Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Studio Portrait of Hermann Göring

Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring (Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe) was one of the more interesting and flamboyant characters of the Third Reich, traits reflected in his personal direction of the design of both his rank insignia and unique uniforms.  His appointment in 1940 as Reichsmarschall of the Greater German Reich made Göring the highest ranking military officer of World War Two, with the rank equivalent of a six-star General. Göring chose a soft, pearl gray as the color for his uniform, departing from the blue-gray uniform scheme of the Luftwaffe.  He had endless variations of his uniforms, with numerous different styles and minor alterations and was known to change them multiple times within the same day. Göring also had a preference for wearing white uniforms, a habit ridiculed by the German people while watching newsreels in the theater as they wondered how he kept his uniforms so white when many of them could not even obtain soap to launder their own clothes! To the left is what many consider the ‘typical’ Reichsmarschall uniform of the Imperial style Flyers Blouse in a soft pearl gray with a closed collar.  At Göring’s neck hang the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross (he was the only recipient), the Knights Cross and the Pour le Mérite (commonly known as the Blue Max), an award Göring earned while flying with the Richthofen squadron during World War I.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

A Group of German Bomber Pilots at Mission Briefing

A group of Focke Wulf Fw 200 "Condor" pilots preparing for a mission in 1940. Looking at the map the target seems to be England. At the same time Condor operations started in the Atlantic, the strategic situation was changing for the Third Reich. Even in July and August 1940, with the Battle of Britain raging, Hitler had lost whatever enthusiasm he had for invading Great Britain, and was already dreaming of his next war, with the USSR. So when it was proposed that the Luftwaffe and Krigsmarine establish a total blockade against the British Isles, Hitler readily agreed, as it freed up the Weremarcht to get moving eastward. Hitler calculated that even if the blockade didn't knock Britain out of the war entirely, it would weaken it to the point the island nation would be unable to oppose his plans, and allow the Nazi war machine to deal with the Soviets without distraction. The key to this strategy would be cooperation between the German air force and navy – which (spoiler alert!) was never very good. In fact, at one point Nazi Germany would be waging no less than five campaigns against British supply lines, with very little coordination between any of them. The search method of the Fw 200, however, was excellent for bombing attacks: given the low visibility haze that usually obtained over the Atlantic, a Condor would be visible to a ship only for a minute or two before it was dropping its bombs. Condors until the C-4 had a very basic bomb-sight, so the attack method was a low level bombing run 'bracketing' the target with the Condor's bomb load. Initially attacking convoy stragglers, Condor crews soon learned that convoys away from land based air cover had no defenses at all against air attacks. So, even a glass bird like the Condor could be used as an effective low level bomber. Petersen, once he discovered this, knew he had found the Condor's niche. As the Battle of Britain ended and the Blitz began, the improvements made to the Condor with the C-3 began to pay dividends. The Germans had been caught off guard before the war began for the need of a maritime bomber; now it was Britain’s turn to be caught off guard. The picture presented here are from the book "Fliegende Front" by by Hauptmann Walter-Eberhard Alexander Albert Freiherr von Medem (4 May 1887 - 9 May 1945), published in 1942 by Verlag ‘Die Wehrmacht’ KG. in Berlin. The book must be regarded as typical propaganda material to show the German population how well the war was progressing. ‘Die Wehmacht’ published a series of other propaganda books during the war. They also released sets of photo postcards from the war

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Luftwaffe Soldiers in North Africa with Tropical Helmet

 Luftwaffe aircrew from Zerstörergeschwader 26 (ZG 26) "Horst Wessel" wearing tropenhelm (tropical/sun helmet) in the makeshift airfield of North African desert, 1942. In the background are Messerschmitt Bf 110 fighter-bomber. When the German army headed to North Africa and other tropical regions during the Second World War it utilized the sun helmet. The Luftwaffe, Germany’s air arm, followed ground units to the Mediterranean theater where it made up a significant portion of the “Afrika Korps,” and included the Fliegerführer Afrika. The Luftwafffe personnel, who included air crews, Flak troops and support units were equipped with a variation of the Model 1940 sun helmet. The first version of the helmet was the French-made version – which was based on the French Model 1931 cork sun helmet. These were a four panel helmet, which was covered in a blue-brown fabric. It has been suggested that there were French Air Force helmets, but there is no evidence to support this claim. On the contrary French Air Force uniforms of the period were brown (like the French Army’s), so it is more likely these helmets were meant to be the same color as the German Luftwaffe uniforms. Period photos suggest that these helmets were issued with and without the tri-color shield and Luftwaffe eagle. The shield and eagle were made from a zinc alloy and attached to the helmet with prongs that penetrated the cork body. What is also known is that the blue-brown helmet was not widely issued and should be considered quite rare today. The helmet was replaced by a green canvas/twill version. These helmets were six panels and are of the same pattern as those used by the ground forces. The liner system of this helmet was held to the outside ring of material by six cotter type pins. The green canvas helmets were also apparently short lived and replaced by the tan/khaki colored version – and is thus far more prevalent than the green canvas type. Both the green and khaki versions used the same insignia as the previous blue-brown helmet. While a felt version of the tropical helmet was produced it was only issued to ground forces and there is no evidence that it was used by the Luftwaffe.

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The German MG-34 (Maschinengewehr 34) in Action

The German MG-34 with tripod and MGZ40 scope, probably taken on the drive to Stalingrad, summer 1942. Perhaps the most advanced machine gun design of the 1930’s and early 1940’s, the MG-34 was a new concept of warfare called the general purpose machine gun.  During World War I and the post war era, machine guns came in two general classes.  Heavy machine guns were large mounted weapons used primarily in defensive roles because of their exceptional firepower and lack of mobility.  Light machine guns were made to be man portable, and thus used for offensive actions.  However they often lacked the firepower of the heavy machine guns.  During World War II, the German Wehrmacht revolutionized warfare by introducing the concept of the general purpose machine gun, a man portable machine gun which also sported exceptional firepower, and thus could be utilized in a number of roles. The MG-34 was designed in 1934 by Rheinmetall and based on an earlier design called the MG-30.  It was first introduced to the German Army in 1936 after Adolf Hitler formally denounced the Versailles Treaty and began the large scale rearmament of the Germany Army. It was also supplied to the fascist government in Spain during the Spanish Civil War.  During the 1930’s and throughout World War II, the MG-34 would serve as the primary infantry machine gun of the Wehrmacht.  What made the MG-34 truly unique among other machine guns of its era was its incredible firepower at 800 rounds a minute.  Most other machine guns of the time, whether light or heavy, could only manage around 500-600 rounds per minute.  This combined with its portability gave the common German infantry platoon an incredible amount of firepower.   Such high rate of fire was accomplished using an open short recoil action.  The MG-34 was both semi and fully automatic, utilizing a special double crescent trigger.  The upper trigger fired the weapon in semi auto, the lower trigger fired it in full auto. 


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Hermann Göring and Hans Jeschonnek

Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring (Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe) and Generaloberst Hans Jeschonnek (Chef des Generalstabes der Luftwaffe) at Führerhauptquartier (FHQ) Schloss Kleßheim, 7-10 April 1943, in the event of the formal visit of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini to Germany. Göring is wearing the Grand Officer Star of the Italian Crown Order in his uniform. It's very strange, because it's not the higher grade of this order, and Göring was awarded with the other two italian most important orders (Saints Mauritius and Lazarus, and Annunziata). The picture was taken by Hitler personal photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann. During the war years, the most impressive personality among the Chiefs of the General Staff was Generaloberst Jeschonnek — an unusually intelligent and energetic person. Even Jeschonnek, however, was not strong enough to oppose Göring successfully (occasionally he did succeed in opposing Hitler) in matters of decisive importance. A very definite lack of harmony brought effective coordination to a standstill. As part of Operation Crossbow, Allied bombing raids struck Peenemünde on the night of August 17–18, 1943; Jeschonnek ordered Berlin's air defenses to fire upon 200 German fighters, in the belief it was enemy aircraft, who had mistakenly gathered near the Reich '​s capital. When he realized his mistake, Jeschonnek shot himself on August 18, 1943 at Hitler's Wolf's Lair headquarters in Rastenburg, East Prussia. After his death, Eckhard Christian was promoted to Generalmajor and Chief of the General Staff at Hitler's request on 1 September 1944.

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Kriegsmarine Sailor Posed Next to British Churchill Tank

Puys Beach, Dieppe, Seine-Maritime, Upper Normandy, France.  20 August 1942: A German Kriegsmarine (War Navy) Bootsmaat (equivalent to an Unteroffizier in the German Army, a Petty Officer Third Class in the U.S. Navy and to a Corporal in the British Royal Navy) poses next to a knocked out British Mk IV (A22) Churchill heavy infantry tank ("Boar" T32049) of Sgt. J Sullivan, B Squadron, 8 Troop Calgary Regiment (14th Canadian Tank Regiment), following the failed Allied Dieppe Raid (codename: Operation Rutter). In his hand he wields a captured Canadian Legitimus Collins & Co. No. 1250 machete taken as a souvenir. The Dieppe Raid occurred on 19 August 1942 and involved over 6,000 infantrymen, predominantly Canadian, who were supported by a Canadian Armored regiment and a strong force of Royal Navy and smaller Royal Air Force landing contingents. It involved 5,000 Canadians, 1,000 British troops, 50 United States Army Rangers and a number of Polish squadrons of the Polish Air Forces exiled in the U.K. The objectives included seizing and holding the major port of Dieppe in Upper Normandy in France for a short period, both to prove that it was possible and to gather intelligence. Upon retreat, the Allies also wanted to destroy coastal defenses, port structures and all strategic buildings. The raid had the added objectives of boosting morale and demonstrating the firm commitment of the United Kingdom to open a western front in Europe. Virtually none of these objectives were met. Allied fire support was grossly inadequate and the raiding force was largely trapped on the beach by obstacles and German fire. After less than 10 hours since the first landings, the last Allied troops had all been either killed, evacuated, or left behind to be captured by the Germans. Instead of a demonstration of resolve, the bloody fiasco showed the world that the Allies could not hope to invade France for a long time. A total of 3,623 of the 6,086 men (almost 60%) who made it ashore were either killed, wounded, or captured.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Admiral Ernest J. King

Admiral Ernest Joseph King, USN (United States Navy). Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet. The picture was taken circa 1942-44. Someone once asked Admiral Ernest J. King if it was he who said, "When they get in trouble they send for the sonsabitches." He replied that he was not -- but that he would have said it if he had thought of it. Although never accused of having a warm personality, Ernest J. King commanded the respect of everyone familiar with his work. His is one of the great American naval careers, his place in history forever secured by a remarkable contribution to the Allied victory in the Second World War. "Lord how I need him," wrote Navy Secretary Frank Knox on December 23, 1941, the day he summoned King to take control of the Navy at its lowest point, the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. In the early months of 1942, King's strategic brilliance earned him the complete confidence of President Roosevelt. When none of the British or American war planners even dared to think of going on the offensive in the Pacific in 1942-43, King successfully lobbied to do just that. "No fighter ever won his fight by covering up -- merely fending off the other fellow's blows," he wrote. "The winner hits and keeps on hitting even though he has to be able to take some stiff blows in order to keep on hitting." It's easy to see why even those who despised Ernest King were glad he was on their side.

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Hermann Göring Wearing his Famous Ruby Ring

Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring with his Luftwaffe and Italian officers. He is wearing a large Ruby Ring produced by top Third Reich jeweler Professor Herbert Zeitner bearing the symbols of Reichsmarschall. It was constructed from 18 carat gold around a large radiant cut ruby measuring approximately 3/4 of an inch wide and 7/8 of an inch long. Each side of the ring shows a raised engraved design, with one side bearing a conjoined "HG" monogram with traditional German-style oak leaf embellishment and the reverse bearing the German Hunter's Association logo, a ribbon marked "DJ" (Deutsche Jäger Verein) beneath the head of a multi-point stag, a radiant swastika positioned between the antlers, an old symbol of Saint Hubertus, patron saint of hunting, one of many symbols repurposed and defaced by the Nazis. The inside bottom of the band is marked with a small "Z" in a circle, a marking attributed to the goldsmith Professor Zeitner. While positive confirmation of a piece of Göring jewelry can be difficult, a number of pictures of Göring wearing a ring that could be this one survived the Nazi era, and many foreign diplomats who interacted with him felt the need to comment on the large red gemstone he was wearing on his finger, above and beyond all the other decorations he would bear into a high profile meeting.

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

German Soldiers Posing with Captured French Tractors

The always popular photo, 'posing with captured war material', in this case French tractors and trucks, summer 1940. In the foreground, Renault UE 2 Chenillette tractors. During the Fall of France, about 3000 UE and UE2s had been captured by the German Wehrmacht. Most were employed unmodified, after an overhaul by the AMX (Atelier de Construction d'Issy-les-Moulineaux) factory under guidance of the German MAN-company, as tractors for the 37 mm, 50 mm and, ultimately, 75 mm and 76.2 mm anti-tank guns: the Infanterie UE-Schlepper 630(f), which also was used to tow light and even heavy infantry guns. They might also function in their original primary role of munition carrier, as Munitionsschlepper Renault UE(f), some of these had an armoured roof fitted above the bin, to protect the ammunition load against overhead shell airbursts. Chenillettes were however also modified into self-propelled guns: a German 37 mm PAK was fitted just in front of the bin. There was no room for the crew in such a small vehicle: the gun had to be operated while standing behind it. Nevertheless of this Selbstfahrlafette für 3.7 cm Pak36 auf Renault UE(f) about 700 would be built in 1941. A late modification from 1943 was the UE fitted with four Wurfrahmen 40 launchers for 28/32 cm rockets: the Selbstfahrlafette für 28/32 cm Wurfrahmen auf Infanterie-Schlepper UE(f), forty of which would be built in two versions, one with the launch frames at the sides of the hull, the other with a raised platform on the back. Other modifications included: the Mannschaftstransportwagen Renault UE(f), a personnel carrier produced in two versions; the Gepanzerte-MG-Träger Renault UE(f), simply a Renault UE fitted with a machine-gun in a superstructure above the commander's seat; the Schneeschleuder auf Renault UE(f), a snow plough, fifty of which were modified in 1942; the Schneefräser auf Renault UE(f), also a vehicle intended to combat heavy snow conditions on the Eastern Front, but in the form of a snow miller; the Fernmeldekabel-Kraftwagen Renault UE(f), a telephone cable-laying vehicle and the Panzerkampfwagen-Attrappe auf UE(f), a dummy tank for training purposes, resembling a Soviet T-34. More complicated rebuilds were the Sicherungsfahrzeug UE(f), an airfield security vehicle produced for the Luftwaffe which, besides the 7.92 mm MG 34 casemate on the right, had a special high armoured superstructure fitted on the left back in which a guard could sit armed with a 13 mm machine-gun and the Kleiner Funk- und Beobachtungspanzer auf Infanterie-Schlepper UE(f), a special radio and artillery observation vehicle, forty of which would be modified by the Beck-Baukommando in France to eventually serve with the 21. Panzer-Division.

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