Commandos, naval units join in attack (2-28-42)

Reading Eagle (February 28, 1942)

Commandos, naval units join in attack

Foray seen as pre-invasion gesture; U.S. troops may soon see similar action

London, Feb. 28 (UP) –
A successful British parachutist and commando attack on the northern coast of France was described in unofficial military sources today as a prelude to widespread invasion raids against the German Army in Europe.

American doughboys may soon be given a chance to participate in raids on the European coast as one of the features in training the American Expeditionary Force in Britain along commando lines for an eventual offensive. The AEF was described as “itching” to get into action.

The attack, in which air, army and naval forces participated, was believed to be part of a plan by which the British, if they cannot open a second front in Europe, will open and close at their own convenience a dozen subsidiary fronts.

Such a plan of stabbing attacks in force would create a real diversion in the west and weaken the German forces assembling for a new offensive against Russia in the spring, these sources said.

The raid announced today was the first full-scale invasion attack on French-occupied territory since Dunkirk.

Clockwork schedule

The Evening Standard said that the raid was carried out on a clockwork schedule, with bombers and night fighters attacking the German airfields and gun positions and then paratroops descending on the enemy to attack a radio location post.

The withdrawal was later covered on land by infantry and from the sea by light warcraft while the RAF maintained offensive patrols over the whole area until the operation was complete.

The RAF, it added, had established that Germany had built a chain of radio location posts along the channel to aid in combating British air sweeps over northern France.

In a combined Navy, Army and Air Force operation, parachute troops of a specially-trained airborne division were dropped on the French coast during the night by bombing planes.

Attack vital post

They attacked an important German post, center for an important radio locator by which the Germans detected the approach of airplanes, and were re-embarked successfully by ships of the Navy while the commando infantrymen held back German reinforcements and the warships’ guns covered them.

First reports said the raid had been a big success.

A military commentator described the raid as “small but very spectacular” and as a complete success.

As Britons heard of this first British challenge to the German Army in France since France’s collapse, Sir Archibald Sinclair, Air Minister, said in a speech:

We must take Germany by the throat and shake the strength out of her. We must start not in 1944, not in 1943, but in 1942.

It was understood in well-informed quarters that the parachutists opened the invasion raid, landing at specified ground objectives, and that afterward the infantry landed on the coast and established a bridgehead through which the parachutists withdrew.

Nazis admit raid

Hours after the announcement of the raid, the Germans recognized it in an official Nazi new agency dispatch, broadcast by Berlin and recorded here by the United Press:

On the northern French coast, a number of British parachutists landed last night. After they had surprised a weak coastal port they retreated back over the channel two hours later in face of the pressure of German counterattacks.

It was reported without confirmation that the radio location post which the British parachutists attacked had been used not only to detect airplanes, but to detect the passage of Allied ships through the English Channel so German coastal guns could shell them.

British military commentators were careful not to exaggerate the scale of the raid and one said it ought not in any way to be taken as an indication of a plan to open a second front.

The opening of such a front, involving the landing of an army in a powerfully defended coast, was a matter for the future. But it had always been believed that a formal invasion would be preceded by many of the kind of raid made today.