Friday, May 31, 2019

Wehrmacht Dispatch Rider

A Wehrmacht Kradmelder (motorcycle dispatch rider) wearing stahlhelm, goggles, rubbercoat and gas mask cannister. The German military was the largest employers of motorcycles during World War II. On 22 June 22 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 motorcycle 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.

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Thursday, May 30, 2019

French Wehrmacht Volunteers in a Captured Russian Town

Two soldiers of the 'Legion des volontaires francais' in a conquered town on the Eastern Front, late autumn 1941. Photograph by Artur Grimm. The 'Legion of French Volunteers Against Bolshevism' (French: Légion des volontaires français contre le bolchévisme, or simply Légion des volontaires français, LVF) was a collaborationist militia of Vichy France founded on 8 July 1941. It gathered various collaborationist parties, including Marcel Bucard's Mouvement Franciste, Marcel Déat's National Popular Rally, Jacques Doriot's French Popular Party, Eugène Deloncle's Social Revolutionary Movement, Pierre Clémenti's French National-Collectivist Party, and Pierre Costantini's French League. It had no formal link with the Vichy regime, even though it was recognized as an "association of public usefulness" by Pierre Laval's government in February 1943. Philippe Pétain, head of state of Vichy France, personally disapproved of Frenchmen wearing German uniforms and never went beyond individual and informal words of support to some specific officers. It volunteered to fight against the Soviet Union on the Eastern Front. It was officially known by its German designation, verstärktes Französisches Infanterie-Regiment 638 (the reinforced 638th French Infantry Regiment).


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

German Soldiers Wearing Russian Telogreika/Vatnik

German soldiers wearing captured telogreika. Telogreika (Russian: "body warmer") or vatnik is a Russian kind of warm cotton wool-padded jacket. It was also a part of winter uniform first issued by the Red Army during World War II. Telogreikas continued to be issued until the late 1960s. The telogreika was particularly effective at keeping the wearer warm in the harsh Russian Winter. When worn with valenki and an ushanka a wearer can comfortably remain warm in sub-zero temperatures for long periods. This made it the perfect uniform not just for the Red Army, but for both prisoners and guards of the Gulags. In contrast to the usual shortages in the Red Army, soldiers received regular issues of winter clothing, as their combat effectiveness could be hampered in cold conditions otherwise. The Wehrmacht also regularly made use of captured Red Army winter uniforms, often taking them from the deceased, due to the ineffectiveness of their own winter uniforms.

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Thursday, May 23, 2019

Waffen-SS Commander Sylvester Stadler

 An Austrian, like many of the brave soldiers of the Waffen-SS, Sylvester Stadler (30 December 1910 – 23 August 1995) was born in the Steiermark region. He entered the SS in 1933 before his homeland was annexed into the Reich. In August 1940, SS-Hauptsturmführer Stadler assumed command of SS-Regiment Der Führer. In the summer of 1941, SS-Division Reich was attacking in full force at Jelnja, Minsk, Orscha, Kiev and Smolensk, where Stadler and his company proved themselves. Stadler then participated in the difficult and bloody fighting outside of Moscow, before he was part of the famous defensive action of the regiment at Cholm and Welikje Luki. Together with some of the best divisions on the Eastern Front, SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Das Reich participated in fighting to retake Kharkov in early 1943. For repeated demonstrations of bravery at the head of his battalion and for his outstanding leadership during the Kharkov battles, Stadler was awarded the Ritterkreuz on April 6 1943. A few weeks later SS-Obergruppenführer Paul Hausser informed him that he was being designated the regimental commander of SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment Der Führer. Stadler could only stammer: Aren´t I too young for that? Hausser replied with a smile: Nonsense, Stadler! Think of the great Napoleon. He wasn´t much older than you… Stadler, of course, proved to be more than up to the job. Promoted SS-Obersturmbannführer on 20 April 1943, Stadler excelled in all of the engagements and battles through his initiative, bravery and loyalty to his men. During the next few months, Stadler led his battalions west of Kharkov and during the offensive against Kursk itself. He received the Eichenlaub for his Ritterkreuz only five months after having been awarded the Ritterkreuz! He was the 17th member of the Waffen-SS to be so honored. The award of at least one, possible two, Tank Destruction Strips also demonstrated the impressive personal commitment to duty far beyond the duty description of a battalion or regimental commander. On 12 December 1943, SS-Obersturmbannführer Stadler became the 35th soldier of the German armed forces to receive the Nahkampfspange in Gold when he hit the threshold of 50 days of close combat.
On 30 January 1944 he was promoted SS-Standartenführer and on 10 July 1944 he was made commander of the elite 9.SS-Panzer-Division Hohenstaufen. At the age of 33, he was one of the youngest officers in the Waffen-SS to hold this rank! At the end of 1944, Stadler´s panzers participated in the Ardennes Offensive. During the offensive, the SS-Oberführer Sylvester Stadler once again demonstrated his sense of military fairness, in which he exchanged wounded U.S. soldiers for captured soldiers of his division. A short while later, Hohenstaufen was dispatched to the 6.SS-Panzer-Armee west of Budapest. When he received order to pull back to the west in the face of the sheer hopelessness of the situation he did not carry out the order. Instead, he launched a risky relief attack on Stuhlweißenburg, which allowed the withdrawal of the German forces encircled there. The first-class frontline SS-officer Sylvester Stadler received the Schwerter to the Ritterkreuz, as the 23rd officer of the Waffen-SS. Shortly afterwards he was promoted SS-Brigadeführer. On 4 May 1945 he negotiated a ceasefire with American forces and received assurances that 9.SS-Panzerdivision Hohenstaufen would go into U.S. captivity. He was released from captivity in 1948 and started a life as a businessman. The family man with two sons died on 23 August 1995 in Augsburg.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

British Air Chief Marshal Sir J.M. Robb

Air Chief Marshal Sir James Milne Robb, GCB, KBE, DSO, DFC, AFC (26 January 1895 – 18 December 1968) was a senior Royal Air Force commander. After early service in the First World War with the Northumberland Fusiliers, Robb joined the Royal Flying Corps and became a flying ace credited with seven aerial victories. He was granted a permanent commission in the Royal Air Force in 1919 and commanded No. 30 Squadron RAF in the Iraqi revolt against the British. In 1939, Robb travelled to Canada to help establish the Empire Air Training Scheme, a massive training program that provided the Royal Air Force with trained aircrew from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Southern Rhodesia. He commanded No. 2 Group RAF of RAF Bomber Command and No. 15 Group RAF of RAF Coastal Command. Robb became Deputy Chief of Combined Operations under Lord Louis Mountbatten in 1942. During Operation Torch he was air advisor to the Supreme Allied Commander, Lieutenant General Dwight Eisenhower and in February 1943, Eisenhower appointed him Deputy Commander of the Northwest African Air Forces. When Eisenhower became Supreme Allied Commander in Europe in January 1944, he brought Robb to his Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force as Deputy Chief of Staff (Air). Robb became Commander-in-Chief of Fighter Command in 1945 and learned to fly the Gloster Meteor, the RAF's first operational jet aircraft. He became Vice-Chief of the Air Staff in 1947, and then Commander in Chief of the Western Union's air forces in 1948. In 1951 he became Inspector General of the RAF.

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Monday, May 20, 2019

SS-Totenkopf Commander Theodor Eicke

SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS Theodor Eicke participated in World War I as a paymaster. He later joined the "Zollgrenzschutz":, which were engaged in the defense of Germany’s eastern borders against Polish attacks following the Great War. Subsequent to this service with the latter formations, Eicke joined the "Schützpolizei" and later a "Detective Bureau".

Eicke had joined the "Polizei" in 1927 and soon thereafter came into contact with the Allgemeine-SS. He became a member and, compared to his fellow officers, was promoted quickly. Together with his comrades in the Allgemeine-SS, as well as with the police, NCOs and enlisted men discharged from the Reichswehr, he set up "Hilfspolizei" squads (auxiliary police units formed in early 1933). These were organized to combat Hitler’s opponents and also to guard them after they had been arrested. Once the new government had obtained power, Eicke formed so-called "SS-Hundertschaften", from which the later "Totenkopfverbände" ("T.-Sturmbanne" and "T.-Standarten") evolved. These men guarded the Oranienburg Concentration Camp near Berlin, as well as the camp at Dachau, north of München. The prisoners in these camps … communists, social-democrats, members of the "Reichsbanner", as well as other opponents of Hitler … were often subjected to brutal treatment.

It should be noted that when Eicke took over the command of all concentration camp personnel, as well as all SS-Totenkopfverbände, he attempted to train these men along army lines, or at least in a manner similar to the training received by the SS-Verfügungstruppe units. When the Reichswehr refused to issue Eicke’s men with light infantry weapons, in contrast to the SS-Verfügungstruppe, Eicke procured such weapons on his own, drawing upon the caches of arms hidden by SA-troopers. Eicke also played a role in the crushing of the "Röhm Putsch", and, as a result of laws passed after 30 June 1934, his units officially became part of the SS under the supreme command of Himmler. Up until that time, they had been directly subordinated to the supreme command of the SA.

At any rate, by 1938/39, Eicke’s troops had all received some basic military training and had been issued with light infantry weapons such as rifles, carbines, pistols, WWI machine-guns, and some mortars. When the Second World War broke out, Eicke formed a division from the Totenkopf units, reinforced by reserves from the Allgemeine-SS, Army reservists and the police. The Division was partially motorized, had been constituted at Dachau (the Waffen-SS training base), and had undergone full military training at Obermünsingen, Württemberg, during the winter of 1939/40.

On 6th February 1943, Eicke was on an inspection flight in a Fiessler-Storch when his plane was shot down by the Soviets and crashed behind their lines. Several attempts were made by reinforced assault squads to recover the remains of their commander. They finally succeeded, after losing several men. Eicke was given an elaborate funeral at one of the cemeteries of the Division near Orelka, Russia. In a manner reminiscent of the funeral rites performed by the ancient Germans upon the death of their tribesmen or kings, Theodor Eicke, or "Papa Eicke", as his troops called him, was laid to rest.

Later, when German forces had withdraw, officers from the divisional staff, together with a few selected men, exhumed Eicke’s corpse and brought it back by truck to Kiev. His remains were not to fall into enemy hands! Officials from the legal section of the military authorities investigated this incident and the officers responsible are said to have been reprimanded.

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Saturday, May 18, 2019

Bio of General der Artillerie Walter Warlimont

General der Artillerie Walter Warlimont, the son of a publisher, was born in Osnabrück, Germany, on 3 October 1894. An artillery cadet, he was commissioned into the German Kaiserliche Armee in June 1914. During the First World War he fought on the Western Front as a battery officer. He was promoted several times and progressed to become an brigade adjutant and battery commander. After the war Warlimont was active in the right-wing Freikorps group. He remained in the army and in 1922 was selected for general staff training. This included spending time in England (1926) and the United States (1929). Promoted to Major, Warlimont sent to Spain in September 1936 where he worked as a military adviser to General Francisco Franco during the early stages of the Spanish Civil War. Warlimont returned to Nazi Germany in 1937 where he was given command of the Artillerie-Regiment 26 at Düsseldorf. In September 1938 Warlimont became head of Home Defence. The following year he worked under Alfred Jodl as deputy head of the operations office in Berlin. In this role he attended Hitler's military conferences and drafted most of Germany's major operational plans and directives. Warlimont was seriously injured by the bomb placed by Claus von Stauffenberg on 20th July 1944. After the war Warlimont was sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes. However he was released in 1957. His book 'Inside Hitler's Headquarters, 1939-45' was published in 1964. Walter Warlimont died at Kreuth in Upper Bavaria on 9 October 1976.

"Fuhrerhauptquartier Wolfschanze 1940-1945" by Walter Frentz

Friday, May 17, 2019

Hitler's Adjutant Otto Günsche

SS-Hauptsturmführer Otto Günsche was born on 24 September 1917 in Jena. He was an early volunteer in the “Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler”, joining the regiment in 1934 at the age of 17. By 1936 he was serving in the Führer’s personal escort commando in which he would stay until the war started. He would then participate in all of the military campaigns of the “LSSAH” until 1942 when he was sent to a war time officer’s training class at the SS-Junkerschule “Tölz”. After becoming an SS-Untersturmführer, Günsche was posted to Adolf Hitler’s personal adjutant staff in January 1943, taking over the position of an adjutant who had fallen ill. He held that position for a few weeks before he was reassigned to the “Liebstandarte” and returned to front line service. After receiving, among other decorations, the Iron Cross, Ist Class, thus proving his “military” capabilities and courage, he returned to the Führer’s personal staff in February 1944. He would now remain Hitler’s personal adjutant until the end of the war. Günsche became probably most noted for having to cremate the bodies of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun during the battle of Berlin. The now SS-Hauptsturmführer Günsche was captured by the Soviets in early May 1945 while trying to breakout of Berlin. He became a “prime” captive of the Reds and spent a number of years in the NKVD/KGB Lubiyanka Prison in Moscow undergoing numerous rounds of torture and interrogation. In 1956 he was released from Soviet captivity and turned over to the tender mercies of the East German communists who promptly jailed him again. After much effort and some diplomacy, he was finally allowed to immigrate to West Germany. Despite his horrible travails, Günsche was able to build a successful new life for himself. He remained active in Waffen-SS veteran’s affairs and due to his unique position as an “eyewitness to history” was constantly sought after by historians and history buffs, whom he graciously accomodated for the rest of his life. Otto Günsche passed away on 2 October 2003 at around 90 years of age.

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'Siegrunen 80' by Richard Landwehr

Indian Legion Training

Possibly this is the only color photo that shows member of the Legion Freies Indien (Free Indian Legion) of the Wehrmacht! This photo is came from the French "Historia" magazine (Hors série n° 21 Les SS Vol 2 : L'Enfer Organisé) that published in 1971, and shows two member of the Indian Legion who were practicing the operating of artillery weapon. From the turban on their head, we know that they are Sikhs. We can also clearly see the shield on their arms, which shows a Bengal tiger against the background of the Indian national flag.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Spectators at the 9th Reichsparteitag in Nuremberg

The 9th Reichsparteitag event was held in Nuremberg from 6-13 September 1937. The three people on the left standing on the podium were, from left to right: Adolf Hitler (Führer und Reichskanzler), Reichsarbeitsführer Konstantin Hierl, and Reichsleiter Wilhelm Frick. Sitting the front row, from left to right: unknown, Reichsleiter Martin Bormann, Reichsleiter Dr. Robert Ley (wearing the honorary uniform of RAD-Ehrenoberstarbeitsführer), Reichsminister Dr. Joseph Goebbels (only his breeches is visible), Reichsleiter Franz-Xaver Schwarz, Reichsleiter Alfred Rosenberg, SS-Obergruppenführer Walter Buch, SA-Stabschef Viktor Lutze, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, Reichsleiter Max Amann, and SS-Obergruppenführer Philipp Bouhler (half-visible). The two people sitting in the second row at right are, from left to right: Gauleiter Karl Röver and Gauleiter Dr.rer.pol. Alfred Meyer. Five people who were seated in the second row in the middle, from left to right: Gauleiter Franz Schwede-Coburg, Gauleiter Josef Bürckel (looking towards Hitler), Gauleiter Martin Mutschmann, Gauleiter Adolf Wagner, and Gauleiter Hinrich Lohse (looking through binoculars). We can also see SS-Brigadeführer Christian Weber (fat moustached man in black SS uniform, standing seventh from the right behind the Polizei officer); SS-Oberführer Alfred Berndt (standing in black SS uniform in the center, next to the Luftwaffe officer). Last but not least: the SA officer sitting directly above Gauleiter Meyer is SA-Gruppenführer Otto Schramme. This picture was shot by Hugo Jaeger.

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Monday, May 13, 2019

General der Nachrichtentruppe Erich Fellgiebel

General der Nachrichtentruppe Erich Fellgiebel (4 October 1886 - 4 September 1944) began his military career in September 1905 as a cadet in a signal battalion. After the First World War, he was transferred to Berlin as a General Staff officer. In 1938 he became head of the army signal corps and head of armed forces communications in Armed Forces High Command. His former superior Colonel-General Ludwig Beck and Beck's successor Colonel-General Franz Halder brought Fellgiebel into contact with the military resistance circles. He was a key figure in the preparations for Operation "Valkyrie." Adolf Hitler did not fully trust Fellgiebel; Hitler considered him too independent-minded, but Hitler needed Fellgiebel's expertise. Fellgiebel was one of the first to understand that the German military should adopt and use the Enigma encryption machine. As head of Hitler's signal services, Fellgiebel knew every military secret, including Wernher von Braun's rocketry work at the Peenemünde Army Research Center. On July 20, 1944, Fellgiebel was in the "Wolf's Lair," Hitler's headquarters in East Prussia, where he attempted to cut off all communications with this center of power. Yet once it was clear that Hitler had survived the assassination attempt, Fellgiebel was forced to countermand previous orders and reestablish communications. Fellgiebel's most famous act that day was his telephone report to his co-conspirator General Fritz Thiele at the Bendlerblock, after he was informed that Hitler was still alive: "Etwas Furchtbares ist passiert! Der Führer lebt!" ("Something awful has happened! The Führer lives!"). Fellgiebel was arrested immediately at Wolf's Lair and tortured for three weeks, but did not reveal any names of his co-conspirators. He was charged before the Volksgerichtshof ("People's Court"). On 10 August 1944, he was found guilty by Roland Freisler and sentenced to death. He was executed on 4 September 1944 at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin.

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Thursday, May 9, 2019

Panzer IV Maintenance in the Snow

A Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf.F1, wearing it's standard grey paint scheme, is getting help with a broken track on the right side. Rust of the chains in the rubbing part and brown in the internal ones. Extra chains completely oxidized. Wear of the tractor wheel, the teeth show only a worn part, rust in them for the time elapsed due to the stopping of the vehicle. Rusty crampons on the side of the turret. Wear and rust on the inside of the wheel rims. Case of the black cannon. Shovels in natural colors. Balkenkreuz without the internal black color. Pink paper and numbers. Soldiers with green-gray coats and pelisse caps and black boots.The picture was taken during the Battle of Moscow in the end 1941.

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Russian Tank Crew Surrender to SS Soldier

The crew of a Russian T-34 tank stuck in the mud surrendered to an NCO from SS-Panzergrenadier-Division "Wiking" during the 1943 battle in the Eastern Front. Although it suffered heavy losses in the Battle of Kursk, the Wiking Division achieved an excellent reputation, even earning the grudging respect of the Soviets in several battle reports for its pugnacious fighting spirit (Soviet commanders were always concerned to learn that their troops were facing the soldier of the Wiking Division). In October 1943 the division was reformed yet again, and emerged as a fully fledged panzer division. The significance of this should not be under estimated. Considering the disdain shown for many of the foreign volunteer units by their German masters, the fact that a predominantly 'foreign' division should be accorded panzer division status and equipped with the latest tanks was a tribute to the regard in which it was held. The 'Wikinger' were fast attaining an elite status to equal the best of the original Waffen-SS divisions. This picture was first published in SIGNAL magazine, October 1943 edition.

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Das III Reich Sondersheft №12 "SS Verfugungstruppe und Waffen SS 1939-1945" (1974)

Monday, May 6, 2019

German Prisoners from Normandy

Some of the 1,096 German prisoners of war who have arrived on HM Landing Ship Tank (LST-165) at Gosport, Hampshire, June 1944. This is the first transport with prisoners from the Allied invasion of Normandy. They will be interrogated and distributed to various camps according to their classification. Man with the blanket under arm is wearing the ribbon of Medaille "Winterschlacht im Osten 1941/42" (Ostmedaille) in his uniform. Probably counting himself as a lucky survivor of the war. The picture was taken by Reinhard Schultz

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Sunday, May 5, 2019

General John Crocker in France 1944

Lieutenant General John Crocker, Commander of 1st Corps, in France, August 1944. Sir John Tredinnick Crocker, GCB, KBE, DSO, MC (4 January 1896 - 9 March 1963) was not much of a talker and he was a lousy self-promoter because of it. Yet he was one of the most important British soldiers of the Second World War, commanding a corps in North Africa and subsequently being assigned “the most ambitious, the most difficult and the most important task” of any Allied corps commander during Operation Overlord. His influence was not limited to the period of the war either. He was intimately involved with the development of British armoured forces during the 1920s and 1930s, and after the war he oversaw the production of the doctrine and training publications that would guide the British Army for much of the Cold War. He also served as Commander-in-Chief Middle East Land Forces, and he finished his career as Adjutant-General to the Forces. Field Marshal Montgomery would have preferred it if Crocker had retired as Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS), but in 1949 Prime Minister Clement Atlee chose Sir William Slim for the post instead. By almost any standard, Crocker had a very successful army career. So, how did someone so quiet achieve so much? Crocker’s influence, and his rise in the British Army, rested squarely on a foundation of technical competence and unimpeachable integrity. These were also the qualities that underpinned his method of command. A keenly intelligent man, Crocker found himself in high demand whenever there were problems to be solved, whether they concerned testing the abilities of tanks, building an armoured formation, or sequencing an amphibious assault. He had excelled at staff college and at just about everything else he had tackled during the interwar period, so it is no wonder that he attracted the attention of people like Alan Brooke and Percy Hobart. They trusted him, and not just for his technical ability. His Great War record had shown him to be completely composed under fire, and his reputation for being straight with everyone, whether they wanted to hear what he had to say or not, had earned him the nickname “Honest John.” In 1935, Hobart wrote that Crocker was “trusted by me and by all ranks of the Tank Brigade ... his patience, tact and integrity have won him affection.” There was also an understated determination about Crocker. During tough times like the battles for Caen, he could grit his teeth and drive on to his objectives, even when the fighting was tough and the casualty count high. That steely resolve faded for a while when he suffered the agonizing loss of his only son, Wilfrid, in October 1944, but his skills and his quiet nobility never left him.

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"Corps Commanders: Five British and Canadian Generals at War, 1939-45" by Douglas E. Delaney