Original German WWII Luftwaffe Camouflage Fallschirmjager Paratrooper RZ20/36 Transitional Parachute with Bag
Original Item: Only One Available. This is a totally original German WWII Rz20/36 transitional Paratrooper parachute that includes a 28 panel camouflage silk canopy and deployment bag. This model is a very rare transitional model, featuring an RZ20 style canopy contained in the new RZ36 Deployment bag. The shroud lines and risers have unfortunately been cut, as well as the anchor line, and are missing. If it was intact, it would have the RZ36 harness with only one release buckle and packtray. Only bags marked 10-433 D-1 are for the transitional model. Later RZ36 bags packed with the RZ36 canopy would be marked 10-436 A-1.
The bag is marked with the following:
Werk Nr. 5668175
Sprungfallschirm literally translates to "Jump Parachute", and differs from the later Sprungfallschirm mit Dreieckekappe "Leaping parachute with triangle cap", the RZ36 "delta-shaped" parachute based on the Russian design. The silk canopy has panel stamps 1-28, and is marked:
Kappe mit Fangleinen
Gerät Nr.: 10-2101-A1
Werk Nr. 3327006
These markings confirm that this is in fact an RZ20 parachute. Overall condition is excellent with only a few small tears, this is a USGI bring back that was acquired directly from a veteran's estate.
German parachute troops used at least four types of parachutes: marked RZ1, RZ16, RZ20, and RZ36. The RZ16, which was invented and first constructed at Cologne, has been in service since the beginning of 1940, and, because it opens without shock, is fast becoming the preferred type.
Parachute equipment is divided into four main parts: the parachute proper (or canopy and shroud lines), the outer bag and deployment bag, the harness, and the accessories.
The parachute itself consists of a silken (or substitute material) canopy made up of a certain number of panels, each panel cut in the shape of a thin isosceles triangle with the apex removed. Each of the three types has 28 panels. Each panel has 4 gores (tapered sections), cut from a single piece of material in such manner that warp and weft are both at an angle of 45 degrees to the long axis of the panel. Panels are numbered serially in the lower corner, number 1 carrying in addition the special markings of the parachute. These are the manufacturer's stamp or trademark, which includes type, mark number, weight, date of manufacture, and identification number; the manufacturer's inspection mark, giving the date of the last factory inspection; and the Air Ministry stamp which gives the date of the Air Ministry inspection.
In a German parachute with 28 panels there are 14 schroud lines which pass through the top vent. The lines are continued down through the seams on opposite sides of the canopy and then run as free lines to the lift webs. Each line is 21 meters (69 feet) long, so that a canopy with 62 square meters (648 square feet) in area, there are some 5 to 6 meters (16 to 20 feet) of free schroud line on each side, between the periphery of the canopy and the lift webs.
When packed, the canopy and shroud lines fold inside the bag, which is fastened by means of a ring to the static line. The bag is then contained within the pack, which consists of a base (next to the man's back) and four flaps which close over the bag. A further bag, in which the whole parachute is kept during shipment, is included among the accessories, and is removed when the person enters the plane.
The harness is made of webbing and consists of a belt with a large buckle in front, two braces, two thigh straps, and a strap across the top of the chest. It is connected to the rigging lines by hemp lift webs. Each web is so made that its lower end forms an eye which fits into the appropriate "D" ring of the harness, where it is secured by a screw, the free upper ends being joined to form two eyes. To each of the four eyes so formed, seven rigging-line ends are attached.
The parachutes are automatically opened by a static cord, 6 meters (20 feet) long, fastened to the inside of the plane, which pulls the bag away from the pack, releasing the canopy. The cord then becomes detached, taking the bag with it. After a drop of some 80 feet the parachute has become completely operative and the subsequent falling speed of a man and parachute is about 16 feet per second. The shock felt by the parachutist when he reaches the ground is comparable to that transmitted by a jump without parachute of from 16 to 18 feet.
Early tests also showed that the static line sometimes fouled the canopy on opening. The static line problem was solved with the improved version of the RZ1, called the RZ16, which replaced it in early 1940. The RZ16 static line was stowed side to side on top of the contents of the parachute pack. This outer cover was also stitched to the harness instead of being attached with string. The RZ16 canopy bag was fitted with external loops for the stowing of the shroud lines. The harness still retained the two slide release buckles and snap hooks on the legs. The carry lines attached at the waist gave the jumper no control during descent. As you can see above, this Fj is suspended at an angle as he comes in to land.
The RZ1 & RZ16 although safe for the wearer were difficult to remove on landing. The RZ20 was similar to the RZ16 parachute but the new harness was fitted with 4 quick release buckles which enabled the parachutist to clamber free of his chute quickly and more easily than before, most welcome when landing under fire or caught in a ground wind. Men trying to struggle free of parachute harnesses became easy targets. It was first used in the battle for Crete in May 1941 and continued in service until the end of the war. The number of canopy panels were reduced in this variant from 28 to 20.
Parachute colourings were also improved at this time, until now the main colour was white, which showed up to easily on the ground and acted as a beacon. Crete saw the use of camouflage-patterned canopies as well as white. Officers were distinguished by white capped canopies for easy recognition. At the time the camouflage canopies were introduced a rumour spread amongst the men that the chemicals in the dye's used to colour the chutes effected the smooth opening of the chute itself.
(According to a story told by a veteran regarding a training accident which occured whilst he was an instructor at Salzwedel. An Italian officer died when his parachute did not fully opened. The canopy only partially deployed, it had a long crease along its width and did not open properly.This type of phenomenon was known as a "Brotchen" after the German bread roll served for breakfast, which had a crease along the top)
Another variant was designed called the RZ36, which was triangular in shape and based on a Russian design. It offered less of a shock to the wearer upon opening, less swinging motion during the drop and a softer landing. Its designer sought after a patent but for some reason the military were not interested in it and it never saw service, although Oberst Baron von der Heydte used a Russian Triangular parachute for the drop into the Ardennes. (this may not have been the case after all and it was used in limited numbers during the ardennes operation, information uncovered by Willi Zahn)
1944 saw the introduction of another design of parachute of the ribbon design, which was supposed to give better control, but saw limited service.
A demonstration jump by the Fallschirm-Lehr battalion showed that 13 well trained parachutists could exit a JU-52 in 8 seconds. At an altitude of 330 feet and an aircraft speed of 120 miles per hour their dispersal distance would only be 25 yards between each man. Any jump carried outside of these parameters would result in the wide scattering of the stick of paratroops and more time for ground troops to react. The lowest recorded German airdrop was over Crete when some of the Fallschirmjäger jumped from 250ft. (which is a very daunting thought, a 75m jump, 9m of it static line !!). The canopy of the parachute was packed into a cloth bag with a thin cord attached to the apex of the canopy and the other end attached to the mouth of the cloth bag. The 9 meter static line was also attached to the canopy bag. A crucifix jump position was adopted where the parachutist would launch himself spread-eagled, horizontally out of the aircraft by means of two handles either side of the exit. This reduced the swinging motion when the canopy opened and thus reduced the risk of the parachutist getting tangled up in the shroudlines. On jumping, the nine metre static line which was attached to a cable in the aircraft, would pay out. When it became taut it pulled the canopy bag from the chute pack. The bag would be ripped from the folded canopy and remain attached to the end of the static line flapping behind the aircraft. The parachutist would freefall whilst the canopy developed and the shroud lines payed out. The canopy would fully develop then the wearer would be exposed to the huge jerking effect as the shroudlines finished paying out.The parachute was designed to fully deploy after only 100ft. The crucifix jump was not the best position for landing and called for the parachutist to land on all fours (hands and feet), which resulted in a high proportion of serious ankle and wrist injuries even when wearing padded protection.
With ankle and knee injuries very common in training, instructors stood on the ground and shouted instructions to the pupils with megaphones as they approached the ground to ensure they did not forget the drills and injure themselves. Bob Frettlöhr, a Pioneer veteran had this to say: "We had three quarter length boots that were fastened at the side, in order to maximise strength, and your ankles were also strapped. Despite these measures my ankles have since been a weak point and will sprain easily. We were taught above all, to always keep our feet and knees together, with the knees bent for impact".
Each paratrooper was required to pack his own chute with the aid of a helper (servicewomen packed the chutes of British paratroops), this was good incentive to make sure the parachute was packed properly and opened correctly. Incidents involving incorrectly packed chutes did happen with disastrous results. When not in use the parachutes were normally kept in a Burlap sack fitted with carrying handles. These bags were often tucked into the smock or harness on a training jump so the wearer had it about him when he went to re-pack his chute. For transportation, the parachutes were put in the carry sacks and placed in metal containers, which were watertight and sealed with 2 fold down metal handles.
Type RZ20-Rückenfallschirm Zwangsauslösung 20 (backpack, compulsion opening parachute, type 20), has been in service since the beginning of 1941 replacing the RZ1 and RZ16. An almost completely different design of the harness, featuring 4 quick-release buckles on the hips, belt, and chest straps, which would allow the jumper to immediately cast it off and enter combat. The harness was otherwise the same basic configuration as the RZ1 & 16.
The pack and parachute are otherwise very similar to the RZ16, however the parachute canopy was camouflaged green & brown and the shroud lines were field-gray. The RZ20 was in 1941, during the operation on Crete, first used together with the RZ16. He saw service till the end of the war.
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