Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Review: Wargaming Airborne Operations by Donald Featherstone,

Wargaming Airborne Operations.  by Donald Featherstone, copyright 1977 Kaye and Ward Ltd.
British Paratroopers, 1944

(A few months ago. I read “A Bridge Too Far” again. Two weeks ago, I saw the movie version again. Seeing a copy of Wargaming Airborne Operations offered, I bought it. Here is my review.)

American Paratrooper with Bazooka
I just finished reading Donald Featherstone’s Wargaming Airborne Operations. It is quite a read - 249 pages. Over 3/4 of the book covers the history, equipment and tactics of airborne operations. That includes coverage of Airborne operations by both sides in World War II. Less than 1/4 is the wargaming ,with advice on everything from troop scale to simulating airdrops. Be advised that this is not a hard-and-fast set of rules. Much is offered as suggestions for further development by the individual wargamer.

One thing is for sure: when you finish reading Wargaming Airborne Operations, you will have a good feel for airborne missions. Featherstone did excellent research into the subject. There is good information on the troops, their equipment and their weapons. Also explained are the types of aircraft and the role of pathfinders and supply drops.

The next part of the book discusses various airborne operations in World War II. It covers small operations as well as Market Garden (Arnhem) and Crete. In one section, Crete and Arnhem are explained in some depth, accompanied by wargame photos.
German Paratroopers

The wargaming section covers everything from movement to firing. It also offers several innovative (and some quaint) ways to simulate parachute drops and glider landings. There are also charts for armored vehicles and the penetrating power of anti-rank guns. This is all “old school” wargaming. It is very straightforward.

The wargaming section is not a cut-and-dried set of rules, however. Many things are suggestions aimed at experienced wargamers. Among these are “Chance Cards’ and “Military Possibilities” which add some of the unpredictable facts or war.

The end includes appendices. One described the structure of German, British and Americans Airborne formations. Another is a brief discourse on realistic battle fields. The last covers sources of miniatures and gear. Several of these no longer exist.

Personally, I enjoyed Wargaming Airborne Operations. It was very informative and certainly made the idea of airborne wargaming more appealing. It gave me new respect for the dangers and difficulties of conducting Airborne operations. I like the fact that the rules can be used with HO, and 1/72 scale troops and vehicles. (Call it what you will, but I was never interested in wargaming with 1/300 scale micro tanks.)

Wargaming Airborne Operations gives a lot of historical information and presents rules that work well with old school wargaming.. Informative and enjoyable, the book will give you insight into the hazards of airborne warfare. A great addition to the wargames library.
Paratroopers in C47 Airplane


British Paratroopers by Airfix (courtesy of Timothy Hall)
Though I have read of World War II airborne operations in the past, I never read of them together. Wargaming Airborne Operations covers German, US and UK operations one after another. It gives a person a lot of perspective about the vulnerability and dangers of airborne missions. One of the first things that becomes obvious is the high percentage of casualties. Many troops do not make it to their drop zones due to antiaircraft fire. Those that make it face other hazard, from being dropped in the wrong place to landing on an alert enemy.
German Paratroopers by Airfix (courtesy of Timothy Hall)

Airborne operations are risky. In World War II, they were dangerous and resulted in high casualty rates. Everything from falling in lakes to catching anti-aircraft fire made parachuting I get the impression that these kind of missions were often Pyrrhic victories. The training, discipline and leadership of airborne troops have to be intense.

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