|Battle of Bruntál|
|Part of the Invasion of Czechoslovakia|
Junkers Ju 52 drops German paratroopers (Fallschirmjäger) near Bruntál (Freudenthal) on 1 October 1938.
| Nazi Germany|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Kurt Student|| Emil Fiala
Morning of 3 October:
From 2 October:
|Casualties and losses|
35 transport aircraft lost
37 transport aircraft damaged
|Invasion of Czechoslovakia|
| Battle of the Border|
Opava • Bruntál • Šatov • Znojmo • Křelovice • České Budějovice
The Battle of Bruntál (German: Luftlandeschlacht um Freudenthal; Czech: Bitva u Bruntálu) was a battle fought during the invasion of Czechoslovakia at the beginning of World War II. It began on the morning of 1 October 1938, when Nazi Germany launched an airborne operation south of the Czechoslovak border fortifications near Bruntál. The operation marked the first war-time use of paratroopers and air-landing operations in military history.
An assault force comprising of German paratroopers, Fallschirmjäger, and airlanding infantry was tasked with assaulting and capturing the Czechoslovak border fortifications at Bruntál; a town whose strategic position was vital for the continued advance of the 3rd Panzer Division and the Second Army. The southerly roads led into the Moravian heartland; these roads were which the German forces intended to use to advance towards Olomouc and link up with the 14th Army advancing from the south, thus encircling the Czechoslovak forces in Bohemia and preventing them from retreating towards Slovakia.
German paratroopers first landed east of Bruntál and west of Svobodné Heřmanice, where they launched probing attacks against Czechoslovak forces and reconnoitered the area. The second wave of paratroopers, assisted by members of the Sudetendeutsche Freikorps secured the villages of Valšov and Leskovec nad Moravicí temporary airfields so Junkers Ju 52 transport aircraft could airlift the rest of the division into the area. The paratroopers and the airlanded infantry then secured the border fortifications along the Košetice – Velké Heraltice road and the Košetice – Malé Heraltice road. The airborne troops were then ordered to protect the perimeter against Czechoslovak counter-attacks until they linked up with ground forces from the German 2nd Army.
While the battle was a strategic victory for the German forces, the Germans had misinterpreted the intelligence information regarding the defences around Bruntál, and the German paratroopers suffered heavy casualties and heavy losses in transport aircraft. The Czechoslovak troops were close to prevailing against the German paratroopers in the first two days of the battle. However, the landing forced the Czechoslovaks to divert troops from the Opava sector to engage the paratroopers, weakening the troops manning the fortifications under attack by the ground forces of the German Second Army.
The deployment plan for Fall Grün developed by the Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH) was presented by the chief of the general staff, Lieutenant General Franz Halder, to Hitler at the end of August 1938. The core of the plan centered on the Second Army, commanded by Generaloberst Gerd von Rundstedt and deployed in Silesia, and the Fourteenth Army, commanded by General Wilhelm List and deployed in Austria. The Second Army was to strike southward, break through the Czechoslovak fortifications in the Northern Moravia and then attack towards Olomouc. Between Olomouc and Brno they would link up with the Fourteenth Army advancing northwards from Austria, thus making a pincer and encircling the main body of the Czechoslovak Army, which would prevent their retreat towards Slovakia. Two further meetings with Hitler on 3 and 10 September resulted in minor changes to the envisaged deployment against Czechoslovakia.
Hitler had voiced concerns over the OKHs choice of laying the Schwerpunkt on the Second and Fourteenth Armies, arguing that the Czechs expected a German attack in northern Moravia and thus had built the strongest part of their fortifications in northern Moravia. He feared the attack in northern Moravia would result in a "repetition of Verdun", in which they would suffer heavy losses.
Acknowledging the strength of the Czech fortifications in Northern Moravia, the OKH planned to drop airborne troops of General Kurt Student's 7th Flieger Division behind the fortifications in front of Rundstedt's Second Army and to speed its advance. According to Abwehr, the weakest section of the fortifications were near the village of Košetice, east of the town of Bruntál. The paratroopers were to land near Bruntál, attack the light fortifications from the rear and thus clear the way for the 3rd Panzer Division.
- The first wave of paratroopers would land between Horní Benešov (Bennisch) and Svobodné Heřmanice (Frei Hermersdorf) and launch probing attacks on the Czechoslovak positions in the area, suppressing them and diverting their attention to the main landing, as well as recognoitering the area.
- The second wave of paratroopers would land east of Bruntál link up with local members of the Sudetendeutsche Freikorps, and were tasked with securing and preparing improvised landing strips for Junkers Ju 52 transport aircraft bringing the rest of the division and support weapons. were around the villages of Valšov (Kriegsdorf) and Leskovec nad Moravicí (Spachendorf).
- The third wave, comprising regular infantry and heavy equipment, would land on the secured air strips, as the paratroopers secured important communication nodes and crossroads.
- Following the arrival of the regular infantry, they would together with the paratroopers attack designated fortifications along the road Košetice – Malé Heraltice and Košetice – Velké Heraltice. When the roads had been secured, the 3rd Panzer Division could move onwards along the route Velké Heraltice / Malé Heraltice – Košetice – Svobodné Heřmanovice – Leskovec nad Moravicí – Bílčice / Jakartovice – Dvorce – Moravský Beroun – Šternberk – Olomouc.
Student's 7th Flieger Division, activated on 1 July 1938 with its headquarters at Berlin-Tempelhof, was an improvised unit comprising both Luftwaffe and Heer units spread all over the country: the I Batallion, Fallschirmjäger Regiment 1 (I/FJR 1) under Major Bruno Bräuer, the Fallschirm-Infanterie-Bataillon des Heeres under Major Richard Heidrich, the Luftlande-Bataillon "General Göring" under Oberleutnant Otto Sydow as well as a light artillery battery with 75 mm GebK 15 mountain guns under Leutnant Bruno Schram, the SA-Standarte "Feldherrnhalle" under Brigadeführer Erich Reimann, and Infantry Regiment 16 from the 22nd Infantry Division under Oberst Hans Kreysing. The corps had its own Junkers Ju 52 transport aircraft in colonel Fritz Morzik's unnumbered KGzbV, comprising 106 aircraft in Major K.G. Witt's I/KGzbV and Major K. Drewes' II/KGzbV.
Czechoslovak defensive plans
By September 1938, a total of 3,048 LO vz. 37 pillboxes armed with light machine guns had been constructed in northern Moravia, along with 246 heavy blockhouses (srub) armed with machine guns and anti-tank guns. These were reinforced by a system of obstacles like barbed wire, Czech hedgehogs, anti-tank ditches. In the sector between Sádek and Nové Heřminovy there were a total of 365 light pillboxes, while four blockhouses (OP-S 39 through OP-S 41) were still being constructed behind the villages of Malé Heraltice and Velké Heraltice.
According to the Czechoslovak Deployment Plan VII of 15 July 1938, the Second Army commanded by general Vojtěch Luža was responsible for the defence of northern Moravia between Hill 845 Bouda in the west and the Moravian-Slovak border, in total 214 kilometres. The defensive line ran through Králíky – Vojtíšov – Kolštejn – Šerák – Orlík – Bruntál – Opava – Bohumín – Jablunka Pass. They were also tasked with securing the right flank and covering the planned retreat of the First Army towards Slovakia. The Second Army would then take up positions in front of Ostrava along the Beskidy mountains. Luža had one divisions (the 7th), two border sections of a division's size (the 36th and 37th), the 8th Division in reserve and support units at his disposal. According to operational guidelines issued on the 26 September, the Second Army expected the Germans attack on both sides of the mountain range Hrubý Jeseník (Altvatergebirge), and to focus their attack between Zábřeh – Opava – Bruntál.
The XII Border Zone, under the command of General Emil Fiala, was responsible for the defence of the fortified line between Pocheň (village north of Bruntál and the Jablunka Pass in the east. An independent combat group comprising the Infantry Regiment 34 and ZLO Regiment 159, commanded by Colonel Miloslav Fiala, was responsible for covering the Bruntál section (in total 21 kilometres), and had 12 anti-tank guns at their disposal.
While morning fog and mist constrained activity by both the Luftwaffe's and the Czechoslovak air force's operations would be throughout the campaign due to fog and mist, resulting the German army to initiate operations at 6:15 AM without air support as the Luftwaffe waited for suitable weather conditions. Despite poor weather conditions, at 7:00 AM 35 Junkers Ju 52 transport aircraft of the I/KGzbV had taken off from airfields in Silesia and flying at low altitude due to low-hanging clouds. With a speed of 240 km/h and flying at an altitude of between 120 and 200 meters, 420 paratroopers of Major Bräuer's I/FJR 1 jumped out of the aircraft and landed northwest and west of Svobodné Heřmanice at 07:30. Due to the cover of fog, the initial landing were unopposed, with only a handful of the paratroopers suffering injuries upon landing. The paratroopers quickly occupied and constructed road blocks in Svobodné Heřmanice and Jakartovice as they were met with scattered rifle and machine gun fire from the nearby bunkers. At 08:00 two companies launched probing attacks on the bunkers in front of Košetice, where they quickly realized their intelligence on the bunkers in the area was faulty, as there were more bunkers than anticipated.
At 9:45 AM 336 paratroopers of Major Heidrich's Fallschirm-Infanterie-Bataillon jumped out of 28 Ju 52s south of Valšov, while Oberleutnant Sydow's Luftlande-Bataillon "General Göring" and the remaining two companies of I/FJR 1 landed north of Leskovec nad Moravicí. At Valšov the Germans suffered many casualties in the first hours of the landings, as the garrison in Bruntál had been alarmed by the landings further east and by the German attack of the Second Army.