25 February 2013

Ritterkreuz Recipient Heinrich "Hein" Springer

Image size: 1125 x 1600 pixel. 496 KB
Date: Monday, 12 January 1942
Place: Russia
Photographer: Unknown

Heinrich Springer (November 3, 1914 – October 27, 2007) in his formal portrait on the award of the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes (Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross), January 1942. Unlike many "Aces" who won this award by accumulating a "score", Springer earned his for a single infantry combat action where he displayed exemplary personal bravery, leading a charge on a heavily defended bridge over the river Don. He was a Hauptsturmführer (Captain) in the 1. SS-Division "Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler". He went to the Gelehrtenschule in Meldorf. Springer trained as a civil engineer and an architect and also served as a Hitlerjugend leader. As a youth in the Weimar Republic he trained to be volunteered for the Waffen-SS and attended the SS officers training school at Bad Tölz, after graduation he was posted to the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler. He went on to command the 3rd company in 1941 with the rank of Obersturmführer (First Lieutenant). It was while in command of the 3rd company that he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. During the Battle of Rostov he seized a vital bridge over the River Don. He later commanded the 1st Company LSSAH from June 1942 to February 1943 with the rank of Hauptsturmführer (Captain). Further information on Springer is sparse. After suffering multiple wounds he was awarded the Verwundetenabzeichen in Gold (Golden Wound Badge). He then spent some time at the OKW as the Waffen SS Liaison officer working with General Alfred Jodl. He was then posted to the headquarters of the Army Group B, under Field Marshal Walter Model, where he stayed during the Normandy Invasion and the Ardennes offensive. He was then the officer in charge of ordnance for Army Group Vistula. He then spent some time in captivity before being released and returning to his family. Springer died in Oelixdorf, Germany in 2007.


24 February 2013

Panther Ausf G Abandoned in the Ardennes

Image size: 1600 x 1200 pixel. 507 KB
Date: Wednesday, 27 December 1944
Place: Grandmenil, Manhay, Belgium
Photographer: Unknown

Panzerkampfwagen V Panther ausf G abandoned during the Ardennes Offensive. This Panther, Fahrgestellnummer (Hull Number) 121163, was built at Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg Aktiengesellschaft (MAN AG, a public company) in Kassel in October 1944. Shipped to the Western Front, it joined the planned panzers strength for "Wacht Am Rein." Panthers made up the bulk of the tank strength; seven panzer divisions were assigned to the attack. Decription from Robert H. Mabes Company M, 289th: The next morning there was a shooting from the basements. We asked for support of a tank who started shooting at it. The Germans weren’t gone, they sat in the basements. After the shelling, the Germans gave up and surrendered. I do not know how I was able to grab my camera, but I took pictures while they were surrendering. Later, the developed film was stolen and I have only a few photos. The next day we caught chickens and scheduled them. On December 27 the mess sergeant rode through the village, screaming from his jeep that Christmas dinner was to be prepared. He ran into a mine and there goes our dinner. 10.00: There were about 180 prisoners and there were about 100 Germans slain. The Germans lost many vehicles in the immediate vicinity of Grandmenil: three tanks near the roadblocks north of the village, a Mark III tank, two half-tracks and fifteen Mark IV tanks. The prisoners were reinforcements from the 2nd SS Panzer Das Reich, which had defended the village. On American side were 137 deaths, including 7 officers. In the morning of December 27 the Americans had to hold Grandmenil at all cost. A period of defensive organization followed, which lasted until the battalion was transferred. This was on January 4, 1945 Company I just put a defense on the edge of the village in an arc connected to the Grandmenil-Manhay Highway, (on the left of it.) to the Y-junction (Route de Bomal) 500 meters further away. The platoon discovered that they had dug in on an American anti-tank minefield that was nowhere mentioned. They moved to the front to the edge of Grandmenil. Compagnie I dug in at an arc connected on the right highway to a point north of the cemetery. Company K groove is on a slope, where they had sight of the north west positions. They were affiliated with Company I and L on the flanks. There was made a complete minefield around the village. The mines weren’t buried and were later recovered when the Allied counter-offensive began in January 1945. Daisy Chains (interlinked anti-tank mines, which can be laid rapidly on the road) were placed on all roads and country lanes entering the village. In the minefield, double rolls of barbed wire (concertina) were placed. Also much time was spent to detect American buried mines, which were distributed over the fields and the caused injuries. Cattle and horses caused continuously explosions because they walked through the village. The animals were kept in the cemetery and they were cared for daily. Needless to say that the battalion enjoyed the milk and as an occasional steak. The Germans had defended Grandmenil at all cost. After their departure, they did not mak any attempt to recapture the village again. Occasionally there was artillery or mortars shot at. But the enemy had other plans to capture the important road to Erezée. The above suggests that the Germans had no more interest in Grandmenil. But: the Germans wanted a detour and recapture Erezée and Grandmenil. What followed was the, so called, “Sad Sack affair”.


Panther Ausf A Destroyed by XIX Tactical Air Command

Image size: 1600 x 800 pixel. 278 KB
Date: Saturday, 14 October 1944
Place: Ployart-et-Vaurseine, Champagne-Ardenne, France
Photographer: Unknown

Panzerkampfwagen V Panther ausf A of 11. Panzer-Division after bombing by United States Army 9th Air Force, XIX Tactical Air Command (TAC). The British Royal Air Force Hawker Typhoons of the 2nd Tactical Air Force carried four 20mm Hispano cannon, two 1,000-pound (450 kilogram) and four 60-pound (27.2 kilogram) RB-3 rockets. The United States Army Air Force Republic P-47 Thunderbolts of the 8th and 9th Air Forces carried eight Browning .50 caliber machine guns, 2,500 pounds (1134 kilograms) of bombs and ten 5-inch (127mm) rockets. The Germans called them "jäger-bombern" or "jabos" (prounounced "ya-bows") for short. While the cannon and machine guns weren't powerful enough and the rockets and bombs weren't accurate enough to stop most German tanks, the sheer terror of a jabo attack could scatter ground forces and wreck soft-skinned trucks and horse-drawn elements, leaving the tanks unprotected. The rockets were the equivalent of a broadside from a naval warship. Panther turmnummer (turret number) 252, the 2nd vehicle of the 5.zug (5th platoon) of 2.kompanie (2nd company), has an impact from a bomb hit on the glacis (front hull) armor by the right tread and was knocked out during General George S. Patton's campaign to enter Germany through Lorraine. TAC flew 12,000 sorties in support of Patton in August 1944; weather had reduced operations to 3,500 sorties by November. The distance to the Normandy beaches and the lack of gasoline, ammunition and food kept Third Army from major offensive operations until the Ardennes Offensive in December 1944. The same day, the Douglas A-20 Havocs and Martin B-26 Marauders of the 9th Air Force were grounded because of bad weather. 

National Archives and Records Administration  (NARA) 111-SC-329852

23 February 2013

Americans Approach Panther Ausf A in Periers, France

Image size: 1600 x 1144 pixel. 331 KB
Date: Tuesday, 1 August 1944
Place: Periers, Normandy, France
Photographer: Fred Ramage

A Panzerkampfwagen V Panther ausf A is used as a target for a staged series of photos of American troops engaging it. The Panther was hit by two bazooka teams placed on opposite sides, then American infantry moved up to attack the tank directly. In actual combat, this would have been suicidal if the crew was still alive and operating the three MG42 7.92mm (.31 caliber) machine guns would be used to cut down the infantry. Since this tank is missing a tread, it's unlikely it's a combat photo. Since none of these soldiers are carrying automatic weapons or grenades, it's unlikely they will be able to force their way into the tank. Periers was liberated by the 2nd Battalion, 359th Infantry Regiment, 90th Infantry Division, VIII Corps, on July 27, 1944. Within a few hours the 4th Armored Division's M4 Sherman medium tanks were moving through Periers on their way to drive on Saint Lo as part of Operation Cobra, the breakout from Normandy that will liberate Paris on August 25, 1944. The village erected a monument of four statues of Americans who served with the 90th Infantry Division or attached units: Private Richard E. Richtman (1924-1944), Sergeant Andrew J. Speese (1912-1944), Private First Class Virgil J. Tangborn (1920-1944) and Sergeant Tullio Micaloni (1913-1944). 


02 February 2013

Overturned 12. SS-Panzer-Division "Hitlerjugend" Panther Ausf A

Image size: 1600 x 978 pixel. 345 KB
Date: Saturday, 9 June 1945
Place: Norrey-en-Bessin, Normandy, France
Photographer: Unknown

A heavily damaged Panzerkampfwagen V Panther ausf A of the 3.Kompanie/1.Abteilung/SS-Panzer-Regiment 12/12.SS-Panzer-Division "Hitlerjugend" lies flipped over next to the road between Norrey-en-Bessin and Bretteville-l'Orgueilleuse. Note the sign attached that says "remove gearbox." After the failure of the 1st Abteilung's 1st and 4th Companies of the 12th SS Panzer Regiment to seize Bretteville-l'Orgueilleuse on the night of June 8-9, 1944, SS-Oberführer (later SS-Brigadeführer) Kurt "Panzer" Meyer ordered the recently arrived 3rd Company to attack Norrey in a daring daylight armored thrust. Again outpacing their infantry with orders to stop only to fire, the Panthers turned from the Caen-Bayeux Highway into the fields to attack the 1st Battalion, The Regina Rifle Regiment, 3rd Canadian Division. However, expecting the Canadians to open fire with their 6-pounder 57mm (2.24 inch) anti-tank guns and thus turning towards them to put their 80mm frontal armor to the Canadians, the Panthers under Hauptmann Luedemann exposed their side and rear flanks to fire from nine Canadian Shermans of C Squadron, 25th Armored Delivery "Elgin Regiment" who were bringing replacement tanks as reinforcements from Juno Beach. The Elgins' tanks included Sherman Fireflies armed with a 17-pounder 77mm (3 inch) anti-tank gun. Seven Panthers were destroyed; fifteen of thirty-five crewmen were killed; the rest were burned or wounded. As the Panthers withdrew, they were hit by artillery fire from the Canadians and Allied ships offshore. Later, this Panther was overturned by Allied Engineers to remove it from the road. It is often reported that this tank was hit by fighter-bombers; the damage to the hull bottom is the result of tests by the engineers to see what explosives could damage the tank. 


12. SS-Panzer-Division "Hitlerjugend" Panther Ausf G

Image size: 1600 x 988 pixel. 737 KB
Date: Tuesday, 20 June 1944
Place: Bretteville-l'Orgueilleuse, Normandy, France
Photographer: Frank L. Dubervill

A Knocked out Panzerkampfwagen Panther ausf G, commanded by Untersturmfuhrer Paul Teichert (born 5 August 1924) from the 4.Kompanie/1.Abteilung/SS-Panzer-Regiment 12/12.SS-Panzer-Division "Hitlerjugend" outside 75 Rue de Bayeux in Bretteville-l'Orgueilleuse. The suspension has failed in the fire and the tank has settled to the ground. On the night of June 8-9, 1944, the 1st Abteilung and the 25th Panzergrenadier Regiment made an attack on the 1st Battalion, The Regina Rifle Regiment, 3rd Canadian Division, with twenty-two panthers under SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer Max Wünsche, two batteries of self-propelled artillery and a motorcycle company led by SS-Oberführer (later SS-Brigadefuhrer) Kurt "Panzer" Meyer. The Reginas had suffered heavy casualties in the landing on Juno Beach on June 6, but with reinforcements moved towards Caen and occupied Bretteville-l'Orgueilleuse, Norrey, and Cardonville; other Canadian units occupied other towns, including Putot. The 12th SS "Hitlerjugend" Division was made up of sixteen- and seventeen-year-old Hitler Youth and commanded by SS-Brigadefuhrer Fritz Witt. Witt received orders to drive the Canadians into the sea. Meyer expected the Canadians to falter under a concentrated armored attack, a successful tactic on the Eastern Front. At 1100 Hours the attack began. Lacking heavy anti-tank weapons, the Reginas had to stop the Panthers with 6-pounder 57mm (2.24 inch) guns and Projector, Infantry, Anti Tank (PIAT), a spigot mortar with a 12 pound (5 kilogram) high explosive anti-tank (HEAT) shaped charge; the 6-pounders and the PIATs could only penetrate the lesser rear armor of the Panthers. The Reginas also had a large quantity of small arms and aummunition. One PIAT team - Rifleman Joseph E. LaPointe, Rifleman Gill A. Carnie and Lance Corporal Clarence V. Hewitt - took up a position 15 yards (14 meters) from the Regina Rifles Headquarters near Bretteville-l'Orgueilleuse's Church. The flaw in Meyer's plan was that his units, having just arrived at the front, lacked coordination with other attacking Hitlerjugend elements; he also sent his Panthers without much infantry down the Rue de Bayeux, allowing the Reginas to deal with them one at a time. The Reginas claimed twelve Panthers were destroyed; Meyer would only later admit to six lost. The Panther in this photo closed to within 30 yards (27 meters) of the Regina's Headquarters at 0000 Hours; LaPointe, exposing himself to the tank's machine gun fire, struck the Panther with repeated PIAT hits. The Panther, attempting to escape, hit an improvised mine of 75 grenades. LaPointe received the Military Medal. A second Panther, seeing the first explode, fired wildly but only struck the first Panther, fracturing the rear of the turret. The crew of the stricken Panther bailed out and were shot down by the Canadians. Meyer was able to reclaim the nearby town of Putot from the Winnepeg Rifles, but the Reginas held Bretteville-l'Orgueilleuse throughout the campaign for Caen. Witt was killed on June 14 in a naval bombardment. 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend ceased to exist during the Normandy campaign; some 1,500 of their 21,500 officers and men were killed, wounded or captured by September 1! Kurt Meyer was captured on September 6, 1944 and after the war was tried for the war crime of killing thirty-seven Canadian prisoners at the Abbey Ardennes on June 7, the day before the battle for Bretteville-l'Orgueilleuse. Canadians were outraged that he was given only nine years in prison. Max Wünsche was captured on August 20 after driving a German vehicle through the liberated town of St. Lambert. This Panther was the first to be knocked out in ground combat in the Normandy campaign. 

National Archives of Canada, PA-130149 

01 February 2013

Award Ceremony of Pionier-Bataillon 221

Image size: 1600 x 1042 pixel. 615 KB
Date: Wednesday, 26 June 1940
Place: Oberrhein, Germany
Photographer: Unknown

Award ceremony for 13 Officers, NCOs and Enlisted Men from Pionier-Bataillon 221/221.Infanterie-Division/7.Armee/Heeresgruppe C, awarded various grades of the Eisernes Kreuzes, including Eisernes Kreuz II. Klasse, Eisernes Kreuz I. Klasse, and 1939 spange zum 1914 Eisernes Kreuz I. KLasse. These all were awarded by the unseen: Generalleutnant Johann Pflugbiel (24 August 1882 - 21 October 1951), Kommandeur of 221. Infanterie-Division. The recipients, from left to right: Unteroffizier Krusch (Eisernes Kreuz II. Klasse), Pioniere Verlei (Eisernes Kreuz II. Klasse), Unteroffizier Überschar (Eisernes Kreuz II. Klasse), Pioniere Schneider (Eisernes Kreuz II. Klasse), Unteroffizier Brzuske (Eisernes Kreuz II. Klasse), Unteroffizier Dindas (Eisernes Kreuz II. Klasse), Hauptmann Götsch (Kommandeur Pionier-Bataillon 221; 1939 spange zum 1914 Eisernes Kreuz I. Klasse), Feldwebel Lessmann (Eisernes Kreuz II. Klasse), Leutnant Müller (Eisernes Kreuz I. Klasse), Unteroffizier Krane (Eisernes Kreuz II. Klasse), Leutnant Seidl (Eisernes Kreuz II. Klasse), Unteroffizier Heindke (Eisernes Kreuz II. Klasse), and Leutnant Rumrf (Eisernes Kreuz II. Klasse).


Tiger #332 Stuck in the Mud (Recovery Training)

Image size: 1600 x 1034 pixel. 722 KB
Date: Monday, 4 October 1943
Place: Znamenka, Tambovskaya oblast, Soviet Union
Photographer: Unknown

Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger (8,8 cm L/56) Ausf. E (Sd.Kfz. 181) turmnummer 332 of schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503 carefully trying to make it's way out of the mud. S.Pz.Abt.503 was the only German heavy tank battalion to have two Balkenkreuz visible on each side, one on the hull and one on the turret near the identification numeral. The numbering featured black numerals with white outlines by this time. In October 1943, the battalion was in a rest area near Znamenka, where it had time to maintain and repair vehicles and conduct training. This sequence shows recovery training that was conducted on 4 October 1943.

Book "Tigers In Combat (1)" by Wolfgang Schneider