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My Research Proposal for PhD on British and German Airborne troops.


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#1 TheRedBaron

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Posted 10 August 2002 - 04:54 PM

Yet more to read... this is my proposal which i have handed into the University have a read and let me know what you all think... Thanks.

Im afraid it has missed out the footnotes!!!

Research proposal- Angels and Eagles; the airborne forces of Britain & Germany in world war two.

Masters of Philosophy.

The aims of the MPhil are;

1. To offer a comparative analysis of the operational performance of British and German airborne troops 1939-1945.

2. To identify the factors contributing to operational performance.

PhD

The central aim of the PhD will be to analyse critically the reasons behind operational success/failure in British and German airborne operations 1939-1945. This will be achieved in three key areas where the PhD will:

· Highlight the level of strategic, tactical and material innovation in the development and employment of airborne troops.

· Analyse to what extent the part played by training, doctrine and strategic intent shaped the development and employment of British and German airborne troops 1939-1945.

· Identify and explain any distinctive characteristics in British and German airborne troops 1939-1945, and how this, along with psychological factors and military culture shaped operational performance.

Introduction and Background

In recent years there have been many works on the study of wartime airborne troops. This is in part due to their perceived ‘glamorous’ image as elite troops. They have remained a popular subject for study and this trend of popularity seems to be increasing, with such programmes as ‘Band of Brothers’, shown on BBC 2. However, the vast majority of material currently available on the airborne forces confines itself mainly to the form of military narrative describing every detail of some wartime operations. Although these works provide an excellent description of the various forces’ wartime role they are incomplete and lack academic rigour with only the popular operations covered in detail. This seems to offer a distorted view of airborne warfare, with some operations, such as Crete and Arnhem being exhaustively studied by historians such as Beevor, Clark and Middlebrook, while many other operations lack any form of serious study other than appearing merely as footnotes in other works. This does not therefore give historians an accurate picture of the British and German airborne troops’ operational performance in World War Two. Recently several works have approached the subject with a more academic slant and attempted to explain the performance of airborne troops, but these again have been confined to the few highly popular operations.
However, little work has been done to analyse the ‘Esprit du Corps’ of airborne troops and the roots of airborne performance. Most historians accept the popular view that airborne troops were an elite force, but few seem interested in defining this point of view. This is hindered by the disparity in study amongst airborne operations and a seeming unwillingness on the part of historians to question the performance of wartime airborne troops. What is needed is an investigation, which will critically assess this reputation, which has become ingrained in the popular consciousness.
Therefore to identify and explain the reasons for operational performance it will be necessary to study all operations to gain a clear, and consistent, understanding of the wartime role and performance of British and German airborne forces.
At the present time no work offers a comparative study of British and German airborne troops. Therefore this study would fill in the gaps of airborne forces’ history in World War Two.

MPhil

This study will offer a comparative analysis of British and German airborne troops during World War Two 1939-1945. This will be achieved through critical analysis of doctrinal and training manuals, after-action reports, and the letters and diaries of the respective participants, along with personal interviews with veterans.
This study will aim to promote and extend the study of British and German airborne troops during World War Two 1939-1945. It will also redefine how operational performance is examined, by using a plan of six factors, which from initial research show to be the factors most needed for operational success; Planning, Air Supremacy, Motivation & Morale, Training, Communication and Surprise. Examining a force's performance in these key areas will culminate in a clear understanding of the development and employment of Airborne Troops, as well as their wartime performance.
Furthermore, this study will aim to identify the factors that contributed to the operational performance of the British and German airborne troops. The findings of this investigation can then be contrasted with each other to identify and analyse the success/failure of their operational performance.
This then will provide a clearer understanding of the operational performance of British and German airborne troops and identify key factors relative to operational success/failure.

Resources

Initial research will include the analysis of recent works on the subject of airborne operations as well as older secondary sources. Martin Middlebrook’s book, Arnhem 1944, makes attempts to explore the military culture of the British airborne and also provides an excellent starting place for further research. Available for study at the Airborne Forces Museum in Aldershot are the full archives of the British Airborne Forces, along with this are many relevant documents from the Imperial War Museum, the National Army Museum and various other smaller museums contain unit archives and records. The Public Records Office in Kew holds many documents mainly concentrated on Arnhem, D-Day and training, and is a further vital source of information.
For evidence on German airborne troops, this will initially begin with analysis of secondary sources. This however is limited in English, and even in German there is a lack of extensive study on airborne troops. This hindrance is offset by the work of Beevor and Clark in English and in German the work of Busch and Bohmler & Haupt. Of other historians their work tends toward the military narrative rather than being of an academic nature. There are, however many primary source diaries and unit histories published, but serious study will require travel to Germany to visit the Bundesarchiv at Koblenz, the Militarchiv at Frieburg and the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich. Although these archives are incomplete due to wartime destruction, much of worth still remains. The documents are well catalogued and assistance is provided to the researcher by the helpful staff. The available secondary sources provide a starting point for further research which would involve research in Germany as well as battlefield exploration of as many sites of airborne operations as possible.

PhD

Having analysed and identified the factors behind operational performance of British and German airborne troops during World War Two, this study aims to analyse critically the reasons for such performance. This will help to give a clear impression of the roots of operational performance and highlight the strategic, tactical and material innovation in the development and employment of airborne forces. This will look at the strategic innovation of deploying troops, en masse, behind enemy lines for the first time. It will also highlight the innovation in airborne tactics, for example the use of airborne troops to rescue Mussolini from the Gran Sasso and specialist tactics for airborne forces. Furthermore, the unique nature of airborne operations inspired items of material and equipment, which were purpose-designed and advanced the boundaries of military technology.
It would also include a critical investigation of the impact of training, doctrine and strategic intent on the development and employment and the subsequent operational performance of airborne troops.
A study along the proposed lines would offer an investigation into the airborne troops reputation for ‘Esprit du Corps’, and look at the part played by any distinctive characteristics displayed by airborne forces, and how these may have shaped their development and employment. This study will also aim to identify the influence, if any, of psychological factors, and the military cultures of Britain and Germany on the development and employment of the airborne forces.

Resources

Research started with the analysis of available secondary sources, and then moved into the study of military archives for further primary source material. One of the main aims will be to investigate the reasons for the reputedly high ‘Esprit du Corps’ of airborne troops The work of recent historians provides a starting point for further research into British and German airborne troops. This would allow the identification of the factors that create, contribute to and maintain combat units ‘Esprit du Corps’ in an era of Total War.
Additionally this study will investigate training, doctrine and strategic intent during the period of 1939-1945 and clarify their role in the development, employment and performance of airborne troops. In conducting research on training many original manuals survive as well as many testimonies of former airborne troops. Military doctrine is a widely covered topic of debate and there are large numbers of works available for study alongside original doctrinal manuals. The research into strategic intent will aim to see how the strategic needs of Britain and Germany shaped the development and employment of airborne troops. This part of the study will also examine the influence, if any, of the early German ‘Blitzkrieg’ operations on British airborne forces development and employment.
This study will also discuss the influence, if any, of psychological factors and the pervading military cultures of the period on the airborne forces. These are subjects, which are emerging in popularity recently as the reasons for combat motivation and morale become of more interest to historians. A starting point for research into the psychological factors of war begins with Emil Dinter’s study, Hero or Coward, and Ben Shepard’s recent work, A War Of Nerves. This assists greatly in the research of military psychology and the work of Dr. Tom Main , an expert on leadership and morale, who served with the British Parachute Regiment in the Middle East to advise on unit morale. Shepard also covers the idea of military culture as does Middlebrook, and many historians see a definite link between the military culture of a nation and the development, employment and performance of their troops. It will require critical investigation to determine the influence, if any, of military culture on the development, employment and performance of British and German airborne troops. The work of Van Creveld and S. Fritz provide a starting point for further research into the sphere of military culture.
A study along the proposed lines will not only lead to a clearer understanding of the performance of British and German airborne troops during the Second World War, it will also discuss the relevance of the appropriate form of combat motivation, and the selection and conditioning of the troops and its effect on their operational performance. It will also attempt to quantify the reasons for airborne forces ‘Esprit du Corps’ and show how this manifested itself in airborne formations and affected their performance.
"Watch that Fu*ker, he'll 'ave someones eye out!" King Harold at Hastings 1066.

#2 Knight Templar

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Posted 10 August 2002 - 05:10 PM

You might want to put this sort of thing on a website and then post the hyper-link along with a somewhat abbreviated version here. That way, people can access the larger version if they want more information.
Besides that... what's your topic for discussion?
Or should we give you a grade?
...please forgive my stupidity...

#3 TheRedBaron

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Posted 10 August 2002 - 06:06 PM

Funny guy, not. I was hoping people might have some views on what should be expressed and sources for the ideas included. but if you want to just be sarcastic thats fine.I was hoping other people with knowledge of german and british airborne ops might reply.

By the way you dont grades for a PhD, you get to be a doctor.
"Watch that Fu*ker, he'll 'ave someones eye out!" King Harold at Hastings 1066.

#4 Erich

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Posted 10 August 2002 - 06:45 PM

Found your posting over here. Can only suggest that with the archiv's you are planning to access in Germany that you give yourself plenty of time, like many weeks for starts. If you do not have RL numerations at your disposal for Freiburg as an example it may take you some time to filter through things. Volunteers can only do so much. Be patient. national archiv's in the US may also be of some help especially if you go beyond Crete in your research. Ther are plenty of books available for your thesis both in Deutsch and in English. You'll just have to hunt them down for particulars.

E
:aceofspades: E ~

#5 Andreas Seidel

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Posted 10 August 2002 - 06:46 PM

I'm slightly confused - is this something for Philosophy or for History (which is rer. phil. or something?).
„Solange man nicht mit dem Kopf unterm Arm rumläuft geht es doch noch!" Erwin Rommel

#6 Knight Templar

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Posted 11 August 2002 - 06:29 AM

Easy, Red Baron.
I enjoy controversy and lively discussion, and
I'm perfectly willing to read through pages of text in order to participate in an exchange of ideas.
This text is not a prelude to some topic for discussion, but, more of a look what I wrote posting.
The fact that you wrote the text does not make it any more interesting for me, and, if I wanted to sit down and read a book, I would do that rather than be here.
This is somewhat similar to artists who ask for "advice," when, in fact, they are merely fishing for compliments.
But, if you really do want advice, I'll give you some.
There's nothing engaging about your writing style, which I would describe as "ponderous" at its best. You spend a lot of time getting to minor conclusions and your sentences are much too wordy. The composition lacks emphasis or any discernable style, and is simply boring.
Ask for my opinion, and there you have it.
I'm not going to be running over to my library to do research work for you, though.
As for the state of modern academic "research" in general, many of the books today are written never to be read: whether it's history, sociology, politics, cultural theory, psychology, etc. People expound on their little "niche" by rehashing the works of previous historians (in this case.) No one wants to sound controversial. By establishing themselves as experts on "The Use of Phosphur-Bronze Castings by the Kriegsmarine During the Early Stages of The War on U-Boats Staioned in the North Sea," they can avoid criticism or the chance of sounding controversial.
This is even more inexcusable when talking about the Second World War. Much of the mythology surrounding this conflict is only now being re-examined and there is plenty of material out there to form the basis for interesting, significant, and original investigation.
.
And, as far as your future title: people with a Doctorate in History do not walk around calling themselves "Dr. So-and-So" or "Doctors." In 2002, this usage is considered archaic and pretentious.
The term "Doctor" is reserved exclusively for Doctors of Medicine and Doctor Evil in the Austin Powers movies.
...please forgive my stupidity...

#7 TheRedBaron

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Posted 11 August 2002 - 11:22 AM

I wanted people to see if they had any sources which i could follow up for research. it is not an article but an academic proposal, hence the language you may find ponderous. Anyway I Thank you for your views, would you possibly read my Eagles of the reich article? All criticism is of value.

By the way I am gonna call myself a doctor just so i can stand up on the airplane when they ask "is there a doctor on board?"
"Watch that Fu*ker, he'll 'ave someones eye out!" King Harold at Hastings 1066.

#8 Knight Templar

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Posted 11 August 2002 - 06:09 PM

Red Baron,
I read/skimmed through both your postings before writing my last message. The topic, in general, was interesting, but my criticuism holds for both the Doctoral proposal as well as the article.
As I trust you're not being patronizing when you ask for my opinion, you may trust that I am not trying to be vindictive in what I have to say.
First of all, your writing flows together in one big mass. You've got to punch-up the introductory sentences to your paragraphs. Try using short sentences to establish emphasis.
Instead of:

During 1928 Brigadier General William Mitchell ordered an exercise which involved six soldiers parachuting from an United States bomber and setting up a machine gun on landing.

Try:

General Billy Mitchell's demonstration of airborne assault in 1928 was a vital contribution to the emerging tactics of mobil warfare. Tactics which would soon define modern land conflict.

Otherwise, it sounds like rambling statement of fact. You also commit the literary sin of beginning every sentence with the subject, which can really bog down the reader: mix-up your sentence construction to maintain interest.
The whole thing needs to be tightened-up.
Thematically, emphasis is established by bringing your subject through different levels of abstraction: a technique which distinguishes the true historian from a story-teller. e.g.:
1. The history of paratroopers in WWII
2. The History of British & German Paratroopers in WWII (a simple comparison.)
3. The History of British & German Paratroopers in WWII and the Development of Mobil Warfare in the 20th Century (simple comparison leading to a higher level of abstraction.)
4. The History of British & German Paratroopers in WWII (expressed as opposing philosophies) and the Development of Mobil Warfare in the 20th Century (contrasting of opposites, toward a higher level of abstraction.)
5. The History of British & German Paratroopers in WWII (expressed as opposing philosophies)and its influence on the development of Special Forces units (contrasting of opposites, toward a higher level of abstraction leading to another specific theory in the development of mobil warfare.)
The last example is dialectical, and paves the way for further research. The fourth example is not truly dialectical, arriving at a generalization; but, it it still more directed, more interesting, than the previous forms.
You have obviously done your homework and have a passion for the subject matter. With the hard part completed, don't throw it away on a simple, regurgitative essay style. Don't get lost in detail, but search for the trenchant concept and develop toward that. Write with incisiveness, emphasis, and inventiveness.
...please forgive my stupidity...

#9 TheRedBaron

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Posted 11 August 2002 - 07:47 PM

Thanks Knight Templar that is just what I wanted somebody to say!!!

It is very difficult to re-view your own work.

Thanks again,

Red.
"Watch that Fu*ker, he'll 'ave someones eye out!" King Harold at Hastings 1066.

#10 the gunners dream

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Posted 11 August 2002 - 10:39 PM

This is why I said about the other areas that the German paras fought in. They were totally misused in their role later on in the war. If you are going to write about them then you must lookat their roles in the latter part of the war.

In my opinion they were the best troops that the Third Reich had. They always gave a good account of themselves, even if they lost their battles.

The German 6th Para was virtually wiped out in the fighting Normandy, look at Van Der Heydt coming out of there with about 60 left?

An excellent book I read was Green Devils Red Devils by Edmund L Blandford. It is still available on Amazon.

It was all about Arnhem and Crete, but it had some excellent accounts from Brit and German paras.

My Granfather was a paratrooper. He was lucky not to go to Arnhem because he was still recovering from wounds. One of my memories is of him looking at famous pictures of Arnhem and telling me about some of the men in them. He would always end wby saying he didn't make it.

I reckon that if you apply yourself well to this subject you will be onto a winner.
If you are able,
Save for them,
A place inside of you.
And take one backward glance,
When you are leaving,
For the places than can,
No longer go.

#11 Affentitten

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Posted 12 August 2002 - 06:34 AM

Just wondering a couple of things:

1. Why aren't you including American troops in your research?

2. Are you intending to make a distinction between airborne and airlanding troops?

#12 TheRedBaron

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Posted 12 August 2002 - 02:54 PM

I am not including American troops because my university will not fund travel to the states. I did want to but not enough money...

Airborne forces refers to all troops delivered by air.
"Watch that Fu*ker, he'll 'ave someones eye out!" King Harold at Hastings 1066.

#13 Friedrich

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Posted 16 August 2002 - 12:56 AM

Red, I really would love to read the whole work. It really seems very interesting. And I would learn a lot about airbourne troops, which are not my speciality at all. Thanks for sharing!
"War is less costly than servitude, the choice is always between Verdun and Dachau." - Jean Dutourd, French veteran of both world wars

"A mon fils: depuis que tes yeux sont fermes les miens n’ont cessé de pleurir." - Mère française, Verdun

#14 Friedrich

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Posted 16 August 2002 - 01:01 AM

Good work, Red! I would really like to read some time the whole work. Once it's finsihed (and even better published) of course, because I will learn more about German paratroopers and a lot about British paratroopers. Both are not my speciality.
Thanks for sharing!

And by the way, I will come up with some thought on your article later, OK? ;)
"War is less costly than servitude, the choice is always between Verdun and Dachau." - Jean Dutourd, French veteran of both world wars

"A mon fils: depuis que tes yeux sont fermes les miens n’ont cessé de pleurir." - Mère française, Verdun

#15 TheRedBaron

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Posted 16 August 2002 - 02:33 AM

Thanks Herr General!!!
"Watch that Fu*ker, he'll 'ave someones eye out!" King Harold at Hastings 1066.

#16 sommecourt

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Posted 23 August 2002 - 02:54 PM

Having been away at the beginning of the month I missed this posting.

First let me say how disappointed I was with Knight Templar's response. One of the reasons I like this forum is that when you pose a question, you always get an answer and users of this site have been very helpful to me - and many others. We have some of the leading experts in the field here, and we should be promoting academic studies of the war, not knocking them flat with patronising comments.

Knight Templar is also quite wrong when he states that the Red Baron will not have the right to call himself "Dr" - it is the done thing, quite accepted here in Europe - and hell, he will have studied for 4/5 years, cast himself into poverty in the process... he deserves something at the end of it! :D

On a positive note Red Baron, the curators of Aldershot Airborne Museum and the Merville Battery are both colleagues of mine in the Battlefield Tour business, and one of them should be able to get you an introduction to Lt-Col Otway of 9 Para.

If you're interested then drop me a line via my web site. Otherwise best of luck and stick at it!
Paul Reed
Battlefields of WW2- www.ww2battlefields.com

#17 Jumbo_Wilson

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Posted 23 August 2002 - 04:21 PM

RedBaron

This looks clear and well thought out. You're aware, of course, that it will change and develop as you start your study: you may end up running down a road which you only find once you have started doing serious research.

Better than many PhD proposals I've seen (certainly better than mine was!) and the missing link is to get it to hook up with current doctrine and thinking. Britain has not done a combat air drop of any size since Suez, yet airmobile forces are increasingly used (helicopters, VTOL etc). So perhaps you might want to extend the loop out to Suez for the British as this seems to be the "sea change" for airborne troops.

I wish you the best of luck.

Jumbo
"Capital! We're nearly out of ammunition! Now we can get at them with the bayonet!" General Paddy Gough, 1st Sikh War

#18 Friedrich

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Posted 26 August 2002 - 12:35 AM

Reb, I quote Jumbo here and wish you the best. I posted my comments already in "Eagles of the Reich" if I remember well...

And by the way, it is a phd, doctor in what? History, Sociology or what? And in what University? I am just curious.
"War is less costly than servitude, the choice is always between Verdun and Dachau." - Jean Dutourd, French veteran of both world wars

"A mon fils: depuis que tes yeux sont fermes les miens n’ont cessé de pleurir." - Mère française, Verdun

#19 TheRedBaron

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Posted 27 August 2002 - 01:38 PM

I get a Doctor of Philosophy, and I am at Wolverhampton University.

Cheers Guys.
"Watch that Fu*ker, he'll 'ave someones eye out!" King Harold at Hastings 1066.




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