Tuesday, March 29, 2016

US Mountain Soldiers Carrying Rucksack

Three unidentified Tenth Mountain Division soldiers pose for a photograph at Camp Hale, Colorado, 1943 or 1944. They are dressed for winter training. All are wearing caps, sunglasses, sweaters, and wool pants. All have M1943 mountain rucksack and are carrying Garand rifles. Snow covers the ground.

A mountain soldier could not fit all of his gear into the M-1928 haversack, the Army’s standard backpack at the beginning of World War II.  Even if he could, the haversack carried the weight high on his back and it shifted side to side, throwing him off balance while skiing or climbing.  Thus, the Army needed something more practical for their new mountain soldiers. In 1941, the Wood Yukon Expedition investigated several types of rucksacks and packframes for their potential for Army use. They recommended that a rucksack "capable of carrying all of the mountain and ski trooper's equipment should be developed." The rucksack, for use of mountain and arctic troops, was based on the Norse Pack. Various designs were tried and refined based on feedback from the tests. Jeffersonvile Quartermaster Depot continued to refine the rucksack's features, eventually leading to Tentative Specification J.Q.D. 88B (26 August 1942), a superior design produced in large quantity during World War II. The J.Q.D. 88B pattern Rucksack was used up to and including in Vietnam.

The Mountain Rucksack consisted of essentially a canvas sack, closed at the top by a drawstring, with a covering flap and pockets at the back and sides. It had web shoulder straps and a web belly strap. There was a detachable tubular steel frame at the front, which took much of the weight of the loaded rucksack off the shoulders, and placed it just above the hips. The frame also served to hold the loaded frame somewhat away from the back so that the pack was ventilated and excessive sweating did not take place. The lower frame curved around the back, projecting forward in the lower part of the frame, curved toward the front of the body just above the hips and kept the rucksack, with its load, from swinging sideways and destroying balance during rapid movements. Two of the frames, when detached from their sacks, could be attached to skis to form an emergency sled.

The main load of the mountain soldier, including cooking equipment, rations, sleeping bag, tent and extra clothing, was stowed inside the rucksack. Maps and other articles which might be needed during the march were placed in the outside pockets or a flat pocket in the cover flap. There were attachments for the bayonet or machete, the rifle and the intrenching tool. The rifle attachment was a snap link, added to the original design, that clipped to the butt sling swivel. The rifle was carried over the right shoulder alongside the rucksack, where it could be reached and unsnapped quickly for use. Meanwhile, the rifle was kept out of the way of the soldier who needed his hands for ski poles or for climbing. A white cover was issued with the rucksack for camouflage use in snowy country.

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View of Camp Hale Colorado

View of barracks at Camp Hale, Colorado, which was the training headquarters of the Tenth Mountain Division from 1943-1944. Beyond the barracks is a view of the rifle range. For traditional training, Camp Hale had three bayonet courses, three grenade courts, one rifle range, a machine gun range, a combat range and a gas chamber. In addition to the outdoor ranges, Camp Hale's dirt-floored, concrete-walled training halls each included a fifty-foot indoor .22-caliber rifle range for markmanship training during the winter months when conditions did not warrant sitting on the outdoor range. Finally, Camp Hale boasted a Mountain Obstacle Course of around ten thousand feet in elevation. This course combined the features of a regular obstacle course with added elements of advanced mountaineering.

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Book "World War II at Camp Hale: Blazing a New Trail in the Rockies" by David R. Witte

Rock Climbing Skills of 10th Mountain Division Soldier

View taken from above of a Tenth Mountain Division soldier rock climbing at Camp Hale, Colorado. He is wearing a helmet and khaki uniform. The division practiced its rock climbing skills in preparation for the invasion of Italy. Apart from mountain climbing, trainees were also taught skiing, snow survival skills (such as building snow caves), and winter combat. Camp Hale itself was active for just three years; it was deactivated in November 1945 and the 10th Mountain Division moved to Texas

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US 10th Mountain Division Soldier with Climbing Outfits

A Tenth Mountain Division soldier poses as he climbs a large rock formation. He has a coil of rope at his hip that hangs down out of the picture frame. He is wearing a helmet, a khaki field jacket and pants, and boots with gaiters. The picture was taken in 1943 or 1944 during a climbing school at Camp Hale, Colorado (USA). Few U.S. Army units had a greater variety of clothing and equipment during World War II than the 10th Mountain Division. In addition to all the usual military gear, they used a diverse array of cold weather clothing and mountaineering, skiing, and snowshoe gear

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Polish Refugees Near Warsaw

Polish refugees clog the streets near Warsaw despite the Sign (in German) that reads: "Getahrenzone - Nicht Weiterfahren" (Danger Zone - Do not Proceed). The picture was taken by German photographer Hugo Jaeger. During the Wehrmacht siege of the Polish capital (8-28 September 1939), around 18,000 civilians perished. As a result of the air bombardments 10% of the city's buildings were entirely destroyed and further 40% were heavily damaged. From the very first hours of World War II (1 September 1939), Warsaw was a target of an unrestricted aerial bombardment campaign initiated by the German Luftwaffe, which was controlled by Generalfeldmarschall Hermann Göring. Apart from the military facilities such as infantry barracks and the Okęcie airport and aircraft factory, the German pilots also targeted civilian facilities such as water works, hospitals, market places and schools, which resulted in heavy human casualties that possibly led to the early surrender by lowering of morale of the Polish army defending the city.

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Polish Soldiers Captured by the Germans in 1939

This picture was taken by Hugo Jaeger and showing Polish soldiers captured by the Germans after the Battle of Westerplatte, 7 September 1939, where the German naval forces and soldiers and Danzig police assaulted the Polish Military Transit Depot (Wojskowa Składnica Tranzytowa, or WST) on the peninsula of Westerplatte, in the harbour of the Free City of Danzig, from 1 September 1939. The Poles held out for seven days in the face of a heavy attack that included dive bomber attacks. At 04:30 hours on the seventh day of the attack, the German warship Schleswig-Holstein began to shell Westerplatte again. Half an hour later, the German infantry attacked, but was forced to retreat. A renewed attempt to set fire to the forest failed. German heavy mortars joined in the assault, eliminating Guardhouse nr. 2 from the defence. To the Polish defenders, further fighting appeared to be pointless. All ammunition was expended. Moreover, the wounded in the cellars of the barracks were in deteriorating condition. Wound-dressings and medication were in short supply or lacking. The Polish garrison's commanding officer, Major Henryk Sucharski, decided to surrender. The soldiers gathered in front of the barracks for their last roll call, and then marched off to captivity. The Germans transported the wounded to hospitals in Gdańsk. The Polish officers were taken to Hotel Centralny, and the non-commissioned officers and privates to a temporary prison in the fortress on the Bischofsberg (today: Biskupia Góra). In recognition of his valour, Major Sucharski was allowed to carry his sabre in captivity. During the defence of Westerplatte, 15 Polish soldiers were killed and 26 wounded (although these figures may be incomplete). The German losses were estimated at 50 dead and 121 wounded.

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Build-Up of US Army Vehicles Before D-Day

Castletown Road Slipway, Portland, Dorset (England), 5 June 1944. Trucks and Willys MB jeeps which will carry men and supplies of the U.S. 32nd Field Artillery Regiment / 1st Infantry Division "The Big Red One" to the front lines of the invasion in Normandy on D-Day are loaded onto an American Landing Craft. The Divisional HQ jeep at right (with Divisional HQ tactical insignia in the bumper: black star on dark yellow circle; 1-X: indication of the Division Headquarters; Star in center bumper; HQ-19: 19th vehicle of the Division Headquarters; and Barcode with five-digit number of the DivHQ) has an 15'x15' vehicle camouflage net (this type of net with interwoven twine came in different sizes) above the white star on a yellow background marking. The yellowy green (or greeny yellow) background between star and circle was a kind of gas detecting paint that was supposed to change colour during a chemical attack. Presumably these jeeps are an example of the stuff. Might also be worth noting that a yellow or white star in black and white photos would show up the same tone. Closer analysis of even quite familiar black and white pictures recently seems to be turning up even camo schemes that have been almost lost in the monochrome process. In the dust and confusion of the battles in the North Africa previously, the US star could be mistaken for a German Cross at long range (greater then 1000 yards). Tankers and armored units began painting out the stars to avoid becoming a casualty of ‘friendly fire’. The addition of the circle around the star helped to resolve this problem, though some of the more experienced units (like the 2nd Armored) stayed with the painted out stars until the Normandy landings. There they painted the vehicle number on the sides of the turret in yellow. This was painted out by D-Day + 14. After Normandy several armored divisions were sent into Europe but kept their stateside markings, except the bar, and that is why one sees so many variations in pictures.

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Heinrich Himmler during a Visit to Belarus

This picture was taken by Walter Frentz and it showing Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler and his entourage with local peasants whilst touring the operation zones of the Einsatzgruppen, Belorussia, 15 August 1941. In the center is SS-Hauptsturmführer Werner Grothmann (Chefadjutant von Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler), while at right is the translator (because Himmler and Grothmann did not speak Russian). During a visit to Minsk, Himmler attended a demonstration of a mass-shooting of Jews in Minsk arranged by Arthur Nebe (Kommandeur Einsatzgruppe B) after which he vomited! Regaining his composure, Himmler decided that alternate methods of killing should be found. He told Heydrich that he was concerned for the mental health of the SS men. Himmler turned to Nebe to devise a more "convenient" method of killing, particularly one that would spare executioners elements of their grisly task. Murder with carbon monoxide gas, already in use in the Reich as part of the euthanasia program, was contemplated, but deemed too cumbersome for the mobile killing operations in the east. By November he made arrangements for any SS men suffering ill health from having participated in executions to be provided with rest and mental health care.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

French POWs Clearing the Blocked Road in Dunkirk

German forces arrive in Dunkirk after the completion of the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force earlier in the day. Under the direction of their German captors, French troops push away an immobilised British Universal Carrier tracked vehicle, clearing the blocked road into Dunkirk. This picture was taken by Hermann Weper, an officer serving with Maschinengewehr-Bataillon 52, on 4 June 1940 following the seizure of Dunkirk

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French Heavy Tank Char B1 'Madagascar'

French heavy tank Char B1 bis №206 'Madagascar', crewed by Lieutenant Dumontier (Chef de char/tank commander), Sergeant Vergez (pilote/driver), Corporal Faucet (aide pilote/co driver), and Corporal Narbonne (radio operator). This tank was lost on 19 May 1940 after the fighting at Ham while part of 2e DCR outside Guiscard, abandoned by its crew after being immobilised due to damage to the drive train. In order to deal with the increasingly tense situation leading up to the outbreak of World War II, a decision was made to modify and improve the existing B1 tank, giving rise to the B1 bis. Distinctive features included the large 75mm gun turret and strengthened front armor. The engine was also upgraded to bring the tank up to contemporary standards. The French government tasked individual suppliers with producing key parts, which caused problems and greatly reduced the number of tanks that were built. Although these and other strategic failures inhibited the B1 bis tank ability on the battlefield, it was greatly feared by German soldiers who encountered it. Featuring strong firepower and defense, the B1 bis could more that hold its own against the tanks of the Wehrmacht during individual combat.

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Finnish Soldiers Operating a Bofors Gun

A group of Finnish soldiers ready to fire the ubiquitous 40mm Bofors AA gun at their anti-aircraft artillery fire station (ilmatorjuntatykki tuliasemassa) in Suulajärvi during the Continuation War, 26 August 1943. The Bofors 40 mm gun, often referred to simply as the Bofors gun, is an anti-aircraft/multi-purpose autocannon designed in the 1930s by the Swedish arms manufacturer AB Bofors. It was one of the most popular medium-weight anti-aircraft systems during World War II, used by most of the western Allies as well as by the Axis powers. A small number of these weapons remain in service to this day, and saw action as late as the Gulf War!

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Wehrmacht Traffic Jam in the West 1940

An early World War II traffic jam of Wehrmacht vehicles on the road to Belgium through Koningshoeven, Netherlands, 12 May 1940. Interestingly there is not a horse in sight, and note the bright fluoro yellow recognition panels (even though all the vehicles are in dark gray and brown color) as an identification to friendly aircrafts. The second car from the front is an Opel Olympia, followed by a Büssing-NAG Type 350/400 truck. Left bus is a Ford V8-51 and the one in the background is a Mercedes. The picture was taken by Hugo Jaeger. As with all of their procurement efforts, Germany established a program to control manufacturing and application of camouflage paints. Specifications were sent to the paint suppliers detailing the exact method for preparing test specimens to send in for examination and approval. In addition, the inspectors at the assembly plants were provided with color swatches to use in accepting products painted in accordance with orders specified in contracts. This strictly controlled and enforced program ensured uniformity in both the paint and the final assembled product. These camouflage paints were used for the entire range of military equipment and vehicles intended for frontline use - not just panzers. At the start of the war, all panzers and military vehicles were painted in a two-tone scheme of Dunklegrau (dark grey) and Dunklebraun (dark brown). Dunklegrau RAL 46 (later renumbered RAL 7021) was the base coat. Irregularly shaped patches of Dunklebraun RAL 45 (later renumbered RAL 7017) were to be spray painted onto 1/3rd of the surface. In June 1940, a general order was issued to stop applying patches of Dunklebraun and only use Dunklegrau RAL 46 for the entire surface.

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Former World War I Ace Ernst Udet

Former German World War I flying ace Ernst Udet as a Generalleutnant in the Luftwaffe. In his neck hanging the coveted Pour le mérite, which he received in 9 April 1918 as Leutnant der Reserve and Führer Jagdstaffel 4/ Jagdgeschwader Richthofen. The medals in his uniform, from left to right: Königlich Preußisches Militär-Flugzeugführer-Abzeichen (Prussian Pilot's Badge), Gemeinsames Flugzeugführer- und Beobachterabzeichen in Gold mit Brillanten (Combined Pilots and Observers Badge in Gold with Diamonds), and 1914 Eisernes Kreuz I.Klasse (1914 Iron Cross 1st Class). As a former member of the elité Geschwader Richthofen in the First World War, Udet wearing “Jagdgeschwader Frhr. v. Richthofen Nr. 1 1917/18” cuffband in his right sleeve

Ernst Udet was born in Frankfurt, Germany, on 26th April 1896. He joined the German Army Air Service in 1915. Flying a Fokker D-III , he scored his first victory on 18th March 1916 in a lone attack against 22 French aircraft! By the end of the First World War Udet had 62 victories. This made him the second highest German war ace of the war (after Manfred von Richthofen).

After the war Udet appeared with Leni Riefenstahl in the film "SOS Eisberg". He was also active in the Richthofen Veterans' Association and caused great controversy when he campaigned to have Hermann Göring rejected for making false claims of air victories during the First World War!

Udet joined the Luftwaffe in June 1935 as an Oberst (Colonel) and a year later was appointed head of the Technical Office of the Air Ministry. In this post Udet was responsible for the introduction of the Junkers Stuka and the Messerschmitt Bf 109.

During the Second World War he rose to the rank of Generaloberst (colonel general) and Director of Air Armaments. In 1940 pilots began to complain that the Spitfire was superior to German aircraft. Later Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring both accused him of being responsible for the defeat of the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain. He was also criticized for neglecting the development of new heavy bombers.

Udet became depressed by the performance of the Luftwaffe during Operation Barbarossa and the decision by Erhard Milch to overrule his plans to develop the Focke-Wulf Fw 190. On 17 November 1941 Udet committed suicide, shooting himself in the head while on the phone with his girlfriend. Evidence indicates that his unhappy relationship with Göring, Erhard Milch, and the Nazi Party in general was the cause of his mental breakdown.

According to Udet's biography, 'The Fall of an Eagle', he wrote a suicide note in red pencil which included: "Ingelein, why have you left me?" and "Iron One, you are responsible for my death." "Ingelein" referred to his girlfriend, Inge Bleyle, and "Iron One" to Hermann Göring. The book 'The Luftwaffe War Diaries' similarly states that Udet wrote "Reichsmarschall, why have you deserted me?" in red on the headboard of his bed.

It is possible that an affair Udet had with Martha Dodd, daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Germany and Soviet sympathizer, during the 1930s might have had some importance in these events. Records made public in the 1990s confirm Soviet security involvement with Dodd's activities.

Adolf Hitler was embarrassed by Udet's death and the Nazi Government issued a statement that Udet had been accidentally killed while testing out a new weapon. On his way to attend Udet's funeral, the World War II fighter ace Werner Mölders died in a plane crash in Breslau. Udet was buried next to Manfred von Richthofen in the Invalidenfriedhof Cemetery in Berlin. Mölders was buried next to Udet.
The award-winning play, "The Devil's General" by Carl Zuckmayer, was based on Udet's life.

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Luftwaffe Fighter Ace Josef Pöhs

Josef “Joschi” Pöhs was born on 14 March 1912 at Altkettenhof in the Schwechat region of Austria. He joined the Luftstreitkräft in 1934 and served in the aerobatic team. Following the annexation of Austria on 12 March 1938, Pöhs transferred to the Luftwaffe serving with JG 138 initially. On 1 May 1939, JG 138 was redesignated JG 76. At the outbreak of World War 2, Pöhs was serving with 2./JG 76. He participated in the invasion of Poland, the French campaign and the Battle of Britain. On 4 July 1940, 2./JG 76 was redesignated 5./JG 54. By the end of the Battle of Britain, Pöhs had seven victories to his credit. Pöhs served with 5./JG 54 during the invasion of the Balkans. He recorded a victory over a Yugoslavian Blenheim twin-engine bomber during the campaign. The unit later relocated to Russia where Pöhs was to be particularly successful. He claimed two Russian SB-2 twin-engine bombers shot down on 22 June 1941, the opening day of Operation Barbarossa, to record his 10th and 11th victories. On 13 July, Pöhs claimed two Russian DB-3 twin-engine bombers shot down to record his 19th and 20th victories.  Leutnant Pöhs was awarded the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes (Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross) on 6 August 1941 for 28 victories achieved in 225 missions. On 11 August, he shot down three enemy aircraft (29-31). He recorded his 40th victory on 7 September. In September 1941, Pöhs was transferred to the Ergänzungsgruppe/JG 54 to undertake instructing duties. He was transferred to Ergänzung-Jagdgruppe Ost in February 1942. In June 1942, Pöhs was ordered to Erprobungstelle Rechlin and, later, he joined Wolfgang Späte (99 victories, RK-EL) at Erprobungskommando 16, where he assisted in the development of the Me 163 rocket-powered fighter. On 30 December 1943, Pöhs was killed when the undercarriage dolly of his Me 163A V8 "CD + IM" (W.Nr. 163 000 0005) bounced higher than normal following release and struck the underside of the aircraft rupturing a T-Stoff fuel line thus prompting an installed safety device to shut down the engine. In attempting to return to Bad Zwischenahn one of the wings clipped the tower of the radio ground station antenna causing the aircraft to cartwheel into the ground where it exploded. “Joschi” Pöhs was credited with 43 victories in approximately 300 missions. He recorded 35 victories over the Eastern front.

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Luftwaffe Stuka Ace Artur Pipan

Artur Pipan (5 December 1919 – 1 August 2009) was a highly decorated Hauptmann from Austria in the Luftwaffe during World War II and a recipient of the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes (Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross), which he received in 6 April 1944 as Oberleutnant and Staffelkapitän of 5.Staffel / II.Gruppe / Schlachtgeschwader 1 (SG 1). Pipan joined 5.Staffel / Sturzkampfgeschwader 1 (StG 1) in October 1940 and flew his first mission in February 1941 from Comiso, Sicily, against Malta. He subsequently flew missions in Africa, Greece, Crete and Russia. He became Staffelkapitän of 5./StG 1 in April 1943, which was then renamed 5/SG 1. He was promoted to Hauptmann in May 1944 and made Geschwaderadjutant of SG1. In March 1945 he was made acting commander of I./SG1 as the Russian advance forced the German units to retreat, moving from Warsaw, Poznan, Danzig, Pommerania and Berlin until the unit surrendered at Schleswig Holstein on 8 May 1945. He flew a total of 758 missions and destroyed 10 railway engines, 9 bridges, one gun boat and many tanks. Pipan joined the Austrian Bundesheer in 1956 and retired in 1982 as a Brigadier. BTW, surviving German pilots have high numbers of missions and kills.This is not only due to luck and/or talent.They were 'in' for the duration of the war. US and RAF pilots did a tour of duty and then went on as instructors or other jobs. Some of their counterparts from Luftwaffe did the same, but most just "fight till you die/win".

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Ritterkreuz Ceremony for Luftwaffe Ace Rudi Müller

Ritterkreuz (Knight's Cross) award ceremony for Luftwaffe fighter ace, Oberfeldwebel Rudolf Müller (Flugzeugführer in 6.Staffel / II.Gruppe / Jagdgeschwader 5 "Eismeer"), that was held at Petsamo airfield (Finland) in 19 June 1942. Müller was awarded the Ritterkreuz after he scored his 46th air victory.

The opening months of the German air campaign above the Arctic Circle were fought by a miscellany of units before a flurry of redesignations saw the piecemeal emergence of Jagdgeschwader 5 (JG 5) proper during 1942. This Geschwader was somewhat unusual in that it faced two ways at once. One half of it was employed in defending the western coast of Norway against attack by the RAF (and USAAF), while the other half was engaged against the land and naval air forces of the Soviet Union primarily over the White Sea area and along the strategically vital Murmansk railway line. The latter took supplies delivered by the Allied Arctic convoys down into central Russia.

Despite this diversity of tasks, JG 5 produced a formidable number of high-scoring Experten (or at least those Gruppen operating in the eastern parts did). In addition to a handful of truly stellar performers who racked up three-figure totals, there were at least half-a-dozen semi-centurions among their ranks.

One of the first to come to prominence was 6./JG 5’s Feldwebel Rudolf "Rudi" Müller (born 21 November 1920). He was credited with five Russian-flown Hurricanes downed over Kola Bay on 23 April 1942. In less than two months his score had risen to 46, for which he was awarded the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes (Knight’s Cross of the Iron Crosses) on 19 June. And he had more than doubled that total again – to a final score of 94 – before he was himself lost on 19 April 1943.

On the morning of that date, "Rudi" Müller, by now an oberfeldwebel and currently JG 5’s highest scorer, was piloting one of the six Bf 109s that took off from Salmijärvi, in northern Finland, for a freie Jagd sweep of the Murmansk region. They had been warned to keep a special eye on the Soviet fighter base at Vaenga, on the eastern shore of Kola Bay. And with good reason, for approximately 40 enemy aircraft rose to intercept them.

A fierce dogfight developed. At least one Red Air Force Airacobra was sent down, but another latched onto the tail of Müller’s Gustav and got in an effective burst. Müller tried to escape by diving away in a steep spiral, but his machine was too badly damaged and he was forced to belly-land on the surface of a frozen lake. While the battle continued to rage overhead, his victor is described as having "put down alongside the stricken Messerschmitt". But of Müller there was no sign – just a set of snow-shoe tracks heading off into the tundra.

"Rudi" Müller remained at large behind enemy lines for several days before finally being captured. Like so many others who disappeared into Soviet captivity, his ultimate fate is unknown. One statement released long after the war asserted that he had been killed while trying to escape in 21 October 1943, but there were also reported sightings of him in a Russian gaol as late as 1947, and one of the many rumours circulating about him at that time among other German prisoners was to the effect that "Rudi is serving as a flying instructor for the Ivan".

“Rudi” Müller was credited with 92 victories. All his victories were recorded over the Eastern front and included at least 35 Hurricane fighters

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Book "More Bf 109 Aces of the Russian Front" by John Weal

Monday, March 21, 2016

Mule School at Camp Hale Colorado

Thirteen Tenth Mountain Division soldiers learn how to pack a mule to transport army gear during "mule school" at Camp Hale, Colorado. The image provides a clear view of the mule's harness and pack saddle. The men are wearing blue denim shirts and green pants; some are wearing green jackets; one is wearing high leather boots. The mule barn is in the background. Men who had had no experience with the mules at Hale were sent to Mule School where they learned to pack and handle the stubborn beasts. It wasn't always easy to get two GI cans, one to a side, secure, which led to considerable hilarity when the mule humped it's back, tossing the cans and a good deal of equipment all over the Texas prairie. Once skitterish mules disrupted a major Divisional parade much to the amusement of the enlisted men standing stiff in the sweltering heat!

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Book "10th Mountain Division" by Randy W. Baumgardner

View of the Pando Valley Towards Camp Hale

View of the Pando Valley towards Camp Hale, Colorado, which was the training headquarters of the Tenth Mountain Division from 1943-1944. Camp Hale was built in 1942, and decommissioned in 1945. It took seven months to build, hosted 8,000 ski troops and eventually grew to a population of 14,000 men and women. The camp was built alongside a portion of the Rio Grande Railway at the Pando Valley. In 1942 the Army Corp of Engineers altered the river that ran through the Pando Valley, as well as changed the location of the road between Leadville and Minturn. This occurred twenty years before Vail Ski Mountain was envisioned by 10th Mountain veterans Pete Seibert, Bob Parker & Ben Duke. Camp Hale included mess halls, infirmaries, a ski shop, administrative offices, a movie theater, and stables for livestock. The troops built their own ski area a couple of miles further up the road. Hundreds of white painted barracks housing 15,000 soldiers ran like a grid across the valley floor. Training in Camp Hale introduced many to the Rocky Mountains, and while fueling their love of the sport, it also accelerated the engineering of equipment and clothing, and the transportation on snow. At Cooper Hill, where the men would train, the Army built what was the world’s longest rope tow at the time to take the ski trooper up slope for ski maneuvers down. The military base had an almost “romantic” feel about it, and the recruitment effort was boosted through film, emotionally inspired photos and music. The image of skiing was additionally enhanced in the film “Sun Valley Serenade” screened in 1942, featuring the Glen Miller Orchestra and a darling Olympic ice skater: Sonja Henie.  Later, two war-time films were shot at Camp Hale featuring the white-clothed ski troopers: “Mountain Fighters” in 1943 and “I Love a Soldier” in 1944. The Ski Trooper was featured on covers of national magazines and on popular radio shows. Although the effort brought in recruits to add to the 86th and 85th regiments, recruiters realized not enough skiers existed to fill the new ranks, therefore efforts were made to bring in rugged outdoorsmen of all types with the compelling slogan, “The 10th Mountain Division”.  Additionally, 200 women from the Women’s Army Corps were enlisted for administrative support.

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10th Mountain Division Parade ceremony

This picture (taken in 1943 or 1944) shows a large formation parade in the center of a field at Camp Hale, Colorado. A color guard marches with flags while Tenth Mountain Division soldiers stand in large ranks behind them. The barracks are on the left side of the image and a stable on the right. The aspen trees on the hill behind the men are just beginning to grow leaves. A snowplow is parked near a pole close to the camera.

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10th Mountain Soldiers Line Up for Food

Approximately twenty U.S. Tenth Mountain Division soldiers line up for chow during a climbing school at Camp Hale, 1943 or 1944. The food is being served from a tent in a clearing inside a pine forest. In the front line, whenever field kitchens cannot be set up, powdered coffee, tea, and other foods will be distributed so that the soldiers can prepare their own meals. However, only essential rations will be issued - otherwise, the men will throw away whatever seems superfluous at the moment. Flour rations can be stretched by adding sawdust - preferably from pine trees, but birch bark can also be used. During cold weather and snow, special measures must be taken to transport food. Commissary wagons should be built with double walls packed with hay or wood shavings, and the floors should be covered with straw. Food containers must be protected with straw mats and blankets.

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Book "Packs On!: Memoirs of the 10th Mountain Division in World War II" by A. B. Feuer and Bob Dole

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Motorcycle with Sidecar of Afrikakorps

BMW R 75 of DAK (Deutsches Afrikakorps) in the North African desert. Motorcycle showing symbols for 1.(leichte)Batterie / I.Abteilung / Artillerie-Regiment 155 / 21.Panzer-Division (also symbol on sidecar mudguard is for motorized infantry). Motorcycles equipped with sidecar and machine gun just like in this picture were widely used by the german messengers along the various war fronts.

German forces were famous for their use of bike sidecar combinations. In 1935 BMW began work on their R12 model. Intended as a touring design for the civilian market, it featured for the first time on any bike telescopic front forks with hydraulic damping. The German motorcycle industry had long been prepared for the outbreak of worldwide conflict lead by innovation created in the world of motor sport. BMW, DKW and NSU competed in the 500cc racing class in the late 1930s, and in the smaller 250cc DKW dominated. Underlying these sporting successes was the propaganda pushing the image of Germany as world leader. On the home front in Germany large numbers of smaller motorcycles were being produced and made available to the public and thus in return the nation was gaining a populace experienced at both riding and maintaining these machines. In 1938 further preparations were stepped up with the rationalisation of manufacturing industries. The multiple motorcycle types and variants on offer numbered somewhere in the region of 150 and these were reduced to just 30 types; the array of engines on offer were standardised so that just a few were offered to power these thirty models. Many manufacturers had the type of motorcycle they would produce enforced upon them, but parts production saw the greatest reduction in surplus labour effort and over-complication. Items such as saddles, number plate stamping plants, and electric horns were reduced to a single design type of which chosen companies were allowed to produce. The process was successful, simplifying the stores management, the re-supply of parts quickly, and allowing saved funding to be redirected into the war effort elsewhere.

Like all the participants of the Second World War, the German army's views towards two-wheeled warfare also covered several trends. Commencing the war with a vast majority of solo machines, from two-stroke to robust flat twins paired with sidecars a change of preference occurred after 1940. A move then leant toward the complex and expensive BMW and Zundapp combinations in the midwar period but with industry pressed by the Allied bombing campaigns production of these machines was phased out through 1944 and Germany returned to production of I25cc and 350cc machines in the last year of the war, DKW being the sole German manufacturer to continue motorcycle production between 1939-1945.

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Kriegsweihnachten, Christmas in War Time

Wehrmacht soldiers from XXXXVI. Armeekorps (based in germany) reading book in their barrack during Christmas of 1940. The first German Christmas of World War II was celebrated in December of 1939 while the front was for the most part silent; the Western Allies and Germany were in the midst of the so-called "phoney war" between the period after the Invasion of Poland in September of 1939, and the Invasion in Norway later in April of 1940. In bunkers and trenches, pillboxes and depots, private homes and unit bases, all along the border, across Germany, and in occupied Poland, those German soldiers unlucky enough to not be with family and loved ones, spent time together amongst their comrades and exchanged simple gifts of fruit and drink, laughed and played, and sang traditional German Christmas songs such as "O Tannenbaum" - a timeless song of Christmas. Christmas 1940 was also a relatively quiet period, the Western Allies, minus Great Britain, were now occupied by German troops and the Eastern Front had not yet erupted - that would come in June of 1941 with the Invasion of the Soviet Union. The Battle of Britian was also over, leaving the vaunted Luftwaffe bloodied and although not defeated by any means, unable to achieve air superiority over the British Isles. Troops once again spent Christmas in bunkers and foriegn cities, now in a front stretching from the most northern arctic tip of Norway to the most southern tip of France in the Mediterranean.

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Afrikakorps Soldiers Reading Magazines

German Afrikakorps soldiers reading "Deutsche Illustrierte" and "Die Woche" magazines in their staff car that parked in the barren North African desert, while a Kar98k rifle protruding in the back seat. "Deutsche Illustrierte" was a large-format weekly magazine, while "Die Woche" was a weekly issued family magazine. These magazines are packed with photos and home front activities. It also depicts news, art, culture etc.

Source :
Book "Afrikakorps: Rommel’s Tropical Army in Original Color" by Bernd Peitz and Gary Wilkins

Afrikakorps Soldiers Inspected Package from Home

Deutsches Afrikakorps (DAK) soldiers on the open rear gate of a truck. One has received a field main package from home. The contents are eagerly inspected - cigarettes, a piece of ham and a sausage. Behind the side one can see two drinking water canisters. Gasoline and water canisters had the same appearance, and so in order to prevent accidental mix-ups, a white cross was painted on both sides of the water canisters.

Source :
Book "Afrikakorps: Rommel’s Tropical Army in Original Color" by Bernd Peitz and Gary Wilkins

Saturday, March 19, 2016

German Motorcycle Messenger in the Eastern Front

The ubiquitous German motorcycle messenger (Kradmelder) from Stab Artillerie-Regiment 110 in the Eastern Front with his DKW NZ 350, wearing his rubberized coat (Kradmantel) that has been wrapped and buttoned around his legs to keep dirt and dust off his uniform. The German military was the largest employers of motorcycles during World War II, 1939-45. On 22 June 1941 Germany launched its Operation Barbarossa, the 3-million-man invasion of the Soviet Union. During the campaigns that followed, the military motorcyclist served a variety of functions including chauffeur service for officers, delivering dispatches, even hot meals, as scouting patrols, as point vehicles taking the brunt of battle, sometimes as specially equipped tank destroyers. As with all motorcyclists, there was a kinship among these soldiers who called themselves “kradmelder” (military messenger). They rode exposed without the armor plating of the Panzers, without the safety of hundreds of foot soldiers beside them. Moving targets as it were, sniper magnets, and then there were mine fields, artillery fire, and strafing aircraft to contend with. The other enemy was the Russian weather. By autumn the roads had turned into nearly impassable bogs, the fields over which the motorcycles traveled turning in to “seas of jelly three feet more deep”. By winter, temperatures fell to -40 degrees Celsius, engine oil and exposed soldiers froze solid. Some German motorcycle riders benefited from special heating systems grafted onto their bikes, including foot and hand warmers. However, by war’s end, many if not most of the motorcycles, along with their riders, never returned home.

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Tropical Kübelwagen in the Mediterranean Theater of War

A German VW Typ 82 leichter geländegängiger Personenkraftwagen (Kfz. 1) "Kübelwagen" in front of the backdrop of a mountain village in San Piero Patti, Messina (Sicily/Italy), with the castle-like structure of Convento dei Carmelitani, 1943. This Kübel is equipped with the mounting for an additional gas jerrycan that is affixed to the left mudguard. The Wehrmacht-Einheitskanister, as it was known in Germany, was first developed in 1937 by the Müller engineering firm in Schwelm to a design by their chief engineer Vinzenz Grünvogel. A similar design was used in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War, where they had a company logo for Ambi-Budd Presswerk G.m.b.H. By 1939 the German military had thousands of such cans stockpiled in anticipation of war. Motorised troops were issued the cans with lengths of rubber hose in order to siphon fuel from any available source, as a way to aid their rapid advance through Poland at the start of the Second World War.  The British quickly discovered the benefits of the German 20 L Wehrmachtskanister and copied them. The British nickname for Germans was "Gerries" - hence "Gerry cans" or as better known Jerry cans.

Source :
Book "Afrikakorps: Rommel’s Tropical Army in Original Color" by Bernd Peitz and Gary Wilkins

Paratrooper of the 101st Boards a Transport Plane

U.S. 101st Airborne Division paratrooper Corporal Louis E. Laird boards a Douglas C-47 Skytrain military transport aircraft during dress rehersals for the Normandy invasion, Spring 1944. Visible on his left shoulder is his "Screaming Eagle" insignia. He has been issued his M1942 jump jacket and trousers, while the yellow item around his neck is the inflatable Mae West Life Jacket. Note the chin cup with helmet strap of the paratroop M1 helmet. It was modified to give support to the head and neck during jumps. He has his reserve parachute on his chest with the main chute on his back and the plastic bag under his left arm is his training gas mask. Unlike many infantry units, troopers of the 101st frequently retained their divisional insignia during combat operations. Of special interest is the extra packet of cigarettes that he has taped to his left sleeve, while the white cloth tape on his helmet forming a cross over the top (and a good aiming point for the Germans!) is the ID marking for Regimental HQ of the 502nd. Due to the unlikelihood of immediate resupply, troopers became very resourceful in carrying their basic needs into combat. Other picture from the same sequence.

Source :
Book "Screaming Eagles: The 101St Airborne Division from D-day to Desert Storm" by Christopher J. Anderson

Paratrooper of the 101st Prepares to Jump from Transport Aircraft

Corporal Louis E. Laird from the U.S. 101St Airborne Division prepares to jump from a doorway of Douglas C-47 Skytrain military transport aircraft during dress rehersals for the Normandy invasion, Spring 1944. Although a staged photograph, the paratrooper is equipped as he would be for the Normandy drop. The trooper has an M1 Rocket Launcher ('bazooka') slung over his left shoulder. Visible behind his reserve parachute is his Griswold Bag, which holds his M-1 Garand Rifle. Hanging underneath his reserve is a M1936 Canvas Field Bag, which would contain the trooper's personal item. In World War II, the American paratroopers were the only airborne forces issued with a reserve chute! They were all volunteers, many men who could have been NCOs in other units volunteered as privates in the Airborne. All officers, NCOs and ranks shared the same training together. They won their Jump Wing after five training jumps. Many were killed or injured during training, even before they face the real enemy! Other picture from the same sequence.

Source :
Book "Screaming Eagles: The 101St Airborne Division from D-day to Desert Storm" by Christopher J. Anderson

Saturday, March 12, 2016

M29 Weasels Tracked Vehicle of 10th Mountain Division

This picture was taken in 1943 or 1944 and showing Richard Foggarty of the US Tenth Mountain Division poses beside two M29 "weasels" (a snow tracked vehicle designed by Studebaker that could move through snow with ease) without canvas covers, near the S4 warehouse and 86th Regiment Headquarters at Camp Hale, Colorado. He is wearing a cap, a pullover sweater, khaki pants and boots. Note: mid/late M29s. Note 20" tracks and mudguards with foot plates, but no M29c style bolt patterns for float tanks.

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Charles Bradley from 10th Mountain Division

Charles C. Bradley of the U.S. Army Tenth Mountain Division during a ski jump Aspen, Colorado. A wooden building, possibly a watch tower, is visible in the background. Bradley is wearing his ski uniform including his cap. The picture was taken in 1943 or 1944. When the United States entered World War II in 1941, Charles Bradley enlisted in the army. An avid skier and mountaineer with a degree in geology, he quickly found himself among the first members of the new 10th Mountain Division, the only unit of the U.S. Army established to train men in mountain combat. Soon, Bradley was training candidates for a potential ground assault on Japan and in a new theater for mountain warfare: the magnificent but potentially life-threatening Aleutian Islands. Bradley's military career kept him from the front lines of the war, but he and his companions had their own battles with loneliness and fatigue, with Aleutian weather and terrain, and with the military brass. The Axis powers were real enough, but the immediate enemy was the environment. It was Bradley's job, now on assignment with the North Pacific Combat School, to help teach his trainees the skills of survival and mobility under conditions that included rugged terrain, glaciers, fierce winds, heavy rains and snow storms, and the threat of avalanches. Each story of confrontation with that rugged environment is balanced by one of discovery and awe. The Aleutians could be dangerous, but they were also an unspoiled realm for adventure and fascination. Soldier Bradley also grew as an artist; his interest in the natural history and geography of the islands is reflected in his paintings of what he saw near his posts, first at Unalaska and later at Adak. It is also reflected in his honest, insightful prose memoir that was written after the war, "Aleutian Echoes'.

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Camp Hale, the Training HQ of the 10th Mountain Division

View of barracks at Camp Hale, Colorado (USA), which was the training headquarters of the US Tenth Mountain Division from 1943-1944. 

In spring 1941, the US Army began to consider establishing a mountain division trained to fight in winter conditions and rugged terrain. After the United States entered World War II, the US Army’s Eighty-seventh Mountain Infantry Regiment began to train near Mt. Rainier in Washington State. Soon it became clear that a larger training site would be needed. The army briefly considered a location near West Yellowstone, Montana, but it was rejected for environmental reasons (the camp would have disturbed the local trumpeter swan population).

In March 1942 the army decided to build its mountain training camp in the Pando Valley north of Leadville. The Pando Valley was originally homesteaded in the 1890s and had been used for ranching until the army acquired it in 1942. The valley met all the requirements for the army’s training camp: it was large enough to support 15,000 troops; it sat at a high elevation of about 9,200 feet, with easy access to 12,000-foot mountains; the Eagle River provided a reliable water source; and Highway 24 and the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad facilitated transportation to and from the camp.

The army began construction of the camp in April 1942. Named Camp Hale, in honor of former Brigadier General Irving Hale, a Denver native, the camp occupied 1,456.8 acres of the Pando Valley floor. The army had to rechannel the meandering Eagle River and several tributaries through the valley to drain the site so that the camp could be built. Highway 24 was also rerouted around the camp. The army completed construction in November 1942 at a cost of $31 million.

The US Army’s first and only Mountain Infantry Division took shape at Camp Hale over the winter of 1942–43. New Eighty-fifth and Eighty-sixth Mountain Infantry Regiments were added to the existing Eighty-seventh Regiment to form the Tenth Mountain Division. All the troops arrived at Camp Hale by January 1943, and the valley buzzed with the activity of thousands of soldiers training for war. At its height the camp had more than 1,000 buildings and housed about 15,000 troops.

The vast Camp Hale site included barracks, administration buildings, a hospital, stables, a veterinary center, a field house, and areas used as parade grounds, recreation areas, and gunnery and combat ranges. Enlisted men learned how to survive in winter conditions and fight in the mountains. They practiced skiing, snowshoeing, and technical mountain climbing. Some of the first nylon climbing ropes were tested at Camp Hale.

The ski troops of the Tenth Mountain Division seemed glamorous to the public, but at Camp Hale they were often miserable. Soldiers nicknamed the camp “Camp Hell.” Training was hard, requiring marches and maneuvers with heavy packs at high altitude. Soldiers often suffered from altitude sickness, frostbite, and low morale worsened by a lack of nearby entertainment options. (Leadville was often off-limits to the troops, and in any case it had increased efforts against gambling and prostitution.) Coal smoke from all the trains, stoves, and furnaces in the valley contributed to a persistent cough that the troops called the “Pando Hack.”

In addition to the famed Tenth Mountain Division, Camp Hale also housed other troops, such as the 620th Engineer General Service Company, which arrived at the camp on December 5, 1943. The 200 soldiers who made up this unit were not actually engineers. Like several other army units, the 620th was made up of suspected Nazi sympathizers (mostly Germans) and other opponents of the war. The army lumped them together and dumped them at remote Camp Hale, where they were assigned various menial tasks.

The army also placed several hundred German prisoners of war at Camp Hale. Though communication between prisoners and soldiers was officially forbidden, the German prisoners and the German sympathizers in the 620th understandably got along quite well, exchanging greetings and illegal gifts. Dale Maple, a pro-Nazi Harvard graduate in the 620th, helped a small group of German prisoners to escape. With assistance from a few other men in the 620th, Maple and two Germans slipped away from the lightly guarded camp on February 15, 1944. They made their way to the Mexican border before being arrested by a Mexican customs official on February 18. The two Germans were shipped to another prisoner-of-war camp in Wyoming. Maple was convicted of desertion and aiding the enemy. Originally sentenced to death, he was released in 1951 and lived quietly in San Diego for another fifty years.

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Kübelwagen with Flat Tire at Sicily

A German driver operating a jack in changing a flat tire on a Kübelwagen Typ 82 (with engine visible) in Sicily, Italy, 1943. This picture was taken by Kriegsberichter from Kriegsmarine, Horst Grund. It reproduces the waterfront of Messina (over the sea coast of Calabria) in the afternoon (the sun from the west) summer. Kübelwagen is an abbreviation of Kübelsitzwagen, meaning "bucket-seat car" because all German light military vehicles that had no doors were fitted with bucket seats to prevent passengers from falling out! The first VW test vehicles had no doors and were therefore fitted with bucket seats, so acquiring the name VW Kübelsitzwagen that was later shortened to Kübelwagen. Mercedes, Opel and Tatra also built Kübel(sitz)wagens.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

German Soldiers Shaving Each Other

German soldiers and their morning "ablutions". Eastern front, date unknown. Their shaving each other is likely the result of a lack of mirrors. Shaving was mandatory and enforced in the Wehrmacht except in the most extreme instances or special occasions (high ranking officers, soldiers at the frontline, or U-boat crew coming back from patrol). One issue overlooked here is the problems with facial wounds and beards, especially with large lacerations. That issue is specifically addressed in medic training. Apparently some Landser shaved their heads on the Eastern Front to get rid of the lice, but then were severely disciplined because of their alleged resemblance to the slavic "Untermenschen" of the Red Army, where shaving was a commonplace standard procedure. There are also Soviet reports about German plennys who endured every form of hardship without complain but stoutly refused to be shaven until they were beaten and their hair forciby removed. It seems that full hair was considered to be an important part of individual personality for contemporary Germans!

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Kübelwagen in Sicily

VW Typ 82 leichter geländegängiger Personenkraftwagen (Kfz. 1) "Kübelwagen" in Sicily, Italy, ready to cross the strait of Messina using Siebel ferry (Siebelfähre), 1943. The first picture from above showing the vehicle with camouflage net clearly visible from the front. A cloth cover is mounted over the headlights, leaving only a narrow opening for the light. The name "Otto" is painted below the headlight - giving names to vehicles was a common practice in many armies! Notice the tropical colors of the vehicle and uniforms of the men, all belonging to the DAK (Deutsches Afrikakorps). Some Afrikakorps troops crossed from Tunisia to Sicily and fought the Allies there during Operation Husky (9 July - 17 August 1943). The Volkswagen Kübelwagen (literally, "bucket car"), previously mostly used for rail, industrial or agricultural hopper cars) was a light military vehicle designed by Ferdinand Porsche and built by Volkswagen during World War II for use by the German military (both Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS). Based heavily on the Volkswagen Beetle, it was prototyped as the Type 62, but eventually became known internally as the Type 82.

Source :
Book "Afrikakorps: Rommel’s Tropical Army in Original Color" by Bernd Peitz and Gary Wilkins

Monday, March 7, 2016

Tiger and Vehicle of sPz.Abt.508 in Italy

A Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger Ausf.E and battalion vehicle belonging to schwere Panzer-Abteilung 508 (508th Heavy Panzer Battalion), taking a rest at the Italian front. Notice the hasty camouflage on the Mercedes-Benz 170V staff car and the carefully applied camouflage on the Tiger. This color slide is one of a series of color images of the Werkstattkompanie taken by Hans Becker. In the mid-1970s Becker's son loaned the slides to a model maker, who displayed them in the booklet "Modell Magazin - Foto Archiv". Since then the photos have appeared regularly in publications about the Tiger. Unfortunately the slides have not been returned to the son! Hans Becker himself was attached to the headquarters staff of the Panzer-Regiment 8 in North Africa in 1942-43, and he extensively photographed front line operations there. After he was wounded, he was flown home, and after recovering from his wounds, in autumn 1943 he joined the sPz.Abt.508 during its formation. Soon afterwards, the battalion commander tasked him with “recording the battalion’s path photographically, to illustrate the war diary”. His experiences in France in a Werkstattkompanie (Work Company) and his thoughts on those who preferred the comfortable life over soldiering, to his experiences during the low level flight across the Mediterranean and the pranks of the Luftwaffe crew of his aircraft is well documented in the book "Als Panzermann in Afrika und Italien 1942-45" by Axel Urbanke. His trek across North Africa was well detailed. In the book, we even glimpse at life recuperating in Germany after being injured. Finally the action in Italy showing not only the war but the good and bad interaction with the civilians. The book ends with a short sojourn as an American POW. His photographs show him, his friends, units, and life on the front. He was an accomplished amateur photographer and this shows with the quality of his work.

Source :
Book "Als Panzermann in Afrika und Italien 1942-45: Panzer Regiment 8 und schwere Panzer-Abt. 508" by Axel Urbanke and Hans Becker

Tiger of sPz.Abt.508 Undergoing Repair in Italy

A rare color photo, taken in March-April 1944, showing a Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger from schwere Panzer-Abteilung 508 undergoing repairs in the Workshop Company's (Werkstattkompanie) position in front of the buildings of the former "Arco" bomb factory near the Forte Tiburtino, Rome (Italy). The camouflage finish and crosses are just visible on the Tiger. The exhaust boxes and cover plates have been removed. The cover plates are lying on the ground to the right of the tank. This color slide is one of a series of color images of the Werkstattkompanie taken by Hans Becker. In the mid-1970s Becker's son loaned the slides to a model maker, who displayed them in the booklet "Modell Magazin - Foto Archiv". Since then the photos have appeared regularly in publications about the Tiger. Unfortunately the slides have not been returned to the son!

Source :
Book "Als Panzermann in Afrika und Italien 1942-45: Panzer Regiment 8 und schwere Panzer-Abt. 508" by Axel Urbanke and Hans Becker

German Soldiers Marching in the East in 1941

Troops of the German infantry thought that the campaigns in the west had been arduous, and that they had seen all they needed to see of the long roads to the front. However, in Russia the roads were even longer, and went on seemingly for ever. The infantry's complaints were exaggerated by the fact that the armoured and mobile units (of which there were surprisingly few for a so-called modern army) sped ahead from the start of the operation, and the infantry following behind were almost constantly engaged in marching to catch up with them.

Sleep, when it came, was often no more than a short break. One soldier complained: "The hour and a half's sleep had done more harm than good. It had not been easy to awaken the dog-tired men. Our bones were cold, muscles stiff and painful and our feet were swollen. We pulled on our field boots only with great difficulty." Another soldier noted: "Sleep was a precious and often elusive commodity. Personal equipment was pulled on and all straps and accoutrements secured. Unnecessary clothing would be placed in packs and handed across to be ferried by the light infantry supply column (the Tross). Some companies marched as many as 50km in one day." One veteran calculated a single step covered 60cm (men took shorter or longer paces, but this was the average), so 50km meant an estimated 84,000 paces!

Infantry everywhere have to carry their day-today requirements of food, ammunition and water with them, and another Landser commented: "I don't know exactly how heavy our equipment is, but in addition to all of it there was a thick woollen blanket, an ammunition box that could drive one crazy, and that lamentable packet with the hooks in it I should have sent back.' (The last reference is to a parcel from home containing boot hooks)."

Even when there was a chance of a full night's sleep, other matters could take away that inviting prospect: "We only had a little sleep. Once, when we finally managed to secure accommodation in a barn, our section was assigned to sentry duty, and we spent yet another night in a soaking meadow."

The infantry were constantly being rushed, trying to catch up at three miles per hour units that could travel at five times that speed or more. Meals were consequently short. Breakfast was a hasty affair, perhaps a cup of tea or ersatz coffee with bread, butter and some jam or a can of liver sausage. After the order 'prepare to move', there was still time to crack and drink a raw egg. Companies would then begin to form up on the road in the half-light of dawn. At first, soldiers strode energetically along the route, with rifles properly slung as the sun slowly rose. Within an hour or two rifles and weapons were festooned haphazardly about the body. Fingers began to worry absentmindedly at swinging helmet rims fastened to belts or dangling from rifles.

Once on the march, conditions were bad as Artillery Oberleutnant Siegfried Knappe observed: "Our feet sank into the sand and dirt puffing dust into the air so that it rose and clung to us. The horses coughing in the dust produced a pungent odour. The loose sand was nearly as tiring for the horses as deep mud would have been. The men marched in silence, coated with dust, with dry throats and lips."

Perhaps the worst factor of this constant movement was the boredom: "The repetitious rhythm of the march had produced a mask of monotony on every face; a cigarette would dangle in the corner of the mouth. Smoke would not be inhaled, the aroma would simply waft around the marching soldier." Another soldier remarked: "As we marched, low hills would emerge from the horizon ahead of us and then slowly sink back into the horizon behind us. It almost seemed that the same hill kept appearing in front of us. Kilometre after kilometre. Everything seemed to blur into uniform grey because of the vastness and sameness of everything. Fields of sunflowers stretched for kilometre after kilometre after weary kilometre..."

Indeed, the boredom became such that: "We wished that the Russians would make a stand - anything, a battle even, to relieve the painful monotony of this ceaseless, timeless tramping. It was 11p.m. before a halt was called at a big farmhouse. We had covered close on 65km that day! The sheer physical toil of the trudge to the east was exacerbated by the damage to men's feet: Nobody can convince me that any non-infantryman can imagine what is taking place here. Think of the most brutal exhaustion you have ever experienced: direct burning sunlight, weeping sores on your feet - and you have my condition not at the end but at the beginning of a 45km march! It takes hours before your feet become insensitive to the painful wounds at each step on these roads which are either grave or sand at the edges."

The seeming endless vista that spread in front of these weary men led to many comments: "This land is endless, beneath an endless sky with roads trailing endlessly into an incalculable distance. Each village and town seems just like the one that preceded it. They all have the same women and children standing dumbly by the roadside, the same wells, the same farms. ... If the column comes off the road and moves on a compass bearing across fields, we look like lost world circumnavigators seeking new coasts beyond these oceans."

Another remarked that: "The immense space was so vast that we had many soldiers who became melancholy. Flat valleys, flat hills - flat valleys, flat hills, endless, endless. There was no limit. We could not see an end and it was so disconsolate." Another letter home said: "There is no identifiable objective in terms of space across countryside stretching ever further away. Even more depressing, the enemy is becoming even more numerous, even though we have offered up huge sacrifices."

The conditions were worsened even more during the first months of the advance by the fine dust produced as the men marched: "we were all covered in a light yellow coating." Even the motorised troops commented that on a "further drive at speed into the darkness, the dust was often so thick that one could hardly see the vehicle in front any more."

The Russian summer was cursed: "Heat, filth, and clouds of dust were the characteristic snapshot of those days. We hardly saw any enemy apart from the occasional drive-by of enemy prisoners. But the country had totally altered after we crossed the Reich border. Lithuania gave us a little taste of what we were to find in Russia: unmaintained sandy roads, intermittent settlements and ugly houses which were more like huts."

Even when there were a few moments of rest, problems still arose: "For the time being I am in a safe spot. If only I had some water to wash myself! The dirt and the dust cause my skin to itch and my beard is growing longer and longer. Wouldn't you like to kiss me now! I am sure you can see the dirt on the paper on which I write."

Further weather complications came with the autumn and spring mud: the rasputitsa. The mud prevented movement: no man, horse or vehicle (even tanks) could cope with the two feet of mud that was produced by the first vehicles over any stretch of track. The Germans installed corduroy roads - log roads - but these soon sank under the mud, and constant efforts had to be made to re-lay more and more logs. Then came the winter, bringing temperatures lower than those experienced by even mountain troops. To add to the misery, the German Army in 1941 stood in the snow and ice in the remnants of the same uniforms they had worn when they started the move to the east in July!

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Wehrmacht Fuhrmann with Their Horses

This picture was taken by Hugo Jaeger and showing Wehrmacht Fuhrmann (coachman) from an unidentified artillery unit ready to feed their horses. An animal ration is the amount of food consumed by one horse, draft ox, dog, or carrier pigeon for one day. The quantity of an animal ration allowance (Rationssatz) depends on the type of animal, the area in which it is serving, and the content of the ration it is being fed. Horses, for instance, are divided into four groups: draft horses of the heaviest breed, draft horses of heavy breed, saddle horses and light draft horses, and small horses. On the Eastern Front, draft horses of the heaviest breed receive a maximum ration allowance of 5,650 grams of oats, 5,300 grams of hay, and 5,750 grams of straw (including 1,500 grams of bedding straw). The allotments to other horse groups are proportionately less. On fronts other than the Eastern Front the allotments for all horses are generally smaller. In addition, substitutes such as preserved forage, barley, corn, etc., may change the ration weight. If the horse is being fed an iron ration, it is given a single item such as oats or hay or straw. Local stores obtained by purchase or confiscation play a greater part in the supply of rations in the field (Feldportionen for men and Feldrationen for animals) than is the case for any other class of supply. It is part of the German planning principle to live off the land as much aspossible and to obtain only the remaining requirements from stocks procured through channels. The Germans fully appreciate the difficulty of employing such methods during periods of combat and do not count upon local stores during operative periods. Usually a normal reserve of about 10 days' rations for each man of an army is maintained within the army. The rations consist of full and iron rations, although the latter may be eaten only upon the receipt of special orders.

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