This was a German air-landing operation to open the way for General Heinz Guderian’s XIX Corps (mot.) of General Ewald von Kleist’s Panzergruppe ‘von Kleist’, within Generaloberst Gerd von Rundstedt’s Heeresgruppe ‘A’, toward Neufchâteau in eastern Belgium on the first day of ‘Sichelschnitt’ (10 May 1940).
The Germans appreciated that this town was the key to the rapid east/west passage of the tank-inhospitable Ardennes region. Under the command of Oberstleutnant Eugen Garski, some 400 men of the 3/Regiment (mot.) ‘Grossdeutschland’ were landed by 98 Fieseler Fi 156 Storch light aircraft to seize and hold the Belgian towns of Nives and Witry (hence the operation’s name) between Neufchâteau and the frontier towns of Bastogne and Martelange, to impede the movement of Allied reinforcements through Neufchâteau, and to destabilise the Belgian border defences in the area by attacking them from the rear.
The Witry part of the operation was commanded by Garski and was completely successful, but the group commanded by Hauptmann Walther Krüger and tasked with the capture of Nives proved less immediately successful. By 13.00 both towns had been taken at the cost of 19 German and an unknown number of Chasseurs Ardennais casualties, and the battalion had linked with the advanced elements of Generalleutnant Friedrich Kirchner’s 1st Panzerdivision.