient, two concrete machine-gun emplacements, Mi Nord and Mi Sud, have been sited to cowl the opposite gun emplacements on prime of the fortress within the unlikely occasion that any enemy floor troops managed to penetrate the spectacular exterior defenses.

Thus, the fort’s Offensive Battery comprised the north- and south-facing artillery casemates, whereas the three gun cupolas and the Defensive Battery consisted of the blockhouses and machine-gun emplacements, with 4 antiaircraft pits added on the south finish of the fort for good measure.

Airborne Vulnerability

Regardless of the spectacular machine-gun and antiaircraft emplacements, the fort’s higher floor lacked absolutely developed belts of barbed wire, mines, and trenches to guard the casemates and cupolas from direct airborne assault just because Belgian planners had by no means thought the thought of an airborne assault was possible. The shortage of antiaircraft emplacements signifies precisely how oblivious the planners have been to such an eventuality. Airborne assault, whether or not by paratrooper or glider, had nonetheless not been absolutely conceptualized in 1940.  Hitler ordered his airborne troops to coach in absolute secrecy, lest the Belgians be warned of his plans.

5 miles of underground tunnels and galleries inside Saint Peter’s Hill have been put in over the fortress’s two ranges. Indicators at intersections indicated which path the troopers ought to go to succeed in their defensive positions. Even at the moment, when touring the fort, guides are very cautious to maintain the teams collectively so nobody will get misplaced within the lengthy passageways.

The Decrease Degree, accessed by way of Bloc 1, contained a decontamination room, defensive positions, armorers’ workshops, rest room and bathe amenities, holding cells for recalcitrant Belgian troopers, electrical turbines, kitchens, storerooms, a commander’s workplace, barracks, an infirmary, and a pump room. The Intermediate Degree consisted of three miles of tunnels that offered entry to all preventing blocs, casemates, cupolas, and defensive blockhouses, plus a command publish, phone trade, ammunition magazines, and ammunition hoists and stairs.

To make sure most safety, the fort was designed with back-up defensive techniques that could possibly be introduced into place if any of the cupolas or casemates have been breached. A collection of armored doorways might seal off every gun emplacement if the emplacement was captured. The armored doorways have been organized in twin pairs, with an area between that might be full of sandbags and eight-inch metal beams in an emergency. These labored successfully when the German glidermen attacked, and the fort’s inside was by no means breached.

The Fort’s Garrison

The garrison’s regular complement of troopers was 500, plus one other 200 for command, technical, and administrative duties. Nevertheless, in Might 1940, many have been sick from throat and respiratory irritations from their weeklong stints within the dusty tunnels. On Might 9, 1940, the day earlier than the assault, the gun battery power was down by 100 males, as many conscripted troopers, with conflict looming, have been recruited away into the Belgian Military. Between sick troopers, conscripts whose service had expired, and a further 150 males away on depart, the garrison was 250 males under operational power at this significant time.

The full approved garrison power of 1,200 males, 233 of whom have been stationed 4 miles away within the village of Wonck, meant that reinforcements can be late if the fort have been to return underneath assault; the off-base troopers can be summoned by the firing of 20 clean rounds from the fort’s huge weapons. By Might 1940, morale was low resulting from repeated alerts and false alarms through the Phoney Warfare, and the lads have been tired of garrison life. Coaching suffered, and gear was not maintained for fight readiness. Moreover, the Belgian troops have been all artillery educated, versus infantry educated, which confirmed in fight when the Belgian troopers have been ordered to counterattack the Germans on prime of the fort.

A flame-thrower attack against a Belgian position can be seen in the upper left. This photo and the two opposite are stills taken from the German propaganda film, Victory in the West.

A flame-thrower assault towards a Belgian place might be seen within the higher left. This photograph and the 2 reverse are stills taken from the German propaganda movie, Victory within the West.

The difficult Belgian chain of command meant that fort commander Jean Jottrand couldn’t instantly order the weapons to fireside. They might solely be fired on the command of the Belgian models within the surrounding space, and solely at targets specified by them. This might show to have dire penalties through the assault—for this lack of unbiased determination making and fast response would allow the Germans to realize a foothold on the fort earlier than the weapons might hearth.

Whereas no single one among these errors would have resulted within the fall of the fort, the mixed impact would value beneficial lives and time at important moments through the assault.

The German Plan to Take Fort Eben-Emael

The airborne assault on Fort Eben-Emael was just one a part of a posh airborne  and floor assault plan. Hitler’s technique referred to as for 3 different glider events to be launched concurrently the Eben-Emael assault group.

These three teams have been to take the three street bridges throughout the Albert Canal. Sturmgruppe Stahl (Assault Group Metal) was to seize the Veldwezelt Bridge, Sturmgruppe Breton (Concrete) would assault the Vroenhoven Bridge, and Sturmgruppe Eisen (Iron) was to seize the bridge at Kanne.

All bridges had been wired for demolition by the Belgians, so the assault teams needed to land as shut as attainable to the goal bridges in simultaneous shock assaults earlier than they could possibly be defeated by the Belgian defenders. All of this whereas the fort was being neutralized by the fourth glider assault group—code-named Sturmgruppe Granit (Granite). It was the most important of the 4 teams, with 87 males assigned.

Altogether, 420 Fallschirmjäger and 42 glider pilots underneath the general command of Captain Walter Koch have been assigned these troublesome duties.

Junkers Ju-87 Stuka dive-bombers can be offered for shut air help. Then paratroopers would land to offer help 40 minutes after the preliminary glider landings, adopted by the 4th Panzer Division of the German Sixth Military that would offer artillery help because the troops approached the bridges from the border.

The important thing to efficiently overcoming the fort’s defenses can be to knock out the fortifications inside the first hour, whereas the Belgians have been confused and disoriented. If this might not be completed, the Belgians would have time to regroup and counterattack, hindering the Fallschirmjägers’ demolition of the weapons. The pioneers (fight engineers or sappers) of Granit have been divided into 11 sections, with one part in every glider. Every part was assigned a specific numbered goal on the fort’s floor. Granit’s first precedence was to destroy the antiaircraft weapons, then the statement domes on prime of the casemates. Then the Granit pressure would destroy the weapons pointing north.

German troops cross the Albert Canal as an artillery round smashes into Eben-Emael’s 40-meter-tall walls.

German troops cross the Albert Canal as an artillery spherical smashes into Eben-Emael’s 40-meter-tall partitions.

The German fight engineers can be relieved inside 24 hours by pioneers of the 51st Battalion and 151st Infantry Regiment, who would assault the inside of the fort and pressure its give up. Even at this time, many regard this difficult plan as too dangerous, but Hitler’s Fallschirmjäger educated for it with nice relish and confidence.

The Brandenburg Commandos

The Sturmgruppe Granit glidermen, beneath the direct command of 1st Lieutenant Rudolf Witzig, have been primarily Germany’s first Particular Forces, educated in firearms, night time operations, parachuting, and survival coaching, with a lot emphasis positioned on unbiased considering and psychological and bodily resilience. They have been even educated on tips on how to drive Belgian trams. As a result of the battalion educated in Brandenburg, close to Berlin, they have been referred to as the Brandenburgers. They have been then moved to Czechoslovakia to follow on the Czechs’ fortified protection strains within the Sudetenland, then to Poland, and eventually to 2 airfields close to Cologne. 

The Brandenburgers educated in full secrecy for six months earlier than the assault, utterly minimize off from the surface world. No mail, no guests, no depart, and no contact with different German troopers have been permitted. Their parachute badges have been faraway from their uniforms. The place they have been going to assault was by no means talked about; they solely discovered the identify of the fortress after that they had captured it. Two paratroopers who have been overheard making indiscrete feedback about their mission have been court-martialed and sentenced to dying inside hours, though the sentences have been commuted the day after the assault occurred.

Extremely educated sport glider pilots have been recruited for the assault, though many at first refused the chance to participate on this assault; they have been anticipated to turn into squaddies after the touchdown and take part within the preventing. Reluctant pilots have been ultimately persuaded to participate on this nice journey by interesting to their patriotism “for the Führer,” and got the identical pioneer coaching because the Brandenburgers.

German troops cross the Albert Canal as an artillery round smashes into Eben-Emael’s 40-meter-tall walls.

German troops cross the Albert Canal as an artillery spherical smashes into Eben-Emael’s 40-meter-tall partitions.

Formed Fees: The German Secret Weapon

Hitler, who had conceived of this complicated assault, had one other secret weapon up his sleeve. His engineers had just lately invented a brand new sort of explosive, the hollow-charge weapon—with out which the assault couldn’t have been tried. By shaping typical explosives round a copper cone, the detonation produced a plasma jet of molten metallic that would penetrate almost 10 inches of metal and even undergo virtually 14 inches of concrete—good for the bunker busting at Fort Eben-Emael.

The formed fees got here in two sizes. The most important cost, weighing 110 kilos, was in two sections and needed to be hand positioned on the bunker. Then a fuse needed to be lit whereas the troopers took cowl. The smaller cost might penetrate from four.75 to six inches of metal. The paratroopers educated to hold the explosive costs by carrying heavy rocks round, making their fellow troopers assume they have been army prisoners.

Paradoxically, a Swiss scientist had invented an identical explosive for the French army, and the French formally permitted it on Might 10, 1940, the day the formed cost was utilized by the Germans on Eben-Emael.

Rehearsing For the Assault

The DFS 230 glider was based mostly on the design for a meteorological plane, with a brief airframe and stubby 72-foot wingspan. With a framework of metal tubing coated by painted canvas material, the DFS might carry eight troopers, a pilot, and a number of other hundred kilos of ammunition, for a complete payload of four,600 kilos. It was towed by a Junkers 52 transport aircraft and, as soon as launched from the tow aircraft, might glide 12 miles and land precisely on a pinpoint goal. Its undercarriage was a skid hooked up under the fuselage.

A view of Bloc 1, the main visitor entrance to Eben-Emael today. Scars caused by munitions are visible on the concrete.

A view of Bloc 1, the primary customer entrance to Eben-Emael in the present day. Scars brought on by munitions are seen on the concrete.

Two full gown rehearsals of the glider assault on Eben-Emael have been made, nevertheless it was discovered that the gliders couldn’t cease on prime of the fort; they might have slid proper throughout the highest and over the sting. To deal with this, a picket saw-toothed drag brake was put in underneath the glider to dig into the bottom. Hannah Reitsch, Hitler’s well-known check pilot, personally examined the glider braking system and located it to be operational.

Because the date for the operation drew close to, the gliders have been disassembled and loaded into furnishings vans, then transported to the Cologne airfields beneath heavy safety and alongside empty roads at night time. The airfields have been surrounded by barbed wire and hidden from the view of different German troops by straw mats that have been hung round them.

The Invasion of Belgium Begins

At midnight on Might 9 the German Excessive Command, Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH), issued orders to start out the invasion of Belgium. Captain Koch acquired the orders at 12:40 am, woke the lads at three am, and ordered them to make ultimate preparations. The Junkers aircrews and Luftwaffe floor crews arrived on the airfields to make last-minute preparations. The departure time was  four:30 am, calculated to have all 4 glider teams touchdown at 5:25 am on their numerous targets. All went easily; at four:35 the final glider was off the bottom.

The pilots flew alongside a path illuminated by a line of blue searchlight beams and bonfires 20 kilometers aside, directing them to the Dutch border, at eight,500 ft. Issues quickly arose. The glider carrying commander Lieutenant Witzig was forged unfastened early, and one other glider was freed by a close to collision, depriving the Granit assault group of two gliders earlier than that they had even reached the fort. This was 20 % of their power and included their commanding officer. However, as soon as the plan had been activated, it couldn’t be recalled, so the remaining planes continued.

A German DFS 230 glider of the type used on the Eben-Emael assault. This glider is on display at the Berlin Gatow airfield aviation museum.

A German DFS 230 glider of the sort used on the Eben-Emael assault. This glider is on show on the Berlin Gatow airfield aviation museum.

A robust tail wind meant that the Junkers needed to tow the gliders over the Dutch border, compromising the silent strategy. The gliders have been lastly launched at 5:10 and, after 15 minutes of gliding, approached Fort Eben-Emael.

A lot earlier, the Dutch and Belgian armies had detected the sound of German armor shifting alongside the border, and Eben-Emael’s commander, Main Jottrand, acquired an alert order at 12:32 am from Headquarters III Corps. The fort’s inner siren rang and the method of calling in key personnel by phone started. Affirmation of the alert got here at four am, when the Junkers have been heard flying over Dutch airspace. Jottrand lastly sounded the invasion alert. He ordered the Kanne Bridge and the lock at Lanaye to be demolished, and for the 2 momentary picket barracks on the entrance to Bloc 1 to be razed to the bottom to allow a full subject of fireside from the place.

Sadly, a number of the gun crews despatched to demolish the barracks have been Jottrand’s skilled gunners, leaving inexperienced troops on the weapons. These soldeirs didn’t know the procedures for summoning the remainder of the troops at Wonck (firing 20 clean rounds). Additional, firing pins from Coupole Sud had just lately been eliminated and had not been changed correctly. Lastly, an armorer changed them and a few warning blanks have been fired at three:25, however the muzzle flashes set hearth to the camouflage netting, obscuring the firing periscope’s view. The warning photographs weren’t accomplished, and most of the Belgian troopers at Wonck ignored the summons.

At 5:15 am, Jottrand was knowledgeable of unidentified plane over Maastricht, so he put the 4 machine-gun and antiaircraft crews on excessive alert. By 5:25 the gliders have been already skidding to a cease on prime of the fort, and the machine-gun crews that had opened hearth at shut vary couldn’t zero in on the fast paced gliders. Two of the machine weapons jammed. Gliders have been touchdown concurrently by the three bridges on the Albert Canal. Ten minutes later the German floor offensive started.

Taking Out Cupole Nord

The 71 German paratroopers fanned out as they landed and quickly went about their enterprise, now underneath command of Sergeant Helmut Wenzel. The machine-gun positions on the south finish of the fort have been captured instantly by Sergeant Erwin Haug’s part, the primary glider workforce to land. The glider landed so shut to at least one place that it tore a machine gun proper out of the pit and stopped beside one other pit. Sergeant Karl-Heinz Lange led a quick cost on the pit and threw a stick grenade into it, killing one Belgian and enabling the Germans to seize two others.

Cupola 120. Note the circular damage caused by a hollow-shape charge over the gun.

Cupola 120. Observe the round injury brought on by a hollow-shape cost over the gun.

Sergeant Karl Unger’s part landed inside 30 meters of its goal, Coupole Nord, and was joined by Haug’s part. Privates Hannes Else and Herbert Plietz dashed towards the target. Contained in the cupola, the Belgians had found that they didn’t have any canister rounds prepared to comb the highest of the fort. Had they been out there, these rounds might properly have tilted the chances in favor of the defenders. Else detonated a 110-pound cost outdoors the infantry exit doorways, killing and wounding a number of Belgian troopers inside. On prime of Coupole Nord, two German glidermen had detonated one of many new 26-pound formed costs, making a powerful explosion that shook the bottom across the cupola. The blast twisted the weapons, broken the ammunition mechanism, and reduce the cables to the management system. Coupole Nord was put out of motion. The surviving Belgian troopers retreated down the steps and ready the barricade of metal beams and sand luggage.

Assaults on Maastricht 1 and a couple of

Sergeant Hans Nidermeier and his part shortly attacked the Maastricht 2 casemate after their glider landed closely within the open floor between Maastricht 2 and Coupole 120. The 2 observers within the small statement submit atop Maastricht 2 had not seen the gliders touchdown, however they knew one thing was up once they noticed legs in German uniform on prime of their casemate. A Belgian sergeant barely had time to warn the gun crews under when a cost went off atop the submit, killing the lads inside and inflicting splinters to fly in all instructions.

A second cost was positioned under a gun port, throwing the 75mm gun off its mountings, killing two Belgians and wounding one, and opening a two-foot sq. gap by means of which the glidermen scrambled after throwing hand grenades. Some Belgians lay surprised from the blasts, however the the rest scrambled down the steps to the intermediate degree the place they packed metal beams and sandbags into the safety door.

Sergeant Peter Arent’s part attacked Maastricht 1 after touchdown solely 80 ft from it. They positioned a formed cost towards one of many gun embrasures and blew one of many 75mm weapons off its mounting. The Belgians retreated right down to the intermediate degree and ready to counterattack, however Arent dropped a bundle of hand grenades down the elevator, forcing the Belgians to seal off the decrease entrance with the metal beams and sand luggage.

After touchdown solely 55 yards from Mi Sud, Sergeant Ewald Neuhaus discovered it empty as a result of its gun crew was nonetheless again at Bloc 1 clearing the administration workplaces and tearing down the picket barracks. Nevertheless, Belgian machine gunners quickly arrived and opened hearth on the attackers. Sergeant Ernst Schlosser discharged a flamethrower towards the embrasure, silencing the weapons, and shortly two 27-pound and three 110-pound hole fees detonated within the southern embrasure, inflicting the shaken Belgians to withdraw to the intermediate degree under.

Kurt Engelmann’s part assaulted Mi Nord in an analogous method. They attacked with flamethrowers, a 2.2-pound cost, a 27-pound cost and a 110-pound cost, blowing a gap via its partitions via which they attacked. A number of lifeless Belgian troopers lay about. The sector phone rang, and Engelmann calmly answered it. He listened to some rapid-fire French then stated, “Listed here are the Germans,” to which the Belgian officer replied, “Oh, Mon Dieu.” Mi Nord was to turn out to be the German command submit for the remainder of the assault.

Witzig Takes Command

By 6:30 am, Lieutenant Witzig, whose glider had been forged unfastened from the tow aircraft too early, had commandeered one other glider and Junker tow aircraft, landed on the fort and resumed command. His instant drawback was Coupole 120, which was nonetheless rotating though its weapons couldn’t hearth as a result of its periscope had not been hooked up to the cupola and the ammunition hoists and loaders weren’t working. Nevertheless, the troopers inside have been firing their rifles on the attacking Germans.

German troops, tank obstacles, destroyed buildings, and the shell-scarred exterior of Bloc 1 are all visible in this photo taken several days after the Eben-Emael garrison surrendered.

German troops, tank obstacles, destroyed buildings, and the shell-scarred exterior of Bloc 1 are all seen on this photograph taken a number of days after the Eben-Emael garrison surrendered.

At 6:45, Witzig ordered one other assault on Coupole 120; the Germans superior, sheltering behind Belgian prisoners, and hooked up a 121-pound hole cost above the left-hand gun. Though the cost didn’t penetrate, the cupola stopped turning. So the Germans moved on, considering the cupola was out of motion, and attacked Bloc 2. Nevertheless, the Belgians reoccupied Coupole 120, sporting fuel masks to guard themselves towards the poisoned environment, and continued capturing on the Germans. Later, considered one of Haug’s males, Sergeant Ernst Grechza, roaring drunk from rum in his water bottle, climbed up Coupole 120 and sat astride the gun, driving it like a bronco. Livid, Wenzel ordered the soldier down and positioned some fees into the gun barrels.

Inside 20 minutes the glidermen had efficiently attacked 9 of the Belgian positions. Fees have been positioned on seven armored statement domes, with 5 domes rendered inoperable. 9 of the 75mm weapons in three of the casemates have been destroyed.  A lot of the different casemates and emplacements fell like dominoes. Thus, the primary gun emplacements that would have critically hindered the Albert Canal assaults, with one exception, had been cleared by solely 71 males. Coupole Sud was the one gun atop the fort that remained operational, firing on targets aimed by the Bloc 1 statement posts. All German makes an attempt to destroy these positions failed, together with assaults by Stuka dive-bombers.

Low on Ammunition and Water

Because the day wore on, issues received scorching for the Germans because the Belgian military recovered from the preliminary shock of the assaults. There have been two half-hearted counterattacks by the Belgians inside the fort, however these troopers have been artillery educated and didn’t know methods to prosecute a floor assault. 

The exhausted and thirsty Germans had not been relieved based on the timetable. An effort to cross the Albert Canal on the night of Might 10 to alleviate Sturmgruppe Granit on Eben-Emael was stopped by Blockhouse Nord’s 75mm weapons.

On the fort, Witzig’s assault group was operating low on ammunition and water. To make issues worse, the opposite Belgian fortresses inside vary of Eben-Emael started directing their hearth onto its higher floor to dislodge the Germans, lobbing 1,200 shells onto the place. A number of Germans have been wounded, however most of them safely sheltered within the gun emplacements that they had captured.

After darkish the Germans renewed their assaults on a number of operational gun emplacements. Descending into Maastricht 1, they discovered the armored doorways blocking their approach. They went as much as the floor and returned with a 110-pound hole cost with which they blew within the armored doorways, killing 4 Belgian troopers, however might go no farther into the fortress due to the particles.

In the meantime, two bridgeheads over the Albert Canal had been taken intact, with the third, the Kanne Bridge, destroyed by the Belgians. Simply 40 minutes after the glider landings, paratroopers strengthened the glidermen, and ultimately Belgian resistance was overcome.

The Fall of Fort Eben-Emael

At four the subsequent morning, Pioneer Battalion 51 managed to cross the Albert Canal to subdue Bloc II by firing a flamethrower via the aperture and exploding a 110-pound cost towards the embrasure, killing one Belgian gunner and wounding six extra. By 7 am, the Germans have been climbing the slope of the fort and linking up with Witzig’s group, and at eight:30 Witzig turned the captured installations over to them.

Wearing their iconic jump smocks and Fallschirmjäger helmets, a group of glider troopers relax after securing the victory.

Sporting their iconic leap smocks and Fallschirmjäger helmets, a gaggle of glider troopers loosen up after securing the victory.

Nonetheless, some defenders have been holding out. By mid-morning, the air contained in the fort was deteriorating as toxic fumes from the explosions unfold by means of the air flow system, and Belgian morale was falling. Main Jottrand deliberate the give up, and at 11:45 a Belgian bugler, Vervier, and an officer, Captain Vamecq, stepped outdoors Bloc 1, walked throughout the retractable bridge throughout the moat and, with a white sheet flying on a brush deal with, negotiated the give up of the fort.

The firing ceased, however nobody had pulled the bridge again, and all of the sudden the whole garrison of 780 males got here out with their arms within the air behind a perplexed Vamecq; the road of despondent Belgian prisoners was one mile lengthy. The garrison had suffered 21 killed and 145 wounded. The survivors have been transported to Dortmund and Hemer and stored in strict isolation till July four, 1940, as a result of the Germans didn’t need information of their glider assault or their secret hollow-charge weapons to succeed in the Allies. Lastly, they have been imprisoned in a POW camp at Fallingbostel, close to Hannover, Germany. 

The autumn of Eben-Emael demonstrated how a quick, hard-hitting, shock assault might shock defenders, inflicting morale to plummet quickly, resulting in give up. By way of wonderful planning, revolutionary use of gliders, and hollow-charge know-how Eben-Emael fell in simply over 31 hours. Sturmgruppe Granit suffered six killed and 15 wounded. All officers of the glider assaults acquired the Knight’s Cross, and the NCOs and males of Sturmabteilung Koch, the mum or dad regiment,  acquired a beneficiant allowance of Iron Crosses, personally introduced by Hitler in a particular ceremony on Might 15, 1940.

The daring assault on Fort Eben-Emael paved the best way for speedy German victory within the West. Inside weeks, Hitler’s military marched into Paris.