World War II Pictures In Details: December 2012

30 December 2012

Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler in Münich, June 1940

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Date: Tuesday, 18 June 1940
Place: Münich, Bavaria,Germany
Photographer: Unknown

On this day in 1940, Italian leader Benito Mussolini arrives in Münich with his foreign minister, Count Ciano, to discuss immediate plans with the Führer, and doesn’t like what he hears. Embarrassed over the late entry of Italy in the war against the Allies, and its rather tepid performance since, Mussolini met with Hitler determined to convince his Axis partner to exploit the advantage he had in France by demanding total surrender and occupying the southern portion still free. The Italian dictator clearly wanted “in” on the spoils, and this was a way of reaping rewards with a minimum of risk. But Hitler, too, was in no mood to risk, and was determined to put forward rather mild terms for peace with France. He needed to ensure that the French fleet remained neutral and that a government-in-exile was not formed in North Africa or London determined to further prosecute the war. He also denied Mussolini’s request that Italian troops occupy the Rhone Valley, and that Corsica, Tunisia, and Djibouti (adjacent to Italian-occupied Ethiopia) be disarmed. Ciano recorded in his diary that Mussolini left the meeting frustrated and “very much embarrassed,” feeling “that his role is secondary.” Ciano also records a newfound respect for Hitler: “Today he speaks with a reserve and perspicacity which, after such a victory, are really astonishing.”


19 December 2012

1. Panzerarmee Advances on the Caucasus Mountains

Image size: 1600 x 883 pixel. 425 KB
Date: Sunday, 9 August 1942
Place: Kuban, Azerbaijan, Soviet Union
Photographer: Unknown

Panzerkampfwagen III of Heeresgruppe Süd (Army Group South) advances through the Kuban Steppe on the Caucasus Mountains during Operation Blue (Unternehmen Blau/Fall Blau). The Panzer III is from the 6. Kompanie, 3. Zug and is tank number 3, going by its turret number '633'; there're a couple of symbols on the right rear mudgard- the one on the right might be that of the 1. Panzer-Division. Original caption from Signal magazine: "tank 633 spots a Russian anti-tank emplacement and at once opens fire". Intending to secure the oil fields in Baku in the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, Reichchancellor Adolf Hitler ordered Heeresgruppe Süd to complete the operation quickly and was frequently frustrated with their progress. Only ten percent of the Red Army was in the south; the limited number of prisoners convinced Hitler that the Soviets were running out of manpower. 1. Panzerarmee under Generalfeldmarschall Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist (August 8, 1881 - November 13, 1954) attacked Rostov, which fell on July 28, 1942. Learning from their mistakes, the Red Army withdrew without losing large formations in encirclements. On August 9, 1. Panzerarmee reached the foothills of the Caucausian mountains, having advanced more than 300 miles. The 6. Armee was stalled in taking the city of Stalingrad, rendering these gains negligible for the Germans. On August 21 a Nazi flag was installed on Mount Elbrus, the highest point of Caucasus. Hitler comments that his Army's ambition should be to defeat the Russians rather than conquer mountains. By September the Sixth Army is engaged in protracted urban street fighting in Stalingrad. 

Signal Magazine, November 1942

Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf.N During a Lull in Combat

Image size: 1600 x 1060 pixel. 688 KB
Date: Wednesday, 1 July 1942
Place: Soviet Union
Photographer: Unknown

Panzerkampfwagen III ausf N during a lull in combat. Note additional track links, bogey wheel, and supply packs strung on the front. The commander's cupola is open and you can see the two pieces of the hatch. The ausf N was also known as Sturmpanzer III (assault tank) because it mounted a 75mm short barrelled gun, the same one fitted into the early Panzer IV tanks. This was intended as an infantry support vehicle, to engage and destroy soldiers before they could attack heavy tanks. They were assigned to Tiger battalions and to assault infantry. It could also be used to reduce static fortifications. The ausf N was built on damaged Panzer III chassis returned for maintenance. Lighter armor than previous versions was fitted to compensate for the additional weight of the heavier gun. According to John Winner, this is a Panzer III of the 1.Kompanie/schwere Panzer-Abteilung 501 in Tunisia. Behind it you can see another Pz. III and one of the unit's Tigers.


18 December 2012

Panther Ausf.D Medium Tanks on Rail Cars Waiting to be shipped to the Front

Image size: 1600 x 1080 pixel. 383 KB
Date: Between April - May 1943
Place: Nürnberg, Mittelfranken, Bavaria, Germany
Photographer: Unknown

Panzerkampfwagen V Panther Ausf.D medium tanks on rail cars waiting to be shipped to the front, April - May 1943. The D model can best be recognized by the drum cupola. During the summer of 1943 the Wermacht began taking delivery of a brand new medium tank - the Panzer V or "Panther". Though a new tank design, the Panzer V owed much to the superb T-34 that had spurred the Panther's development. That said, the effort to produce a new medium tank to replace the Panzer III and IV had actually started in 1938. However, the developmental process had been hamstrung by a variety of problems. These included a lack of urgency, changing parameters which continually caused the proposed vehicle to increase in size and complexity; as well as the fact that the chief engineer in charge of the project lacked the talent and vision of men such as his Soviet counterpart - Mikhail Koshkin. Thus, in spite of the long developmental history of the German army's next generation medium tank, it would prove hardly ready for operational use by the time it was first deployed during July 1943, and would fight against teething problems throughout its initial year in deployment. That said, the new Panzer V possessed several notable features that offered tremendous battlefield potential, and would make it a formidable main battle tank. For instance, it was armed with a long barreled high-velocity 75mm L/70 gun designed by Rheinmetall-Borsig which was capable of penetrating well over 100mm of armor at 1000 meters. The Panther, like the Tiger, also featured excellent optics, providing German tank gunners a huge advantage over their opponents. Panther production had started in December1942, at MAN, Nurnberg, Daimler-Benz, Berlin, Maschinefabrik Niederachsen Hannover, and Henschel (Kassel), but given the Panther represented an entirely new design many developmental problems plagued the project. In particular, the front wheel transmission and engine, designed for a lighter tank, labored under the enormous strain produced by the tank's heavy petrol engine and overall weight - which had climbed to 45 tons with a May 15, 1942 decision by Hitler to increase the vehicles frontal armor to 80mm in thickness - a requirement made after the engine and drive had been already selected based upon a lighter weight vehicle. Ironically, in spite of the insistence on thicker frontal armor than the Panzer IV, and thus huge increases in weight over the tank it was meant to replace, the vehicle still had been fitted with comparatively weak side armor offering hardly better protection than that offered by the newest mark Panzer IVs. With such minor differences in protection the Panther therefore featured a huge weak point in a design that had ostensibly traded off the Panzer IV's better reliability and mobility for greater battlefield survivability. The problems with the Panther were so great that in June the first 250 produced earlier in the year had to be rebuilt, and on June 16, 1943 Guderian declined to certify the tank as combat ready. The Panther program was one of the most important in the German armaments industry. Although the Panzer VI Tiger tank was a harder hitting better protected tank then the T-34 and M-4 Sherman, it was too expensive and time consuming to build to ever make it onto the battlefield in anything other than modest numbers. Both the Panzer III and Panzer IV could hardly stand up to the T-34, and thus the Panther was designed to not only be a superior weapons system to the T-34; but also built in a manner consistent with that of a main battle tank to be widely fielded by Germany's panzer arm. The Panther, in being technically superior to either the T-34 or M-4 Sherman in terms of its optics, main gun and armored protection; would define a late war German approach to combating quantity with a newfound qualitative superiority in categories in which previous German tanks had lagged their primary antagonists. That said, both the Red Army and Allied army's held onto not just the pursuit of quantitative superiority but qualitative as well - in the sense of mechanical reliability, fuel economy. and the corresponding streamlined logistics that supported such tanks. Thus, both sides enjoyed varying qualitative advantages over the other in the comparative tank designs fielded by the Second World War's major combatants; a fact all too often overlooked by those focused on the raw number of vehicles each army took delivery of during the war.

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-H26258,_Panzer_V_%22Panther%22.jpg

Panzerkampfwagen III During the Soviet Winter

Image size: 787 x 1600 pixel. 503 KB
Date: January 1942
Place: Soviet Union
Photographer: Unknown

Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf.H tanks of 11. Panzer-Division enter a Soviet village. The 11. Panzer-Division fought in Operation Barbarossa from June 22, 1941 to June 1944, then the division was transferred to France. It suffered heavy losses in both the Eastern and Western Fronts and was rebuilt several times with personnel and equipment from other units. 11th Panzer surrendered to the Americans in April 1945. Note the equipment covered by tarps and the extra track on the Panzer III ("21") in the background. Behind the front tank we can see the Ghost emblem of the Division. Crews would live out of their vehicle. The Panzer III in the foreground has a Swastika flag strapped on the turret for identification by German aircraft. Soon fighting would ground to a halt as both the Germans and the Soviets would seek to survive the Russian winters. 


Panzerkampfwagen III Negotiating a River Crossing

Image size: 1600 x 1328 pixel. 543 KB
Date: June 1941
Place: River Bug, Patulin, Polesie Voivodeship, Poland
Photographer: Unknown

Panzerbefehlswagen (Command Tank) III Ausf H(U) Tauchfahrig (Submersible Motor Vehicle), also known as Tauchpanzer or U-Panzer (Submersible Diving Tank, Underwater Tank), negotiating a river crossing in central Europe during World War II. This tank has main armament of a 50mm L/42 main gun. The tank belongs to 18. Panzer-Division and the photograph was probably taken during the crossing of the River Bug at Patulin in June 1941. During the preparation for invasion of England, Operation Seelöwe (Sealion), Panzer IIIs and IVs were converted into submersible tanks. All openings were sealed, commander's cupola, gun mantlet and machine gun mount covered with rubber sheeting, turret ring protected by inflatable rubber ring. Exhausts were fitted with valves that let the exhaust leave but kept water out. Air was supplied via a flexible 60-foot (18-meter) hose held on the surface by a buoy. Maximum safe depth was about 50 feet (15 meters), maximum underwater speed about 3 miles per hour (4.8 kilometers per hour). From June to October of 1940, 160 Panzer III Ausf F/G/H and 8 Panzerbefehlswagen III Ausf E along with 42 Panzer IV Ausf Ds were converted into Tauchpanzers. Since Operation Sealion was cancelled, Tauchpanzer IIIs and IVs were used during Operation Barbarossa, in service with Panzer-Regiment 6/3.Panzer-Division, and Panzer-Regiment 18/18.Panzer-Division (which crossed river Bug at Patulin). These vehicles used a rigid air supply hose and could ford water up to 13 feet (4 meters). This photo is probably staged, taken before the invasion of Russia.

Book "A Photo History of Tanks in Two World Wars" by George Forty, page 80

Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf G and Ausf H in Bulgaria

Image size: 1600 x 1115 pixel. 350 KB
Date: Saturday, 5 April 1941
Place: Sofia, Bulgaria
Photographer: Unknown

Panzerkampfwagen III ausf G followed by an ausf H model moves through the city the day before the German invasion of the Balkans. The ausf G version was upgraded in mid-production with a 50mm gun. Earlier versions were retrofitted with the 50mm. The ausf H added better armor to defeat the British 2-pounder (40mm), the American 37mm and the Russian 45mm antitank guns. The pzkpfw III was reliable, relatively fast, and arguably the best tank of the first half of the war. The Invasion of Yugoslavia (code-name Directive 25 or Operation 25), also known as the April War (Croatian: Travanjski rat, Serbian/Bosnian: Aprilski rat, Slovene/Macedonian: Aprilska vojna) or the Balkan campaign (German: Balkanfeldzug), was the Axis Powers' attack on the Kingdom of Yugoslavia which began on 6 April 1941 during World War II. The invasion ended with the unconditional surrender of the Royal Yugoslav Army on 17 April 1941, annexation and occupation of the region by the Axis powers and the creation of the Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, or NDH).


Red Army Soldiers Ride Panzer III

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Date: September 1941
Place: Bryansk, Bryansk Oblast, Soviet Union
Photographer: Lee

Red Army soldiers ride Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf.J in a liberated village. The tank belonged to the 18. Panzer-Division of the Wehrmacht and was captured by Soviet soldiers in Bryansk Front in September 1941. From 1941 to 1943, Russians captured large numbers of PzKpfw III, Sturmgeschutz III (known to them as ArtSturm) and PzKpfw IV. Some were pressed into temporary service, used as Trojan Horses or as bait until they broke down or ran out of ammunition. Most were captured after they were out of fuel and ammunition, so supplies at the front were low. Some were converted to assault guns designated SU-76i and SG-122A (SU(Samokhodnaja Ustanovka, "self-propelled gun"; i for inostranny, "foreign"; and Samochodnaya Gaubitza, "assault gun"). Some 201 SU-76is were produced from March to November of 1943 at Factory #37 in Sverdlovsk. SU-76i had its debut in July of 1943 at Kursk and served in both tank and light mechanized gun regiments of the Red Army. Germans encountered first examples of SU-76i (from 177th Tank Regiment of the 64th Mechanised Brigade) in October of 1943. Some were recaptured by the Germans as Stug 76mm and pressed into service against their former users. The Department of Weaponry of the Red Army, ordered in late 1944: "It is suggested to the Red Army to use such German tanks as StuG III and Pz IV due to their relability and availability of spare parts. The new German Panther and Tiger can be used until they broken down without trying to repair them. They have bad engines, transmission and suspension." 


Panzer Commanders of Das Reich and LSSAH

Image size: 1600 x 1106 pixel. 349 KB
Date: Between April 1943 to October 1943
Place: Erlangen, Bavaria, Germany
Photographer: Unknown

Warriors of 2. SS-Panzer-Division "Das Reich" and 1. SS-Panzer-Division "Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler", from left to right: SS-Untersturmführer Karl Mühleck (later received Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes in 4 June 1944 as Zugführer of 2.Kompanie/SS-Panzer-Regiment 2 "Das Reich"); SS-Obersturmführer Joachim-Günther Schöntaube (Chef 2.Kompanie/Panzer Regiment 2 "Das Reich" with one Panzervernichtungsabzeichen he received when he was still with recon units), SS-Hauptsturmführer Herbert Kuhlmann (later received Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes in 13 February 1944 as Kommandeur of I.Abteilung/SS-Panzer-Regiment 1 "LSSAH"), SS-Hauptsturmführer Friedrich Holzer (later received Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes in 10 December 1943 as Chef 1.Kompanie/Panzer Regiment 2 "Das Reich", shown wearing Deutsches Kreuz in Gold which he received in 21 February 1942 as Führer 7.Kompanie/SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 4), and SS-Untersturmführer Josef Zacharias (Zugführer from 1.Kompanie/SS-Panzer-Regiment "Das Reich". No ID as yet for the Untersturmführer on the far right, and the photo was taken at Erlangen

Mark C. Yerger collection

14 December 2012

Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf A (SdKfz 101)

Image size: 1600 x 905 pixel. 349 KB
Date: Sunday, 1 April 1934
Place: Krupp-Gruson Werk AG, Magdeburg, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany
Photographer: Unknown

Panzerkampfwagen I ausf A (abbreviated PzKpfw I: armored combat vehicle, version A) also known as Sonderkraftfahrzeug 101 (abbreviated SdKfz: Special Ordnance Vehicle) on Heer (Army) ordinance records, was the first tank mass manufactured for the reemerging Wehrmacht (armed forces). Designed in 1932 under the direction of Inspector of Motor Transport Chief of Staff Heinz Guderian, the tank was based on secret cooperation with the Soviets, who were also basing their designs on British Carden Lloyd tankettes. The vehicle entered production in April 1934, and was presented to Reichchancellor Adolf Hitler. The tank mounted two MG13 7.92mm machine guns that could be fired separately or together. Exported to Spain to equip both the Germans and the Spanish Nationalists, the Panzer I was found to be inferior to the Soviet T-26 tanks it encountered. Privately many German officers were critical of its design, which had many joints and viewports that weakened the tank's already light armor. The Ausf A was manufactured through June 1936, by which time it became a mainstay of the Nazi Party demonstrations. While the tank was never intended for heavy combat, it served in Poland, France, and North Africa, making up half of the strength of the armored formations in 1940. It was soon pulled from the front lines and replaced by more capable tanks. The Panzer I chassis was used as the basis for command tanks, flamethrower tanks, assault guns, anti-tank destroyers, bridging tanks, and towing wreckers. The type served throughout the war, despite its shortcomings. Date estimated. 


Otter Scout Car of 4th Armored Division, II Canadian Corps

Image size: 1267 x 1600 pixel. 526 KB
Date: Wednesday, 9 August 1944
Place: May-sur-Orne, Normandy, France
Photographer: Unknown

Canadian soldier of Governor General's Foot Guards, 4th Canadian Armoured Division, II Canadian Corps in an Otter Mark I Scout Car the day after liberation of May-sur-Orne. At the end of July 1944 in Normandy, II Canadian Corps under Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds attempted to eliminate the German resistance south of Caen. Two SS Armored Divisions tenaciously held each Norman town, turning the rubble into a fortress. On August 7, the Operation Totalize began. May-sur-Orne was pulverized by British and Canadian aircraft. Tanks and infantry attacked in the morning hours of August 8. In the vicinity of May-sur-Orne a deluge of artillery and machine-guns fire stopped dead two assaults of the Canadians. The allied attack was renewed with support of Crocodiles flame-thrower tanks; after fierce resistance, the German garrison withdrew, around 1800 Hours. The Fusiliers Mont Royal led II Canadian Corps into May-sur-Orne. The Otter Light Reconnaissance Car (LRC) was developed by General Motors Canada. Between 1942 and 1945, 1761 units were produced in Oshawa, Ontario. The vehicle was based on the 4x4 Chevrolet C15 truck. The armament consisted of a hull-mounted Boys anti-tank rifle and a .303 caliber Bren light machine gun in a small open-topped turret. 


Legion Condor Award Ceremony in Hamburg

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Date: Wednesday, 31 May 1939
Place: Hamburg, Germany
Photographer: Unknown

On the 31st May, 1939, there was an award ceremony for Legion Condor veterans, where they received the Spanienkreuz (Spanish Cross) campaign medal for their service in the Spanish Civil War. In this picture of the event we can see the recipients of Spanienkreuz in Gold mit Brillanten (from left to right): Oberleutnant Otto Bertram, Oberleutnant Joachim Schlichting, Hauptmann Harro Harder, Hauptmann Werner Mölders, Hauptmann Wolfgang Schellmann, Oberleutnant Walter Oesau, unknown, Major Martin Harlinghausen and Major Karl-Heinz Wolf. Of these, three would serve later in Jagdgeschwader 2 (JG 2) 'Richthofen', two as Geschwaderkommodoren (Schellmann and Oesau) and one as Gruppenkommandeur (Bertram). In total, there are 27 recipients of Spanienkreuz in Gold mit Brillanten and, apart from the name already submitted above, they were as follow: Oberleutnant Wilhelm Balthasar, Leutnant Peter Boddem, Oberleutnant Kart Eberhardt, Oberleutnant Wilhelm Ensslen, Leutnant Paul Fehlhaber, Oberleutnant Adolf Galland, Leutnant Oskar Henrici, Oberleutnant Max Graf Hoyos, Oberleutnant Hans-Detlef von Kessel, Hauptmann Günther Lützow, Oberstleutnant Karl Mehnert, Hauptmann Rudolf Freiherr von Moreau, Hauptmann Wolfgang Neudörffer, Generalmajor Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen, Leutnant Heinz Runze, Oberleutnant Reinhard Seiler, General der Flieger Hugo Sperrle, Oberleutnant Bernhard Stärcke, and General der Flieger Helmut Volkmann. There's one more recipient (no.28), Oberstleutnant Wilhelm Ritter von Thoma, but his verleihung is still debated, whether he received Spanienkreuz in Gold mit Brillanten or Spanienkreuz in gold mit schwertern.


13 December 2012

Picture of People Giving a Nazi Salute, with August Landmesser Refusing to do so

Image size: 1600 x 1066 pixel. 695 KB
Date: Saturday, 13 June 1936
Place: Blohm + Voss shipyard, Hamburg, Germany
Photographer: Unknown

August Landmesser (born May 24, 1910; missing and presumed dead Oct 17, 1944; declared dead in 1949) was a worker at the Blohm + Voss shipyard in Hamburg, Germany, best known for his appearance in a photograph refusing to perform the Nazi salute at the launch of the naval training vessel Horst Wessel on 13 June 1936. August Landmesser was the only child of August Franz Landmesser and Wilhelmine Magdalene (née Schmidtpott). He joined the Nazi Party (NSDAP) in 1931 in hope of getting a job. When he became engaged to the Jewish woman Irma Eckler in 1935, he was expelled from the party. They registered to be married in Hamburg, but the Nuremburg Laws enacted a month later prevented it. On October 29, 1935, their first daughter Ingrid was born. In 1937, they tried to flee to Denmark but Landmesser was arrested and it became known that Irma Eckler was pregnant and expecting another daughter. Landmesser was charged and found guilty of "dishonoring the race" under Nazi racial laws in July 1937. Landmesser argued that neither he nor Eckler knew that she was fully Jewish, and he was acquitted on May 27, 1938 for lack of evidence, with the warning that a repeat offense would result in a multi-year prison sentence. Landmesser and Eckler publicly continued their relationship, and on July 15, 1938 he was arrested again and sentenced to two and a half years in the concentration camp Börgermoor. Eckler was detained by the Gestapo and held at the prison Fuhlsbüttel, where she gave birth to a second daughter Irene. From there she was sent to the Oranienburg concentration camp, then the Lichtenburg concentration camp for women, and then the women's concentration camp at Ravensbrück. Their children were initially taken to the city orphanage. Ingrid was later allowed to live with her maternal grandmother; Irene went to the home of foster parents in 1941. After her grandmother's death in 1953, Ingrid was also placed with foster parents. A few letters came from Irma Eckler until January 1942. It is believed that she was brought to the so-called Bernburg Euthanasia Centre in February 1942, where she was among the 14,000 killed; she was pronounced dead in 1949, with a date of April 28, 1942. Landmesser was discharged from prison on 19 January 1941. Landmesser worked as a foreman for the firm Püst, a haulage company. The company had a branch at the Heinkel-Werke (factory) in Warnemünde. In February 1944 he was drafted into a penal battalion, the 999th Fort Infantry Battalion. He was declared missing in action and presumably killed during fighting in Croatia on October 17, 1944. He was declared dead in 1949, with an effective date of August 1 that year. The marriage of August Landmesser and Irma Eckler was recognized retroactively by the Senate of Hamburg in the summer of 1951, and in the autumn of that year Ingrid assumed the surname Landmesser. Irene continued to use the surname Eckler. In 1996, Irene Eckler published the book Die Vormundschaftsakte 1935–1958 : Verfolgung einer Familie wegen "Rassenschande" (The Guardianship Act 1935–1958: Persecution of a Family for "Dishonoring the Race"). This book about the story of her family includes a large amount of original documents from the time in question including letters from her mother and documents from state institutions. A figure identified as August Landmesser is featured in a photograph taken on June 13, 1936, published on March 22, 1991 in "Die Zeit". It shows a large gathering of workers at the Blohm + Voss shipyard in Hamburg, for the launching of the Navy training ship Horst Wessel. Everyone in the image has raised his or her arm in the Nazi salute, with the exception of a man toward the back of the crowd, who grimly stands with his arms crossed over his chest. Whether the depicted man is Landmesser is not known with certainty; calls to definitively identify him have gone unanswered, and his daughter Irene is not sure.


V-1 Strikes Battersea, London

Image size: 1600 x 1155 pixel. 548 KB
Date: Saturday, 17 June 1944
Place: Battersea, London, England
Photographer: Unknown

Crowds gather around a shattered omnibus on St John's Hill as a victim of a German Fieseler Fi-103 V-1 flying bomb blast is held up on a stretcher by rescue workers. At 4pm on Saturday afternoon, June 17th, rescue parties were rushed to St. John's Hill and Plough Way, Battersea, London where a V-1 had landed in the road, damaging the Surrey Hounds public house, two passing trolley buses and a row of shops at 84-86 St. John's Hill. One person was killed, many more were wounded. One of the victims of the Battersea bomb was Sylvia White, aged 14. That morning she was shopping with her mother when the air raid siren started. Sylvia recorded: "... a man standing in the doorway said: 'there's one of them funny things up there and they're firing at it. It might come down.' He gave me a shove back into the shelter of the shop. The next thing I remember is regaining consciousness in complete blackness, my mother shaking me like a terrier and slapping my face and her voice shouting 'wake up, wake up, for God's sake, wake up.' Then I became conscious of other voices calling out saying they knew we were there and they would soon get us out. The bomb had fallen on the baker's and the pub on the other side of the road and the blast had blown in the front door of the butcher's shop and brought down part of the first floor. Thanks to the stranger in the shop doorway I am still alive to tell the tale. When the rescue services had dug us out we were taken to the Granada cinema which was being used a casualty clearing station. We were then taken to have our wounds dressed and to be given certificates to say we were official war casualties." 


12 December 2012

Oberstleutnant Karl-Gottfried Nordmann, Luftwaffe Ace

Image size: 1072 x 1600 pixel. 245 KB
Date: April 1943
Place: Smolensk, Smolensk Oblast, Soviet Union
Photographer: Bildberichter Paul Fischer from Luftwaffe Kriegsberichter-Zug

Oberstleutnant Karl-Gottfried Nordmann, Kommodore of  Jagdgeschwader 51 (JG 51) Mölders, posed for the photographer, showing all of his prestigious medals. Nordmann (born 22 November 1915 in Gießen – died 22 July 1982 in Greenwich, Connecticut (USA)) was a German World War II Luftwaffe flying ace who claimed 78 aerial victories (69 on the Eastern front) in over 800 combat missions. At the start of the war Nordmann was serving with I./Jagdgeschwader 77 (JG 77—77th Fighter Wing). By March 1940 he was an Oberleutnant and Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) of 3./JG 77. In November 1940 Nordmann, having achieved 8 air victories, was transferred to command 12 Staffel of Jagdgeschwader 51 (JG 51—51st Fighter Wing). In July 1941 Hauptmann Nordmann was appointed to command IV./JG 51 flying on the Eastern Front and in August was awarded the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes (Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross) after a total of 31 victories. Future 'ace' Unteroffizier Franz-Josef Beerenbrock flew as Nordmann's Rottenflieger (wing man) around this time. In April 1942, now a Major, Nordmann was appointed Geschwaderkommodore (wing commander) of JG 51. On 17 January 1943 Nordmann's Focke-Wulf Fw 190 was when involved in a collision with Oberleutnant Rudolf Busch, Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 51. Busch was killed and Nordmann, severely injured, did not fly operationally again. In April 1944 Oberstleutnant Nordmann was made Jagdfliegerführer Ostpreussen before in May 1944 appointed to Jagdfliegerführer 6. In February 1945 Nordmann was made Inspekteur der Tagjäger Ost until the end of the war. His last rank was Oberst.

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-2008-0704-500,_Smolensk,_Karl_Gottfried_Nordmann.jpg

The Execution of Paul Maitla, Estonian Ritterkreuzträger

Image size: 1600 x 1283 pixel. 555 KB
Date: Thursday, 10 May 1945
Place: Nymburk, Středočeský kraj, Czechoslovakia
Photographer: Unknown

Waffen-Sturmbannführer Paul Maitla (second from left), Waffen-Hauptsturmführer Arved Laasi (second from right) with three other Estonian Waffen-SS soldiers defiantly faced their captors moments before being executed. Paul Maitla (born Paul Mathiesen; March 27, 1913 – May 10, 1945) was an Estonian military commander. He is one of the four Estonian soldiers who received the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes (Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross). He received his award for leading the recapture of the central hill of the Sinimäed during the Battle of Tannenberg Line (25 July – 10 August 1944), effectively braking the Soviet offensive in that sector. The fate of Paul Maitla at the late period of the war was uncertain for number of decades, until some information was discovered in 2005 in the city archives of the Czech town of Nymburk. These archives show that Maitla, Kommandeur of Waffen-Grenadier Regiment der SS 45 Estland (estnische nr. 1)/20.Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (estnische Nr.1), was arrested on May 9, 1945 and murdered together with 4 other Estonian SS Legion (Maitla's driver Arnold Mägar, Maitla's adjutant and two other adjutants) on May 10 (on the first day of peace after World War II had ended) by Czech communists. According to Mägar, Maitla came back to the division before Christmas from his sickness leave. He immediately became the leader of the 45th Regiment's 1st Battalion and Mägar became his driver. This took place when Maitla's adjutant was still Laasi. Later it was someone else, whose name Mägar can't remember. By Christmas 1944 Maitla gave Mägar and one of the headquarters officer's a vacation. But Mägar had no place to go, no acquaintances or relatives. Then the headquarters officer, who lived in Rumbursk, took him to his home. It was nice. When they returned to Neuhammer, the journey to the front began. Mägar was 21 years old, Maitla was either 31 or 32. Mägar remembers: Maitla often told him he had no idea what had happened to his loved ones. He was worried and wrote letters to everywhere. Then he spoke about the battles. Some places have already been forgotten but Oppeln and Falkenberg were undyingly in his head. Being in the double pocket. The death of Augsberger. Yes, Rebane then became the division leader. In the meantime their paths with Maitla were separated. But they were reunited in Oberbaumgarten. There was no real front there anymore, the war had ended. The retreat over the Czech mountains began to get to Elbe and then surrender to the US troops. There were five men in Maitla's car: Maitla, Mägar, Maitla's adjutant and two other headquarters officers of the 45th Regiment. The car passed Turnov and then headed towards Prague. Czech squads stopped the car on the way who advised the Estonians not to drive to Prague because there was a revolt happening. Maitla was then told, actually he was told earlier, to take of the Knight's Cross. This would have meant a certain death to all of them. Maitla took it off. From that moment on the award was in his pocket and probably stayed there. For a moment the thought freezes as the author was listening the distant memories of this soldier, which were brought to this Tapa's little garden from the past. He recalled Nugiseks, whose Knight's Cross was thrown into the mud by a drunk Czech. Rebane, who hid his award with other signs in the moss of one Czech forest. Riipalu took his award to England and it probably stayed with him until the end of his short life. But Maitla… we will get to that surely. The car then drove off the Prague highway but couldn't drive for long until it was stopped again by a large number of Czechs. It happened about 5 kilometers north of Nymburk, on the road to Mlada Boleslav. The men in the car were arrested and taken to the town of Nymburk under the watch of two gunmen. There one German was added to them and all six men were placed standing before a wall. Czechs claimed that the men in the car had been shooting them and wanted to break through their guard post. The shooting was stopped by one Czech officer who noticed the blue-black-white sleeve signs on the Estonians. Then the prisoners were locked in one basement where they were mocked. Later they were taken through the streets while they held their hands high. The locals threw rocks and all sorts of objects in their direction, spit on them and people were let to attack them. The author of this text can see Maitla in front of his eyes and tries to understand what happened inside this proud man who defied the mocking and still had the Knight's Cross in his pocket. They say that a great emotion also holds protection within. A person stops thinking and feeling. You mock him and he is not offended, you hit him but he doesn't feel it. They were thrown with all kinds of things people could get a hold of. And then the women came to spit in their faces… In the town chronicle of Nymburk it says that seven SS-men were first taken to the main square of the town, where they were attacked by the locals and then the “war court” sentenced them to death. The sentence was executed in the noon of May 10. In the town museum of Nymburk there is a photo album with more than one hundred photos of the events that took place in May 1945. It also includes some photos that were taken of the men near an anti-tank trench on the northern side of Nymburk. But the photos show the execution of five, not seven men. One of them is surely Maitla. The others' names are uncertain. The photo shows that the rank of one of them was Senior Lieutenant or Captain. One of the executed ones could have been Captain Arved Laasi, who according to Leo Tammiksaar, was Maitla's last adjutant. Tammiksaar also thinks its possible that with Maitla his senior adjutant Lieutenant Kalju Tamme was executed. The image above shows that those, who showed no resistance before execution, were allowed to have one last cigarette. What was going on in the mind of this young man who had seen so much in his life before facing his death? It is possible he was thinking of his wife with whom they never finished their honeymoon. He could have seen him walking in his father's home in Kärkna, climbing the Sinimäed Hills with his men, the moment he received the Knight's Cross… They say that before death a person can see his whole life in front of his eyes like the images in a kaleidoscope. Then the shots of red Czechs ended their lives. On the last, no, on the finished page of the war. The exact spot where Maitla, his adjutant and three officers rest is yet unknown but if these photos would become public, we could change this unknowingness – bring one of our finest sons to Estonia and put him to rest next to his beloved wife. We know there are graves near Nymburk, which have never had any flowers or candles on them. There is only a place where under a thin layer of dirt five Estonian officers lie, one of them having the long rotten Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross in his pocket. They sleep there forever, but we, the alive ones, should show some respect to them. The greatest goal of these men was FREE ESTONIA.



09 December 2012

V-1 Hits the Aldwych, London

Image size: 1600 x 983 pixel. 479 KB
Date: Friday, 30 June 1944
Place: Aldwych, London, England
Photographer: Unknown

 Fieseler Fi-103 V-1 flying bomb about to hit the Aldwych area of London. You can see the V-1 just as its engine cuts out over Waterloo Station and it drops behind the Law Courts Buildings. Despite the lack of ability for precise targeting by the Luftwaffe, this V-1 hit the Air Ministry at Ad Astral House opposite the BBC's Bush House station. Many people were outside when the bomb came down, falling onto the crowded street. People were incinerated in buses on the street and from flying shrapnel and glass from the Air Ministry's windows. 48 people were killed and 200 injured, but some sources say that 198 were killed. This may be due to the Air Ministry's underreporting of casualties at the time of the attack as a security measure. 

Imperial War Museum

V-1 Over England

Image size: 1600 x 1305 pixel. 262 KB
Date: Monday, 26 June 1944
Place: South London, London, England
Photographer: Michael Nash

During the week commencing June 25, 1944, 125 V-1 Fieseler Fi-103 flying bombs ("doodlebugs") fell on the area of South London. The Boroughs included are Deptford, Lewisham, Bermondsey, Southwark, Lambeth, Croydon, Wandsworth and Dulwich & Camberwell. About 357 people were killed and thousands more badly injured. This V-1was one of many that were launched on June 26. 35 people were killed in South London that day. V-1s impacted every 20-30 minutes. June, July and August 1944 became known as the "doodlebug summer." 


08 December 2012

Gloster Meteor F.3 of Royal Air Force 616 Squadron in Flight

Image size: 1600 x 1200 pixel. 552 KB
Date: Monday, 18 December 1944
Place: RAF Culmhead, Churchstanton, Blackdown Hills, Somerset, England
Photographer: Unknown

Gloster Meteor F.3 EE52 in flight. No. 616 Squadron RAF received the first Meteor F 3 on December 18, 1944. This was a substantial improvement over the Meteor F 1, but the basic design still had not reached its full potential. Wind tunnel and flight tests demonstrated that the original short nacelles that extended just before and behind the wing, contributed heavily to compressibility buffeting at high speed. New, longer nacelles not only cured some of the compressibility problems but added 120 km/h (75 mph) at altitude, even without upgraded powerplants. The last batch of Meteor F 3s featured the longer nacelles while other F 3s were retrofitted in the field with the new nacelles. The F 3 also had the new Rolls-Royce Derwent engines, increased fuel capacity, and a new larger, more strongly raked bubble canopy. On January 20, 1945, four Meteors were moved to Melsbrook in Belgium. In March, the entire squadron was moved to Gilze-Rijen and, then in April, to Nijmegen. The Meteors flew armed reconnaissance and ground attack operations without encountering any German jet fighters. By late April, the squadron was based at Fassberg, Germany and suffered its first losses when two pilots collided in poor visibility. The war ended with the Meteors having destroyed 46 German aircraft through ground attack and having faced more problems through misidentification as the Me 262 by Allied aircraft and flak than from the Luftwaffe!

Royal Air Force

Messerschmitt Me 262-1a/U3 Schwalbe in Flight

Image size: 1600 x 1042 pixel. 426 KB
Date: Thursday, 15 August 1946
Place: Dayton, Ohio, USA
Photographer: Unknown

Messerschmitt Me-262-1a/U3 Schwalbe reconnaissance jet aircraft. T-2-4012 can be seen under the tail. It's werk nummer is unknown, but it is stated that this particular machine was originally produced as a reconnaissance variant, and later flew with Kommando Braunegg carrying a white number '25' in service. She was surrendered to American Forces at Lechfeld, Germany in May 1945. Originally one of the machines captured in Germany by Air Technical Intelligence Group (TAIC) crews under Colonel Harold E. Watson. The plane was given the number 444 by "Watson's Whizzers" Operation Lusty (Luftwaffe Secret Technology) brought captured German aircraft to the United States for flight testing aboard escort carrier HMS Reaper in July 1946. T-2-4012 was flight tested at Wright Field in through 1946 and then handed over to the Hughes Aircraft Company for maintenance. Howard Hughes considered the airframe for the 1947 Bendix Air Races, but since the plane performed better than the American P-80 Shooting Stars that were also competing, the government disallowed the Me-262 from competition. The airframe was shipped to the Glendale Aeronautical School to train mechanics. In 1954 the plane was rescued from being scrapped by the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, California, where it resides now. It has inaccurate camouflage and the incorrect werk nummer of 111617. 


Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe Over Dayton, Ohio

Image size: 1600 x 1042 pixel. 426 KB
Date: Saturday, 1 December 1945
Place: Dayton, Ohio, USA
Photographer: Unknown

This aircraft is a Messerschmitt Me 262A-1a Schwalbe (W.Nr.111711) and was surrendered at Frankfurt/Rhine-Main by defecting Messerschmitt test pilot Hans Fay on March 31, 1945. It was the first intact Me 262 to fall into Allied hands! Fay, a civilian test pilot, extended his undercarriage to indicate he was surrendering. USAAF General Henry "Hap" Arnold met with Fay on April 4, 1945, and recommended that Fay be brought to the United States to fly 111711 in flight testing. It was shipped to Wright Field where it was referred to as "711" or "T2-711" and test flown a total of 12 times before suffering an engine fire and crashed on 20th August 1946 at Xenia, Ohio. Tests revealed that the Me-262 was superior in most respects to the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star, the premiere American jet fighter. The results of the tests were surpressed by the US Army Air Force. 

US Air Force

U-25 a Few Days Before the Outbreak of the War

Image size: 1600 x 1017 pixel. 506 KB
Date: Friday, 25 August 1939
Place: Wilhelmshaven, Niedersachsen, Germany
Photographer: Unknown

Here we see U-25, a type IA boat from Unterseebootsflottille "Saltzwedel", alongside an old M-boat from the First World War. In this photo, taken a few days before the outbreak of the war, U-25 wears an immaculate pale gray finish. Visible in the background is the light cruiser Karlsruhe. Photo below must depict one of the last times U-25 took on torpedoes, prior to departing for its final patrol on 1 August 1940. It was the second patrol under Kapitänleutnant Heinz Beduhn (11 August 1907 - 1 August 1940), who had taken over the successful boat from Korvettenkapitän Victor Schütze (16 February 1906 - 23 September 1950). It is believed that U-25 struck a mine in position 54.14N, 05.07E, one day after leaving port, part of minefield no.7 laid off Terschelling by British destroyers. None of the crew (49 men) survived the sinking. Note the unusual white patches on the front of the conning tower and the "Lucky Fellows" emblem (Glückspilze, literally "Lucky Mushrooms", translate as "Lucky Fellows", hence the depiction of mushrooms in the emblem).

Bibliotek für Zeitgeschichte
"U-Boot im Focus" magazine, edition No.2 - 2007, page 4

Tiger of Großdeutschland with Two Soldiers and Captured Soviet Anti-Tank Guns

Image size: 1600 x 1140 pixel. 269 KB
Date: Thursday, 10 August 1944
Place: Vilkaviškis (Wilkowischken), Marijampolė, Lithuania
Photographer: Kriegsberichter Pfeiffer from PK (Propaganda-Kompanie) Division Großdeutschland

Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I Ausf.E "B12" from 11. Kompanien/III.Abteilung/Panzer-Regiment 'Großdeutschland', passes close to a Russian anti tank guns 76 mm M1942 (ZiS-3) on the road, while two Obergefreiter watching the sky. Based on the book "God, Honor, Fatherland: A Photo History of Panzergrenadier Division 'Grossdeutschland' on the Eastern Front 1942-1944" by Thomas McGuirl and Remy Spezzano, this picture was taken in the region of  Wilkowischken, Lithuania, in 10 August 1944 (some sources, including Bundesarchiv, places this as 23 September 1943 in Kharkov-Poltava, Ukraine). This vehicle (and the pic below from the same scene, Tiger S01) has got the all-steel (without rubber) road wheels, and this version came into production in february 1944. The Germans captured thousands of ZiS-3 along with captured armored vehicles and modified them into self-propelled guns. Some guns were supplied to the Afrikakorps. The Germans liked the 76.2mm guns for their reliability, durability, and accuracy they found out, it could knock-out light and medium tanks with its armor-piercing round but, against the Tiger and Panther, it made the lives hard for the Russian gun crews. The troops could be looking at the Stukas taking out targets ahead of them. The troop (soldier) on the right looks like he's carrying a MG34 with link belted ammo around his neck, armed with a walther P-38 or Luger 08 pistol in his holster. The other soldier looks like he is a Gefreiter (Lance Corporal or Obergefreiter Corporal) because he's got the field glasses around his neck, sidearm same as the private walther P-38, or Luger 08 Pistol, looks like he's armed with a MP-40 9mm Sub-machine gun. The Tiger behind them, is there for comfort: Don't leave home without it!

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-732-0138-14

07 December 2012

German Troops Inspect Soviet Trenches Along the Volkhov River

Image size: 1600 x 1200 pixel. 718 KB
Date: Thursday, 16 October 1941
Place: Volkhov River, Leningrad Oblast, Soviet Union
Photographer: Unknown

German soldiers of Heeresgruppe Nord examine trenches captured from the Red Army during the Tikhvin Offensive. Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Ritter (translated as Knight, a title) von Leeb (September 5, 1876 - April 29, 1956) was ordered to move part of his mechanized divisions to Heeresgruppe Mitte for Operation Typhoon, the offensive against Moscow. Even with reduced forces, Reichskanzler (Reichchancellor) Adolf Hitler still expected von Leeb to take Leningrad. In the wake of mass surrenders at Kiev, Rostov, and other Soviet bastions, Hitler ordered von Leeb to rush his forces toward Tikhvin, a city on the Volkhov River that was a link in the rail line supplying Leningrad, expecting an easy advance on Leningrad. General Rudolf Schmidt (1886-1957) commanding XXXIX. Armeekorps, composed of the 126. Infanterie-Division, 21. Infanterie-Division, 18. Infanterie-Division (mot.), 20. Infanterie-Division (mot.), 8. Panzer-Division, and 12. Panzer-Division, were reinforced by the 250. Infanterie-Division (the Spanish volunteer Blue Division) and other units for the offensive. The XXXIX. Armeekorps attacked on October 16, 1941. Initially Schmidt struck at the junction of the lines of the Soviet 52nd and 4th Armies, effecting total surprise and overrunning the Red Army positions. As this photo was taken, the Russian "General Mud" began to take effect, as the Rasputitsa (Quagmire Season) began with the first snow of the year. The same day, elements of the 250th established a bridgehead and occupied Smeiko, Sitno, Tigoda, Dubrowka, Nitikino and Otenski as part of an offensive to link up with Finnish troops east of Lagoda Lake in order to complete the encirclement and the siege of Leningrad. Within weeks the Germans were soon enveloped in mud, causing the panzer crews to abandon their mired tanks. The rains and mud prevented resupply as trucks and even tractors could not move off paved roads, and even "corduroy" roads of felled trees sank into the muck. Still, the Germans took Tikhvin on November 8. Small unit counterattacks and reorganization of the Red Army forces into the Volkhov Front stopped the Germans from advancing to Leningrad. 45,000 Germans were killed, wounded, or captured, causing Heeresgruppe Mitte to send reinforcements. On December 10, General Kirill Meretskov (June 7, 1897 - December 30, 1968), who was released from NKVD custody in September 1941 after accusations of treason and appointed to command the 4th Army, launched a counteroffensive that drove Army Group North out of Tikhvin and back to their initial positions by December 30th. This was the first time the Blitzkrieg tactics had been blunted! Meretskov was appointed to command the Volkhov Front and helped to break the blockade of Leningrad in 1943. 

Combined Arms Research Library

NCR N-530 Bombe Enigma Decryption Machine

Image size: 1600 x 1280 pixel. 502 KB
Date: Saturday, 1 January 1944
Place: Washington, District of Columbia, USA
Photographer: Unknown

United States Navy "Woman Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service" (WAVES) handles a National Cash Register Company (NCR) N-530 Bombe decryption machine for decoding German Kriegsmarine (Navy) naval cyphers encoded with their 4-rotor "Enigma" machine. She is adjusting the fourth commutator wheel. The British, using advanced codebreaking machines developed by the Poles before that country succumbed to the Nazis in September 1939, developed 3-rotor "Enigma" machines that could read U-Boat messages until Großadmiral (Grand Admiral) Karl Dönitz changed the U-Boats to a 4-rotor system in February 1942. The British were unable to build a Bombe to break the 4-rotor "Enigma" code, even though they had enough intelligence to build it. The United States Navy contracted NCR to build 4-rotor bombes at their factory in Dayton, Ohio, in March 1942. At the time, American losses in the Atlantic were reaching critical levels. The British had promised to supply the United States with 4-rotor Enigma traffic by August 1942, but it was apparent that Bletchley Park, the British Cryptology center, would not be able to meet that deadline. American Naval officers had drawings of the British bombe; working with NCR technician Joseph Desch, realized they could improve the British design. British theorist Alan Turing, who designed the British Bombe, was skeptical. Yet Desch's design worked, and the NCR N-530 was ordered into production. The American Navy Bombes stood seven feet high, two feet wide and ten feet long. Each weighed 5,000 pounds. The front and back of the Bombes each had eight columns of four rotors. The top wheel mimicked the Enigma's new fourth rotor while the bottom commutator represented the rightmost, or fastest, rotor of the Enigma. The bottom rotor spun at a speed of 1,725 revolutions per minute, which allowed the machine to complete its run in only twenty minutes. Much of the work was done in secret, with WAVEs soldering and wiring the Bombes without knowing what they were building. Elaborate security included round-the-clock tailing of Desch, whose German heritage was investigated. To solder the twenty-six connections for each rotor the WAVES were given twenty-eight colors of wire so that it was difficult for the WAVES to memorize the wiring and report it to German agents. Everyone was threatened with death for talking about their work. Still, with twenty-six connections and twenty-six letters of the alphabet, the WAVES often figured out they were working on cryptology. The bombes were shipped to the Naval Communications Complex on Nebraska Avenue in Washington, District of Columbia. By the end of 1943, 77 Bombes were operational and almost all the Kriegsmarine radio Enigma traffic was being broken by the United States, leaving Bletchley Park to focus on Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe Enigma transmissions. Soon the United States Navy was also breaking that traffic as well. 121 N-530s, and the upgraded N-1530 version, were built through 1944, when the Navy decided further Bombes were not needed. All except one were broken up by hammer and crowbar after the war; the remaining N-1530 Bombe is on display at the National Cryptological Museum in Maryland. Many of the WAVES, sailors and NCR technicians who worked on the project did not know the Bombe had been declassified until they saw the surviving machine on display at the Smithsonian in 1993.

National Security Agency, Photo 00015

Karl Nicolussi-Leck on the Cupola of his Panther #801

Image size: 1600 x 1178 pixel. 402 KB
Date: October 1944
Place: West of Wieliszew, Powiat Legionowski, Poland
Photographer: Unknown

SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Nicolussi-Leck (left) on the cupola of his Panzerkampfwagen V Panther Ausf.A (turmnummer 801), while at right standing SS-Hauptsturmführer Friedrich Hannes, chef 12.Kompanie/SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 9 "Germania". The man in the middle, based on Charles Trang identification, was possibly SS-Obersturmführer Fritz Hanke (Nachrichten-Offizier from SS-Panzer-Regiment 5 "Wiking"). Nicolussi-Leck was awarded the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes during the Battle of Kovel, in the Pripet Marshes while in command of a Kampfgruppe of the II.Abteilung/SS-Panzer-Regiment 5/5.SS-Panzer-Division "Wiking", newly equipped with Panther tanks, along with the III.Bataillon/SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment "Germania", newly equipped and up to strength, which had just arrived at the front from Germany. Nicolussi-Leck immediately launched an attack with five Panthers. Soon after beginning the attack, he received a radio message from the besieged commander to halt his attack and withdraw. He ordered his radio operator to ignore the call, and continued his attack. Risking court-martial, he then proceeded to fight his way though the Soviet encirclement, destroying several Soviet tanks in the process. His Panther was the first vehicle to break the encirclement. After the relief force established a corridor to the encircled force, the withdrawal began. Unlike the previous encirclement at Korsun, the trapped force managed to escape with most of its equipment intact, and the division was ready for action immediately. For this action, he won the Ritterkreuz on 9 April 1944. Nicolussi-Leck continued fighting until the very end and was taken prisoner on 22 April 1945 in Hannover. The full story of Nicolussi-Leck action can be seen HERE.


06 December 2012

A column of German POWs on the Nevsky Prospekt in Leningrad

Image size: 1600 x 1252 pixel. 430 KB
Date: August 1942
Place: Nevsky Prospekt, Leningrad, Soviet Union
Photographer: Boris Pavlovich Kudoyarov (1898-1973)

German prisoners paraded into the streets of Leningrad, summer 1942. Just imagine what went through the minds of these soldiers... Original caption: "The Germans intended to triumphantly march into Leningrad, along October 25th Street. This party of prisoners-of-war did march along the street, not as triumphantly as they hoped, it is true, but at least they can now bear witness to the sincerity of the Russian greeting: no one abused them, the faces of the passers-by expressed no malicious joy, but their eyes gleamed with a hatred harder than stone and hotter than flame!" Important events in Leningrad Front which happened in August 1942: 9 August 1942: The Symphony No. 7 "Leningrad" by Dmitri Shostakovich was performed by the Radio orchestra of Leningrad. The score had passed the German lines by air one night in March 1942. The concert was broadcast on loudspeakers placed in all the city and also aimed towards the enemy lines. This date, initially chosen by Hitler to celebrate the taking of Leningrad, and a few days before the Sinyavino Offensive, can symbolise the reversal of the dynamics in favour of the Soviet army. 11 August 1942: The German 250. Infanterie-Division, consisted of Spanish volunteers, was redeployed on the Volkhov River near Leningrad, Russia. 19 August 1942: Soviets launched the Sinyavino Offensive in the Leningrad region in northern Russia, with troops of the Leningrad Front capturing several bridgeheads across the Neva River. The Volkhov Front, however, failed to launch its offensive in concert. 24 August 1942: Soviet Volkhov Front launched an offensive near Leningrad in northern Russia. 27 August 1942: As Soviet Volkhov Front attacked toward Leningrad Russia, Soviet 8th Army attacked outwards from within the city, briefly opening a small corridor. 28 August 1942: Soviet 8th Army pushed forward another mile against lines held by troops of German 223rd Infantry Division near Leningrad, Russia; behind the German lines, German 18th Army moved into position to launch a counterattack. 29 August 1942: Soviet 4th Guards Rifle Corps joined the Soviet 8th Army in the offensive near Leningrad, Russia.

RIA Novosti archive, image #1104

05 December 2012

Hermann Göring Makes Final Statement To The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg

Image size: 1600 x 1335 pixel. 275 KB
Date: Friday, 31 August 1945
Place: Nürnberg, Bavaria, Germany
Photographer: Unknown

Former Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring (January 12, 1893 - October 15, 1946), delivers his final statement to the International Military Tribunal. Göring denied any complicity in the Holocaust, saying, "I stand up for the things that I have done, but I deny most emphatically that my actions were dictated by the desire to subjugate foreign peoples by wars, to murder them, to rob them, or to enslave them, or to commit atrocities or crimes. The only motive which guided me was my ardent love for my people, its happiness, its freedom, and its life. And for this I call on the Almighty and my German people to witness." Göring, who had joined the Nazi Party in 1922 and risen to become Reichskanzler (Reichchancellor) Adolf Hitler's second in command, was convicted on October 1, 1946 of conspiracy to commit crimes against peace; waging a war of aggression; war crimes; and crimes against humanity. Back row, left to right: Kriegsmarine (German Navy) Grossadmiral (Grand Admiral) Karl Dönitz (September 16, 1891 - December 24, 1980) sentenced to ten years; Grossadmiral Erich Raeder (April 24, 1876 - November 6, 1960), sentenced to life imprisonment and released due to ill health on September 26, 1955; head of the Hitler Jugend (HJ, Hitler Youth) Baldur von Schirach (May 9, 1907 - August 8, 1974), sentenced to 20 years in prison and released on September 30, 1966; Ernst "Fritz" Sauckel (October 27, 1894 – October 16, 1946), Generalbevollmachtigter fur den Arbeitseinsatz (General Plenipotentiary for Labor Deployment), sentenced to death and hanged; Colonel General Alfred Jodl (May 10, 1890 – October 16, 1946), Chef des Wehrmachtsfuhrungsstabes, Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (Chief of Operation Staff, High Command of the Armed Forces) sentenced to death and hanged; Franz Joseph Hermann Michael Maria von Papen zu Koningen (October 29, 1879 - May 2, 1969), Chancellor of Germany in 1932, Vice-Chancellor under Hitler in 1933-1934, acquitted but tried under new charges in 1947 and sentenced to eight years, released in 1949; Doctor Artur Seyss-Inquart (July 22, 1892 - October 16, 1946), Reichsstatthalter (Reich Governor) of Austria, Deputy Governor of Occupied Poland and Reichkommissar during the occupation of the Netherlands, sentenced to death and hanged; and Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer, (March 19, 1905 - September 1, 1981), architect, Minister of Armaments and Munitions, sentenced to twenty years, released September 30, 1966. Front row, left to right: Hermann Wilhelm Göring (January 12, 1893 - October 15, 1946), Reichsmarschall, Commander of the Luftwaffe 1935-1945, Chief of the 4-Year Plan 1936-1945, and several departments of the SS, committed suicide the night before his execution; Rudolf Hess (April 26, 1894 - August 17, 1987), Stellvertreter des Fuhrers (Deputy to Adolf Hitler), flew to Scotland on May 10, 1941, sentenced to life imprisonment and committed suicide (former Warden Eugene K. Bird and others say he was murdered) in Spandau Prison; Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop (April 30, 1893 - October 16, 1946), sentenced to death and hanged; Generalfeldmarschall (Field Marshal) Wilhelm Keitel (September 22, 1882 - October 16, 1946), Commander in Chief, Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, sentenced to death and hanged; Ernst Kaltenbrunner (October 4, 1903 - October 16, 1946), Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Security Head Office) Director, sentenced to death and hanged; Alfred Rosenberg (January 12, 1893 - October 16, 1946), Nazi racial theorist and after July 1941 Reichsministerium fur die besetzten Ostgebiete (Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories), sentenced to death and hanged; Hans Frank (May 23, 1900 - October 16, 1946), lawyer and Generalgouverneur fur die besetzten polnischen Gebiete (Governor-General of the General Government for the occupied Polish territories), sentenced to death and hanged; Wilhelm Frick (March 12, 1877 - October 16, 1946), lawyer, Minister of the Interior 1933-1943, Reichsprotektorat Bohmen und Mahren (Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia) 1943-1945, sentenced to death and hanged; Julius Streicher (February 12, 1885 - October 16, 1946), editor of Der Sturmer and Gauleiter (Shire-leader) of Franconia 1922-1945, sentenced to death and hanged; and Walter Funk (August 18, 1890 - May 31, 1960), Minister of Economics and head of the Reichsbank, sentenced to life imprisonment, released due to ill health on May 16, 1957. The official languages of the International Military Tribunal were nglish, Russian, French, and German. A simultaneous translation system designed by IBM and run by four teams of interpreters (Two teams for two shifts, a standby team, and a team for other languages like Polish and Yiddish) would translate the proceedings at the speed of sixty words per minute. Speakers were signaled by flags to speed up, stop, or slow down.


Nuremberg Defendants Hear Their Sentences

Image size: 1600 x 904 pixel. 407 KB
Date: Tuesday, 1 October 1946
Place: Nürnberg, Bavaria, Germany
Photographer: Unknown

International Military Tribunal President Sir Geoffrey Lawrence (December 2, 1880 - August 28, 1971) of the United Kingdom read out the verdicts on October 1, 1946: "In accordance with Article 27 of the Charter, the International Military Tribunal will now pronounce the sentences on the defendants convicted on this Indictment: Defendant Hermann Wilhelm Göring, on the Counts of the Indictment on which you have been convicted, the International Military Tribunal sentences you to death by hanging. Defendant Rudolf Hess, on the Counts of the Indictment on which you have been convicted, the Tribunal sentences you to imprisonment for life. Defendant Joachim von Ribbentrop, on the Counts of the Indictment on which you have been convicted, the Tribunal sentences you to death by hanging. Defendant Wilhelm Keitel, on the Counts of the Indictment on which you have been convicted, the Tribunal sentences you to death by hanging. Defendant Ernst Kaltenbrunner, on the Counts of the Indictment on which you have been convicted, the Tribunal sentences you to death by hanging. Defendant Alfred Rosenberg, on the Counts of the Indictment on which you have been convicted, the Tribunal sentences you to death by hanging. Defendant Hans Frank, on the Counts of the Indictment on which you have been convicted, the Tribunal sentences you to death by hanging. Defendant Wilhelm Frick, on the Counts of the Indictment on which you have been convicted, the Tribunal sentences you to death by hanging. Defendant Julius Streicher, on the Count of the Indictment on which you have been convicted, the Tribunal sentences you to death by hanging. Defendant Walter Funk, on the Counts of the Indictment an which you have been convicted, the Tribunal sentences you to imprisonment for life. Defendant Karl Dönitz, on the Counts of the Indictment on which you have been convicted, the Tribunal sentences you to ten years' imprisonment. Defendant Erich Raeder, on the Counts of the Indictment on which you have been convicted, the Tribunal sentences you to imprisonment for life. Defendant Baldur von Schirach, on the Count of the Indictment on which you have been convicted, the Tribunal sentences you to twenty years' imprisonment. Defendant Fritz Sauckel, on the Counts of the Indictment on which you have been convicted, the Tribunal sentences you to death by hanging. Defendant Alfred Jodl, on the Counts of the Indictment on which you have been convicted, the Tribunal sentences you to death by hanging. Defendant Arthur Seyss-Inquart, on the Counts of the Indictment on which you have been convicted, the Tribunal sentences you to death by hanging. Defendant Albert Speer, on the Counts of the Indictment on which you have been convicted, the Tribunal sentences you to twenty years' imprisonment. Defendant Konstantin von Neurath, on the Counts of the Indictment on which you have been convicted, the Tribunal sentences you to fifteen years' imprisonment. The Tribunal sentences the Defendant Martin Bormann, on the Counts of the Indictment on which he has been convicted, to death by hanging. I have an announcement to make. The Soviet member of the International Military Tribunal desires to record his dissent from the decisions in the cases of the Defendants Schacht, Von Papen, and Fritzsche (they were acquitted). He is of the opinion that they should have been convicted and not acquitted. He also dissents from the decisions in respect to the Reich Cabinet and the General Staff and High Command, being of the opinion that they should have been declared to be criminal organizations. He also dissents from the decision in the case of the sentence on the Defendant Hess and is of the opinion that the sentence should have been, death, and not life imprisonment. This dissenting opinion will be put into writing and annexed to the Judgment, and will be published as soon as possible."

Nuremberg Trial Proceedings. Volume 22, page 587-588

03 December 2012

Sherman Tanks of 7th Armored in St. Vith

Image size: 1600 x 1166 pixel. 854 KB
Date: Wednesday, 24 January 1945
Place: St. Vith, Wallonia, Belgium
Photographer: Unknown

M4 Sherman medium tanks of the 40th Tank Battalion, Combat Command R, 7th Armored Division, take up defensive positions in a field near St. Vith after retaking the village from the Germans. The 7th Armored, in a less famous but equally heroic stand than Bastogne, was cut off from reinforcements (except for scratch units of the 106th Infantry Division, 9th Armored Division and 28th Infantry Division) in St. Vith on December 17, 1944. Faced with intermittent radio contact and a lack of supplies and reinforcements, the 7th Armored denied St. Vith from the Germans for five vital days. After regrouping and re-equipping in early January 1945, Combat Command B of the 7th Armored retook St. Vith on January 23. 

United States Army

The Youngest Soldier of French Legion

Image size: 1136 x 1600 pixel. 359 KB
Date: Between Monday, 1 December 1941, to Tuesday, 9 December 1941
Place: Near Golovbovo, Russia
Photographer: Kriegsberichter Momber from PK (Propaganda-Kompanie) 689

One of the youngest soldier of the French Legion (Légion des volontaires français contre le bolchévisme), Léon Merdjian, 15 years old. He was born at Tbilisi, Georgia, and becaming a medic in Infanterie-Regiment 638 (Französischer). Merdjian and Léon Vatchnadzé are 15 years old when they enlisted in LVF in 1941 and were Georgian emigres to France (would be interesting to know about their fate!). In 15 November 1941, the French Legion arrived on the Eastern Front. Four battalions of French volunteers assigned to 4. Armee proved less hardy. Generalfeldmarschall Hans-Günther von Kluge (Oberbefehlshaber 4. Armee) addressed them on the field of Borodino and spoke of how, in Napoleon’s Grande Armée, Frenchmen and Germans had once before fought shoulder to shoulder against the common enemy. They eventually reached the extreme end of the German front, at 63 Km from Moscow. There, Infanterie-Regiment 638 joined the 7. Infanterie-Division under Generalleutnant Eccard Freiherr von Gablenz. On November 24, 1941, the 4 platoons of the 1st battalion are heading to the front line near the village of Djukovo. The regimental HQ reaches Golowkowo. The ground is frozen. After several days waiting in horrible conditions, attack order is given on December 1st in a horrible snowstorm, with temperatures that dropped 20 Celsius overnight, without winter equipment, with no Panzer support. On the opposite side, the 32nd Siberian Division, well equipped, well trained, supported by heavy artillery. Dead and wounded French are spilling the ground; automatic weapons are blocked by the frost. At the medical post, Doctor Captain Fleury struggles to treat all the wounded, the sick and the men with frozen members. After a week, the 1st battalion is almost dislocated and must be replaced. Lieutenants Dupont and Tenaille, the best platoons commanders have been killed by the same artillery shell, Captain Lacroix is severely wounded. More to the north, the second battalion is less afflicted by the battle, but as much by the climatic conditions. While the 7. Infanterie-Division remains on the front line, the whole 638 regiment is pulled out between the 6 and 9 of December. It lost 65 dead, 120 wounded, more than 300 sick or with frozen members.

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-141-1291-02,_Russland,_15-j%C3%A4hriger_der_franz%C3%B6sischen_Legion.jpg

Member of 250. Infanterie-Division (División Azul)

Image size: 1422 x 1600 pixel. 619 KB
Date: 1941
Place: Unknown
Photographer: Unknown

Spanish member of 1.Bataillon/Infanterie-Regiment 263/250.Infanterie-Division. Men from this division were called "Blue Division" (División Azul) because of the blue Falangist shirt they wearing in the siege of Leningrad. The fahnenträger (flag holder) is wearing gasplane (gas mask bag), MP40 ammo pouch, and stahlhelm with Wehrmacht/Spanish flag decals. Also he is holding the banner of his batallion. Note the Spanish award on their uniform! The red one is the "Cruz al Mérito Militar con Distintivo Rojo"; the yellow one is the "Medalla de Mutilado de Guerra por la Patria". The formation of what would become 250. Infanterie-Division (División Azul) was first suggested by Serrano Súñer, foreign minister and the most trusted advisor of the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, following the German invasion of the USSR 1941 as an alternative to a declaration of war. Recruitment of volunteers began 28 June and a large number of members of the fascist Falange (the full name of the party was Falange Española Tradicionalista y de las J.O.N.S (FET)) volunteered, including six members of the FET National Council and several provisional governors. The Spanish Army however insisted on keeping control of the unit rather than have it run by the FET and in the end all the officers came from the regular army as well as about 70% of the volunteers, most of them veterans of the Spanish Civil War. The commander of the unit would be Agustín Muñoz Grandes, former secretary general of the FET and one of the few Falangist generals. The unit was technically subordinate to the Spanish Ministry of the Army but served under German command. The first volunteers left for Germany 17 July for further training and remained in Grafenwöhr for training until being sent to the Eastern Front Aug 1941. They saw their first action 12 Oct 1941 at Lake Ilmen and remained on the front near Leningrad until it was disbanded Oct 1943, most famous and costly battle being Krasny Bor during Operation Polar Star.