Kurt Student

Kurt Student was born in Birkhonz, Germany, on 12th May 1890. He joined the German Army and was commissioned in 1912. The following year he moved to the German Army Air Service and during the First World War he piloted reconnaissance and bomber aircraft.

After the war Student remained in the armed forces and in 1934 he joined the Luftwaffe. As a senior adviser he played an important role in creating the new German air force. Promoted to major general he was instructed to form Germany's first parachute battalion in 1938. The 7th Air Division was not used in Poland because Adolf Hitler wanted to keep its existence secret until the Western Offensive.

Student's parachute troops were employed successfully in Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands in 1940. This included the dropping of 4,000 parachutists around Hague and Rotterdam. During the operation Student was shot in the head and he was unable to return to duty until January 1941.

Student was involved with Hitler in planning Operation Sealion but eventually plans to drop parachute units in England and Northern Ireland were abandoned. So also were plans to carry out an airborne invasion of Gibraltar after General Francisco Franco refused to allow support troops to go across Spain.

The airborne assault on Crete between 20th May and 1st June, 1941, was very costly when 4,000 parachutists were killed. Adolf Hitler was shocked by the scale of these losses and decided that no more large-scale airborne operations should be undertaken. The invasion of Malta was cancelled and it was decided that airborne units should be used as ground troops.

Student's troops were used in Italy, Belgium, Holland and France during 1944. After the Normandy landings his 1st Parachute Army attempted to halt the advance of General Bernard Montgomery and his allied troops to the Rhine. Just before he committed suicide, Adolf Hitler named Student to replace Gotthard Heinrici as commander of AG Vistula. Kurt Student died in 1978.

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