Airborne forces are military units, usually light infantry, set up to be moved by aircraft and 'dropped' into battle. Thus they can be placed behind enemy lines, and have an ability to deploy almost anywhere with little warning. The formations are limited only by the number and size of their aircraft, so given enough capacity a huge force can appear "out of nowhere" in minutes, an action referred to as vertical envelopment.
Conversely, airborne forces typically lack the supplies and equipment for prolonged combat operations, and are therefore more suited for airhead operations than long-term occupation; furthermore, parachute operations are particularly sensitive to adverse weather conditions. Advances in helicopter technology since World War II have brought increased flexibility to the scope of airborne operations, and helicopters have largely replaced large-scale parachute operations, and (almost) completely replaced combat glider operations. However, due to the limited range of helicopters and the limited number of troops that can be transported by them many countries retain Paratroopers as a valuable strategic asset.
U.S. Airborne Forces
The Allies had learned better tactics and logistics from their earlier airborne drops, and these lessons were applied for the assaults along the Western Front.
Operation Overlord: D-Day
One of the most famous of airborne operations was Operation Overlord on D-Day June 6, 1944. The task of the airborne forces was to secure the flanks of the landing beaches in Normandy. The British glider transported troops and paratroopers secured the Eastern flank in Operation Tonga of which Pegasus Bridge is the best remembered objective. Another objective was the Merville gun battery. The American glider and parachute infantry of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, though widely scattered by poor weather and poorly marked landing zones, secured the western flank in Operation Chicago and Operation Detroit with heavy casualties. All together the casualties of the Airborne at D-Day total around 23,000.
Reenacting the Airborne
There are many units today and some are different than others. Check out each group carefully to make sure that you'll fit in. Some units have differing levels of authenticity; some groups like to do more tactical stuff while other units prefer to do a lot of living history or "being there" type events. Look at a number of units before deciding. :-)
The 3rd Annual WWII and Veterans Weekend in St. Clair Shores Michigan is quickly becoming the premiere event in the region. Directors Paul Palazzolo and Jose Evangelista are committed to making it the most enjoyable event reenactors will participate in. Visit website for complete details.