Voice of German High Command Surrenders Another Beautiful Day Comes To A Close

Dittmar surrenders

Voice of German High Command

Lt. General Kurt Dittmar, the voice of the German High Command, after surrendering to troops of the US 30th Infantry Division. Copyright by Life Magazine.

After Lt. General Kurt Dittmar broadcast his evening German Armed Forces High Command communique, German national radio played “Another Beautiful Day Comes to a Close” as their sign-off song.

The German communique was broadcast at midnight German time. German-speaking stenographers working for various news agencies including UPI and AP took down the communique, translated it into English, and “moved it on the wire.”

The German armed forces communique was usually printed in the morning New York Times and other major newspapers along with the communiques from all the other belligerent powers. If you have a subscription to the Times you can go online to their archives and type in “communique” and a whole lot of them will turn up.

Capture of Lt. Gen. Kurt Dittmar of Magdeburg

from official info of US 30th Infantry Division

“On April 25th, 1945 Lt. Gen. Kurt von Dittmar, German official army news commentator, together with Major Pluskat, Dittmar’s son and two orderlies crossed the Eble River. They crossed at Magdeburg in the zone of the 117th’s Third Battalion [of the 30th Infantry Divison]. Dittmar, the German General Staff radio spokesman, crossed in a boat under a white flag.

He had come, he said, to arrange aid for German wounded on the east bank of the Elbe. It was then discovered he commanded no troops and traveled to the west without the knowledge of the German commander in that sector. Dittmar was then offered to surrender but he refused.

On his way back to recross the river he changed his mind and surrendered along with his son and Major Pluskat, an artillery officer.”

info on the reverse of the photograph above

official history US 30th Infantry Old Hickory Division

 

Here are several communiques from the archives of the New York Times:

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Below is a brief excerpt from my novel, An Honorable German. The phrasing from communiques in the interior monologue of the main character (Max) comes directly from actual German armed forces communiques during WW II. Max is on a train packed with young German soldiers on their way to Russia. In the time line of the novel, it is approximately 23 January 1943 and Max is thinking about the German 6th Army which has been trapped in Stalingrad since November of 1942.

“How would it end? Not well. Most alarming, a few days after Christmas, in his evening radio address, General Dittmar, the voice of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, had begun to speak of “heroic resistance” by Six Armee’s brave troops–never an encouraging sign. Everyone in Germany had learned to decipher the High Command’s euphemisms: “grim and sanguinary fighting increasing in violence” meant the line had collapsed and troops were being pushed back under murderous fire with terrible casualties; “bitter and prolonged fighting” meant you were hopelessly surrounded; “heroic resistance” meant you were already dead.”

Nazis Built Biggest Artillery Piece of World War Two

Dora

Dora, heaviest cannon of World War Two fired 48 times

Before the German attack on Sevastopol, Hitler sent his commander on the scene, Erich von Manstein, the heaviest cannon in all of World War Two which they Germans called “Dora”. She fired an 80cm caliber shell and her barrel was thirty-two meters long. Moving Dora to her specially prepared location thirty kilometers (18 miles) outside of Sevastopol required sixty railway cars.

Once in place and reassembled, the cannon sat on a double set of railroad tracks. Dora could fire a high explosive shell weighing five metric tonnes (five and 1/2 US short tons) a distance of forty-seven kilometers.

The cannon fired forty-eight shells during its existence. Toward the end of the war Dora and other heavy cannon’s under construction or never completed were destroyed by the Wehrmacht.

www.hpwt.de/2Weltkrieg/Dorae.

 

 

The 800mm (31.5 inch) Heavy Gustav Cannon Railway Gun nicknamed “Dora” prepares to fire on Soviet positions at Sevastopol… The gun had two types of shells. The armor/concrete-piercing shell weighed 7.1 tons (7,100 kilograms) and could pierce 22.9 feet (7 meters) of reinforced concrete or 3.3 feet (1 meter) of rolled steel armor. The high-explosive shell weighed 4.8 tons (4,800 kilograms) and left a 30 foot (10 meter) wide crater…Dora rolled forward to the Crimea for the attack on Sebastopol on four trains, complete with anti-aircraft gun cars.

Some 450 men crewed the gun. Four parallel rail tracks had to be laid for Dora to be mobile once in place. With anti-aircraft crews and guards, 5,000 men were attached to the gun. Two giant cranes, shipped by Krupp from Essen, helped assemble the gun and then served her with ammunition. The curve of the tracks seen here would allow the gun to be placed by three diesel-electric locomotives.

Photo above and caption courtesy of worldwar2database.com/gallery

 

Zentralbild Generalfeldmarschall Erich EGE von Lewinski genannt von Manstein, geb. 24.11.1887 in Berlin Oberbefehlshaber der Heeresgruppe S¸d im II. Weltkrieg. Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern. Von einem britischen Milit‰rgericht zu 18 Jahren Haft verurteilt, 1953 jedoch bereits freigelassen. UBz.: von Manstein als Generalmajor im Jahre 1938

Herr Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein

Erich von Manstein remains an enigmatic figure decades after the end of World War Two and of his death in 1973. The only scholarly biography of von Manstein is titled Janus Face.  The most revealing and fascinating book about him continues to be: Bounden Duty: Memoirs of a German Officer, 1932-1945 by Alexander Stahlberg.

I’ve read this book five or six times over the years and I give it five stars because it is the only one of its kind. Stahlberg served from 1942 until the end of the war as von Manstein’s adjutant or personal orderly officer as it translates from German. His memoir is the best and only primary source about von Manstein since von Manstein’s family will not release his papers.

Unquestionably, Field Marshal von Manstein was a military genius and the best German commander of World War Two if not the best ground commander in any army in World War Two. Had Hitler put him in overall command of the Eastern Front the Russians would have paid even a higher price than they did pushing the Germans out of their country.

According to Stahlberg, von Manstein had several opportunities to murder Hitler but chose not to. Before Hitler visited von Manstein’s forward headquarters in Russia, a small group of his staff officers entreated von Manstein to allow them to kill Hitler but he refused permission. “Prussian Field Marshal’s do not mutiny.”

While he was acknowledged by the other Field Marshals as “first among equals” and they would have followed his lead had he murdered Hitler and seized power he would not do it.  Von Manstein was a great general, perhaps one of the great captains of history. But he could have been a great man and he threw that chance away to the detriment of the world.

One of the more curious aspects of the 20 July 1944 assassination attempt on Hitler was how many of the Field Marshals knew that many officers were working on the plot yet they did nothing to help or hinder. Stahlberg says he told von Manstein a week before the attempt.

 

Sources: Stopped at Stalingrad: The Luftwaffe and Hitler’s Defeat in the East, 1942-1943 by Joel S. A. Hayward &

http://hpwt.de/2Weltkrieg/Dorae.htm

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/

 

A Shocking Family Secret Revealed

Family Secret Revealed: Your grandfather was a vicious German soldier inspired by Nazi ideology

This would be a shock to most people. Quite an interesting story of how this diary came to light and was published. If you like memoirs by common soldiers, this is a good one however evil the opinions of the diarist are.
winter fritz2
Commonly used to represent a common German soldier on the Eastern Front, this candid shot was taken by a fellow SS soldier in the France in the winter of 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge, the largest engagement ever fought by the US Army.

 

Vasilii_Grossman

famous Soviet war correspondent and later novelist, Vasilii Grossman (on left) at the Brandenburg Gate, 1945 with other Soviet war correspondents.

 

 

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“Now we see them coming, those Red bastards, that Asian mob.”

“Now we see them coming, those Red bastards, that Asian mob. Night attacks are a particular specialty of this gang… We receive orders to retreat to our baseline positions. The entire front line must be pulled back to its original position. Damn it, it is unbelievable that we must retreat — we, the 299th Infantry Division, have to run; German soldiers have to abandon the field to those Russian schweine!”- From: Eastern Inferno: the Journals of a German Panzerjäger on the Eastern Front, 1941-1943

Imagine this: you are a grown American man living in 21st Century America. One day, out of the blue, your mother gives you a set of journals kept by her father, your grandfather, during World War Two. She never knew him. He was killed in action when she was a toddler. The above quote is taken from his first journal and the entry is dated 11 July 1941 — three weeks into the German invasion of the Soviet Union which commenced on 21 June 1941.

This is the first you have ever heard of these documents. Your mother had never mentioned them. She actually did not know about them for many years since her father’s brother had them. Eventually he gave them to her mother, who gave them to her.

You knew your mother had been born in Germany during the war, one of the kinder krieg, but of that time she knew little and said less. Now she tells you a secret. A secret she has kept from you and your sister for much of your lives. Your grandfather fought in World War Two — just like the grandfather’s of many of your friends. Only your grandfather wore feldgrau and served in the Wehrmacht. And he fought, and died, in Russia.

What has your grandfather written about in his journals? Your mother can’t tell you. Not because she is being difficult and won’t tell you. She can’t tell you because she has never read the journals. The emotional pain would be overwhelming. Unfortunately, you can’t read them either — not because reading them would overload your emotional circuits. You can’t read them because they’re in German. And neither you nor your sister can speak or read German.

From your mother and from flipping through the three journals you learn this of your grandfather: his name was Hans Roth. He served as an enlisted soldier in the 299th Infantry Division of the German Army. Until he was killed, all of his time in the army he spent on the Eastern Front. Most of that time he was in combat. Not easy duty for anyone. Especially not for a panzerjäger. A “tank hunter.”

Yet you and your sister realize these journals are a gift. They are a gift both to you and to history; for sixty years after your grandfather went missing in action in June/July of 1944, he reaches across those decades and speaks. And what he writes are those rarest of historical documents: a contemporaneous diary meant to be read only for him and perhaps one day his family. He records his thoughts raw, without censorship, never holding back.

Often he writes just after a vicious battle with the Reds. He is glad he killed a lot of them. He despises them. Yet not one of us would think differently. Why? Because he is living in a situation when human existence is at its most elemental: kill or be killed. That is the only choice you have. And since we are programmed by nature to live and survive, we kill.

That’s what your grandfather did from June of 1941 — when he crossed into the Soviet Union as part of the 299th Infantry Division of the German Army — until he went missing in late June of 1944.

Infantrie Division 299 was the first German division hit by the massive Soviet offensive which began on the night of June 21/22 1944. This offensive, which made D-Day just a few weeks before look like a skirmish, was an attack of unprecedented violence against the Germans. The battle has a name which is fully descriptive: The Destruction of Army Group Center. (Heers Gruppe Mitte).

Twenty-seven German divisions and their higher echelon commands, disappeared in five days. Over 300,000 men simply gone missing in just five days…never to be found. Hans Roth is one of them. In fact, he is still listed as missing in action as are over three million German soldiers from World War Two. Most lie in unmarked graves in the former Soviet Union as does, undoubtedly, Hans Roth.

 

nazsol (1)
This famous photograph of a German soldier is often used to depict a German soldat in action on the Eastern Front. His face expresses the weary hopelessness of the German landser, or common soldier. However, it is one a series of photographs taken in France in the winter of 1944 a fellow member of his SS division. The film and camera were later captured by American troops. He was probably killed in battle against the Anglo-Americans. I hope so.
winter fritz1
But he did make it into Life Magazine.