I was chatting with a normie “history buff” recently while attending a company happy hour. In normie conversations, typically those at work events, the usual talking points revolve around sportsball, Netflix original series, vapid happenings on social media and dull watercooler gossip. After about twenty minutes of disingenuous engagement, I’m either ready to increase my alcohol intake (to deaden my senses to the prattle concerning LeBron James) or hit the road. As I was about to leave, the “history buff,” who had spent the majority of our time together discussing the HBO series Westworld, abruptly changed the subject and asked for my opinion on the Israel Defense Force (IDF). Did the meme become real?
I looked at him somewhat bewildered and asked, “Are you Jewish?” He laughed and said he wasn’t, but that he had discovered the 1977 made-for-TV movie, Raid on Entebbe – the Charles Bronson (not Jewish) IDF commando film chronicling the 1976 rescue of 106 mostly Jewish passengers on Air France Flight 139 from Palestinian kebab and troops under Uganda’s former dindu strongman Idi Amin. It’s not a bad film, but I’d recommend the somewhat related Chuck Norris and Lee Marvin commando movie The Delta Force instead (for the obvious reasons).
To be fair, Operation Thunderbolt, the IDF codename to free the hostages, was a legitimately daring and ultimately successful mission, although some of the hostages were inadvertently killed by the IDF commandos. Unsurprisingly, the rescue has been retold in eight documentaries and two (((Hollywood))) productions. The raid is also studied at US service academies and various military war colleges.
Mundane talk about the movie eventually transitioned to the near superhuman abilities (per the Shabbos goy) of the Israeli military. Presumably, this was mostly based off the Bronson movie he had just watched, but his admiration for the Israeli Special Forces’ exploits could only be described as fervid fidelity. I’d seen this sort of alien devotion from American Israeliphiles before and, unfortunately, continue to see it – i.e., muh women in their military, mandatory government service, Six-Day War, etc. Even before I began to understand the JQ, this estranged ardor for a foreign Jewish state always stuck in my craw.
I changed the subject and asked him if he admired any other country’s elite troops and included the addendum - present day or historical. While he was thinking, I casually recommended that he should research the Third Reich’s Fallschirmjäger units. I could have named the British Commandos and their gutsy, but somewhat foolish, assault on the Normandie dry dock at St. Nazaire (dramatized in the films Attack on the Iron Coast and Gift Horse). Or the truly tenacious and Herculean efforts of the men in Unit “Galahad” (recommend the 1962 film Merrill’s Marauders depicting their taxing triumph over the Japanese).
But, when I mentioned the Germans, his face soured, he shook his head and replied, “I’m not interesting in reading about them, and they were the bad guys.” The “bad guys”? I expect that sort of response from a small child, not a twenty-five year old man. Sadly, that’s the modern world we live in - one where a nation’s military exploits must be discarded and disgraced because they were on the losing side. This is especially so when said nation runs counter to our Current Year overlords’ approved “good think.” It’s a level of juvenilization that our grandfathers and great grandfathers would have scoffed at – for instance, after the Second World War, Hasso von Manteuffel, former commander of the formidable 5th Panzer Army, was able to lecture at West Point in the late 1960s (this was only few years after he was charged and convicted for having a deserter shot during the war).
Furthermore, publically, or in my case privately, admitting any sort of (even mild) appreciation for the Third Reich’s war effort is now considered at least suspicious and, at worst, decreed a full confession as a “Roman saluting” Nuremberg (or NPI) Nahtzee (and to borrow the mindless normie phrase, “not like anything is wrong with that”). Luckily, in my situation I only received a careful look and not the horrified and hysterical cries of condemnation. Fortune favors the bold, so I pressed on in my attempt to budge the normie in admitting historical fact and giving due credit to the brave Fallschirmjägers that captured the Belgian fortress Eben-Emael.
To storm the fortress would be one of the greatest special operations of the Second World War, as well as, one of the most audacious. Cracking Fortress Eben-Emael seemed improbable and almost unbelievable. It was set 150ft up on the west bank of the Albert Canal, which ran parallel to the River Maas. It was protected not only by its garrison of 2,000 men (approximately 900 at the time of the assault), but also by a mass of anti-tank ditches, concrete pillboxes, multiple anti-aircraft machine-guns and large cupolas that contained retractable heavy artillery. In addition, dummy weapon emplacements were built to fool the enemy. The northeastern side of the fortress gave onto a 130ft drop directly into the canal, while the frequently flooded ground to the northwest provided another natural impediment. The stronghold itself was a web of passageways and rooms which pushed deep underground. Eben-Emael was effectively self-sufficient as it contained living quarters, infirmaries and a communication center. The tunnel complex was built with a ventilation system complete with filters in case of a poison gas attack. Furthermore, in the 1930s Belgian engineers used ferro-concrete technologies so that the fortress would be unaffected by artillery bombardment.
Built in the early 1930s – from north to south, the fort was 900 meters long and from east to west, it was 700 meters. Two of the walls were 40 meters high and virtually vertical. Scaling them would have been impossible. The other sides of the fortress were protected by a trench around them, again making any assault challenging. To further thwart any attack, outer trenches had been designed and more walls, the majority of which were 4 meters high.
Securing the fortress would require “outside the box” thinking, which is why Uncle Adolf suggested the idea for using glider troops (the man gets almost no credit for his tactical and combat expertise). In addition to using the elite Fallschirmjägers (respectfully called the “green devils” by Allied troops), the Germans would utilize hollow-charge grenades and explosives – hollow-charge grenades were constructed by molding the explosive around a cone which left a hollow center. The increased shockwave produced by this design gave a force about fifteen times greater than the explosive weight applied conventionally. They were ideal for punching through thick concrete structures and they also kept weight to a minimum, a vital requirement for mobile (and under-supplied) paratroopers.
To capture Eben-Emael, and three essential bridges in the area, a special unit was formed called the Sturmabteilung Koch (Assault Group Koch), named after its feisty commander, Hauptmann (Captain) Walter Koch. In total, the group numbered around 500 men. For the action in Belgium, the unit was split into four groups, each with a distinct responsibility and title: “Concrete,” “Steel,” “Iron” and “Granite” (led by Leutnant Rudolph Witzig – who would end up surviving the war). Granite had the primary task of the capture of Eben-Emael –the number of men in Granite only included 83 men and two officers.
The operational achievement of these units depended almost entirely upon surprise, so their intensive training was conducted under strict conditions of secrecy – even insignia and badges were removed at times to confuse enemy intelligence. At 0430 hours on May 10th 1940, Assault Group Koch took to the air in 11 gliders and headed for Belgium. The Fallschirmjäger operations at Eben-Emael used glider deployment instead of parachute drops. Leaving their tows at a distance of about 11 miles, the gliders’ silence meant that the defenders were not alerted by engine noises. The gliders also gave greater directional control than a parachute drop, an important factor as the aircraft were actually aiming to land on the fortress’ roof.
Each distinct unit went into battle almost simultaneously, the attack on Eben-Emael itself started at 0520 when the first gliders touched down on their perilous landing zone. Two gliders had not made it to the fortress owing to snapped tow cables, one of them being Witzig’s plane. So, in an (at the time) innovative leadership tactic – the mission continued under the temporary command of a non-commissioned officer (Oberfeldwebel Wenzel). The paratroopers went into action against the artillery casements and pillboxes with flame throwers, demolition charges and hollow-charge grenades.
As the attack commenced, the paratroopers’ training and courage was immediately obvious. The group was divided into two sections, attacking the northern and southern defenses of the fortress respectively. Systematically, the two groups destroyed the key defenses in their sectors - in less than 10 minutes they had destroyed seven casements and 14 guns; by around 0540 they had taken their primary objectives. Further internal resistance meted out from a set of 75mm guns were neutralized by a Stuka diving bombing attack. The paratroopers then resisted several Belgian counter-attacks, though they now did so with their commander back. Despite several areas of the fortress remaining unsecured, the paratroopers held on through the night until they were relieved by an engineer battalion on the morning of May 11th.
The destruction visited on the Belgian forces at Eben-Emael by the Fallschirmjägers was as ruthless as it was efficient (a prevailing German philosophy). Seemingly unassailable artillery positions now lay demolished, holes punched in their sides by the hollow-charge grenades. The paratroopers of Granite lost only six killed and 20 wounded – improbable statistics when considering the magnitude of their objective.
After describing the storming of Eben-Emael, I looked at the normie “history buff” and waited for a response.
While still surveying his smart phone, he muttered, “Yeah, but they were the bad guys.”
I headed for the exit door.