Operation Eclipse (ii)

This was an Allied unrealised plan with ‘Eclipse’ (i) by Lieutenant General Lewis H. Brereton’s Allied 1st Airborne Army for an airborne descent by two corps on Berlin (spring 1945).

The British, led by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery, felt that Brereton’s plan should receive attention, while most of the US leadership, led by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, saw no military need for ‘Eclipse’ (ii). As it was, the surprise crossings of the Rhine river and the subsequent debouchment of large Allied forces into the heartland of Germany combined with the decision made at the ‘Argonaut’ conference at Yalta that Berlin would be taken by the Soviet forces to make ‘Eclipse’ superfluous.

The assassination of Adolf Hitler, followed by a struggle for authority within Germany, would have been the ideal opportunity for ‘Eclipse’.

There were several iterations of the basic plan involving anything between two and five airborne divisions. In one basic scenario heavy bombing of Berlin would have been followed by the dropping of Allied airborne divisions on Berlin’s airports and airfields: Major General James M. Gavin’s US 82nd Airborne Division would have taken Templehof and its subsidiary Rangsdorf field, Major General Maxwell D. Taylor’s US 101st Airborne Division would have taken Gatow and the subsidiary Staaken, and Major General R. E. Urquhart’s British 1st Airborne Division and Special Air Service (with Podpułkownik S. Jachnik’s Polish 1st Parachute Brigade) would have taken Tegel and Oranienberg. To facilitate the establishment of a reinforcement and resupply capability for the Berlin formations above, a brigade consisting of elements of Major General E. L. Bols’s British 6th Airborne Division and Major General William M. Miley’s US 17th Airborne Division would have dropped over the Rhine near Wesel to support Montgomery’s Rhine river crossing. The proposal held Major General E. Hakewill-Smith’s British 52nd Division, an air-landing formation, in reserve.

The concept was based on the reality of the Allies’ limited air transport capacity.

Another variant had the initial drops in battalion and regimental, rather than divisional, strengths on major targets: one claim is that two regiments of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions would have taken Tempelhof, while British paratroopers would have dropped, in battalion strength, on critical areas in Berlin. The rest of the five available British and US airborne divisions would then have air-landed at a secure Templehof, and hold that area until ground forces could link with them.