Belgio / Monumento
Operation Strosser took place as part of the German Offensive in the Ardennes in the winter of 1944 to 45 (also known as the Battle of the Bulge). It was an ambitious plan by German forces for the German Fallschirmjager (paratroopers) to carry out a parachute drop on the Elsenborn Ridge. The plan aimed to get behind the Allied frontline but was difficult to carry out.
Eight days before the German offensive in the Ardennes was set to begin (16 December 1944), the plan was adapted and another strand was added: Operation Strosser. Around 250,000 soldiers had already been transported towards the frontline ready for the offensive, with thousands of vehicles, including hundreds of tanks.
Operation Strosser intended to drop German Fallschirmjager (paratroopers) onto the Elsenborn Ridge, behind American frontlines.
German forces had planned the Ardennes Offensive for winter hoping to limit the Allies’ aerial superiority. Poor weather conditions would ground allied aircraft and allow German Panzer units (ground soldiers) to move without being targeted from the air. However, Operation Strosser meant the German forces now wanted to carry out a parachute drop in these same poor weather conditions.
Oberstleutnant Friedrich Von der Heydte was tasked with planning Operation Strosser. His 1,000 plus men were to parachute in and move towards the area of Monschau (Germany), to capture roads leading to Eupen and Verviers (Belgium). This hoped to secure the roads needed for the advance of the German 12SS ‘Hiltlerjugend’ Panzer Division.
More than 110 aircraft were needed, many of which had pilots and crews who were inexperienced for such an operation. Additionally, many of the paratroopers had little training. The start of the German Ardennes offensive on 16 December was postponed for 24 hours, meaning that Operation Strosser could not get underway.
On 17 December, the aircraft took off and headed for the drop zone at Elsenborn Ridge. Conditions were bad with low cloud and snow showers. Many of the aircraft failed to navigate to the correct area, and some paratroopers were dropped over 80km away from the intended drop zone. By early afternoon, only around 300 men had landed in the correct area.
Short on soldiers, ammunition and supplies, the German troops quickly began to fall back, heading towards Monschau. Although unable to achieve their intended objectives, they managed to cause confusion behind the lines of the US 99th Infantry Division.
Von der Heydte landed around the Elsenborn Ridge, and fell back to Monschau, arriving on 21 December. On 23 December he was captured by American troops.
Today, a monument remembers the dead and wounded German and US soldiers, and civilian victims, of the fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.
Mahnmal, Wirtzfeld, 4761