WATCH: Soviet Paratroopers Use Airplane Wing as a Slide

October 7, 2020Matt Fratus
soviet, paratroopers, russian, airborne

Composite by Kenna Milaski/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Parachuting from a perfectly good airplane is a valuable infiltration method for airborne paratroopers and special operations forces. During the Global War on Terrorism, US troops completed several combat and training airborne operations. Hurling boats, vehicles, and supplies from the planes ahead of the inserting operators remains the norm. 

Before these standard operating procedures were deemed practical, paratroopers experimented to develop their methods. The Soviet Union was an early adopter of airborne units, and throughout the 1930s they completed several successful military exercises

Tupolev TB-3 Heavy Bombers populated the sky. Red Army paratroopers emerged from the rear compartment and sat upright on top of the plane with their legs dangling over the side. Thousands of feet in the air, they didn’t have any security measures to hook themselves in place. Instead, the paratroopers shimmied themselves to their left to reach the plane’s right wing. Wearing leather helmets with their parachutes strapped to their chests, the sky soldiers white-knuckled the handles as they walked to their positions, forming a single vertical line. 

The jumpmaster offered a hand signal and waved the paratroopers on as if he were a third-base coach waving a runner home. Then he, too, dove face first into the abyss to join the others as the canopies began to open. The primitive tactics of paratroopers using their hands to guide themselves down the plane’s wing weren’t exactly safe; however, prior to World War II, the Soviet Union was among the early pioneers of airborne military operations. 

Matt Fratus
Matt Fratus

Matt Fratus is a history staff writer for Coffee or Die. He prides himself on uncovering the most fascinating tales of history by sharing them through any means of engaging storytelling. He writes for his micro-blog @LateNightHistory on Instagram, where he shares the story behind the image. He is also the host of the Late Night History podcast. When not writing about history, Matt enjoys volunteering for One More Wave and rooting for Boston sports teams.

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