28 April 2013

Croatian Air Force Legion (HZL) Aircrew Celebrating the Unit's 1,000th Sortie Over the Eastern Front

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Date: Wednesday, 16 September 1942
Place: Soviet Union
Photographer: Unknown

Croatian Air Force Legion (HZL) aircrew pose in front of their Dornier Do 17Z bomber in recognition of the unit's 1,000th sortie over the Eastern Front, 16 September 1942. The unit returned to the NDH in December 1942. The Dornier Do 17 was numerically the most important bomber type used by the ZNDH. The Croatian Air Force (Croatian: Hrvatsko bojno zrakoplovstvo), originally the Air Force of the Independent State of Croatia (Zrakoplovstvo Nezavisne Države Hrvatske, ZNDH), was the air force of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), a puppet state established with the support of the Axis Powers during World War II. The ZNDH was founded under German authority in April 1941. Although it could not be considered a large air arm in the wider context of World War II, the ZNDH nonetheless had on its charge at one time or another some 650 aircraft between April 1941 and May 1945, as well as anti-aircraft and paratroop units. From humble beginnings in 1941, the ZNDH was still providing some measure of air-support (fighter, attack and transport) until the last days of World War II in Europe. During the middle part of 1941, some of the ZNDH's man-power capacity was sent to the Eastern Front as part of the Luftwaffe, the Croatian Air Force Legion (Hrvatska Zrakoplovna Legija, HZL; Kroatische Luftwaffen Legion). Most of the Croatian Air Force Legion's personnel were back on NDH territory by late 1943-early 1944 to help counter the growing Allied air threat. A Croatian Anti-Aircraft Legion was also deployed. The ZNDH maintained a flying school, originally at Rajlovac airfield near Sarajevo and then at Velika Gorica and Pleso airfields in Zagreb. Its parachute and paratroop school was located in Koprivnica, and its scout (fighter) school was located in Zagreb.


Award Ceremony of Croatian Volunteers in the Outskirts of Stalingrad

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Date: Thursday, 24 September 1942
Place: Golubinskaya, Volgogradskaya Oblast, Soviet Union
Photographer: Unknown

Officers of the Verstarken Kroatischen Infanterie Regiment 369 at award ceremony. On the left is Major Tomislav Brajković, 2nd from left is Oberleutnant Blago Zlomislić, 3rd from left is Artillerie Hauptmann Vasilije Maljgin, while on the right is a German officer (Major?). The photo was taken on 24 September 1942 at Golubinskaya-on-Don during the Croatian Poglavnik Ante Pavelić's visit to 6. Armee. This picture taken after award ceremony of, uniquely, both German and Croatian awards! The three Croatian Wehrmacht officers proudly displays their newly received Eisernes Kreuz II. Klasse (Iron Cross 2nd Class), Željezni trolist (Kroatisches Eisernes Dreiblatt/Croatian Military Order of the Iron Trefoil), and Red krune kralja Zvonimira (Kroatisches Kriegsordens der Krone des Königs Zvonimir/Croatian Order of the Crown of King Zvonimir), while Major Brajković wearing the Croat Gold Bravery Medal (notice the added suspension in the picture- correct for the Gold award) above his pocket. At least two of the officers in the centre wearing the Croation Legion 1941 Linden Leaf Badge in their M38 feldmütze. The Legion badge was manufactured in the form of a linden leaf with the national coat of arms shown in the center and in bold relief the words "HRVATSKA LEGIJA" (Croat Legion) with the date "1941." The reverse shows a safety style pin attached in the center by a small bronze plate. These badges were made by the firms: "BRACA KNAUS-Zagreb" and "Me-Ba" Zagreb, and were made of aluminum and in silver color only. Veterans wore this badge on the left breast pocket of their German or Croatian uniform and on the side of their M-43 style German Cap.


USS Maryland (BB-46) and Capsized USS Oklahoma (BB-37)

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Date: Sunday, 7 December 1941
Place: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, United States
Photographer: Unknown

USS Maryland (BB-46) moored at berth F-5 alongside the capsized USS Oklahoma (BB-37). USS West Virginia (BB-48) is burning in the background. The unfortunate Oklahoma, an older ship with much less adequate protection against underwater damage, was hit by up to nine torpedoes. Her hull's port side was opened almost completely from below the forward gun turret back to the third turret, a distance of over 250 feet. She listed quickly, her port bilge struck the harbor bottom, and she then rolled almost completely over. Oklahoma came to rest less than twenty minutes after she was first hit. Some of her starboard underwater hull and the starboard propeller were now all that showed above the surface of Pearl Harbor. Some of Oklahoma's men were still alive inside her upturned hull, and their rescue became the focus of an intense effort over the next two days. Thirty-two Sailors were recovered alive, but over four-hundred were killed. In 1943, the capsized ship was rolled upright and raised in one of the salvage profession's greatest undertakings, but she was not further repaired. Maryland was hit by two bombs, which caused relatively light damage and some flooding forward. Four of her men lost their lives. The battleship was able to steam to the west coast for final repairs later in December and was fully returned to service in February 1942. 

NARA (National Archives) Identifier 306553

27 April 2013

Nakajima B5N2 Type 97 Attack Bomber Shot Down at Hospital Point, Pearl Harbor

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Date: Sunday, 7 December 1941
Place: Naval Hospital, United States Navy, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, United States
Photographer: Unknown

Wing of a Japanese Navy Type 97 Nakajima B5N2 carrier attack aircraft that crashed at the Naval Hospital, Pearl Harbor, during the attack. This plane came from the aircraft carrier IJN Kaga and had the tail code AII-35?. Its "Rising Sun" insignia was later largely cut away by souvenir hunters. AII-35? was piloted by Airman First Class Syuzo Kitahara with Observer Petty Officer Second Class Yoshio Shimizu and Gunner/Radio Operator Petty Officer Second Class Haruo Onishi. The third B5N2 to attack USS West Virginia in Kaga's first wave, Kitahara's plane was hit multiple times by incendiaries that severed his fuel lines. He broke off his attack as his plane caught fire; Onishi jumped without a parachute, landing near USS New Orleans (CA-32) and USS San Francisco (CA-38). He was recovered from the water alive but soon died of his injuries. Kitahara, struggling with his burning plane, avoided the Navy Yard's large Hammerhead crane and flew down the length of 1010 Dock. Observers noted the burning plane's hydraulics failed and the landing gear began to lower. Kitahara, probably unable to control the plane any more, headed for the Naval Hospital. Captain Reynolds Hayden (September 30, 1883 - February 5, 1952) Commanding Officer of the Naval Hospital, later wrote Kitahara seemed to head "directly towards the front of the main hospital building." Kitahara stood up and let go of the controls just as the plane veered to the left and crashed between the laboratory building and the Chief Petty Officer's quarters. Hayden noted the two Japanese officers were dead, their dismembered bodies strewn across the crash site. An angry Marine began screaming he would kill the Japanese, while holding the dead man's leg. He realized what he was doing and took the man's boot as a souvenir! Private First Class Marion M. Milbrandt, summoned to the Naval Hospital grounds with his 1,000-gallon water pumper, fought the resulting fire. The fire, fed by the crashed plane's gasoline, threatened the facility, but Milbrandt and his crew controlled the blaze. The Hospital laboratory was severely damaged and some research animals were destroyed. The Japanese lost five B5N2 bombers from Kaga during the first wave. Special thanks to David Aiken for his research on the crew of AII-35?. 

NARA (National Archives)

Small Boat Rescues Sailor from USS West Virginia (BB-48)

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Date: Sunday, 7 December 1941
Place: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, United States
Photographer: Unknown

Sailors in a motor launch rescue a survivor from the water alongside the sunken USS West Virginia (BB-48) during or shortly after the Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor. USS Tennessee (BB-43) is inboard of the sunken battleship. Note extensive distortion of West Virginia's lower midships superstructure, caused by torpedoes that exploded below that location. Also note 5"/25 gun, still partially covered with canvas, boat crane swung outboard and empty boat cradles near the smokestacks, and base of radar antenna atop West Virginia's foremast. 106 sailors from USS West Virginia died in the attack. Later examination revealed that West Virginia had taken not five, but six, torpedo hits. With a patch over the damaged area of her hull, the battleship was pumped out and ultimately refloated on May 17, 1942. Docked in Drydock Number One on 9 June, West Virginia again came under scrutiny, and it was discovered that there had been not six, but seven torpedo hits. During the ensuing repairs, workers located 70 bodies of West Virginia sailors who had been trapped below when the ship sank. In one compartment, a calendar was found, the last scratch-off date being December 23! The task confronting the nucleus crew and shipyard workers was a monumental one, so great was the damage on the battleship's port side. Ultimately, however, West Virginia departed Pearl Harbor for the west coast and a complete rebuilding at the Puget Sound Navy Yard at Bremerton, Washington.

NARA (National Archives) Identifier: 306532

26 April 2013

Oberleutnant Franz Ludwig Discussing Strategy With His Men

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Date: Saturday, 8 July 1944
Place: Bois de Bavant, Normandie, France
Photographer: Kriegsberichter Scheck from PK (Propaganda-Kompanie) 698

Oberleutnant Franz Ludwig  (Chef 2.Batterie/Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 1346) discussing the strategy with his men minutes after he knocked-out his 16th victim, a British tank, at Bois de Bavant, which is situated right up towards the coast near Ranville/Pegasus Bridge, Normandy, in 8 July 1944 (some sources said as 10 July 1944). Behind them is Sturmgeschütz III 7,5cm Stu.K. 40 mit Topfblende Ausf. G (Sd.Kfz. 142/1) with 16 kill rings (panzerabschuße). StuG III has the "saukopf" mantlet and "waffle plate" zimmerit under all the foliage. Previously, Ludwig (born in 24 January 1913) had received Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes in 24 June 1944, but he would died in combat a few months later in 14 August 1944. In the battle of Normandy, his unit were attached to the regular German infantry division, 346. Infanterie-Division (this division operated in the British sector east of Orne, Normandy, from as early as the 7th of June 1944, and largely destroyed at Falaise-Gap. Later rebuilt in Holland). 10 StuG III were transferred to the division in 10 May 1944, before the Allied landing. The above moment (photographed by Kriegsberichter Scheck from Propaganda-Kompanie 698) also published in the German newsreel, "Die Deutsche Wochenschau" (as it seemed to be often the routine to have photographers and cinematographers working in teams - on both sides of the lines). Please note that Ludwig's men wears two different uniforms: StuG wrapper with skull collar patches and collar litzen.  There was some uniform order that the traditional style collar tabs were to replace the "death's head" collar tabs for assault-gun crew (Sturm-Artillerie) uniform. It wasn't enforced so that's why you see both types of collar tabs in these units. For the video of the ceremony please click HERE

Book "Defending Fortress Europe: The War Diary of the German 7th Army in Normandy, 6 June to 26 July 1944" by Mark J. Reardon
Bundesarchiv photo collection
Photo courtesy of Doug Banks

19 April 2013

General Hermann Plocher Arrived at Milsbeek

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Date: Tuesday, 19 September 1944
Place: Milsbeek, Limburg, Netherlands
Photographer: Unknown

This image, taken in the morning of Tuesday September 19, 1944, shows the moment of the arrival of Generalleutant Hermann Lukas Plocher (5 January 1901 - 8 December 1980), Chef des Generalstabes der Luftflotte 3, at Milsbeek, Netherlands, to organize operations against the "Landing Zone N" (LZ "N"), which has lowered the 505th PIR of the 82nd U.S. Airborne Division. Several of his subordinates have been quick to approach his car (Plocher is the one in the seat next to the driver), to put the current situation. This officer, who served as Chief of Staff of the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War, has been fielded by General der Flieger Friedrich Christiansen, who is the Commander of the "Wehrmacht-Befehlshaber Niederlande" (Command of the Wehrmacht in the Netherlands), and under the responsibility of this administration in the area of occupancy of communications, tanks, rail service, moving supplies, military installations, and the coordination of the various branches of the German armed forces present in the area.

Book "Kampfraum Arnhem - A photo study of the German Soldier fighting in and around Arnhem, September 1944" by Harlan Glenn & Remy Spezzano
Photo courtesy of Alvaro Casanova Mora at http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10201089909671282&set=o.303273499761263&type=1&relevant_count=1&ref=nf 

A curious group of Dutch children, the first of which fits the traditional wooden clogs, viewed from the entrance of Milsbeek mill, the arrival of Generalleutant Hermann Plocher and members of his staff, which has been sent to provide a defense against American releases in the field of "Landing Zone N". He should coordinate in the first stage, the use of a varied amount of training and replacement units, which include men from Heer, Luftwaffe, and even Kriegsmarine! The mill, built in 1910 was used to drain water from Somonpolder until it fell into disuse in the 1930's. In the picture, a subordinate inform the news report (l "pass the party") to Plocher

16 April 2013

Korean Yang Kyoungjong Captured in Wehrmacht Uniform

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Date: Tuesday, 6 June 1944
Place: Utah Beach, Normandy, France
Photographer: Unknown US Army personnel

American paratroopers in Normandy in June 1944 thought they had captured a Japanese soldier in German uniform, but he turned out to be Korean. His name was Yang Kyoungjong. Yang (March 3, 1920 – April 7, 1992) was a Korean soldier who remarkably fought during World War II in the Imperial Japanese Army, the Soviet Red Army, and later the German Wehrmacht! In 1938, at the age of 18, Yang was in Manchuria when he was conscripted into the Kwantung Army of the Imperial Japanese Army to fight against the Soviet Union. At the time Korea was ruled by Japan. During the Battles of Khalkhin Gol, he was captured by the Soviet Red Army and sent to a labour camp. Because of the manpower shortages faced by the Soviets in its fight against Nazi Germany, in 1942 he was pressed into fighting in the Red Army along with thousands of other prisoners, and was sent to the European eastern front. In 1943, he was captured by Wehrmacht soldiers in Ukraine during the Battle of Kharkov, and was then pressed into fighting for Germany. Yang was sent to Occupied France to fight in a battalion of Soviet prisoners of war known as the "Eastern Battalion" (Ostbataillon), serving in a battalion located on the Cotentin peninsula in Normandy, located close to Utah Beach. After the D-Day landings in northern France by the Allied forces, Yang was captured by paratroopers of the United States Army in June 1944. The Americans initially believed him to be Japanese in German uniform, and he was placed in a prisoner-of-war camp in the United Kingdom. At the time, Lieutenant Robert Brewer of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, reported that his regiment captured four Asians in German uniform after the Utah Beach landings, and that initially no one was able to communicate with them! He was freed from a POW camp in Britain on May 1945 and moved and settled in America in 1947. He lived near the Northwestern University in Illinois until he died on April 7, 1992. He lived as an ordinary US citizen without telling his unbelievable life story even to his two sons and one daughter! His amazing story was the subject of a recent Korean movie; "My Way" (2011).


15 Year Old German Soldier Cries After Being Captured by the US

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Date: Tuesday, 3 April 1945
Place: Rechtenbach, Hesse, Germany
Photographer: John Florea

A fifteen year old German soldier, Hans-Georg Henke, cries after being captured by the US 9th Army in Rechtenbach, Germany, on April 3, 1945. He was a member of the Luftwaffe anti-air squad (Flakhelfer) who burst into tears as his world crumbled around him. His father died 1938 and his mother in 1944. He joined the Luftwaffe to support himself. When the war was coming to an end he walked 60 miles to try and reach American lines only to be captured by the Russians. Luckily, he and his two brothers all survived the war. He went on to live a full life and died in Finsterwalde, Germany, on 6 October 1997. Late February 1945 and 9th Army launched Operation Grenade, which was the southern prong of a pincer attack coordinated with Canadian First Army's Operation Veritable, with the purpose of closing the front up to the Rhine. By 10 March, the Rhine had been reached in all sectors of 9th Army's front. It was not until after 20 March that 9th Army units first crossed the Rhine itself. However, after doing so, the Army quickly struck east around the north of the Ruhr. An enormous pocket soon formed containing the German Heeresgruppe B under Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model. By 4 April, 9th Army had reached the Weser and was switched back to 12th Army Group.


44th Evacuation Hospital Orderlies Carry Malmedy Victim on Stretcher

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Date: Sunday, 14 January 1945
Place: Malmedy, Liege, Belgium
Photographer: Taylor

On the second day of the Battle of the Bulge, December 17, 1944, SS troops herded a group of Americans, mostly from Battery B from the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion into a field at the "Five Points" of Baugnez crossroads near the Belgian town of Malmédy. The POWs were lined up, and then the Germans suddenly opened fire on them for reasons that remain unclear. As the German soldiers and tanks left the area, they shot Americans who showed signs of life and pumped more bullets into those already dead. The exact number killed was never determined with certainty, but it was between 90 and 130. Several men somehow escaped, but some were found hiding in a nearby cafe. The Germans set the building on fire and then shot the men as they ran out. A handful of other GIs eluded the Germans and got out the word that the Germans were shooting POWs. An article in Stars and Stripes alerted the world to the massacre in stark terms, which was used for anti-Nazi propaganda. The bodies of those who had died at Five Points on December 17 lay in what became a virtual no man's land from that day until January 14, 1945. Despite the fact that there was clear evidence from the many survivors that some sort massacre had taken place, the Americans made no attempt to recover the bodies before the 30th Infantry Division retook the area. By a strange quirk of fate it was one of Pergrin's engineer companies that, with the aid of mine detectors, uncovered the snow-covered bodies of 71 victims of the massacre. Then, between January 14 and 16, Major Giacento Morrone, Captain Joseph Kurcz and Captain John Snyder, all doctors at the 44th Evacuation Hospital, carried out autopsies on the bodies, which were frozen stiff and fully clothed on arrival at the hospital. The vast majority still had rings, watches, money and other valuables on them, which contradicts the statements of most survivors who said the Germans stole everything worthwhile from them before they were driven into the field. An analysis of the reports, all extremely disturbing to read, shows that 43 of the bodies had gunshot wounds to the head, at least three had suffered severe blows to the head, three had been crushed, two had received some form of first aid before death and nine still had their arms raised above their heads. It should be noted, however, that both before and during the American advance from Malmédy in January 1945, artillery from both sides hit the Baugnez area, and the autopsies confirm that at least 15 of the bodies had been hit by shell and mortar fragments after death. There is also evidence to show that in at least five cases eyes had been removed from their sockets--and in one case the report suggests that the man was still alive when this happened. While anything is possible, it seems unlikely that even the most depraved or crazed soldier would carry out such an act and, as often happens when bodies are left for long periods in the open, crows or similar birds of prey were the more likely culprits. What is certain is that terrible and usually fatal injuries were administered to the victims at close range. Four months later, additional bodies were recovered when the snow melted. A group of ex-Waffen SS officers of the 1. Panzerkorps were convicted before an American military tribunal convened May 12-July 16, 1946, at Dachau. Seventy-two were found guilty and 42 were sentenced to death, though all these were later commutted to life imprisonment. One defendant committed suicide and one was acquitted; the remainder were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment. 

NARA (National Archives) Record Group 153: Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Army), 1792 - 2010 (ARC identifier: 482). Series: Photographs from the JAG Law Library, compiled 1944 - 1946 (ARC identifier: 532955). NAIL Control Number: NWDNS-153-WC-1-19. Select List Identifier: AFRO/AM LIST #38 - 153-WC-1-19

M5A1 Stuart of 761st Tank Battalion at Coburg

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Date: Wednesday, 25 April 1945
Place: Coburg, Bavaria, Germany
Photographer: Unknown

On April 11, the segregated 761st Tank Battalion, attached to the 71st Infantry Division, Third Army, 12th Army Group, captured the town of Colburg, fifty miles from the Czechoslovakian border. Stiff resistance consisting of machine guns, panzerfaust anti-tank weapons, mortars, and even a few German planes, made the encirclement of Coburg an all-day battle. The 761st, 71st, and Combat Command B of the 11th Armored Division received the surrender of the city's mayor. In this view, an M5A1 Stuart light tank of Dog Company of the 761st moves through the town square to clear out snipers. Note the damage to the windows of the upper floor as they machine gunned the windows to kill any Germans hiding there. M4 Sherman tanks are in the background. After this action the 761st enjoyed their first fresh food and beds for weeks, liberating chicken, cognac, and feather beds from the townfolk. 

NARA (National Archives) #535534

Devastation Of Nürnberg, Germany

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Date: Friday, 20 April 1945
Place: Nürnberg, Bavaria, Germany
Photographer: Unknown

The city was severely damaged in Allied strategic bombing from 1943-1945. On January 2, 1945, the medieval city centre was systematically bombed by the Royal Air Force and the U.S. Air Force and about ninety percent of it was destroyed in only one hour, with 1800 residents killed and roughly 100,000 displaced. In February 1945, additional attacks followed. In total, about 6000 Nuremberg residents are estimated to have been killed in air raids. Despite this, the city was rebuilt after the war and was to some extent, restored to its pre-war appearance including the reconstruction of some of its medieval buildings. In this view overlooking the Pegnitz River, upper right you can see the Frauenkirche (Our Lady's Church) on the edge of the Adolf-Hitler-Platz. Water intakes, choked with debris, fed the needs of factories. This view was taken after the city's capture by the US Army's 45th Infantry Division and the 3rd Armored Division. 


15 April 2013

Visit of General Lüters to Prinz Eugen Division

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Date: Monday, 7 June 1943
Place: Gacko, Foča Region, Bosnia-Herzegovina
Photographer: Unknown

A visit by General Lüters to 7. SS-Freiwilligen-Gebirgs-Division "Prinz Eugen". Picture taken at lunch. Top of the table: General der Infanterie Rudolf Lüters (Befehlshaber der Deutschen Truppen in Kroatien). Bottom of the table: unknown (SS). Left side of the table: Aleksandar Benak (blocked by Lüters, civilian commissar with the Commander of German troops in Croatia, i.e. Lüters); SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS Carl Reichsritter von Oberkamp (Aufstellungsstab V. SS Freiwilligen-Gebirgskorps); SS-Standartenführer Otto Kumm (Ia Erster Generalstabsoffizier 7. SS-Freiwilligen-Gebirgs-Division "Prinz Eugen"); unknown (Heer Leutnant, perhaps Lüters' adjutant); SS-Obersturmbannführer Dr. Wilhelm Kröhle (IVc Divisionsveterinär 7. SS-Freiwilligen-Gebirgs-Division "Prinz Eugen"); and unknown (SS-Hauptsturmführer). Right side of the table: SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Waffen-SS Artur Phleps (Kommandeur 7. SS-Freiwilligen-Gebirgs-Division "Prinz Eugen"); SS-Standartenführer der Reserve Stefan Hedrich (Infanterie Führer 7. SS-Freiwilligen-Gebirgs-Division "Prinz Eugen"); SS-Oberführer Kurt-Peter Müller (IVb Ärzte / Sanitätsdienst 7. SS-Freiwilligen-Gebirgs-Division "Prinz Eugen"); SS-Sturmbannführer Erich Eberhardt (Ia Erster Generalstabsoffizier 7. SS-Freiwilligen-Gebirgs-Division "Prinz Eugen"); and SS-Sturmbannführer Desiderius Hampel (Kommandeur III.Bataillon/SS-Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 1 "Prinz Eugen"). The Befehlshaber der Deutsches Truppen in Kroatien was formed on 16 November 1942. The staff was used to form the new Generalkommando (Gen.Kdo.) XV. Gebirgs-Armeekorps in August 1943. Prinz Eugen served under the command of Lüters from 16 November 1942 to 24 August 1943.

Book "Vorwärts Prinz Eugen" by Otto Kumm
Otto Kumm photo collection

14 April 2013

Rommel With 15. Panzer-Division Between Tobruk and Sidi Omar

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Date: Monday, 24 November 1941
Place: Between Tobruk and Sidi Omar, Libya
Photographer: Kriegsberichter Ernst A. Zwilling (KB-Kp. Lw. 7) (KB-Zug Lw. 18)

General der Panzertruppe Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel (Kommandierender General Panzergruppe "Afrika") with the 15. Panzer-Division between Tobruk and Sidi Omar. Libya, November 24,1941. A tired and dispirited "Desert Fox" stands in the front of his Horch staff car during the great retreat after his momentarily defeat by the British in the Crusader offensive. The vehicle in th background is an SdKfz 260 armoured radio vehicle from the HQ signals unit. After Operation Battleaxe failed to relieve the siege of Tobruk in June 1941, British General Archibald Wavell was replaced as Commander-in-Chief Middle East by General Claude Auchinleck. Lieutenant General Cunningham, fresh from victory in East Africa, was given command of the new 8th Army, comprising 13th Corps, supplemented by a New Zealand division, and 30th Corps, incorporating South African troops. The Australian division garrisoning Tobruk was replaced by 70th Division, incorporating Polish troops. Rommel now headed the expanded Panzergruppe Afrika, incorporating the Deutsches Afrika Korps; he also had operational control over three Italian divisions. On 18 November, 30th Corps advanced through the southern desert, aiming to engage and destroy enemy tanks before turning north west to rendezvous with a breakout at Tobruk. By 21 November, both 30th Corps and 70th Division were pinned down by the artillery of Rommel's 90th Light Division. The situation was saved by the advance of 13th Corps, which began engaging enemy positions along the coast on 22 November; by 26 November 13th Corps' New Zealand Division had cleared a corridor between Tobruk and 30th Corps. Auchinleck now replaced Cunningham with Ritchie. The Deutsches Afrika Korps withdrew on 6 December, creating a new front line at Gazala, west of Tobruk. In December further skirmishes in western Cyrenaica, with heavy British losses, were followed by German withdrawal to Tripolitania. However, this apparently favourable British position was undermined by inadequate forward defences and an unrealistic assessment of Rommel's intentions. A massive and apparently unexpected counter attack in January destroyed British positions in the south and west, bringing Rommel back to Gazala. The gains of Operation Crusader had proved to be painfully limited.

NARA (National Archives) Identifier 540148 / Local Identifier 242-EAPC-6(M713a)

Devastation of Cologne, Germany

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Date: Tuesday, 24 April 1945
Place: Cologne (Köln), Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
Photographer: Jack Clemmer

Camera location: 50° 55′ 54.16″ N, 6° 57′ 4.52″ E: The Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral) stands seemingly undamaged (although having been directly hit several times and damaged severely) while entire area surrounding it is completely devastated. The Hauptbahnhof (Köln Central Station) and Hohenzollern Bridge lie damaged to the north and east of the cathedral. Germany, 24 April 1945. Cologne endured exactly 262 air raids by the Western Allies, which caused approximately 20,000 civilian casualties and completely wiped out the centre of the city. During the night of May 31, 1942, Cologne was the site of "Operation Millennium", the first 1,000 bomber raid by the Royal Air Force in World War II. 1,046 heavy bombers attacked their target with 1,455 tons of explosive. This raid lasted about 75 minutes, destroyed 600 acres of built-up area, killed 486 civilians and made 59,000 people homeless. By the end of the war, the population of Cologne was reduced by 95%. This loss was mainly caused by a massive evacuation of the people to more rural areas. The same happened in many other German cities in the last two years of war. At the end of 1945, the population had already risen to about 500,000 again. 

http://www.archives.gov/research/arc/ ARC Identifier: 531287
U.S. Defense Visual Information Center photo HD-SN-99-02996

Devastation of Heilbronn, Germany

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Date: Sunday, 15 April 1945
Place: Heilbronn, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Photographer: Harold W. Clover

Heilbronn is a city in northern Baden-Württemberg, Germany. In 1940 allied air raids started and the city and its surrounding area were hit about 20 times with minor damage. On September 10, 1944 a raid by the allies targeted the city and, specifically, the Böckingen train transfer station. 281 residents died as a result of 1,168 bombs dropped that day. The city was carpet-bombed from the southern quarter all the way to the Kilianskirche in the centre of town. The church burnt out. The catastrophe for Heilbronn was the bombing raid on December 4, 1944. During that raid the centre of town was completely destroyed and the surrounding boroughs were heavily damaged. Within one half hour 6,500 residents perished. Of those, 5,000 were later buried in mass graves in the Ehrenfriedhof (cemetery of honor) in the valley of the Köpfer creek close to the city. To this day, a memorial is held annually in memory of those that died that day. As a result of the war Heilbronn's population shrank to 46,350. After a ten-day battle with the advancing allies over the strategically important Neckar crossings, World War II ended for the destroyed city on April 12, 1945 with occupation by US troops. Richard Drauz was the Heilbronn district NSDAP leader since 1932. Drauz took time for numerous court-martials while on the run from the allies and was hanged on December 4, 1946 in Landsberg because he ordered executions of American prisoners of war in March of 1945. 

NARA (National Archives)  559236

US Private Examines the Siegestor

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Date: Wednesday, 13 June 1945
Place: Maxvorstadt, Münich, Germany
Photographer: Unknown

Private First Class Lawrence W. Bartlett (1924-1985), Niagara Falls, New York, examines the four fallen lions which once adorned the top of the Siegestor, built by King Ludwig I, in 1844-1852 in tribute to the Bavarian Army. The Siegestor (Victory Gate) in Münich, is a three-arched triumphal arch crowned with a statue of Bavaria with a lion-quadriga, similar in style to the Arch of Constantine in Rome, the Marble Arch in London, the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and the Brandenburger Tor in Berlin. It is located between the university and the Ohmstraße, on the intersection of the Leopoldstraße and the Ludwigstraße. Therefore it divides the two Münich districts of Maxvorstadt and Schwabing. The gate was commissioned by King Ludwig I of Bavaria, designed by Friedrich von Gärtner and completed in 1852. The quadriga was created by Martin Wagner. The gate was originally dedicated to the glory of the Bavarian army (dem bayerischen Heere zum Ruhme). Today the Siegestor is a monument and reminder to peace. After sustaining heavy damage in World War II, the gate was - similar to the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche in Berlin - reconstructed and restored only partially. The inscription on the back side is by Wilhelm Hausenstein and reads "Dem Sieg geweiht, vom Krieg zerstört, zum Frieden mahnend", which translates as "Dedicated to victory, destroyed by war, reminding of peace". In the last couple of years, the statues that remained were meticulously cleaned and restored. 

NARA (National Archives) 540136

13 April 2013

Adolf Hitler Congratulating Hitlerjugend Boys

Image size: 1600 x 1123 pixel. 390 KB
Date: Tuesday, 20 March 1945
Place: Berlin, Germany
Photographer: Unknown photographer from Heinrich Hoffmann Studio

Führer und Reichskanzler ("Leader and Reich Chancellor") Adolf Hitler (April 20, 1889 - April 30, 1945) touches the face of Wilhelm "Willi" Hubner (1929-April 12, 2010) a Hitlerjugend ("Hitler Youth") during an awards ceremony behind the Reich Chancellery on March 20, 1945. This view was taken from "Die Deutsche Wochenschau" Nummer 755 ("The German Weekly Review" Number 755), which was the last newsreel circulated to non-occupied Germany in March 1945. To Hubner's left is Alfred Czech. To his right, two persons down, is Erwin Scheidewig. Reichjugendfuhrer "Reich Youth Leader") Artur Axmann had just presented twenty Hitler Youth with the Eisernes Kreuz ("Iron Cross") Second Class. Hubner was first decorated by Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph P. Goebbels (October 29, 1897 - May 1, 1945) in Lauban, a German city retaken by the Nazis on March 6, 1945. Hubner was a messenger attached to the Fuhrer-Grenadier-Division and was decorated for bravery under fire in the city square on March 9. Hubner was flown to Berlin, given a new uniform, and after waiting a short time, was redecorated by Axmann. Hitler never actually awarded the medals. The scene was photographed and Hubner was compelled to tell his story for the cameras. Hubner told his story, probably heavily edited, for the cameras: "When the Russians were closing in on Lauban, I reported for voluntary duty as a messinger to the combat commander. My job was to take dispatches to the individual command posts. I also frequently took provisions and panzerfausts (literally "tank fists" a disposable anti-tank weapon) up to the front line under fire. I carried the panzerfausts in a wheel barrow under enemy fire." The son of a farmer in Goldenau, Silesia, Czech made two trips under fire with his father's horse cart rescue wounded German soldiers. He first brought out eight, then four soldiers. The next day, while hiding in their home, a General ordered Czech to fly to Berlin to meet Hitler. Arriving in Berlin, Czech could hear the Soviet artillery outside the city, which was not yet in range. Hubner and Czech and eighteen others were given a large breakfast and put on clean uniforms. They lined up outside the Chancellery's back wall in the garden. While they waited for Hitler, Axmann told them to be at ease and to not greet the Fuhrer with the Nazi salute. Axmann pinned the Iron Crosses on the Hitler Youth. Czech remembered his conversation with Hitler as "So you are the youngest of all? Weren't you afraid when you rescued the soldiers?". Czech responded "No, my Führer!" Decades later, Czech stated ""Even at [age] twelve, I was an enthusiastic supporter of Hitler," After the ceremony, the Hitler Youth lunched with Hitler in the Führerbunker, and told him their combat stories. Hitler was especially pleased with Hubner's story, as it reminded him of his own time as a messenger during World War I. The Hitler Youth were given one wish before returning to combat; Czech asked for and received an accordion. He could not return to Goldenau; the Red Army had occupied it. Czech was sent to German-occupied Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia and was shot in the lung. When he recuperated and returned to Goldenau, he found that his father was drafted into the Volkssturm ("People's Storm" the German Home Guard) and had gone missing during combat. His body was found in July 1945 with a bullet in his neck. Czech threw away his Iron Cross because of the taunting he received from Red Army occupation soldiers and Polish nationals. His sister was forced by the Soviets to consume the photo of Czech and Hitler that was hung over the family's mantlepiece. Germans were being expelled from Silesia and forced to move West. Czech was famous in his town as the Hitler Youth. Working as a miner while filing applications to emigrate to West Germany, he was finally allowed to leave when he joined the Communist Party. There he reacquired an Iron Cross and another copy of the photo for his living room. Hubner appeared in several documentaries after the war about the Hitler Youth, including "V Was for Victory" and "The World at War." He appeared with Erwin Scheideweg in a Netherlands Television documentary called "Die Hitlerjugend" in 1973. Nothing further is known about Erwin Scheideweg. Armin Lehmann (May 23, 1928 – October 10, 2008) often said to be standing with Hubner and Czech, wasn't present on March 20, 1945, but was decorated on Hitler's birthday on April 20, 1945 in an undocumented ceremony outside the Fuhrerbunker in the Chancellery garden.


Reichstag After Fall of Berlin

Image size: 1600 x 1186 pixel. 824 KB
Date: Tuesday, 1 May 1945
Place: Berlin, Germany
Photographer: Yevgeny A. Khaldei

In this composite image by Yevgeny A. Khaldei (March 23, 1917 - October 6, 1997), the renowned photographer has seven Petlyakov Pe-2 dive bombers overflying the Reichstag while Red Army soldiers rush the building supported by a Josef Stalin IS-2 tank. There are at least four separate images in this composite. The Reichstag is one; the original has a destroyed bus in the lower left, which was covered by the onrushing Red Army squad. The squad is likely a staged reenactment, possibly taken on May 4 when photographer Ivan M. Shagin (1904-1982) also photographed the reenactment. The Petlyakov Pe-2 aircraft appear to be the same aircraft duplicated seven times. The IS-2 tank is significant, not only because it is named after Stalin; IS-2 tanks, attached as one heavy tank brigade to each of the Soviet Fronts (Army Group). Later enough IS-2s were produced so that each tank corps had an IS-2 regiment with twenty-one tanks. The IS-2 was reserved for storming fortifications, in concert with combat engineers. It could engage German Tiger I and II tanks, although the Tiger's 88mm (3.46 inch) gun could outrange the IS-2's 122mm (4.8 inch) gun. The composite photo was often used by Soviet photographers, who did not have any ethical issues with manipulating images. Khaldei himself made several other composite images during the war. 


12 April 2013

Edited Photo of Bombed Out Berlin

Image size: 1600 x 1210 pixel. 336 KB
Date: Friday, 1 June 1945
Place: Berlin, Germany
Photographer: Yevgeny A. Khaldei

This composite image by renowned Soviet photographer Yevgeny A. Khaldei (March 23, 1917 - October 6, 1997) depicts the Red Army on the move. T-34/85 tanks are transporting Tankodesantniki (Tank Borne Troops). An artillery crew appears to be pulling a ZiS-3 76mm field gun through the rubble. Horse-drawn wagons carry supplies. Yet this image is made from several others; if you zoom in, you can see the crude lines where the photos were cut together, and even where Khaldei hand-drew details to cover where two photos do not fit together! The background clouds come from a separate photo entirely. Even the rubble has been cut and pasted into the photo. The view of this street may not actually exist; The spire in the background is part of the ruins of Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedachtniskirche ("Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church") but only one of its two surviving towers appears. This view angle of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedachtniskirche does not match up with contemporary photos of Kurfurstendamm, the street next to the ruins. The bell tower of Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedachtniskirche was never repaired; it was left in ruins as a memorial to the war dead. The church was bombed on November 23, 1943 in a Royal Air Force night bombing of Berlin. Composite images such as this one reinforced Soviet propaganda concepts intended for their public media. By depicting the Red Army on the move, it was not a static garrison of occupation, but a dynamic force against Nazism. Khaldei and other Soviet photographers did not share the western belief that photos should not be radically altered for propaganda purposes. Most of Khaldei's work has been altered in some major or minor way. 


Artur Phleps and Kurt Waldheim at Yugoslavia

Image size: 1600 x 1035 pixel. 333 KB
Date: Monday, 22 March 1943
Place: Podgorica, Montenegro, Yugoslavia
Photographer: Unknown

SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS Artur Martin "Papa" Phleps (with briefcase, Commander of 7. SS-Freiwilligen-Gebirgs-Division "Prinz Eugen") with Italian and German officers, March 1943 (some sources said as May 1943). From left to right: Italian commander Escola Roncagli; Leutnant Kurt Waldheim; Oberst Hans Herbert Macholtz, and Artur Phleps. Note in background a former Ala Littoria transport biplane Breda Ba.44 "militarized" and employed by Italian Regia Aeronautica for liason in Balkans and from Albania to Italy. The tall German officer is Austrian-born Kurt Waldheim (last rank Oberleutnant), who at this time was serving as Ordnance Officer and Interpreter/Liaison Officer (primarily with Italian forces) for German Army Group E (Heeresgruppe E), commanded by his fellow Austrian, Luftwaffe Generaloberst Alexander Löhr. Heeresgruppe E was held responsible for the reprisal killing of a fair number of civilians in this period, which led to Löhr being convicted of war crimes and executed by the Yugoslavs in 1947. Waldheim was luckier; he surrendered to the British (with whom he seems to have been negotiating on Löhr's behalf), and went on to a glittering diplomatic career, serving for 10 years as Secretary General of the United Nations, and 6 years as President of Austria! Waldheim attempted to hide his service between 1942 and 1945 (he had been invalided from the Eastern Front following a wound in 1941, and claimed to have been permanently discharged) and, when the beans were spilled (by the declassification of CIA files and Holocaust investigators), claimed to have had no knowledge of any massacres or illegal killings. This was quite possibly true; in any event, as a mere Oberleutant, there was little he could have done about them. In any case, the revelations - attended by much media exaggeration as to Waldheim's alleged role in war crimes - effectively ruined his Austrian Presidency, and cast what was, perhaps, an unfairly bad reflection on his period of service as UN Secretary General. In 1986, four years after his tenure as the UN Secretary General, Waldheim made a bid to lead his native Austria. During his presidential campaign, the press released documents indicating that he had, contrary to his claims, been aware of and perhaps involved in war crimes, including the deportation of Jews to death camps in World War II. For decades, the charming, worldly diplomat insisted that by serving in the German Army, he was protecting his family; and that he never even knew that the Jews of Salonika — who accounted for one third of the city’s population – were being shipped off to Auschwitz. But as an adjutant on the staff of Alexander Löhr, an Austrian General who was executed for war crimes, Waldheim must have known more than he admitted. Waldheim nonetheless denounced the scandal as a conspiracy to defame Austria, and as directly motivated by the UN’s denunciation of Zionism as racism during his tenure. Selective memory, on Waldheim’s part and on many Austrians’ part, would prove to be very dangerous indeed: some of his own generation felt that he was, like them, simply a man who had been conscripted into the Nazi German army and forced to serve. His utterances, “Ich kann mich nicht erinnern” (“I cannot remember”) and “Ich habe nur meine Pflicht getan” (“I only did my duty”) resonated. They saw the attack on him as an attack on Austria. They did not want outsiders telling them whom they could or could not vote for. For many Austrians, Waldheim’s tales — no matter how tall they seemed to outsiders — aligned with their own recollections, and he won the election in a nation that remained unsure how to confront its demons. While Germany bore the brunt of the blame for the Holocaust, other villains and collaborators slipped away unnoticed. In a country of less than seven million, there were more than 500,000 registered Nazis in Austria at the end of the war. Austrians were greatly overrepresented in the SS and among concentration-camp staff. Over 38% of the members of the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra were Nazis, compared with just 7% of the Berlin Philharmonic. Jane Kramer notes in her book "Europeans" (1988) that although most Austrians today have never met an Austrian Jew, polls repeatedly show that about 70% of Austrians do not like Jews and a little over 20% actively loathe them. A poll by the London Observer, conducted shortly after Waldheim came to power, revealed that almost 40% of Austrians thought the Jews were at least partly responsible for what happened to them during the war and 48% of Austrians still believed that the country’s 8,000 remaining Jews — about 0.001% of total population — still enjoy too much economic power and influence. Media quickly termed the inability to remember what you did during the war ”Waldheimer’s disease”. An international panel concluded that Waldheim was not guilty of any war crimes, but seriously cast doubts of his claims of ignorance. It also pointed out that he was guilty of lying about his military record. In his memoirs Recht, nicht Rache, Simon Wiesenthal, the Jewish Nazi hunter, devoted a whole chapter to the Waldheim affair, noting Waldheim was neither a Nazi nor a war criminal. Regardless, Waldheim became a pariah on the world stage. His European neighbors had shunned him, and in 1987 he was put on America’s ’Watch List’ of undesirable aliens — a signal humiliation. Thus, he became the first leader of a friendly nation to be barred from entering the U.S. He decided not to seek re-election for a second term, and quietly faded away.