“Anyone can do the little job of directing operations in war.”

“I am the greatest warlord of all time.” – Adolf Hitler

NOT EXACTLY:

“German men and women! The High Command of the armed forces has today… declared the unconditional surrender of all German fighting troops.”

Foreign Minister of the Dönitz government, Schwerin von Krosigk, In a broadcast to the German people on German national radio on the afternoon of 7 may 1945.

as quoted by the New York Times

 

Hitler [above far right] attained the rank of gefreiter in the First World War (1914-1918). This is equivalent to the rank of private first class in the US Army or lance corporal in the US Marines or British Army. 

(He grew up in Linz in what had been the Bohemian area of the Austrian Empire. This led Herr General Fieldmarshal von Rundstedt to refer to him as that “Bohemian corporal.”)

“Anyone can do the little job of directing operations in war.” Hitler to Colonel-General Halder, Chief of the German General Staff in December 1941 after the resignation of Field Marshal Walter von Brauchitsch (1881-1948) as Commander-in-Chief of the German Army (1938-1941).

Instead of appointing a professional soldier, Hitler appointed himself, thus assuming operational command of the German Army. Given that he was already Head of the Nazi Party, Chief of State, Minister of Defense, and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, this new responsibility put him in the position of giving orders to himself.

This would be as if President Franklin Roosevelt, who held the office of President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed forces, had also assumed the roles of Secretary of War and Secretary of the Navy, Chief of Staff of the US Army and Airforce and Chief of Naval Operations, Commander in Chief of Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, and Commander in Chief of the Southwest Pacific Theater.

Herr Colonel-General Halder, only man to hold Nazi Germany’s Knights Cross & the US Meritorious Civilian Service Award

“Incredible as it may sound, Hitler did not even have a general plan for the war.” – Colonel General Franz Halder, Chief of the German Army General Staff until dismissed by Hitler in September of 1942.

After the war, Halder worked for the US Army Historical Branch for 15 years and in 1961 received the US Meritorious Civilian Service Award from President Kennedy, thus becoming the only man in history to hold this award and the Knights Cross.

We May Lose War Comment Shows Prescience

 

20 APril 1945  Deputy Cheif Of Operations of German armed forces high command “…mentions the possibility that the war could have a negative outcome.”

If only I could foretell events with the accuracy of Wehrmacht Major-General August Winter my life would be so much better!

According to Official War Diary of the the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (German Armed Forces High Commmand):

“…on the morning of 20 April 1945, the Deputy-Chief of Wehrmacht Operations Staff, Major General Winter, gives an address on the occasion of Hitler’s birthday and mentions the possibility that the war could have a negative outcome.”

When he gave this brief talk, the Russians were less than 18 kilometers from the HQ of the German Armed Forces High Command and most of the officers left the facilities shortly thereafter.

These facilities were massive underground bunkers completely bombproof and camoflauged. Remnants of the complex still exist.

A telephone exchange of the complex, 1942. The two huge underground complexes were known as Maybach I and Maybach II located in Zossen, thirty kilometers from Berlin.

 

2 May 1945     orders to berlin garrsion:
“…Together with the commander-in-chief of the Soviet forces I order you to stop fighting immediately.” WEIDLING, General of Artillery, Commandant of the Berlin Defence Zone.”

8 May 1945 Germans surrender unconditionally on all fronts to the Allied powers and the Soviet Union.

License Plates and Vehicle Identification Marks of the Wehrmacht

License Plates and Vehicle Identification Marks of the Wehrmacht

by

Charles McCain

copyright (c) 2017

author of An Honorable German published in hardback 2009 by GCP/Hachette & paperback 2010. Available on Kindle and Nook.

http://charlesmccain.com/an-honorable-german/

 

the first two letters on the number plate identify this as a Luftwaffe truck. This is a Mercedes “type LG3000”. This guy was probably stuck in Russia which isn’t a place you wanted to be stuck. Note the relatively narrow tires.

WL is the abbreviation of Wehrmacht Luftwaffe (that is W=Wehrmacht [which translates as ‘Defense Forces’ or ‘Armed Forces’] L=Luftwaffe –Air Force)

It may seem odd that German military vehicles – not tanks but other vehicles – had license plates or number plates as the Brits call them. But they did. One sees them in lots of photographs of German vehicles although as the war goes on one notices the plates are either missing or have been painted over or smeared with oil since the back color of the plates was white and stood out.

Tank 411 fires its flamethrower

The markings on tanks were normally a large three digit number painted on each side of their turret and often on the back of the turret. This was their radio call sign so their squadron commander could identify and direct specific tanks under his command to do specific things instead of just saying over his radio, “hey you, the tank under the tree…”

Tiger tank in Russia identified as Number 323 (German National Archive)

Soviet tanks did not have radios so once a battle started they could not be controlled by a superior officer which is why they normally attacked in waves. This was a major issue for their tank forces. At the same time, I should point out that radios in American and British tanks often didn’t work because of battery problems or having their antennas ripped off or having wires come loose after repeated firings of the main battery.

 

Sd.Kfz.250 German Army halftrack. The first two letters of the number plate identify this as an army vehicle. (W=Wehrmacht H=Heer (Army)

German military police constantly set up checkpoints and the number plate was one of the key issues they checked. Did the number plate correspond to the registration which was required to be carried in every vehicle? To drive a German Army vehicle, you had to have a license to drive that specific type of vehicle. That is, you had to have a license to drive a passenger car, a license to drive various classes or trucks, etc.

One can imagine the Feldgendarmarie knocking on one’s vehicle window and demanding, “license and registration.”

German Navy truck. You can see the first two letters on the number plate are WM. (W=Wehrmacht  M=Marine (navy)

On German vehicles, the number plates were coded in the following way: WH (Wehrmacht, Heer (army)), WL (Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe), WM (Wehrmacht, Marine (navy)), or SS. Each license plate began with one set of these letters. These two letter combinations were followed by five to six numerals, usually divided into a group of two numerals followed by a group of three or four numerals.

The first two numerals indicated which command the vehicle belonged to such as Army District, 10th U-Boot Flotilla, etc. and specifically what type of vehicle it was. The last three or four numerals comprised the actual code letters of the vehicle.

Each type of vehicle would have its own code. So each type of truck made by Mercedes or Ford would have had a different designation. Ford’s German subsidiary, as well as GM’s Opel subsidiary, continued to manufacture trucks for the German Army all through the war. German units tended to prefer Fords over Mercedes because the Fords were more durable and and easier to maintain.

WH on the license plate identifies this as a German Army truck. This happens to be a Ford. Ford-Werke in the Third Reich manufactured trucks for the German Armed forces. This continues to be a subject of great controversy as you might imagine. Henry Ford himself was a notorious anti-Semite.

 

This is a restored German Army Ford truck. You will note the ‘WH’ on the left front fender. The marking above the number plate indicates this truck belongs a specific company. The number of the company is hidden by the headlamp. On the right front fender is the divisional symbol of the Großdeutschland division. (This photo appears on so many websites that I was unable to determine who I should credit)

So a license plate on a German Armed Forces truck which began WH, belonged to the Army. The next two numerals would indicate what specific model of truck and to which type of unit such as a panzer or infantry division or Armee Korps it belonged to and the last three numerals would indicate which specific truck of a specific model it was. It was a bit more complex than this but this will give you a sense of what the number plates mean.

Note the numeral ‘3’ as the first numeral on the license plate of both trucks pictured above. Since these are both the same model of Ford truck they have the same letter designation.

 

A Luftwaffe (WL) Ford V3000 truck in Italy, 1943. photo courtesy of German National Archive.

Each type of vehicle would have its own code. So each type of truck made by Mercedes or Ford would have had a different designation. Ford’s German subsidiary continued to manufacture trucks for the German Army all through the war. German units tended to prefer Fords over Mercedes because the Fords were more durable and and easier to maintain.

 

In this photograph you can clearly see the silhouette of the German Army helmet used to mark vehicles of the Großdeutschland division. The mark below that indicates this vehicle is assigned to a reconnaissance unit.

All German Army divisions had a distinctive symbol which they put on signs, equipment, vehicles, etc. Example: the elite Großdeutschland (Greater Germany) division had as its symbol a white silhouette of a German Army helmet (1935 pattern). A tank or other vehicle of GD (as it was abbreviated) would also have had a tactical symbol indicating which type of unit the vehicle belonged to: infantry, armor, medical, engineers, etc.

Additionally, vehicles were marked with the insignia of the division and/or higher formation or ad hoc formation they were assigned to. Example: vehicles assigned to the 4 Armee during the invasion of France in 1940, had a ‘K’ on their vehicles which stood for ‘Kluge’. Günther von Kluge commanded 4 Armee during the attack on France.

 

You can see the Balkenkreuz clearly on this German dive bomber Ju 87 Stuka. The Luftwaffe was the first of the German Armed Forces to use the symbol.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balkenkreuz

 

German Luftwaffe Tornado attack jet with post-war design of the Balkenkreuz

Every German military vehicle, tank, or plane was also, then and now, marked with a version of the Balkenkreuz, which is said to be the symbol of the Teutonic Knights, a Germanic Catholic military/religious Order which conquered and ruled parts of Prussia and Eastern Europe in medieval times.

Sources: Wehrmacht Camouflage and Markings 1939-1945 by W.J.K. Davies and Wehrmacht Divisional Signs 1938-1945 by Theodor Hartmann. If you have a deep interest in this subject I would purchase one or both of these books. A lot of information on the internet is wrong.

Information on the Teutonic Knights can be found here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teutonic_Order

 

 

 

 

Charles McCain

copyright (c) 2017

author of An Honorable German available from any online bookstore as well as Kindle and Nook.

http://charlesmccain.com/an-honorable-german/

 

SIGNAL: The Life Magazine of Nazi Germany

 

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1 August 1943, a helpful German soldier showing a copy of Signal in Greek to an orthodox resident of the ancient monastic state of Mount Athos. (photo courtesy of Andrew Zoller).

 

Many organizations in the Third Reich produced publications of every sort. Through late 1944 the Kriegsmarine produced its own highly sophisticated five color magazine. But the best known was the Life Magazine knockoff, Signal which was produced by the Ministry of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment.  This ministry was run by the evil, criminal and despicable toad, Joseph Goebbels.

All propaganda publications in the Third Reich, were written by professional journalists and illustrated by professional artists and photographers. Signal was quite a sophisticated publication and presented German soldiers as being tough against their military opponents but gentle and fun with civilians. Lots of photos show German soldiers playing with children who are usually blonde. This type of propaganda tried to counter the reality of the bloody, evil, and murderous nature of the Third Reich.

The famous US publication Life Magazine, whose format was copied by Signal,  was printed on glossy paper. The Germans didn’t have the capacity to produce large amounts of glossy paper for magazines so  Signal was printed on newsprint paper. I have about a dozen different copies I bought over the years mainly as curiosities. However, a number of people collect them and some have ammassed every single issue published.

Signal was published from April 1940 through May of 1945. This was a major propaganda effort by the Nazis and the scope of it is revealed in these statistics from the website of Signal researcher and scholar, Andrew Zoller.

Signal was published monthly in 30 languages at its peak, including English.

During the barbarous reign of the Nazi empire, approximately 32,000 news vendors in 20,000 towns and cities and  sold Signal.

Peak circulation of 2,426,000 copies came in May 1943.

160,000,000 copies were printed during the years of the magazines existence (estimated).

 

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Signal Magazine in French 1940 showing German soldiers walking on the beaches of Dunkirk from which the British Expeditionary Force was rescued and taken off at significant loss by the Royal Navy. (Heroic small boats played a role as well but 80% of the troop lift was done by the RN)
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a cover which depicts the takeover of all Europe by the Soviet Union, a fear the Germans constantly reminded Europeans about.
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Signal Magazine in Russian. I presume this cover shows a Russian soldier in the service of the German Armed forces. Estimates vary of the number of Soviet citizens who fought for the Germans. The low estimate is approximately one million with other estimates going as high as three million. The Ukraine was an especially fertile recruiting ground for the German Army and the SS.

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Union General U.S. Grant on the cover of a Signal Magazine in Dutch, 1944
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Signal Magazine in French
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Those ever friendly U-Boat Men–except when attacking Allied shipping— on cover Signal Magazine from 1943. (collection of author Charles McCain)
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