Photo from then Major Baumann's Wehrpas.
13 January 1909 Hoiersdorf, Helmstadt
01.04.28-18.03.29 Polizeischule Burg
01.09.35-30.09.36 Flieger-Ausbildungsstelle Halberstadt
01.10.36-14.11.40 Techn,-Kp./Flieger Ersatz Abteilung 13 (Nohra)
15.11.40-15.03.41 Luftkriegsakademie, Berlin-Gatow
16.03.41-19.11.41 Flugzeugführerschule C1
20.11.41-23.01.42 IV. / Kampfgeschwader 3
24.01.42-19.06.42 I. / Kampfgeschwader 27 "Bölcke"
20.06.42-01.08.42 KGr.z.b.V. 9
02.08.42-30.04.43 KGr.z.b.V. 50
01.05.43-07.05.45 II. / Transportfliegergeschwader 3
16.12.30 Reichssportabzeichen in Bronze (Reich Sports Badge in Bronze)
01.10.36 Dienstauszeichnung IV. Klasse (Long Service Award 4th Class)
14.07.37 Flugzeugführerabzeichen (Pilots Badge)
26.08.39 Medaille Zur Erinnerung An Den 1. Oktober 1938 (Commemerative Medal of 1.10.38)
18.03.42 Eiserne Kreuz 2. Klasse (Iron Cross 2nd Class)
30.03.42 Frontflug-Spange für Kampfflieger in Bronze (Operational flying clasp in Bronze for bombers)
01.05.42 Eiserne Kreuz 1. Klasse (Iron Cross 1st Class)
26.02.43 Ehrenpokal fur besondere Leistung im Luftkreig (Honor Goblet)
28.05.43 Frontflug-Spange für Transportflieger in Silber (Operational flying clasp in Silver for transport)
18.09.43 Gemeinsames Flugzeugführerabzeichen und Beobachterabzeichen (Combined Pilot's and Observer's Badge)
18.09.44 Frontflug-Spange für Transportflieger in Gold (Operational flying clasp in Gold for transport)
07.11.44 Deutsches Kreuz in Gold (German Cross in Gold)
19.05.44 Rumänische Medaille "Krues gegen den Kommunisim" (Rumanian Anti-Communist Medal)
Baumann's Flieger Ausweis ca. 4 March 42
Baumann's Beobachterschein (Observers Badge License) ca. 20 October 42
To best understand Major Baumannís task ahead of him during Operation Stösser, it is best to give an impression of the goals, shortcomings and logistics associated with this operation.
Operation Stösser was the last German airborne operation of World War II, and best demonstrated the cumulative effect of the Luftwaffe's airlift training death spiral. By the time of its execution, the Luftwaffe no longer maintained training or proficiency in combat airlift tasks such as low altitude and formation flight, or airdrop operations. Yet as part of the planned German offensive toward Antwerp (now known as The Battle of the Bulge), this attempted insertion of a parachute infantry blocking force along the northern line of advance of the 6th Panzer Army necessitated all of these skills and more. The airlift ultimately failed. While a lack of resources and insufficient planning contributed to the failure, reduced airlift training and proficiency was the underlying reason more than 800 German Fallschirmjaeger met disaster
December 3-4, 1944
Although the idea of executing a winter offensive to split the Allied armies and drive on Antwerp originated with Adolf Hitler, gathering the means to secure this objective fell on his subordinate commanders, chiefly General Walter Model of Heeresgruppe B [Army Group B]. In planning conferences on, December 3-4, 1944 Model broached an old idea to his staff - that of dropping paratroopers in advance of the line of attack to seize and hold vital crossroads. He wanted to ensure the smooth westward advance of the 6th Panzer Army's northern flank, specifically that of the rebuilt 12th SS Panzer Division 'Hitlerjugend' . Model tasked I Fallschirmarmee Commander General Kurt Student with assembling a Kampfgruppe for the parachute assault.
December 8, 1944
Student turned to his most trusted regimental commander, Oberstleutnant Graf von der Heydte, a veteran of the Battles of Crete, Normandy, and Holland. Attached to Waffen-SS Generaloberst Sepp Dietrich's 6th SS Panzer Army, von der Heydte requested 100 men from each regiment in Student's command.
December 11, 1944
Only when reporting to Dietrich on this day did von der Heydte fully comprehend his mission. Without appreciation for the methods or effects the paratroopers brought to the operation, Dietrich assigned his unit the task of blocking a junction of three roads in the Hohes Venn [literally, area of the Belgian Ardennes Forrest. Intelligence information was scarce; the American V Corps held the line opposite the 6th SS Panzer Army, but von der Heydte received little else in the way of disposition. Undiscouraged, he left to find the pilots assigned to insert his 870-man force in the Belgian highlands. Luckily, he received more materiel support than intelligence support in the coming days.
The Luftwaffe transport Offizier assigned two airlift units to Operation Stösser; II Gruppe, II Transportgeschwader 3 was to be commanded by Major Otto Baumann, and III/Transportgeschwader 4, an ad hoc unit organized on short-notice, commanded by Hauptmann Brambach. Baumann, a veteran airlift pilot who flew at Crete and Demyansk, also commanded ll/Transportgeschwader 3 during the Stalingrad airlift and in the Tunisian bridgehead as well. By December, 1944, no veterans of his "Stalingrad Squadron" remained except their commander. Based at Paderbom Airfield, Baumann's pilots had some operational experience; many executed parachute resupply and assault airlift operations under fire almost continuously since the summer of 1943. Hauptmann Brambach's group at Lippspringe Airfield lacked comparable experience or proficiency. Much of his force arrived to their operational squadrons straight from pilot training. They lacked currency in night flying, navigation, and airdrop operations; none had flown a Ju-52 in formation. The majority lacked any significant combat experience. Curtailed training programs, inexperienced instructors, and fuel shortages produced a pilot force unable to execute the basic missions of combat airlift. In the coming days, planning for Operation Stasser exposed the Luftwaffe's disregard for training and employing its airlift force and the operational impact of such actions during mission execution.
December 14, 1944
Major Baumann briefed the officers assigned to support the insertion, Generalmajor Dietrich Pelz, a career bomber pilot in command of II Jagdkorps. Operation Stosser faced several challenges. Execution on the day of the initial attack required an insertion of paratroopers well in advance of the ground forces' movement. Allied air superiority and radar coverage of the front necessitated low level ingress to the target area behind Allied lines in order to avoid detection; the airlift pilots stopped training on low level operations years ago. The target was in mountainous terrain, which increased the danger of impacting the ground. Landing to offload the troops proved impossible as no airfields existed in the target area; airdrop was the only option. Ensuring all Fallschirmjiiger dropped together near the target area required flight in close formation. Few of the pilots had flown the Ju-52 in formation, and none had done so at night or in mountainous terrain. Finally, the attacks predetermined timing and overwhelming Allied air superiority meant execution in darkness, something the German airlift force had never attempted. Untrained for low altitude, mountainous, formation or night operations, not to mention navigating to a defended target in these conditions, Baumann's force faced a mission outside the span their capabilities.
Unless they flew in a single file line at medium altitude to the target area, Baumann feared losing his entire force to navigation errors, enemy fire, or flight into the rising Belgian terrain. Von der Heydte balked at this idea. Seventy aircraft dropping in-sequence would result in a single file "formation" nearly forty minutes in length; the paratroopers required assembly as fast as possible to secure their objectives. Grim in his estimations of success, Bauman studied Pelz as the old bomber pilot smiled with a solution to the airlifter's problems: fly like a "bomber stream." Launch aircraft from both fields simultaneously, route them over a prescribed flight path, keep all aircraft lights on and rejoin the formations together in tighter spacing. Pelz boasted that even without formation or night training the pilot's basic skill would keep them from hitting each other. If they used the bomber stream tactics the formation could pass over the drop zone and deliver the paratroopers in seventeen minutes. More importantly, he pledged his night fighter and bomber instructor pilots would teach the airlifters to master the formation.
To boost Baumann's confidence and chances of success, Pelz's pilots planned the night navigation portions of the flight. They telephoned subordinate Luftwaffe units and arranged for searchlights to mark a path to the front lines between Paderborn Airfield and the Ruhr Valley. Pelz ordered the Bonn-Hangelar Airfield lighting illuminated for use as a navigation checkpoint despite the blackout orders in effect. Planners coordinated with anti-aircraft batteries at the front line to fire star-shell illumination rounds and colored tracers into the night sky marking the direction of the drop zone once the formation approached. They prepared detailed maps of the approach and target area to aide in navigation. Lastly, they arranged for the experienced bomber pilots from Nachtschlachtgruppen 20 and 106 to lead the formation to the drop zone in fifteen He-111 bombers. These pathfinders would mark the target with incendiary bombs and drop 300 straw dummy Fallschirmjdger in the vicinity as decoys. Aside from flying the mission themselves, there was little more the II Jadgkorps could offer; execution rested on the young shoulders of airlift pilots.
December 15, 1944
Kampfgruppe von der Heydte and the airlift groups spent the next 48 hours assembling at Paderborn and Lippspringe airfields, rehearsing operations and . completing pre-flight coordination. Orders soon arrived from the Chief of Staff of the 1st SS Panzerkorps: drop at 03:00 on December 17. With all preparations complete by 23:00 the evening prior, the assault force rested for a few fitful hours.
December 17, 1944
The difficulties encountered in planning only hinted at those to come in launching the transports and their human cargo airborne. Shortly after the transport pilots completed preflight preparations and navigation calculations, a pathfinder reconnaissance aircraft from II Jagdkorps returned from the target area north of Malmedy. Higher than forecast winds observed at altitude forced a re-computation of the entire flight profile. Observed winds at the drop zone gusted between 28 and 31 miles per hour (mph). Von der Heydte shot a concerned glance at Baumann; both knew wind speeds in excess of 18 mph could injure the entire Fallschirmjdger force. The reconnaissance pilot continued: hazy conditions enroute to the target made for poor visibility and cloud cover over the target approached overcast. In many places clouds obscured mountain tops, making low altitude flight and navigation more hazardous.
As the pilots stepped to their awaiting aircraft, Baumann wondered aloud if they could even get airborne on such a night. Snow began to fall as the overloaded Ju-52s started engines. Flames flickered at the exhaust ports, clearly visible as only a third of the aircraft possessed flame dampeners normally installed to hide the exhaust at night. As the procession struggled airborne, the first incarnations of the Luftwaffe's reduced training programs materialized. Packed with men, weapons, and ammunition, many of the transports exceeded their maximum designed cargo load - some by as much as half a ton. One of the II/Transportgeschwader 3ís Ju-52s struggled airborne during its heavy-weight takeoff, stalled and belly flopped at the end of the Paderborn runway, its crew unable to safely takeoff. The rest of the 67 aircraft lumbered into the snowy night, red and green wingtip navigation lights shining brightly, the long strung out formations clearly visible even in the snowy night sky. The two formations lifted off simultaneously; Baumann's veteran force in 32 Ju-52s of lI/ Transportgeschwader 3ís from Paderborn, Brambach's 35 novice crews of lll/ Transportgeschwader 4 from Lippspringe. They droned west for two minutes, climbing as they turned southwest toward Wewelsburg, the first navigation checkpoint; III/ Transportgeschwader 4 north of the town, II/ Transportgeschwader 3 to the south. As they headed for Bonn, searchlights marking their waypoints shone brightly into the night sky, reflecting off the cloud base 100 feet above each formation flying just 500 feet above the ground. Turbulent air rocked the aircraft as they executed the rendezvous and formed into a single formation, the veterans of the "Stalingrad Squadron" in the lead.
As the formation approached the front lines, it began to fall apart from the rear-forward, like a zipper unzipping. Several of the overloaded and underpowered Ju-52s fell back from the formation. Pilots noted stronger than forecast winds at altitude. The formation lost integrity as inexperienced pilots and navigators turned to their next checkpoints based on pre-calculated winds and ground speed, rather than following their formation leaders. Stronger than expected headwinds made timing from point-to-point based on pre-flight calculations inaccurate; the novice aircrews turned early or missed checkpoints entirely. Ten crews at the tail mistakenly turned towards Aachen and lost the formation. They encountered heavy Allied anti-aircraft fire and eventually returned to Lippspringe completely disoriented, without dropping their Fallschirmjdger. As the rest of the formation continued on, it passed checkpoints illuminated by searchlight beams. When the first aircrews passed overhead, the searchlights quickly winked out, leaving the trailing aircraft without reference points and creating confusion. As expected when approaching the front lines, occasional star-shells and tracers lit the way to the Hohes Venn. As the formation crossed the front, the sky exploded. Illuminated against the cloudy overcast sky by the navigation and position lights meant to assist pilots in avoiding collisions, the Ju-52s drew heavy Allied anti-aircraft fire. The formation disintegrated in the shrapnel-filled skies near the Belgian border.
The veterans of the Il/transportgeschwader 3 pressed ahead towards the Ardennes drop zone. Making the final turn, Bauman and von der Heydte saw incendiary fires in the shape of a cross in a tiny field to the west; General Pelz's night fighters did their job marking the drop zone. With much of the Paderborn formation still intact, II/TG3 dropped their Fallschirmjdger over the Hohes Venn at 03 :30, despite terrible visibility, snow, and winds gusting in excess of 30 miles per hour. In spite of the dangerous conditions and determined to execute his mission, von der Heydte leapt into the darkness from the lead aircraft. Most of his kampfgruppe followed. The high winds resulted in hundreds of Fallschirmjdger injured and out of action. Only 320 of the original 870 assembled for battle; many never even reached the drop zone.
While Baumann's veteran Il/TG3 completed their drops, the newly constituted IIl/TG4 at the tail end of the formation unraveled. Disoriented by a lack of navigation checkpoints, untrained in maintaining formation, flying at night for the first time in poor-visibility conditions through mountainous terrain, and now receiving heavy enemy fire from the alerted Allied gunners, the terrified pilots endeavored to escape. Ten aircraft tumbled from the sky in flames; Allied night fighters on the prowl over the front lines claimed two more. Of those who made it through the flak, some flew the last thirty-five miles to what they believed was the target area by dead-reckoning; the predetermined heading led them miles off course. Others dropped their paratroopers over the Bonn Airfield, somehow mistaking the lit tarmac for the target area. Some flew past checkpoints and dropped their cargos over Cologne; many Fallschirmjiiger landed some eight miles behind the German lines. Those pilots that made it to the target vicinity groped in the inky blackness for the incendiary drop zone markings; the fires burned out before the second half of the formation arrived over target. Confused, disoriented, cold, and terrified, the airlift force turned northeast as they dropped their Fallschirmjiiger; for those unfortunate parachute infantrymen, the battle had just begun.
When von der Heydte crashed to the earth he found himself alone; it took an hour to find five members of his command, another three to assemble 150. His force, scattered to the winds behind enemy lines, totaled 320 by nightfall on December 17; no others joined him. Though depleted, von der Heydte managed to reach his crossroads, but could not secure the objective. He nonetheless evaded elements of the American 18th Infantry Regiment and captured 200 prisoners despite not possessing any heavy weapons. The 12th SS Panzer Division never arrived; elements of the American V Corps checked their advance and destroyed most of their armor over the course of the next two weeks.
December 19, 1944
With only a single day's food supply and limited water, Heydte withdrew his forces towards the German lines. He used their limited ammunition to attack the rear of the American lines. Only about one-third reached the German rear.
December 22, 1944
Heydte, wounded, frostbitten, and suffering from pneumonia, knocked on doors in Monschau until he found a German family. The next morning he sent a boy with a surrender note to the Allies.
December 23, 1944
Hyedte is taken prisoner and remained in custody until 1947.
Operation Stösser thus ended in failure, though not without several notable occurrences. First, although short of successful, the airdrop did occupy American troops on the northern flank of "the Bulge." Dummy drops combined with the scattering of von der Heydte's force across a thirty mile front convinced the Allies that an entire division dropped into the Ardennes. Considering the enormity, timing, and unexpectedness of the German attack, this is not an unreasonable analysis. As V Corps responded to the confused situation, it assigned 3,000 men to hunt down and engage the German paratroopers; combat power otherwise unavailable to check the German advance. Second, after-action reports demonstrate how reduced training affected the transportation groups in the airdrop. They lost ten aircraft to Allied anti-aircraft fire and another two to night fighters; ten returned to base without dropping their cargos after losing their bearings and one crashed on takeoff. Thus, of the 68 planned aircraft, only 45 executed the drop (66%). Post-mission analysis claimed only 20 aircraft dropped in the vicinity ofthe target area (44% of the aircraft airborne, and only 29% of the overall planned total). Given the composition of the force - the veteran ll/TG 3 leading the formation and the inexperienced III/TG 4 in the rear- obviously, a majority of the more experienced II/TG 3 found their targets while the novice and poorly-trained III/TG 4 went astray. These forces went into battle untrained and unable to execute their assigned mission. Their failure punctuated the poor strategic plan to train and equip a proficient Luftwaffe pilot force
In the end, Operation Stösser was not planned or executed with the Luftwaffe's poor state of airlift training and proficiency in combat airlift operations in mind. Like most of the written accounts, this operation focused on the Fallschirmjdger and the failed mission north of The Bulge, not the aircrews who inserted them there. The Luftwaffe's reduction of its own training system culminated in operational failure; pilots no longer maintained currency or proficiency in the combat airlift tasks required for such missions. Upon examining what happened on the ground, the results of the airlift operation speak for themselves: operational failure. Some argue that Operation Stösser was too small to make a difference, and thus doomed regardless. Nonetheless, small failures still warrant examination and assist in determining weaknesses in doctrine and training even today.
The outcome occurred due to the systemic destruction of Luftwaffe airlift training as World War II progressed. The Germans cut training as a matter of efficiency and a matter of operational doctrine; reduced fuel budgets and aircrew casualties added to the effects of this reduction but did not cause its sustainment. The Germans employed a system of training which routinely "robbed Peter to pay Paul," 1
1. Source: "Death Spiral: Luftwaffe Airlift Training, Operation Stösser, and Lessons for the Modern U.S. Air Force" A Monograph by Major Allen C. Morris, Jr. United States Air Force