Monday, August 10, 2015

Allied Leaders in Yalta Conference

Group portrait of Allied leaders photographed in the courtyard of the Livadia Palace, Yalta, in the first day of Yalta Conference (4-11 February 1945) with (seated from left to right): British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Also present are (from left to right): Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov; Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew Cunningham, RN, Marshal of the RAF Sir Charles Portal, RAF, (standing behind Churchill); Fleet Admiral Ernest King (standing behind Brooke), General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of the United States Army (blocked by Leahy), Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, USN, (standing behind Roosevelt), Major General Laurence S. Kuter, General Aleksei Antonov, and Admiral of the Fleet Nikolay Kuznetsov. They're met for the purpose of discussing Europe's post-war reorganization. The conference convened in the Livadia Palace near Yalta in Crimea. The meeting was intended mainly to discuss the re-establishment of the nations of war-torn Europe. Within a few years, with the Cold War dividing the continent, Yalta became a subject of intense controversy. To some extent, it has remained controversial.

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The "Big Three" in Potsdam Conference

The "Big Three" pose with their principal advisors at Cecilienhof Palace near Berlin, Germany, in 1 August 1945, one day before the conclusion of Potsdam Conference (17 July - 2 August 1945). The meetings were held to decide how to administer punishment to the defeated Nazi Germany, which had agreed to unconditional surrender nine weeks earlier, on 8 May (V-E Day). The goals of the conference also included the establishment of post-war order, peace treaty issues, and countering the effects of the war. The three heads of government are (seated on wicker chairs, left to right): British Prime Minister Clement Attlee; U.S. President Harry S. Truman; and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin. Standing behind them are (left to right): Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, USN, Truman's Chief of Staff; British Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin; U.S. Secretary of State James F. Byrnes; and Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov. Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden, who had been at first nine days' sessions, learned on July 26 of Tory election defeat, were replaced by Laborites Attlee and Bevin. Just before photograph was taken, two Soviet agents and a soldier hurriedly scraped shiny black paint off chair arms at request of the official Russian photographers. They had barely finished job as Big Three arrived.

Sources :
LIFE magazine, 17 October 1955 edition

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Generalmajor Von Liebenstein in Kübelwagen Speaks with One of his Men

An Afrikakorps’ VW KdF Kübelwagen Typ 82 near the Akarit defensive line, the last natural barrier preventing access to the coastal plain of Tunisia from the South. In the passenger seat, Generalmajor Kurt Freiherr von Liebenstein (2nd from left), the commanding officer of 164. Leichte Afrika-Division (note the pennant denoted his command ), speaks with one of his men. Note also the oversize tires that offered better performance on soft surfaces like sand. The picture was taken in late March/early April 1943. On May 10, 1943, he was decorated with Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes (Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross). Three days later he surrendered to the British in Tunisia, with the 164th Infantry earning the distinction of being "the last major German formation in North Africa to lay down its arms". He was sent to Trent Park , a special camp for generals north of London. In 1955, he joined the Bundeswehr. In 1960, he retired as Generalmajor.

Sources :
Book "Das Afrikakorps: In Original-Farbfotografien" by Bernd Peitz

Wehrmacht Machine Gun Crew take up Positions in the Rocky Terrain

Wehrmacht Machine gun crew take up positions in the rocky terrain. They're wearing tropenhemd (tropical shirt) with 1st patttern (right) and 2nd pattern tropenhelm (pith helmet). The Maschinengewehr 34 (MG 34) mounted on its tripod with long range sights for sustained fire role, as used by the Wehrmacht, still dressed in colonial garb from the campaign in the Western Desert, in their defense of southern Italy, summer 1943. The MG 34 in this picture were used as heavy machine-gun role on a Lafette 34. By removing the indirect fire sights and trigger, the MG 34 quickly converts to a light machine-gun. The most far-reaching feature of the MG 34 was tactical rather than mechanical; it was the first example of what is known today as the ‘General Purpose’ machine gun. Fitted with a bipod it functioned as the squad light automatic; on its tripod, which incorporated a sprung cradle to reduce the recoil and vibration and thus make continuous fire less fatiguing for the gunner, it functioned as a medium machine gun; and on a different pattern of light tripod and fitted with the saddle-drum magazine, it made a good anti-aircraft weapon.

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German Infantry Marching during the First Phase of Operation Barbarossa

German infantry from 79. Infanterie-Division marching during the first phase of Operation Barbarossa, June-July 1941. The Russian summer can be hot way above what an average German is used to. The expressions on the faces of the troops tell the story. When the 79. was committed to the invasion of Soviet Union on June 26, 1941, little would the members of the Division realize that they had started the long road to disaster. From June 1941 to September 1942 the 79. fought its way into Russia, encountering strong resistance from Russian forces as well as fierce cold weather during the winter of 1941. The Division participated in actions in the southern portion of Russia via Korosten, Lutsk, Rovno, Piryatin, and Akhtyrka. From November 1941 to June 1942 the Division fought in the Belogorod and Volchansk areas. The Division then advanced from Volchansk via Valuiki, Rovenki, and Serafimovich. By October 1942 the Division was in the marshes between the Don and Volga Rivers, and received orders to the place that was to become the end of the Division's march into Russia, Stalingrad...

Sources :
Book "Die 79. Infanterie Division" by Hans Sänger

Sherman Guarding a Roadblock in Livorno

A rare color photo of an early production M4A1 Sherman of B Company's 3rd Platoon (752nd Tank Battalion) guarding a roadblock in Livorno, most likely taken on 22 July 1944, several days after Livorno was secured.  This is a shot that was staged by the photographer for the enjoyment of the folks back home.  Originally labeled as simply "on the road to Pisa." Some historians and enthusiasts once believed this was taken in Ponsacco, but the 752 was nowhere near Ponsacco. It is now confirmed that the location is in front of the Villa Bertocchini in downtown Livorno.  The once beautiful Villa Bertocchini survived the war, only to be torn down and replaced with an ugly apartment complex. This tank belonged to Sergeant Ray Holt (the father of Bob Holt, 752nd Tank Battalion historian), who is show in the tank commander's position manning the .50 machine gun. The photo is another staged action shot in the 22 July series of at least 4 colored photos (the other two photos have not yet surfaced). Both photos have been incorrectly labeled as 1st Armored Division tanks in various books and websites. However, the original photo caption in the National Archives, the markings on the tank, the historical facts, and the unmistakable identities of the 752nd men clearly indicate this is a 752nd tank

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Trucks and Tanks of the 752nd Tank Battalion Leaving Rome

During the Second World War, despite being the capital of Italy, Rome was declared an "Open City" and never bombed or otherwise damaged by the war. After the Allies captured Sicily in 1943, the Mussolini's Fascist government collapsed. The Allies invaded mainland Italy on September 3, 1943 and slowly moved up the peninsula. Even after the American invasion at Anzio on January 22, 1944, it was hard to advance north toward Rome. Finally on June 4, 1944, American troops liberated Rome. Crowds of ecstatic Italians spilled into the streets to welcome the Americans as the main elements of the U.S. Fifth Army moved north through the city. This rare color photo showing trucks and tanks of the 752nd Tank Battalion leaving Rome on 5 June 1944. A small crowd of curious civilians watches the column move through the Porta del Popolo and past the Chiesa di San Maria del Popolo. The Signal Corps shot only a relatively small number of color photos during World War II. Fortunately, color photographers followed the 752nd during the summer and fall of 1944

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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Sherman Tank in the Streets of Livorno

An American mid-production M4A1 "Sherman" tank from 3rd Platoon / B Company / 752nd Tank Battalion on one of the streets of the Italian city of Livorno, a port city on the Ligurian Sea on the western coast of Tuscany, Italy, July 1944. This is another staged action shot in the 22 July series of at least 4 colored photos (the other two photos have not yet surfaced). The rubble on the left side was placed there to designate the beginning of the "Zona Nera" (Black Zone), a heavily mined industrial district that civilians were forbidden to enter. The location is one block away from another photo that was taken in the same sequence, and Villa Bertocchini is the light colored building in the background. Both photos have been incorrectly labeled as 1st Armored Division tanks in various books and websites. However, the original photo caption in the National Archives, the markings on the tank, the historical facts, and the unmistakable identities of the 752nd men clearly indicate this is a 752nd tank. The men of the 752nd Tank Battalion distinguished themselves in some of the most difficult combat in the Italian Campaign. They recorded the highest number of consecutive combat days for any battalion in the entire Fifth Army (341), and became the only independent tank battalion in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations to receive the Presidential Unit Citation!

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A Staffelkapitän in Front of a Junkers Ju 88A Bomber during the Balkan Campaign

 A German Luftwaffe Staffelkapitän with the rank of Oberleutnant in front of a Junkers Ju 88A bomber during the Balkan campaign, spring 1941. Staffelkapitän is a position (not a rank) in flying units (Staffel) of the German Luftwaffe that is the equivalent of RAF/USAF Squadron Commander. Usually today a Staffelkapitän is of Oberstleutnant or Major rank. In the Luftwaffe of the Wehrmacht the Staffelkapitän usually held the rank of an Oberleutnant or Hauptmann. For the first weeks of his assignment he was known as a Staffelführer (Squadron Leader), until he was confirmed in this position. If a Non-commissioned officer was tasked with this role, he was also referred to as a Staffelführer. With the beginning of the Balkan Campaign, yellow fuselage bands were introduced for those Luftwaffe units involved. Yellow wingtips, especially lower wings and rudders, were used additionally. Completely yellow painted engine cowlings disappeared with fall of 1941. Apart from these theatre, refered markings staffel or unit leaders always preferred yellow or white painted rudders. The colourful wing and rudder markings gradually disappeared towards the later war, when allied air superiority made more camouflage efforts necessary.

Sources :
Book "The Second World War in Colour: Luftwaffe" by John Christopher

Whistle-Blower Wehrmacht Officer

Ritterkreuzträger (Knight's Cross recipient) Oberleutnant Viktor Lindenmann (23 November 1916 - 9 September 1942) directing his bicycle troops using a whistle, somewhere on the Eastern Front, 1941-1942. Two M24 Stielhandgranaten tucked in his leather belt with private/NCO koppelschloss (belt buckle), even though he is an officer. Note also the captured Ushanka (Russian fur cap). Lindenmann received the coveted Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes (Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross) in 21 September 1941 as a Leutnant and Adjutant of III.Bataillon / Infanterie-Regiment 124 / 72.Infanterie-Division, for his bravery in the battle for Neusatz Bridgehead (Tilligul Liman/Ukraine) against the Soviet forces. A year later he was killed by shell-splinters in September 1942 in the heavy defense fighting on the south of the Eastern Front near Dubakino as Chef of 4.Kompanie / Radfahr-Abteilung 72 / 72.Infanterie-Division

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Flight Deck Crew of USS Yorktown Extending the Wing of a Hellcat Fighter

Flight deck crew of USS Yorktown (CV-10) extending the wing of a U.S. Navy Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat "White K" Bu No 41090 (aircraft number 9) from Fighter Squadron VF-1 from Carrier Air Group 1 (CVG-1) in June 1944. This photo was taken during the Battle of the Philippine Sea, the largest carrier battle in world history and the glory hour of the Grumman F6F-3 (it should be noted, as well, that the F6F "Hellcat" is the most successful fighter in aviation history when it comes to air-to-air "kills," ultimately amassing a 19 to 1 kill ratio, primarily against the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, or "Zeke"). Notice that the propeller hub on this aircraft is painted pea green which was an unofficial recognition feature found on Yorktown based aircraft throughout much of the war. During this period (June-July 1944), Yorktown took part in the capture of Saipan, 1st Bonin raid, Battle of the Philippine Sea, 2nd & 3rd Bonin raids, capture of Guam, and raids on Palau, Yap, and Ulithi. For additional information, Leroy Grumman got the idea for the folding wing design to fold against the fuselage from an eraser and a paper clip! He took an eraser and used it, as the fuselage of the plane. Then he took two paper clips for the wings and bent out the short end of each of the clips, so that it was perpendicular to the body of the paper clip. He stuck the short ends into the eraser until he found the right angle and position at which the clip, when twisted to the vertical position, would also fold back against the eraser. It worked! all that was necessary now was the engineering to design the folding wing mechanism, make it strong and fail-safe. This principle was used on the F4F Wildcat the F6F Hellcat and the TBF Advenger, and the folding wing design is still used today on carrier-based US Navy aircraft that are built by Grumman.

Sources :
Ray Wagner collection

Friday, August 7, 2015

Luftwaffe Observer Checking his Position on the Map

The Beobachter – the literal translation of the term is ‘observer’ – checking his position on the map. He is inside the glazed nose section of a Heinkel He 111. The medium bomber crew comprised of the Flugzeugführer (pilot), Beobachter (observer), Bordfunker (radio operator), Bordmechanik (flight engineer), and Bordschütze (gunner) - most of them in fact doubling as gunners when all guns were manned simultaneously. Most of the crew were stationed together in the nose sections of their comparatively small He 111s, Do 17s, and Ju 88s; consequently, well-placed enemy fire could rapidly inflict devastating casualties. Aircrews frequently knew little of the precise nature of their target, sometimes not even the name of the city, and were often not interested. Their only real concerns were to know about the levels and type of defence they might expect to encounter. Only the Beobachter needed to know that much detail, and even he received only the shortest of briefings, with target descriptions often limited to little more than map references. As the Staffel (Squadron) grew even more familiar with their operational areas and routes, information could be reduced to an airfield or factory name only. Before long this perfectly adequate, as veteran crews could navigate by sight and memory alone

Sources :
Book "Kampfflieger: Bomber Crewman of the Luftwaffe 1939-45" by Robert F. Stedman
Book "Luftwaffe Air & Ground Crew 1939-45" by Robert F. Stedman
Book "The Second World War in Colour: Luftwaffe" by John Christopher

SS-Sturmbannführer Hans Waldmüller of SS Hitlerjugend

The strain of battle is evident in the face of SS-Sturmbannführer Johann "Hans" Waldmüller (13 September 1912 – 8 September 1944), commander of I.Bataillon / SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 25 / 12. SS-Panzer-Division "Hitlerjugend" while fighting in Normandy, June 1944. He is wearing the Italian M29 Telo Mimetico camo smock. Waldmüller joined the SS at an early stage in 1933. After started the career in SD (Sicherheitsdienst), during World War II he was transferred to the elites, the Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler, in the Summer of 1940. When a new Waffen-SS division was to be formed in 1943, the 12. SS-Panzer-Division "Hitlerjugend", he was selected to be transferred over from the LSSAH as a Bataillonskommandeur. Waldmüller would take part in the fierce fighting in Normandy, where the "Baby Milk" Division would distinguished themselves for their outrageous fighting behavior. An account on one of the fighting: "During the fighting of 8 and 9 June 1944, I. Bataillon lost one NCO and four men killed. Four NCOs and sixteen were wounded. Of them, four NCOs and five men remained with the unit. The following days were remarkable mainly because of the industrious buildings of positions. The numerous fire attacks by enemy artillery forced the Panzer shelters to be constructed like bunkers. They were propped up on the inside with railroad ties from the close-by line Cane-Luc-sur-Mer. Trees had to be cut down to open up fields of fire. Sturmbannführer Waldmüller himself was on his feet day and night, to the point of dropping dead, to supervise and direct the building of the positions. His Bataillon command post, too, was an earth bunker in the open field, just behind the front line. His example, his inexorable insistence saved the lives of many of his men at the time." A second account on the fighting: "SS Major Johann Waldmüller, now the chief of the l. Battalion, stood in the midst of his men, the very soul of resistance," according to Kurt Meyer, his superior. For his bravery and excellent leadership he was recommended and awarded the Ritterkreuz des Eisernes Kreuzes on 27 August 1944. But he was killed not long after that, gruesomely mutilated by the Belgian partisans. On 8 september, 1944, while driving on his sidecar together with SS-Untersturmführer Karl Marquard, he got ambushed near Basse-Bodeux on the road from Werbomont to Stavelot. The belgian partisans had positioned a rope on the road and when the vehicle neared they tightened the rope. The cycle was brought to a halt - either stopped or caught in the cable - and was immediatly put under fire. Soon later, horse-drawn carriages from Waldmüller's unit discovered the horror. The driver of the cycle was found, seriously wounded, on the left side of the road. In the cycle itself sat SS-Untersturmführer Marquard dead in the rear seat. He was shot in the head. SS-Sturmbannführer Waldmüller was discovered a little further, mutilated and dumped. His belly had been slit open, genitals cut off and dumped in a drainage pipe of a small lake. Both men were buried in Düren and still are. Photo by SS-Kriegsberichter Wilfried Woscidlo

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US combat engineers Eat a Meal atop Boxes of Ammo Stockpiled for the Impending D-Day Invasion

Unidentified American combat engineers in Stratford-upon-Avon (England) eat a meal atop boxes of ammunition stockpiled for the impending D-Day invasion, May 1944. They're probably from 406th Combat Engineers, a part of 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, a tactical deception unit that was known as "Ghost Army". The 1,100-man unit was given a unique mission within the U.S Army: to impersonate other U.S. Army units to deceive the enemy. From a few weeks after D-Day, when they landed in France, until the end of the war, they put on a "traveling road show" utilizing inflatable tanks, sound trucks, fake radio transmissions and pretence. They staged more than 20 battlefield deceptions, often operating very close to the front lines. Inspiration for the unit came from the British units who had honed the deception technique for the battle of El Alamein in late 1942. The U.S. unit had its beginnings at Camp Forrest, Tennessee, and was fully formed at Pine Camp, NY (now Fort Drum), before sailing for the United Kingdom in early May 1944. In Britain they were based near Stratford upon Avon, and troops participated in Operation Fortitude, the British-designed and led D-Day deception of a landing force designated for the Pas-de-Calais. Some troops went to Normandy two weeks after D-Day, where they simulated a fake Mulberry harbour at night with lights which attempted to draw German artillery from the real ones. After which the entire Unit assisted in tying up the German defenders of Brest by simulating a larger force than was actually encircling them. As the Allied armies moved east, so did the 23rd, and it eventually was based within Luxembourg, from where it engaged in deceptions of crossings of the Ruhr river, positions along the Maginot Line, Hürtgen Forest, and finally a major crossing of the Rhine to draw German troops away from the actual sites. Photo by Frank Scherschel

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Flak MG-42 Team of SS Hitlerjugend in Normandy

A Flak (AA or Anti-Aircraft) MG-42 team of 12. SS-Panzer-Division "Hitlerjugend" in Normandy, summer 1944. They are using a standard bipod and not a special anti-aircraft tripod or mount (Zwillingssockel), a desperate attempt to fight allied low-flying fighter bombers (The MG-42 or MG-34 is used for close-in AA support whenever 20mm or 30mm AA guns are few or nonexistant.). Very occasionally a rifle-calibre MG like the MG 42 managed to shoot down an aircraft, but it was mostly a waste of ammunition. Even the .50 Browning wasn't that effective (some sources said that it need a 50,000 rounds fired for every plane shot down!). 20mm was really the smallest calibre to be worth bothering with, which is why it was the smallest gun used by German FlaK units. Towards the end of the war even the 20mm was seen as too weak, according to Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin's 'Die deutschen Geschütze'. The focus on damage capability does of course ignore the deterrant effect on the pilots, who may not have been very keen to expose themselves to even quite ineffective fire. So it was maybe less the idea to shoot them down, and more to keep them away, that made use of the weapons seem attractive. Photo by SS-Kriegsberichter Wilfried Woscidlo

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Panzer IVs in Southern Russia, Summer 1942

Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf.F2 75 mm (2.95 in) KwK 40 L/43 tanks (Turmnummer 424 and 431) with a ball shaped muzzle brake from 4.Kompanie / II.Abteilung / Panzer-Regiment 36 / 14.Panzer-Division advance through an unidentified village in Don-Kuban area (Eastern Ukraine), summer 1942. 14. Panzer Division was unusual in the German Army for not forming in sequential order. It was formed in August 1940, while 12th Panzer and 13th Panzer were not formed until October 1940. The 14. Panzer Division was established using veteran units from 4. Infantry Division and 4. Panzer Division as a basis for its structure. 4. Infantry Division provided both Divisional Organisation and the infantry components, while 4. Panzer Division provided the tank element by transferring the 36. Panzer Regiment to the new 14. Panzer Division. In April 1941, the Division took part in the Invasion of Yugoslavia, reaching Sarajevo on 15 April. Soon after, it returned to Germany in preparation for Operation Barbarossa. In June 1941, now as part of Heeresgruppe Süd (Army Group South), the Division took part in the invasion of the Soviet Union. It was involved almost continuously in offensive and defensive engagements throughout 1941, including the first winter on the Eastern Front. In the spring of 1942, 14. Panzer took part in the German summer offensives as . Heeresgruppe Süd raced through the Kharkov and Don regions.The Division was transferred to Friedrich Paulus' 6. Armee, which was encircled at Stalingrad soon after. By February 1943, the Division was considered utterly obliterated in the fighting at the Battle of Stalingrad.

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Crew of a B-26 Marauder Outside their Plane, Nicknamed Ginger

A lovely shot by Frank Scherschel, taken immediately after the engines had been shut down, of the pilot and his crew of an American B-26 Marauder (group markings B-26B-20-MA, serial number 41-31767), nicknamed "Ginger", discuss their upcoming 20th mission while on the tarmac of Andrewsfield Airport near Stebbing, Essex, England, December 1943. The crew was attached to the 449th Bomber Squadron / 322nd Bombardment Group / 9th Air Force. Their plane displaying 19 mission symbols and six "Duck" symbols, representing diversion missions (D=Decoy. The 9th AF would send out two formations to try and confuse the Germans on what the main target was. The second smaller formation was called the diversionary force and painted the duck symbol on their planes for that mission). The bomber eventually succumbed to Flak (German anti-aircraft) over Siracourt (Northern France) to cause the crew to bail out near the coast of France. All six men survived and became POW's. Their name as follow: F/O Thomas H. Rivenbark - pilot, 2ndLt. Galend E. Stone - copilot, T/Sgt. John L. Misarke - bombardier/navigator, S/Sgt. Wilbur L. Moore - engineer/gunner, S/Sgt. Paul E. McManes - radio operator/gunner, and S/Sgt. Curtis B. Hill - armorer/gunner (please note that the crew listed in the description above were not a part of the crew when this picture was taken)

Sources :
Book "Martin B-26 Marauder" by Martyn Chorlton and Henry Morshead

General Hans Geisler in an Award Ceremony for Luftwaffe Members

General der Flieger Hans Geisler (Kommandierender General X. Fliegerkorps) in an award ceremony for luftwaffe member whom served in anti-shipping operation in Mediterranean Sea. The Corps was stationed in north Germany in February 1940 when some of its aircraft were involved in a disastrous friendly fire incident that terminated the Kriegsmarine's Operation Wikinger. In early 1941, X. Fliegerkorps was transferred from Norway to Sicily to support the build-up of the Afrika Korps in Libya. On 12 January 1941, it had 80 Ju 88A-4 bombers of LG 1 and 12 Ju 88D-5 reconnaissance planes at Catania, 80 Ju 87R-1 ("Stuka") dive-bombers of StG 1 and StG 2 at Trapani, 27 He 111H-6 torpedo bombers of KG 26 at Comiso and 34 Bf 110C-4 fighters of ZG 26 at Palermo. It was prominent in the axis effort to suppress Royal Navy interference with the supply routes from Italy by reducing Malta's effectiveness as a forward base. On 10 and 11 January 1941 X. Fliegerkorps planes sank HMS Southampton and heavily damaged HMS Illustrious during Operation Excess. Bf 109E-7 fighters of JG 26 and JG 27 joined the offensive on Malta during February and March 1941. The Corps was moved out of Sicily in April 1941 for the Invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece. Maritime float planes replaced fighters and dive bombers while the Corps was stationed in Greece. Strength on 10 May 1942 was 74 Ju 88 at Eleusis and Heraklion, 25 He 111 at Kalamaki, and 53 Ar 196A-3, He 60c, Fokker T.VIII and Bv 138C-1 at Skaramagas and Kavalla. The Corps was crucial in securing air superiority and German victory during the 1943 Dodecanese Campaign. The Corps was renamed to Kommandierender General der Deutschen Luftwaffe in Griechenland (commanding general of the German Luftwaffe in Greece) in March 1944 and disbanded on 5 September 1944 with the withdrawal of German forces from the country. Geisler himself receives Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes (4 May 1940) and Deutsches Kreuz in Gold (20 October 1942) for his brilliant role as a Commander of X. Fliegerkorps. This picture was first published in a heavily illustrated book "Fliegende Front" (Flying Front) as written by Hauptmann W.E. Freiherr von Medem and published by Verlag Die Wehrmacht in Berlin, Germany in 1942.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Waffen-SS Troops Stand at Attention in the Siegfried Line

"Unsere Garde": Waffen-SS troops from an unidentified artillery unit (note red piping on the shoulder boards) stand at attention in the Siegfried Line/Westwall. The original Siegfried Line (German: Siegfriedstellung) was a World War I line of defensive forts and tank defenses built by Germany in northern France during 1916–1917 as a section of the Hindenburg Line. In English the term "Siegfried Line" commonly refers to the "Westwall", the German term for a similar World War II-era defensive line built further east during the 1930s opposite the French Maginot Line. This line stretched more than 630 km (390 mi) and featured more than 18,000 bunkers, tunnels and tank traps. The network of defensive structures stretched from Kleve on the border with the Netherlands, along the western border of the old German Empire, to the town of Weil am Rhein on the border to Switzerland. It was planned beginning in 1936 and built between 1938 and 1940.The picture was taken by Hugo Jaeger, possibly when Hitler visiting the Western border fortification in May 1939

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A US P-47 Thunderbolt in French Airfield

a US Army Air Corps P-47 D-11-RE #42-75329 Thunderbolt fighter "Miss Second Front" (piloted by Louis Vieck) of 395th Fighter Squadron / 368th Fighter Group / 9th Air Force getting some maintenence at a makeshift A-3 airfield in the French countryside following the invasion of Normandy, August 1944. 16 P-47's of the 395th FS, 368th FG took off from their airfield at Chilbolton, England at 0520 on June 6th, 1944 for the first of many sorties on this famous day. Only 7 days later on June 13th the 368th FG started utilizing ALG A-1 & a few days later A-3 to re-arm & re-fuel their P-47's. On June 19th at ALG A-3 near Cardonville, France the 368th FG was the 1st group to become permanently stationed and operational from France. The group would remain at A-3 until August 23rd when they moved to A-40 near Chartres, France.This picture was made by LIFE magazine’s photographer Frank Scherschel. He captured countless lesser-known scenes from the run-up to the D-Day onslaught and the heady weeks after. His pictures — most of which were never published in LIFE — feel at-once profoundly familiar and somehow utterly, vividly new


SS General Fritz Witt

SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS Fritz Witt (27 May 1908 – 14 June 1944), commander of 12. SS-Panzer-Division "Hitlerjugend", photographed by SS-Kriegsberichter Wilfried Woscidlo on his 36th birthday celebration which held at Tillierès-sur-Avre, France, on May 27, 1944. Witt first joined the SS in 1933, serving in the SS-Stabswache Berlin, an élite guard formation of only 117 men. In 1938, as commander of the 3rd SS-Standarte Deutschland, he took part in the annexation of Austria, marching into that country with his unit. In March 1939, Witt served with the SS Standarte during the bloodless annexation of Bohemia and Moravia. During the Polish campaign, Fall Weiss, Witt’s SS-Standarte Deutschland was subordinated to Panzerverband Kempf, based in East Prussia. Witt's company saw some heavy fighting and he served well during this campaign. For personal bravery in combat, he was awarded both the first and second classes of the Iron Cross within. In October 1939, with the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer, Witt was appointed commander of the 1st Battalion of the Deutschland. He fought with bravery during the Invasion of France, again showing skill commanding his unit. For example, On 27 May 1940, 20 British Matilda tanks attacked Witt’s battalion. Despite the fact that his unit had no anti-tank weapons, Witt rallied his battalion and they held, destroying nine of the British tanks with grenades and other improvised methods. Witt was the model of the young leader, never retreating in the face of anything. In April, 1941, he participated with his unit in Operation Marita, which was the invasion of the Greece. His unit saw ferocious fighting, playing an important role. The 1st Battalion had been tasked with clearing resistance from the Klidi Pass, just south of Vevi and opening the way to the heart of Greece. Clashing with a hastily-assembled Australian-British-New Zealand-Greek force, under an Australian, Major General, Iven Giffard Mackay, Witt and his men were engaged in heavy fighting for three days before the pass fell. Witt’s brother, SS-Untersturmführer Franz Witt, died during the battle. Witt’s battalion itself had wreaked havoc on their enemy, causing a high number of casualties and capturing over 520 prisoners for the loss of only 37 dead and 95 wounded. From 22 June 1941, Fritz Witt and his unit fought in Operation Barbarossa, participating in the encirclement of 600.000 men near Kiev. Then his unit now moved south, to join the German 14. Armeekorps. Witt’s battalion fought fiercely for the town of Perekop, later advancing across the Perekop Isthmus and launching the assaults on the Soviet defensive positions near the Tarter Ditch. In spring 1943, after being engaged in heavy fighting on the Eastern Front, Witt was transferred to the newly created 12. SS-Panzer-Division "Hitlerjugend". he continued training exercises for his division, allowing his troops to familiarise themselves with the terrain around Caen. This training would later prove vital.  On 6 June 1944, the Western Allies landed on the Normandy beaches. Witt ordered his division to form up north of Caen, defending the city and the Carpiquet Aerodrome. Over the next weeks, Witt’s division managed to hold the line above Caen despite incessant Allied attacks and constant air, artillery and naval bombardments. The Hitler Youth inflicted devastating losses on the British and Canadian forces, the training which Witt had developed maintaining his unit’s morale and fighting ability. On 14 June 1944, a British naval bombardment hit the divisional command post in Venoix. Fritz Witt, age 36, was hit in the face by shrapnel and killed instantly. He was buried on the war cemetery St André Champigny (France)

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Monday, August 3, 2015

Major General Ernest Harmon

Known by his troops as ‘Old Gravel Voice’, Major General Ernest N. Harmon gained a reputation during World War II as a dashing and aggressive leader. Frequently seen leading from the front, Harmon inspired confidence with his presence. During the First World War he led a cavalry troop in the Meuse- Argonne battles. Between the wars he competed as a pentathlete in the Paris Olympics, before rising to command a light tank battalion as a Lieutenant Colonel. Given command of 2nd Armored Division in July 1942 as a temporary Major General, Harmon led them during the Operation Torch landings in November. As part of Patton's Western Taskforce he landed near Casablanca, defeating a column of French reinforcements before racing to secure the city. Ordered to the front by Eisenhower at the height of the Kasserine Pass battle in February 1943, Harmon took command of the battle from II Corps commander General Fredendall whose nerve had broken. Setting off in a jeep, he toured the front visiting key commanders and assessing the situation first hand. Within days he turned the rout into a successful defence. After the danger had passed, Harmon turned down an offer of promotion to command II Corps, instead recommending Patton for that position. He then returned to 2nd Armored, stationed in Morocco as the Allied rearguard, to pass on the lessons he had learnt at the front. Harmon was given command of 1st Armored Division in April 1943, leading them from Tunisia to Italy, taking part in the Salerno and Anzio landings and capturing Rome in June 1944. After the fall of Rome, Harmon was sent Stateside to become a corps commander, but requested a return to combat in Europe. From September 1944, he led 2nd Armored Division in combat, taking them through the Lorraine Campaign and the Battle of the Bulge. By the time the war ended, Harmon was commanding XXII Corps.

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Two Officers of the Afrikakorps

Leutnant der Flaktruppe Hans Dietrich Riesl (left) and Leutnant des Heeres Lucius Günther Schrivenbach in North Africa, 1941. Their last rank was Oberst. Not much information about Riesl, but Schrivenbach served with Erwin Rommel through the entire Africa campaign and up until 1944, when transferred to Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt’s staff. Please note the Heer tropical unifom with Luftwaffe red (Flak) kragenspiegel worn by Riesl! The first Luftwaffe Flak units in North Africa were kitted out completely with Heer uniforms; Caps, tunics, boots etc. This is because at that stage the Luftwaffe had not completed development or issue of Luftwaffe tropical uniforms. These troops wore the Heer uniform for a few months prior to reissue with the only distinguishing feature being the use of Luftwaffe Flak collar tabs.

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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Fritz Bayerlein and the Officers of the Afrikakorps

Generalmajor Fritz Bayerlein (Chef des Generalstabes 1. italienische Armee) with the officers of the German Afrikakorps in North Africa, spring 1943. From left to right: an unidentified Leutnant, Bayerlein, Sonderführer Dr. Ernst Franz (Rommel's translator), and the bearded Sonderführer Fritz Moosmüller (a Propaganda official but spend most of his time as a Dolmetscher/translator). Note uniform color variations (fading) and General's uniform with standard buttons (not in General's gold which you would expect). Neat details that you would never be able to observe in regular black and white pictures! Note also Sonderführer Moosmüller, his collar insignia has been removed. Two men wear pants with a thigh pocket (captured British perhaps, or privately tailored?), and so many color shades here: olive green, tan, brown... not very uniform of these uniforms! Sonderführer Dr. Franz (a veteran of World War I) is wearing a pink Panzertruppen soutache on his not so bleached uniform, and he also wore Panzerkampfabzeichen in Silber. He did not add the Panzer skulls to his lapels as commonly done by Panzer men.

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