The Battle of Crete - Operation Mercury - Unternehmen Merkur
The assault force would be reinforced by the 5th Gebirgs Division (14,000 men under Generalmajor Julius Ringel) with three regiments of infantry (85th Gebirgsjäger Regiment under Oberst Krakau, 100th Gebirgsjäger Regiment under Oberst Utz and the 141st Gebirgsjäger Regiment under Oberst Jais from the 6th Gebirgs Division), one artillery regiment (95th Gebirgs Artillery Regiment under Oberstleutnant Wittmann) as well as artillery, anti-tank, reconnaissance engineer and signals assets. It would move to Crete by both air and sea. The 5th Gebirgs Division in fact, replaced the 22nd Luftlande Division, which was the natural choice to reinforce the paratroopers, as the division had been trained for airlanding operations in support of the 7th Flieger Division, but was at the time, guarding the Ploesti oilfields in Rumania and would have had a very difficult time in moving to the necessary airfields. However, Gebirgsjäger (mountain troops) had light weapons and were well suited to moving by air transport. They would be given close air support by Fliegerkorps VII under General der Flieger Freiherr von Richthofen. While this was a powerful force, both Löhr and Student correctly perceived the experimental nature of the operation and the inherent dangers of relying solely on a combination of infantry and air support without tank and substantial artillery support. Added to that was the chaos that existed in the Balkans after the campaign and the fact that large numbers of troops were now withdrawing to concentrate for Barbarossa. The Germans were only able to get the 7th Flieger Division and fuel to the airfields around Athens at the last moment. The Germans correctly determined that the operation had the best chance of success if they managed to get the maximum strength deployed as quickly as possible.