History Wars World War II

Why German General Wilhelm Falley ran right into paratroopers on D-Day

Nazi General Falley had a very bad, no good, terrible kind of day. 'Merica.
Logan Nye Avatar
German general, left; paratroopers on D-Day, right

German General Wilhelm Falley, 91st Air-Landing Infantry Division, had a pretty crappy morning on June 6, 1944. First, he had to leave his headquarters early to make the long drive, easily two hours or more to Rennes, for a war game. Plus the stormy weather the night before had certainly turned conditions muddy. And then, during the drive, he learned that the exact scenario he practiced for, an Allied invasion of France, was actually taking place that exact moment. And when he raced back to his headquarters, American paratroopers greeted him. Aggressively.

Bad. Morning.

Falley and the other 7th Army division commanders

Field Marshal Rommel with General Falley and Admiral Ruge on the steps of Chateau Bernaville, May 1944.
Field Marshal Rommel with General Falley and Admiral Ruge on the steps of Chateau Bernaville, May 1944. Public Domain.

Falley, like his peers across the 7th and 15th armies, served under Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in Army Group B. They covered the beaches of northern France. Unfortunately for them, their group commander decided the weather was too crappy for an Allied invasion. So he skipped town June 5-6 to spend time with his wife on her birthday.

But the bad weather broke, letting the division commanders attempt to conduct a war game. The commander of their army, General Friedrich Dollmann, wanted to practice repelling an Allied invasion. So he’d ordered them all to Rennes, a 125-mile drive for Falley.

But on the drive, all the commanders got urgent news from their headquarters: The Allies were there. Falley reportedly heard the airplane engines thundering above him.

So he and the other generals whipped U-turns and raced back to their respective duty positions.

The 82nd Airborne Division

Men from the 82nd Airborne sit on an aircraft and look at the camera
82nd Airborne Division, Public Domain

Now, luckily, Falley was a Nazi so you don’t need to feel bad for him. But it just so happened that his headquarters in Picauville, France, was just west of the main 82nd Airborne Division landing zones. Add in a bit of wind and the fact that his division was one of the 82nd’s targets to prevent a counterattack, and you have a recipe for disaster.

So Falley, eager to rally his men and repel the invasion, raced back to his headquarters. And, he tried to go in the back…which just so happened to be where a group of paratroopers had set up an ambush for the next unlucky German car to try and get into the now-captured headquarters.

Not knowing that his headquarters was already lost, Falley raced towards it.

I don’t want to get too graphic here, so just imagine a movie of Falley racing toward his back entrance. And imagine the paratroopers looking down the sites of their machine guns and rifles at the car racing towards them. And then have your visual camera pan away and show a curtain blowing in the breeze. Imagine a lot of machine gun fire. Like, a lot. Okay, that’s about enough. Quick break. Okay, two more bursts of fire.

There. Imagine a quick burst of blood across the billowing curtain, if you like.

Falley died.

But Falley’s loss was America’s gain. The three divisions near Picauville were all killed and captured with relatively light American casualties. The 82nd successfully captured its target, the town of Sainte-Mère-Église. A little east, the German 352nd Division put up the fiercest resistance of the day at Omaha Beach.

If only the paratroopers had caught those jerkoffs on the road, too.

America took the beaches relatively quickly but then had a murderous time clearing the hedgerows in Normandy.

Logan Nye was an Army journalist and paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. Now, he’s a freelance writer and live-streamer. In addition to covering military and conflict news at We Are The Mighty, he has an upcoming military literacy channel on Twitch.tv/logannyewrites.