After the Battle The Battle for Magdeberg

THE BATTLE FOR MAGDEBURG — Karel Margry describes how Magdeburg, located on the Elbe river in central Germany, was one o

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Table of contents :
THE BATTLE FOR MAGDEBURG — 2
JU 52 Crashes at Heraklion — 36
Führerhauptquartier ‘Wolfsschlucht 3’ — 42
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THE BATTLE FOR MAGDEBURG No. 180 £5

NUMBER 180 © Copyright After the Battle 2018 Editor: Karel Margry Editor-in-Chief: Winston G. Ramsey Published by Battle of Britain International Ltd., The Mews, Hobbs Cross House, Hobbs Cross, Old Harlow, Essex CM17 0NN, England Telephone: 01279 41 8833 Fax: 01279 41 9386 E-mail: [email protected] Website: www.afterthebattle.com Printed in Great Britain by Warners Group Publications PLC, Bourne, Lincolnshire PE10 9PH. After the Battle is published on the 15th of February, May, August and November. LONDON STOCKIST for the After the Battle range: Foyles Limited, 107 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0DT. Telephone: 020 7437 5660. Fax: 020 7434 1574. E-mail: [email protected] Website: www.foyles.co.uk United Kingdom Newsagent Distribution: Warners Group Publications PLC, Bourne, Lincolnshire PE10 9PH Australian Subscriptions and Back Issues: Renniks Publications Pty Limited Unit 3, 37-39 Green Street, Banksmeadow NSW 2019 Telephone: 61 2 9695 7055. Fax: 61 2 9695 7355 E-mail: [email protected] Website: www.renniks.com Canadian Distribution and Subscriptions: Army Outfitters/Military Antiques Toronto 1884 Danforth Ave, Toronto, Ontario, M4C 1J4 Telephone: 647-436-0876 E-mail: [email protected] Website: www.servicepub.com New Zealand Distribution: Battle Books NZ Limited, P.O. Box 5549 Lambton, Wellington 6145, New Zealand Telephone: 021 434 303. Fax: 04 298 9958 E-mail: [email protected] - Web: battlebooks.co.nz United States Distribution and Subscriptions: RZM Imports Inc, 184 North Ave., Stamford, CT 06901 Telephone: 1-203-324-5100. Fax: 1-203-324-5106 E-mail: [email protected] Website: www.rzm.com Italian Distribution: Milistoria s.r.l. Via Sofia, 12-Interporto, 1-43010 Fontevivo (PR), Italy Telephone: ++390521 651910. Fax: ++390521 619204 E-mail: [email protected] — Web: http://milistoria.it/ Dutch Language Edition: SI Publicaties/Quo Vadis, Postbus 188, 6860 AD Oosterbeek Telephone: 026-4462834. E-mail: [email protected]

CONTENTS THE BATTLE FOR MAGDEBURG CRETE Ju 52 Crashes at Heraklion FRANCE Führerhauptquartier ‘Wolfsschlucht 3’

Although the Nazis originally discarded Magdeburg as a ‘Red stronghold’, nonetheless local votes for the NSDAP in Reichstag elections rose from 33 per cent in November 1932 to 41 per cent the following March. Here SA brownshirts proudly march through the city in 1936. The city of Magdeburg is situated on the Elbe river in central Germany. Founded by Charlemagne in 805 AD, it was one of the most important cities in medieval Europe, and a prosperous member of the Hanseatic League. A stronghold of Protestantism, in 1631 it was devastated by Imperial and Catholic League troops who killed 20,000 inhabitants and burned down the city in the notorious Sack of Magdeburg, the worst massacre of the Thirty Years War. Throughout the 17th and 18th century the Prussians rebuilt and enlarged Magdeburg’s fortifications, making it one of the Kingdom’s strongest fortresses, its major component being the great citadel built on Werder, the island that lies in the Elbe across from the Old City. Nonetheless, the city surrendered easily to French troops in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1866, Prussia halted the further fortification of Magdeburg, allowing the city to expand beyond its ram-

parts. Many of the city gates, bastions and outlying forts were pulled down, their sites released for housing development. The citadel was demolished in 1922-27. With the coming to power of the NationalSocialists in January 1933, Magdeburg, despite its reputation as a ‘Marxist stronghold’, soon embraced the new ideology. In March 1933, two months into the new regime, the Nazis forcibly deposed Oberbürgermeister Ernst Reuter and replaced him with Dr Fritz Markmann, a convinced Nazi. Although Magdeburg was the capital of the Prussian province of Saxony, and by far the most-important city in the region, the NSDAP did not make it their Gau (Nazi Party district) capital, opting instead for its rival city, Dessau. Named Gau Magdeburg-Anhalt, from 1937 it was the fief of Gauleiter Rudolf Jordan, party affairs in Magdeburg itself being overseen by NSDAP-Kreisleiter Rudolf Krause, replaced in December 1943 by Hans Tichy.

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Front Cover: A Sherman tank of the 66th Armored Regiment, US 2nd Armored Division, rolls past the bomb-damaged Palace of Justice on Halberstädter Chaussee in Magdeburg on the second day of the battle for the city. The picture was taken by Sergeant Edward M. Du Tiel of the 168th Signal Photo Company on April 18, 1945. Inset: The restored Palace of Justice today. (USNA/Karel Margry) Back Cover: German dead from the 1941 invasion of Crete, including the aircrew and paratroopers lost on May 20, were buried in Maleme War Cemetery. For many years this Bofors anti-aircraft gun – which was the type of weapon used to bring down the Ju 52s – was displayed at the small war museum just outside the cemetery. The museum, exhibiting the private collection of Manolis Paparaftakis, had to close in 2013 and the gun is now in the yard of his house in Maleme village.

Photo Credit Abbreviations: AWM — Australian War Memorial; IGN — Institut Géographique National; USNA — US National Archives.

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Acknowledgements: For their valuable assistance with the Magdeburg story, the Editor thanks Thierry van den Berg of Bombs Away Ltd and Martijn Bakker. For help with the ‘Wolfsschlucht 3’ story, the Editor and Jean Paul Pallud extend their gratitude to Marc Doucet, Jean-Paul Brillard and to Jean Pierre Gort of the Hist’Orius association.

A major event in the local Nazi calendar was the festive opening of the Brabag synthetic oil refineries in Magdenburg-Rothensee in July 1936.

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Magdeburg, located on the Elbe river in central Germany, was one of the last big German cities to be captured by the American army before the German capitulation. The battle began on April 17, 1945 and involved two American divisions, the 30th Infantry and the 2nd Armored, which assaulted the city in a concentric attack from three directions. Opposition proved stiffer than expected and it took two days of difficult street-fighting to reduce the city. Well before the landings in Normandy, the Allied Chiefs-of-Staff had agreed the ultimate

division of Germany between Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States, and it was clear to the Americans that Magdeburg lay in the Soviet Zone. However, it appears that this did not influence the decision to attack the city even though it would have to be surrendered at the end of the war. Here, troops of the 41st Armored Infantry, 2nd Armored Division, watch cautiously as civilians come walking towards them with white surrender flags in hand on the first day of the attack.

THE BATTLE FOR MAGDEBURG April 1942 and January 1944, 876 Jews were deported from the Magdeburg region (of whom 360 from the city itself) in nine train transports, the first of them going to the Warsaw ghetto in Poland, four to the Theresienstadt ghetto in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, and the rest to

By Karel Margry Auschwitz-Birkenau. In addition, 470 gypsies were deported to Birkenau on March 1, 1943. Virtually all of the deported people perished in the holocaust.

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Rather than making it a political centre, the new regime advanced Magdeburg as a spearhead of its war economy. Already one of the oldest centres of manufacturing in Germany, the city became a true hub of the armaments industry, the most important production sites being the Braunkohle-Benzin AG (Brabag) refineries in the north-western town district of Rothensee, producing synthetic fuel for the Wehrmacht; the Junkers MZM aircraft engine works in nearby Neue Neustadt; the Krupp-Gruson heavy machinery works in the south-eastern district of Buckau, producing PzKpfw I and IV tanks, StuG IV assault guns and other armoured fighting vehicles, and the Polte small-arms munitions factory in the western district of Wilhelmstadt. With the expansion of the Wehrmacht from 1935 onwards, military presence in the city grew considerably, large new barrack complexes being built on the east side of the Elbe, such as the Hindenburg-Kaserne, the Adolf-Hitler-Kaserne, the General-von-Hippel-Kaserne, the Luitpold-Kaserne military hospital and the Flak-Kaserne Neue Prester, as well as a Luftwaffe airfield. By 1939, some 20,000 soldiers were stationed in the city. Due to the growth of the war industry and the expansion of the garrison, Magdeburg’s population increased considerably, reaching 336,000 on the eve of war in September 1939. The Nazi racial persecutions decimated Magdeburg’s Jewish community. Between

The picture was taken on Alt Salbke, the main road into the city from the south-east. 3

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Magdeburg suffered heavily under the Allied bomber offensive, being the target of over 40 RAF and USAAF raids. The most-destructive of these was the RAF raid on the evening of AIR RAIDS ON MAGDEBURG Magdeburg was one of the German cities that suffered most heavily under the Allied air offensive. In anticipation of a bomber war, and following Hitler’s decree on air raid protection of October 1940, the city authorities had built 13 large air raid bunkers (three of them hospital bunkers) but these could only accommodate less than two per cent of the population — making Magdeburg one of the worst supplied with bomb-proof shelters of all the big German cities. In addition to the bunkers for the general public there were special air raid shelters for industrial workers in the grounds of the main factories, most of them built later in the war. The first British attack occurred on the night of August 22/23, 1940, when ten Wellingtons from RAF Bomber Command scattered bombs all over the city, killing three people and wounding seven. (These bombers must have been widely off course for their official target that night was the Ruhr industrial area over 300 kilometres away!) Bomber Command’s first ‘official’ attack on Magdeburg was two weeks later, on the night of September 3/4, when a small number of Blenheims dropped a few bombs on the city. Three equally small raids followed in October, November and (another stray one) December. Although Magdeburg was high on the list agreed by the British Air Ministry in January 1941 of the 17 main oil targets in Germany to be destroyed by bombing, there were just three attacks on the city that year — in April (a stray one), July and August — and then not a single one for the next two and a half years. The first main raid to Magdeburg was on the night of January 21/22, 1944, when 648 bombers — 421 Lancasters, 224 Halifaxes and three Mosquitoes — were despatched to 4

January 16, 1945 which created a firestorm that destroyed 90 per cent of the inner city. By April 1945 the Dom cathedral stood among a sea of ruins.

the city. Although this was the largest raid in number of aircraft to Magdeburg of the entire war, it was singularly unsuccessful. Some of the main-force aircraft released their bombs early; the Pathfinders failed to concentrate their markers, and the Germans made effective use of decoy markers, causing most of the bombing to fall outside the city. Worse for the RAF, Luftwaffe night-fighters and Flak shot down 57 of the aircraft, 8.8 per cent of the force — Bomber Command’s heaviest loss of the war so far (exceeded only by the 79 aircraft lost over Leipzig a month later and the 96 over Nuremberg in March). In Magdeburg, 112 people were killed, at least 270 wounded and 1,000 made homeless. The US Eighth Air Force had joined the Allied bombing campaign in August 1942 but the first American raid on Magdeburg did not occur until February 22, 1944 — a month after the botched RAF strike — when 15 B-17s of the 1st Bomb Division dropped 42 tons of bombs on the target. This was the start of a whole series of American raids, the Eighth returning once in April, twice in May, June and August each, three times in September and once in October. These attacks invariably aimed at the city’s industrial targets — the Brabag oil plant in Rothensee, the Junkers aircraft engine works in Neustadt, the Krupp-Gruson tank factory in Buckau and the Polte munitions factory in Wilhelmstadt — and the Reichsbahn marshalling yards, but also caused extensive damage elsewhere in the city. The heaviest attack during this period was that of August 5, when 180 B-17s of the 3rd Bomb Division let loose 432 tons, killing 693 people, wounding 881 and making 13,000 others homeless. By far the most-destructive attack on Magdeburg was that on January 16, 1945. First, at mid-morning, 122 B-24s of the 2nd

Air Division dropped 236 tons of bombs on the Krupp factory and Rothensee oil plant. Then in the evening, 371 aircraft of Bomber Command’s Nos. 4, 6 and 8 Groups — 320 Halifaxes, 44 Lancasters and seven Mosquitoes — unleashed a rain of high-explosive bombs, incendiaries and aerial mines over the entire city, the carpet-bombing causing a firestorm that laid most of the inner city in ashes. Between 2,000 and 2,500 people were killed and 11,221 wounded and two-thirds of the population lost their homes. Seventeen of the bombers were lost. Raids were considerably stepped up in the first two weeks of February, five large USAAF daylight raids by several hundred B-24 heavies being alternated with nighttime attacks by much smaller forces of Mosquitoes. March saw one large USAAF raid by 219 B-24s and five nightly visits by Mosquitoes. In all, between 1940 and 1945, Magdeburg was the target of 41 bombing raids, 22 of them by the USAAF and 19 by the RAF. The near-incessant bombing of the 1944-45 period caused large numbers of the population to be evacuated or seek shelter elsewhere and by April 1945 only 90,000 people remained in the bomb-blasted city. By war’s end, 90 per cent of central Magdeburg lay in ruins. Numerous historical buildings, churches, schools, hospitals, administrative offices and business premises had been wrecked or gutted by fire. Of 106,733 homes, 40,667 (38 per cent) had been destroyed and 31,744 (30 per cent) heavily damaged, making 190,000 people homeless. Bombs had killed at least 6,000 civilians (1.7 per cent of the population — a figure that does not deviate much from that of other large German cities) and wounded 15,000 more.

CONQUER. THE STORY OF THE NINTH ARMY

MAGDEBURG

The operation that would lead to the capture Magdeburg began on April 10, when the US Ninth Army unleashed the divisions of its XIII and XIX Corps in a rapid eastward drive to the Elbe river. Their hoped-for ultimate objective was Berlin, less than 100 kilometres on, but it was not to be. THE ALLIED ADVANCE ON MAGDEBURG The operation that resulted in the American capture of Magdeburg was part of the very last Allied offensive of the campaign in the West. In the last week of March 1945, following their crossings of the Rhine river, the Allied armies began the envelopment of the Ruhr industrial area, with the US First Army, south of the Ruhr, breaking out of the Remagen bridgehead and the US Ninth Army in the north doing the same from its bridgehead south of Wesel. On April 1, Easter Sunday, the pincers snapped shut when armoured columns of the US 2nd Armored Division (from the Ninth Army) and 3rd Armored Division (from the First Army) met at the town of Lippstadt, northwest of Paderborn. Almost all of Heeresgruppe B, plus the south wing of the 1. Fallschirm-Armee — over 300,000 men — had been trapped in the Ruhr Pocket. On April 4, the Ninth Army, which had operated under command of Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery’s British 21st Army Group since December 1944, was returned to the US 12th Army Group. General Omar N. Bradley’s command now comprised four field armies — a powerful force of more than 1,300,000 troops. With these, Bradley was now to launch a new Allied main effort aimed at splitting Germany in two by linking up with the Soviet Red Army advancing from the east. The principal role in the new offensive was assigned to the First Army in the centre, a thrust directly east on Leipzig to be followed by a crossing of the Elbe east of there. The Third Army, on the right flank, was to aim for Chemnitz but be prepared to turn to the southeast later. The Ninth Army, on the left flank, was to seize a bridgehead over the Elbe near Magdeburg, and — as Bradley’s formal order of April 4 put it — ‘be prepared to continue the advance on Berlin or to the north-east’.

From this order, the Ninth Army commander, Lieutenant General William H. Simpson, and many of his subordinates construed that the Ninth Army had drawn the choice objective, the ultimate prize of the war, Berlin. They were unaware that General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, had already decided to forego a drive on the German capital and leave its capture to the Russians. The Ninth Army comprised three corps, two of which could be deployed for the eastward drive (the third formation, the XVI Corps, was engaged in mopping up the Ruhr Pocket): Major General Alvan C. Gillem’s XIII Corps (with the 5th Armored and 84th and 102nd Infantry Divisions) on the left and Major General Raymond S. McLain’s XIX Corps (with the 2nd Armored and 30th and 83rd Infantry Divisions) on the right. Advancing north of the Harz Mountains, which would form a natural boundary with the First Army on its right, the Ninth could advance across favourable terrain, an avenue of low, rolling country providing ready access to Magdeburg and the Elbe. By April 6, the Ninth Army had crossed the Weser river — the largest river between the Rhine and the Elbe and about midway of the two — and its lead formation, the 2nd Armored Division, had reached another stream 30 kilometres on, the much-smaller Leine river. General Bradley had designated this river as a stop line along which the First and Ninth Armies would first draw abreast before starting their final drive together. Thus, the 2nd Armored was ordered to halt so that the other formations of both armies could catch up. Although obligated to pause, the eager 2nd Armored made sure to seize bridges across both the Leine and another river 15 kilometres farther east before coming to a full halt east of Hildesheim the next day, April 7.

THE GERMAN SITUATION The entrapment of all of Heeresgruppe B and two corps of the 1. Fallschirm-Armee in the Ruhr Pocket had produced a huge breach in the German front. Except for local defence forces, there were virtually no troops left between the newly-created 11. Armee of General der Infanterie Otto Hitzfeld, assembling near Kassel in the south, and the remnants of the 1. Fallschirm-Armee under General der Infanterie Günther Blumentritt in the north — a yawning gap of over 100 kilometres. To plug the hole, Hitler on April 2 ordered the creation of a new army, the 12. Armee, to assemble in the Harz Mountains and from there drive to the relief of Heeresgruppe B in the Ruhr Pocket. The new command was to consist of four corps headquarters, to be withdrawn from the east, and nine divisions. In most cases named after heroes from German history, these divisions were to be formed primarily of young men from officer cadet schools, replacement training centres and the Reichsarbeitsdienst (Reich Labour Service). Most divisions would have no tanks, very little transport, only a few assault guns, and hardly any artillery. Moreover, most of the training establishments from where the troops were to come were located east of the Elbe and the troops would need time to reach the Harz. As commander of the new army Hitler on April 6 appointed General der Panzertruppen Walter Wenck. Although it looked impressive on paper, Wenck’s army was mostly a grandiose delusion in Hitler’s mind, with little base in reality. Meanwhile, Magdeburg was preparing for defence. Military command of the city was originally in the hands of the WehrmachtKommandant, who was subordinated to Wehrkreis III, the home army district. However, on March 13, Hitler appointed Generalleutnant Adolf Raegener to the position of Kampfkommandant (Combat Commander) of Magdeburg with orders to defend the city to the last. Raegener was a 40-year-old veteran officer, who had lost a leg on the Eastern 5

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Left: Kampfkommandant (Combat Commander) of Magdeburg was Generalleutnant Adolf Raegener. A professional soldier since the age of 18, he had served as a battalion commander in Poland in 1939, a regimental commander in Belgium and France in 1940 and as commander of Infanterie-Regiment 9 in Russia until he was severely wounded before Moscow in December 1941, causing him to lose a leg. After recovery, he served as army instructor until late 1944 when he volunteered

more than rifles, Panzerfäuste and machine guns. However, their defence positions were boosted by a considerable number of 88mm and 20mm Flak guns taken from the city’s fixed anti-aircraft batteries, and for artillery support Raegener could call on five battalions of field howitzers stationed east of the Elbe, grouped under an artillery commander, Major Werner Pluskat. Also east of the Elbe, available as back-up reserve, stood Kampfgruppe Burg, made up of recruits from the Sturmgeschütz-Schule (assault gun training school) at the town of Burg. Commanded by Major Alfred Müller, it had a few assault guns and was about 1,500 men strong. Raegener set his troops to work on digging field works and trenches and erecting roadblocks on all main roads entering the city from north, west and south, the latter protected by the 88mm and 20mm Flak guns in an anti-tank role. All the Elbe bridges were prepared for demolition. Meanwhile, the burgomaster, Dr Fritz Markmann, and the civilian authorities set up their headquarters in the large air raid bunker at the Nordfriedhof cemetery. The atmosphere in the city was tense. Small detachments of SS men roamed the streets, keeping an eye on the morale of the troops and looking out for deserters. They also manned checkpoints on the bridges.

THE NINTH ARMY REACHES MAGDEBURG For two days, April 8-9, the divisions of Ninth Army stood waiting, straining at the bit to resume the eastward drive. The release order arrived late on the 9th, and the following morning, April 10, the formations of both the XIII and XIX Corps struck out for the Elbe. Because the army group’s orders indicated that the eventual goal was Berlin, all units took off with a special fervour, an exceptional zeal to get to the river first. From the start, the attack was a headlong dash, hardly a pursuit, for there was nothing really to pursue. Like most of the 12th Army Group, the men of the Ninth Army found they were striking into a vacuum. In the XIX Corps’ zone, the motorised infantry of the 83rd (‘Thunderbolt’) Division, commanded by Major General Robert C. Macon, on the south flank, achieved the furthest penetration, covering 35 kilometres to reach the towns of Lautenthal, Goslar and Vienenburg. In the centre, the 2nd Armored (‘Hell on Wheels’) Division, led by its tempestuous commander, Major General Isaac D. White, pushed out from north and south of Hildesheim with two combat commands abreast. Combat Command A (CCA), on the left, after moving 20 kilometres, ran into strong opposition from anti-aircraft guns arrayed to protect the Reichswerke Hermann

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WILLIAM VANDIVERT

Front and in the previous weeks had been commander of the beleaguered ‘Festung’ (Fortress) Küstrin on the Oder river. Setting up his headquarters in the Encke-Kaserne in western Magdeburg, Raegener on April 7 declared the city a ‘Festung’ too. The forces at his disposal represented a mixture of proper military units and last-hour improvised outfits. The Wehrmacht troops included Festungs-Regimenter 48 and 49, each with two battalions; Pionier-Bataillon 4, with three companies; the Ersatz-Abteilung (replacement battalion) of Infanterie-Regiment Bernburg; Landesschützen-Bataillon 704 (elderly guard troops), and one company of Hungarian troops. The last-hour levy comprised a motley collection of paramilitary units: a company of OT-Regiment 116 (Organisation Todt construction workers); a Reichsarbeitsdienst battalion; 800 boys and teenagers from the local Hitlerjugend-Bann 26; and the Magdeburg Volkssturm (home guard), made up of male civilians up to the age of 65, many of whom had been forcibly rounded up NSDAP officials. Further to all that, the Polizeipräsident (Chief of Police) of Magdeburg, SS-Gruppenführer Andreas Bolek, mobilised the entire city police force in what was known as Polizei-Regiment Bolek. In all, Raegener’s garrison numbered between 2,000 and 4,000 men, for the most part poorly trained and armed with little

to return to active duty, being appointed commander of the Warthe river defence sector and then of Festung Küstrin before being sent to Magdeburg on March 13, 1945. Right: On April 13, Raegener and his staff moved their headquarters to the General-Hippel-Kaserne on General-Ludendorff-Strasse in the Herrenkrug district on the east bank of the Elbe. Today, the former military barracks on what is now named Breitscheid-Strasse houses part of the Magdeburg-Stendal High School.

Left: Taking the lead in the XIX Corps drive, the 2nd Armored Division covered the 140 kilometres to Magdeburg and the Elbe in just two days. One of the stations along its headlong dash was the small town of Osterwieck, south-east of Braunschweig, which was taken on the run by Combat Command B 6

on April 11. Surprised by the sudden arrival of the enemy, the population was out on the streets in no time. Right: Time has stood still in the picturesque streets of Osterwieck, this being the corner of Mittel-Strasse and Rosemarien-Strasse in the centre of town.

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Left: That same evening, CCB’s southern column reached the town of Schönebeck on the Elbe, ten kilometres south of Magdeburg. A column of tanks commanded by Major James Hollingsworth made a run for the bridge but the Germans Göring steel plant at Salzgitter, south-west of Braunschweig, but in a brief action the onrushing tankers and armoured infantrymen destroyed or captured a total of 67 guns. Combat Command B (CCB) had an easier time, advancing for over 30 kilometres against almost no opposition, clearing the town of Ohlendorf. On the corps’ north wing, the 30th (‘Old Hickory’) Division, under Major General Leland S. Hobbs, also drove ahead vigorously, gaining between 20 and 30 kilometres and coming within six kilometres of the city of Braunschweig. The following day, the advance continued with even greater success. April 11 was a banner day for the 2nd Armored Division, the unit achieving the furthest advance on a single day in its entire history. Rolling forward with CCA on the right and CCB on the left, the division sped towards the Elbe in four great columns, each of them preceded by small detachments of armoured scout cars and Jeeps from the divisional 82nd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. The advance was particularly striking in the zone of Combat Command B. Led by Brigadier General Sidney R. Hinds, and comprising the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 67th Armored Regiment, Companies B and G of the 41st Armored Infantry Regiment, the 78th and 92nd Armored Field Artillery Battalions and detachments of tank destroyers and engineers, the command broke free. Both commanders and men had only one thing on their mind: to get a bridge across the Elbe. Jumping off at 0630 hours in two columns, progress was rapid from the start. The righthand task force, led by Colonel Paul A. Disney, CO of the 67th Armored Regiment, attacked from near Gross Döhren and drove eastwards almost unimpeded. Sweeping aside the defenders of road-blocks with blasts from their tank guns, surprising Volkssturm defenders who could only throw down their arms and gape in bewilderment, the task force raced on relentlessly. Near Anderbeck, they encountered a 1,700man German column marching alongside the road which surrendered without putting up a fight. Driving on to Klein Oschersleben, the force stopped for two hours to re-service their vehicles, resuming their eastward march at 1700 hours. CCB’s left-hand column attacked from Schladen, destroyed an enemy lorry convoy a half hour later and continued eastward, meeting almost no opposition. The first real fight occurred 45 kilometres from the start line, at the town of Oschersleben, home of the AGO aircraft factories. Here an enemy

turned to fight and, although the Americans got to within a few metres of the span, they had to fall back in the face of determined enemy fire. The bridge was blown before a new attempt could be made. Right: The rebuilt bridge today.

Panzerfaust knocked out a self-propelled howitzer of the 92nd Armored Artillery Battalion and the Germans formed a new defensive line outside the town even though a platoon of Company D, 67th Armored Regiment, had already driven past. Continuing to the local airfield, the tankers shot down three aircraft and captured 17 FW190 fighters on the ground. After a half-hour artillery fight, the German defenders faded away and the march continued. In late afternoon a small group of armoured cars, half-tracks and Jeeps from the 1st Platoon, Company C of the 82nd Armored Recon Battalion, scouting out ahead of CCB’s northern column and led by the battalion adjutant, 1st Lieutenant Harold Douglas, reached the south-western outskirts of Magdeburg. Pushing a patrol into the suburb of Gross Ottersleben, the platoon startled German civilians and soldiers who were out on the street. Attempting to clear the way, the Americans let loose a high burst of machine-gun fire and the result was pandemonium. Women screamed and fainted; shoppers dived for cover in fearful groups or threw themselves flat on the ground, and German soldiers ran in confusion, firing wildly. Lacking the strength to hold the position, the platoon managed to push through the built-up area and emerge in open terrain at the far end. As they skirted round the southern edge of Magdeburg, continuing their eastward probe to the Elbe, they came upon the airfield that lay immediately south of the city. Swinging onto the runway, the armoured cars charged down long rows of parked fighter aircraft, shooting them up with their machine guns. Two planes came in to land and were destroyed as soon as they touched down. However, the Germans soon rallied and responded with heavy Panzerfaust and 20mm fire, pinning down the American platoon. Lieutenant Douglas radioed for help from CCB’s armour and artillery. The SP howitzers responded but the tanks of the 1st Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment, were stopped at the west end of Magdeburg by the German defenders who were now alert and were unable to relieve the stricken platoon. They finally escaped after dark, losing two half-tracks and two Jeeps and suffering some casualties. At 1700 hours sirens wailing in Magdeburg warned the population that the enemy stood before the gates of the city. Grabbing a few necessities, the civilians sought shelter in cellars and basements, many seeking refuge in one of the city’s air raid bunkers.

As CCB’s northern column was being halted on the outskirts of Magdeburg, the command’s southern column was still advancing and approaching the Elbe at the town of Schönebeck, ten kilometres to the south. When the lead tanks topped a rise overlooking the town, Major James F. Hollingsworth, the commander of the 2nd Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment, saw through his binoculars that the road bridge was still standing and that the Germans were using it to evacuate their own armour. He quickly hatched a plan with two of his company commanders, Captain James W. Starr and Captain Jack A. Knight. In the fading light, Hollingsworth led his battalion down to the road junction where the German columns turned east for the Schönebeck bridge. There, Starr’s tanks peeled off and blocked the road coming up from the south, while Hollingsworth and Knight’s company joined the tail of the enemy column heading for the bridge. The ruse could have paid off had it not been for some German artillery mounted on flatcars in the nearby railway yards, whose gunners spotted the American tanks and opened up on them. Thus alerted, a German Panther tank in front of Hollingsworth turned its turret towards the rear, taking aim at his Sherman, but his gunner, Staff Sergeant Clyde W. Cooley, fired first, blowing up the panzer which smashed into a wall and erupted in fire. Squeezing past the flaming wreck, and firing in turn at the rear of each enemy vehicle and then edging past the burning hulks, the Shermans smashed into Schönebeck. Here the tanks got involved in a chaotic battle with Germans firing Panzerfäuste from house windows. By now it was dark but, with many buildings ablaze, the scene was brightly lit as if in daytime. As his tanks pressed on to the bridge, Hollingsworth saw that the approach to it was barricaded with road-blocks through which the armour would have to zigzag in order to reach the span. Jumping from his tank to reconnoitre the ground, the major was wounded in the face by shrapnel. Undaunted, calling the riflemen from Company G, 41st Armored Infantry, forward, he led them onto the bridge approach and towards the roadblocks, all the while exchanging fire with the German defenders. Wounded a second time by a bullet in the left knee, Hollingsworth still carried on but to no avail. The enemy fire was too heavy and he was forced to order a withdrawal — less than 15 metres from the bridge. The following morning at 0830, before a new infantry attack could reach the bridge, the Germans demolished it. 7

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Advancing on a parallel course further north, the 30th Division made slower progress, being held up by the necessity to take the town of Braunschweig that lay in its path. However, by April 13, they too were well on their way to the Elbe, this picture of infantrymen riding on a Sherman tank of the supporting 743rd Tank Battalion being taken in the village of Born, 37 kilometres west from Magdeburg.

BRIDGEHEAD ACROSS THE ELBE Early on April 12, Combat Command B tried to negotiate a surrender with the German authorities in Magdeburg, sending a party under a white flag into the city. They met with the Chief of Police, SS-Gruppenführer Bolek, who however flatly refused the ultimatum. When the talks failed, General White, the 2nd Armored Division commander, ordered his units to complete the sealing-off of Magdeburg, the idea being to prevent enemy troops in the city from attacking south along the west bank and thus interfere with the building of a bridge across the Elbe. The previous day, while CCB had raced ahead and secured positions on the outskirts of Magdeburg and on the Elbe, the division’s two other combat commands had followed suit but in a slower tempo. Combat Command A, led by Brigadier General John H. Collier, had spent most of April 11 mopping up the Salzgitter area south of Braunschweig. Now, acting upon General White’s order, it set out for Magdeburg. Attacking from near Wolfenbüttel at 0615, its left-hand column, known as Task Force A, by noon had covered 32 kilometres and secured the town of Helmstedt. On exiting the town, they encountered enemy small-arms and Panzerfaust fire which took considerable time to overcome. Nonetheless, by nightfall they had covered another 40 kilometres and reached positions north of Magdeburg, where despite intense fire from enemy anti-tank guns located on the east bank of the Elbe, they took up positions around the town of Barleben. CCA’s right-hand column, Task Force B, had a relative easier time, meeting almost no opposition throughout the day, and by evening had reached positions on the western edge of Magdeburg, near the suburbs of Olvenstedt and Diesdorf. Meanwhile, Combat Command R, the division’s reserve component led by Lieutenant Colonel Russell W. Jenna, moved to 8

surround the south-western and southern portions of the city, reinforcing the thin line held by the 82nd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel Wheeler G. Merriam). By nightfall on April 12, the 2nd Armored Division had effectively isolated Magdeburg, blocking all roads north, west and south of the city. Now CCB had its hands free to attempt a river crossing. Earlier that day, CCB forces had combed the Elbe bank, eliminating opposition and looking for a suitable bridging site. Three options were found: an old ferry site in the village of Westerhüsen, just south of Magdeburg; a barge-loading site north of Schönebeck; and a place just south of the destroyed Schönebeck bridge. Since fighting was still raging at the latter town, the ferry site was chosen. At 2100 hours that evening, using assault boats and DUKW amphibious trucks hastily brought forward, two battalions — the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 41st Armored Infantry Regiment — slipped quietly across the sprawling Elbe at Westerhüsen. Not a shot was fired from the far shore. Before dawn on April 13, the 3rd Battalion of the 30th Division’s 119th Infantry (on attachment to the 2nd Armored Division) crossed into the bridgehead as well, bringing the

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Early in the day, 2nd Armored Division Headquarters had lost all contact with Combat Command B and throughout the day it had no idea of its actions or progress. The first news of its exploits to reach them was a laconic message sent by Colonel Disney from Schönebeck, which arrived shortly after 2000 that evening and electrified everyone: ‘We’re on the Elbe’. In an unparalleled armoured dash, CCB had covered 92 kilometres, 117 when measured by road, in just 14 hours.

strength there to three battalions; but no anti-tank guns, tanks or tank destroyers made it across. Judging the water near both riverbanks too shallow for vehicular ferries, the supporting engineers of the divisional 17th Armored Engineer Battalion concentrated instead on bridging the river. Construction started at 2245 but was slow in the dark, and sporadic German shelling soon interfered. With the coming of daylight the shelling increased, much of it deadly air bursts from the big antiaircraft guns at Magdeburg. The 2nd Armored’s artillery tried to neutralise the fire and the engineers laid out smoke-pots to screen the bridging site but neither effort had much effect. Call after call went back for fighter-bombers to attack the enemy artillery positions, but the race to the Elbe had carried the advance almost out of range of the Allied airfields and none showed up. Noticing that the shells came in singly, not in salvos, Colonel Disney (who had crossed to the east bank to take charge of the bridgehead force) suspected that the fire was directed by an artillery observer hidden nearby and he ordered an immediate search of the houses overlooking the river. However, nothing was found and the firing continued, deadly and accurate. Shortly after, Disney was severely wounded by shrapnel and evacuated. Despite the shelling, the engineers by midday had advanced their pontoons and treadway tracking to within 25 metres of the far shore. Then came an avalanche of shells that completely wrecked what had been built. Abandoning the site as too dangerous, the 2nd Armored’s commander, General White, directed the three infantry battalions to move after nightfall — in effect, to attack — upstream approximately five kilometres to a point opposite the demolished bridge at Schönebeck, there to form a semicircular bridgehead while a new attempt at bridging was undertaken. As daylight approached on the 14th, the 3rd Battalion, 119th (Lieutenant Colonel Carlton E. Stewart), and part of the 3rd Battalion of the 41st Armored Infantry (Lieutenant Colonel Arthur J. Anderson) were inside the village of Elbenau, about three kilometres from the river, while the 1st Battalion of the 41st (Lieutenant Colonel John W. Finnell) had cleared the riverside village of Grünewalde, immediately across from Schönebeck. Other elements were digging in on open ground to anchor the flanks. That was the situation when, in the haze of dawn, a battalion of Division ‘Scharnhorst’ — one of the divisions of Wenck’s new 12. Armee — supported by eight tanks and assault guns from

Today just a quiet little village on the B71 Haldensleben-to-Gardelegen road.

began ferrying the first vehicle across: a bulldozer to be used to shave the far bank. However, as the ferry neared the far shore, a concentration of German artillery fire severed the cable, making the ferry careen downstream in the swift current. To General Hinds on the east bank, this was the end. Aware of the plan to send CCR into the 83rd Division’s bridgehead and acutely conscious of the crisis in his own bridgehead, the failure to get tanks across, and the lack of air support, he gave the order to withdraw. Returning to the west bank, he reported his decision to his division headquarters where, in the absence of General White, he talked with the Chief-of-Staff, Colonel Gustavus A. West. General White later concurred in the order, as did the corps commander, General McLain. By late afternoon, most of the surviving infantrymen had been ferried back across the river in DUKWs in orderly fashion except for the men of Captain Leslie E. Stanford’s Company L, cut off and hiding in cellars in Elbenau. These men finally learned of the withdrawal when their artillery forward observer established radio contact with an artillery liaison plane. The forward observer called for a blanket of artillery fire on Elbenau to catch the Germans in the open. When the fire lifted, some 60 men made a break for the river. As tanks and tank destroyers fired from the west bank to cover their with-

drawal, fighter-bombers of the XXIX Tactical Air Command with auxiliary fuel tanks in place of bombs finally arrived to strafe German positions. Most of the 60 men returned safely. Through the night and the next day other survivors trickled back from the east bank, including one group of 30. Final losses totalled 330; of those only four were known killed and 20 wounded, the rest were missing, presumed captured. Although the 2nd Armored had lost its bridgehead across the Elbe, that of the 83rd Division at Barby still stood strong, and the troops there had high hopes that they would soon be sent on a final dash to Berlin. However, it was not to be. On the 15th General Simpson flew to General Bradley’s headquarters in Wiesbaden to present his plan for a drive to Berlin. After listening carefully, Bradley said he would have to telephone General Eisenhower for a decision. Being informed of the 83rd Division’s success at the Elbe, Eisenhower asked Bradley what he thought it might cost to break through from the Elbe and capture Berlin. Bradley estimated 100,000 men. Simpson overheard Bradley’s end of the conversation: ‘All right, Ike’, Bradley said, ‘that’s what I thought. I’ll tell him. Goodbye.’ To the utter disappointment of Generals Simpson, McLain and White and everybody else in Ninth Army, there was to be no drive on Berlin.

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the Sturmgeschütz-Schule Burg and halftracks with towed guns launched an unexpectedly fierce counter-attack. Catching the American infantrymen in the process of setting up their bridgehead and still with no anti-tank defence other than bazookas, the Germans rapidly cut off the 119th Infantry’s Company L in Elbenau. The panzers then began systematically to reduce the defenders in the open, blasting individual foxholes one by one. In the confusion, a score of Americans surrendered. The Germans put them in front of their tanks, forcing them at gunpoint to shield their continuing advance. The bridgehead began to break apart. Looking for ways to help his beleaguered men, General White looked south. There, late on the 12th, General Macon’s 83rd Division — dubbed the ‘Rag Tag Circus’ by war correspondents because of its extensive use of captured German vehicles, military and civilian — had reached the Elbe eight kilometres upstream from Schönebeck at the town of Barby. The following day, its 329th Infantry Regiment had sent two battalions across the river in assault boats and established a second bridgehead, meeting no fire of any kind. Out of range of the enemy’s artillery at Magdeburg, the divisional engineers by nightfall had three ferries running and by 0730 on the 14th completed a treadway bridge (named ‘Truman Bridge’ after their new Commander-in-Chief, President Harry S. Truman, President Roosevelt having died the day before). With another infantry regiment and supporting armour crossing into the bridgehead, the 83rd felt confident they had opened a gateway to Berlin, now just 90 kilometres away. Noting the contrast between the two bridgeheads, General White early on the 14th ordered his reserve combat command into the 83rd’s bridgehead to immediately attack down the river’s east bank and relieve the besieged men at Grünewalde and Elbenau. General Jenna’s CCR moved out early in the afternoon, but hardly had the attack begun when word came to call it off. So desperate had the situation become in CCB’s little bridgehead that Colonel Anderson, commander of the 3rd Battalion of the 41st, in mid-morning returned to the west bank in a DUKW to report his battalion lost. He had seen his companies overrun, many men surrendering, and had only 15 men left. The CCB commander, General Hinds, now went into the bridgehead to survey the situation for himself. Engineers at the river had in the meantime been constructing a ferry, using a guide cable to anchor to the east bank, and at noon

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Right: Despite the loss of the bridge at Schönebeck, the 2nd Armored Division speedily established a bridgehead across the Elbe, putting three infantry battalions across at the village of Westerhüsen during the night of April 12/13. Engineers of the 17th Armored Engineer Battalion immediately began construction of a pontoon bridge, necessary in order to get tanks and anti-tank guns across to support the infantry. Although this picture, taken by Signal Corps photographer Sergeant Lou Lindzon the following morning, gives the impression of tranquillity, work on the bridge was in fact constantly being interrupted by heavy shelling from German 88mm guns. In fact, a few minutes after Lindzon took this picture, the bridge, which by then had progressed to within 25 metres of the far shore, was wrecked by a salvo of shells, causing the Americans to abandon the site and try again a few kilometres upstream. However, the Germans attacked the flimsy bridgehead before a bridge could be completed, routing the American infantry and forcing the 2nd Armored to give up its bridgehead.

Tranquillity has returned to the old ferry site at Westerhüsen. 9

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The brickyard has gone but this is the same view today, looking north into Barleben on Breiteweg.

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SET-PIECE ATTACK ON THE CITY With Berlin cancelled, the only combat assignment remaining for Ninth Army’s XIX Corps was to capture Magdeburg, the last sore point left along its entire Elbe front. The reduction of a major city is an infantry job, so General McLain assigned the mission to the 30th Division. In the past few days, while the 2nd Armored and 83rd Divisions had been fighting south of Magdeburg, General Hobbs’s division, operating on the corps’ northern flank and with just two of its organic regiments on strength (the 119th Infantry was detached to the 2nd Armored Division), had been engaged in clearing the city of Braunschweig, well over 80 kilometres to the rear. It took most of two days, April 11-12, before the garrison capitulated. Leaving two battalions behind to mop up, the remainder of the division pushed on eastwards in two motorised regimental columns. The next day, April 13, they reached the Elbe north of Magdeburg, the 117th Infantry on the left occupying the riverside towns of Logätz and Loitsche and the 120th Infantry on the right relieving the 2nd Armored’s CCA around Barleben. In preparation for the assault on Magdeburg, units were reshuffled. First, on April 14, parts of CCA assumed responsibility for the south-western and southern portions of the line around the city, relieving CCR and freeing the latter to move down to Barby to reinforce the 83rd Division’s bridgehead. Then on April 14-15, the 119th Infantry was inserted to take over the south-western portion. Finally, on April 16, the 117th Infantry moved down from the Elbe to occupy the sector northwest of Magdeburg previously held by CCA. At the same time, the 30th Division’s artillery arrived to reinforce the 2nd Armored’s guns in their task of shelling the German defences and firing counterbattery missions.

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Right: The operation to capture Magdeburg began on April 17, the 30th Division and part of the 2nd Armored Division planning a concentric attack into the city from three sides. Here men of the 120th Infantry Regiment form up in the town of Barleben, a few kilometres north of the city. They are on the main road at the southern end of town, the gate on the right being the entrance to the local brickworks. The photo was taken by Tec/5 Harry E. Boll of the 168th Signal Photo Company.

Left: Tec/5 Boll followed the 120th Infantry as they moved into the attack from Barleben. This shot was taken on the main road just outside the town. An M10 tank destroyer of Company B of the 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion stands in the road, while infantrymen observe Magdeburg being 10

bombed in preparation of the assault. Right: The railing seen on the right in the wartime picture (next to the crop mark) belongs to a culvert leading a small stream underneath the road, and this pinpoints the exact spot where the photo was taken.

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Above: Boll’s next shot was taken a few metres on and shows the infantry advancing over the open fields to the left of the main road. The Jeep and the group of officers standing by the ‘Magdeburg 7 km’ sign can also be seen in the previous picture. Note the smoke from the preparatory bombing rising in the distance. Though powerful, the air strike did not have the desired effect since most of the bombs fell on the inner city and failed to hit the German defences on the outer rim. Right: The same spot on Barleber Chaussee. Magdeburg has grown so much that the sign now says it is just two kilometres away.

Above: A few hundred metres on, the troops cross the Hannover-to-Berlin Autobahn. Right: Today a viaduct carries the Barleber Chaussee across the A2/E30 motorway.

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Meanwhile, there had been developments on the German side too. On April 13, Kampfkommandant Raegener and his staff moved their headquarters to east of the Elbe, setting up shop in the General-von-HippelKaserne in the Herrenkrug district. SS-Gruppenführer Bolek withdrew to the east bank as well, ordering most of his police force to follow him. Seeking equal safety, the local NSDAP-Kreisleiter, Oberbannführer Tichy, moved his headquarters to a building of the Hubbe & Farenholtz oil and butter factory in Friedrichstadt, also on the east side of the river. 11

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the Line of Departure and the second, moving forward with the riflemen under cover of this smoke, quickly set up their mortars in positions from where they could cover the remaining distance up to the near edge of Magdeburg. Right: From their dugouts, the mortarmen observe the white smoke effectively hiding the city from view.

Moving up beyond the smoke-screen, Boll pictured tank destroyers of Company B, 823rd TD Battalion, approaching the

northern edge of Magdeburg. Smoke from the bomber attack is still rising up from the city.

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Left: To provide cover for the infantrymen as they advanced over the several kilometres of exposed open terrain, 81mm mortars laid down a smoke-screen in front of the advancing troops. As the mortars’ range was not sufficient to cover the entire distance, the mortar teams were split up in two echelons. The first fired a screen about two-thirds of the way from

Right: Part of the open ground has been developed since the war but the fields to the right of the Barleben road still remain. 12

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That same April 13, the SS evacuated the Jewish slave-workers employed at the Polte munitions factory on Polte-Strasse in the Wilhelmstadt district. The 3,000 women and 500 men, locked up in a satellite camp of Buchenwald concentration camp across the road from the factory, were marched out of the city under guard from SS, Volkssturm and Hitlerjugend. As they were taking a rest at the Neue Welt sports stadium on Reichspresidenten-Strasse, east of the Elbe, the column came under fire from US artillery. A panic broke out whereupon the guards shot 42 of the prisoners before driving the rest eastwards on a death march to Sachsenhausen and Ravensbrück concentration camps.

The day before, April 12, the Germans had begun demolition of the city’s Elbe bridges. The first to go up, at 1100 that morning, was the Adolf-Hitler-Brücke, the southernmost of the three road bridges in the city. Next, at 0638 on the 13th, the German engineers blew the Autobahn-Brücke, the big span on the four-lane Hannover-to-Berlin motorway just north-east of the city. Three days later, at 2230 on the 16th, they demolished the Strom-Brücke, the northernmost road bridge in the city (which had already been damaged by US artillery). Now just three spans remained: the HindenburgBrücke road bridge, the Eisenbahn-Hubbrücke (vertical-lift railway bridge) and the Herrenkrug railway bridge. When General Hobbs, the 30th Division’s commander, received the order for the capture of Magdeburg late on the 15th, this at first seemed like a fairly easy mission to accomplish and the initial plan was for the 120th Infantry to attack the city alone from the north while the other units of the division and the 2nd Armored Division contained the rest of the city perimeter. Although the earlier attempt — by CCB on April 12 — to induce the German garrison to surrender had failed, there was still some hope that the Germans could be convinced to give in, and at noon on the 16th a party led by Major Ezekial L. Glazier, the 120th’s regimental intelligence officer, went forward to find out. The party, driving into the city from the north down Reichsstrasse 81 with white flags flying on its three Jeeps, was stopped at a German road-block and, after some telephoning, two of the party — Major Glazier and 2nd Lieutenant John G. Gerl, the Assistant Regimental Operations Officer — were blindfolded and driven to the headquarters of General Raegener in the General-von-Hippel-Kaserne on the east bank of the Elbe. There they were met by Oberst Cobalt, Raegener’s Chief-of-Staff, who informed them that his general was not authorised to discuss surrender terms. The American parleys sensed that many of the Germans wished to capitulate but Cobalt’s reply was supported by the strong roadblocks they had seen and the presence of SS troops among those guarding the perimeter. Their mission unsuccessful, the Americans were escorted back to the road-block and sent on their way back to their own lines. Plans were changed: instead of one regiment, the entire 30th Division and a part of the 2nd Armored would now attack, and not just from one side but from three sides at the same time. Also, the ground assault was to be preceded by a heavy air strike, planned and organised by Brigadier General Richard E.

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Right: Once inside the built-up area, the Americans met unexpectedly fierce opposition at road-blocks manned by a mixture of Wehrmacht troops, Volkssturm and Hitlerjugend. Moving up UmfassungsStrasse in the Neue Neustadt district, an M10 from the 3rd Platoon, Company B of the 823rd TD Battalion, in support of Company L of the 120th Infantry, was knocked out and set ablaze by a Panzerfaust fired by a Hitlerjugend teenager, which killed two of its crew, Corporal David Paiz and Gilbert Borel, and wounded three others. One of them, Sergeant Walter S. Clark, died the following day. Unfortunately, Umfassungs-Strasse has seen too many alterations since the war to warrant a reliable comparison.

Armour and infantry move up past the Sankt-Martins-Kirche on the corner of DräseckePlatz and Salzwedeler Strasse in the Neue Altstadt district. This picture comes from the scrapbook of Staff Sergeant W. Shoaf of Company I, 3rd Battalion, 120th Infantry.

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Right: Heavily damaged by wartime bombing, St Martin’s Church stood until 1959 when the municipal authorities blew up the ruins, replacing it with a bland apartment block. However, the fence of the parish-house across the street, with its well-recognisable stone posts, remains to confirm the comparison. 13

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With additional dock facilities built elsewhere, the Handelshafen today stands largely abandoned. However, the large warehouse and grain silo seen at its southern end have been completely rehabilitated and are today part of a science and research centre of Magdeburg University.

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Nugent, the commander of the XXIX Tactical Air Command (the component of the US Ninth Air Force supporting the Ninth Army). Nugent intended to not only use all of his command’s 375 fighter-bombers (five groups), but in addition called on the Ninth Air Force to lend the support of its medium bombers. Because of the complete lack of medium bomber targets anywhere else along the Western Front, Major General Hoyt Vandenberg, the Ninth Air Force commander, decided to place the entire strength of his 9th Bombardment Division — 11 groups of B-26 medium bombers, 350 aircraft in all — at the disposal of the Ninth Army and XXIX TAC for the Magdeburg operation. The air plan called for the fighter-bombers to attack the city immediately before and after the assault by the mediums. The strike preceding the bombers was intended to make the defenders keep their heads low and thus prevent them from observing that parts of the American ground forces were pulling their forward units back to a safe distance from the bomber zone. The fighter-bomber strikes following the medium bombing were to maintain pressure on the enemy and allow the ground forces to regain the vacated positions prior to going into the assault. There was even hope that the air attack might deflate German morale enough to cause them to capitulate. General Hobbs issued his orders for the attack, Field Order No. 70, at 0200. The air strike was to begin at 1045 and the ground attack was to start at 1315.

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Right: A few blocks further on, the troops reached the Handelshafen, the commercial port basin in the Neue Altstadt, one of several harbour inlets of the Elbe river in Magdeburg. As the GIs move along the western quay, they can see the span of the Hindenburg-Brücke in the far distance still intact. The last road bridge left over the Elbe in Magdeburg, it will be blown in the Americans’ face the following afternoon. This is another photo from the scrapbook of Sergeant Shoaf.

Left: While the 120th Infantry attacked from the north, the 117th Infantry pushed into the city from the north-west. Here a column of troop-laden trucks passes the junction of Weissengrund and Helmstedter Chaussee in the suburb of Olvenstedt. 14

The German defenders had sealed off this commune with two road-blocks protected by three 88mm guns, one of which was emplaced at this junction. Right: The same junction today, looking south. The column was returning from the city centre.

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For lack of an upstairs window we had to take our comparison from ground level.

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APRIL 17 By the morning of Wednesday, April 17, the 30th Division and part of the 2nd Armored stood poised in a semicircle around Magdeburg, ready to launch a concentric attack into the city. In the north was the 120th Infantry (Colonel Branner P. Purdue). The regimental objective was the northern section of the city, which included the districts of Neue Neustadt, Kolonie Eichenwetter, Alte Neustadt and Nordfront. For armoured support they would have the Sherman tanks of Companies B and C of the 743rd Tank Battalion and tank destroyers of Company B, 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion. In the north-west stood the 117th Infantry (Colonel Walther M. Johnson), with Company A of the 743rd Tank Battalion and Company A of the 823rd TD Battalion in support. Their task was to drive through the suburb of Olvenstedt, take the town district of Wilhelmstadt and capture the heart of the city, the Altstadt.

took this picture on Halberstädter Chaussee at its junction with Diesdorfer Graseweg in the suburb of Ottersleben. Smoke from the preparatory bombing is rising from the city as tanks from the 1st Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, accompany the infantry forward.

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The 30th Division’s third regiment, the 119th Infantry, drove into the city from the west and south-west, its right-hand 1st Battalion operating under command of Combat Command A of the 2nd Armored Division. Accompanying the latter force was Signal Corps photographer Sergeant Edward M. Du Tiel, who

Left: More troops of the 119th Infantry moving forward in Ottersleben. They are on Schlageter-Strasse (named after the Nazi Party martyr Albert Leo Schlageter), which is the street running behind the buildings on the right in the previous picture. Right: Schlageter-Strasse is today named Bebel-Strasse.

With this part of Germany having changed from Kaiserreich to Weimar Republic to Third Reich to German Democratic Republic to Bundesrepublik, all in the course of one century, it is no wonder that numerous streets in Magdeburg have seen their name changed several times over the decades. 15

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Just over to the right of the Lindenhof lay a quarters known as the SA-DankopferSiedlung (SA Thankoffering Settlement). Designed by the architectural firm of Baumann & Runge and built in 1937-38, it had been commissioned by the SA-Hauptamt (SA Main Office) in Munich to accommodate families of ‘alte Kämpfer’ (early members of the Nazi Party’s Sturm-Abteilung) and First World War veterans. Here the armoured infantry, covered by machine guns from their M5 half-tracks, approach the south-western corner of the settlement.

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In the west was the 119th Infantry (Colonel Russell A. Baker). The regiment had only two of its organic battalions on hand; the 1st Battalion, although in an adjacent sector on the right, was detached to the 2nd Armored’s CCA. The 119th’s mission was to take the western town district of Diesdorf, a task in which it would be assisted by the 2nd Battalion of the 66th Armored Regiment (on loan from CCA) and Company C of the 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion. Standing ready along the south-western and southern part of the line was Brigadier General Collier’s Combat Command A, comprising the 1st Battalion of the 119th Infantry and the 2nd Battalion of the 41st Armored Infantry, supported by the armour of the 1st Battalion of the 66th Armored Regiment. Put under command of the 30th Division for the operation, they were to attack and capture the south-western borough of Sudenburg and the southern districts of Lindenhof, Hopfengarten and Buckau. The air preparation, planned to start at 1045, was held back because of excessive ground haze and finally went in at 1145. Coming in wave after wave, a total of 350 medium bombers dropped 775 tons of high explosive on the city. The three-hour air

the war and were typical examples of Nazi housing estates. Vandivert’s first shot showed Shermans of the 66th Armored Regiment with armoured infantry riding on the decks rolling forward to the Werksiedlung (factory settlement) am Lindenhof. This was an area of two-storey tenement blocks built especially for the workers of the nearby Krupp-Gruson tank factory. Note the smoke from the pre-assault bombing rising above the houses. These particular blocks stood along what is today Marderweg.

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The attack from the south was carried out by the 2nd Battalion of the 41st Armored Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Armored Division. Accompanying the unit into battle was William Vandivert, a veteran war photographer from Life magazine, whose series of exposures gives a remarkable close-up view of the advance. The company that Vandivert followed into action had as its first objective two residential areas immediately east of the Leipziger Strasse thoroughfare. Both of these had been built shortly before

Left: As the troops close in, they appear to meet little opposition. Right: A few new houses have been built on the outer 16

edge of the commune since the war but this is the exact same view today.

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Naturally, the name SA-Dankopfer-Siedlung had to go after the war and the quarters is today known under the more-neutral name Siedlung Fuchsbreite. Also, all the street names were changed in 1950, and Marienbader Strasse is today called Bienenweg. reached the first main intersection in Neue Altstadt, that of Lübecker Strasse with Hundisburger Strasse/Kastanien-Strasse. Here, small-arms fire, an occasional Panzerfaust, and 20mm fire forced the men to take cover and the advance slowed considerably. Another road-block at the next crossroads

(Lübecker Strasse/Neuhaldensleber Strasse), covered by two 88mm guns, practically brought the battalion to a standstill. Company L’s forward platoon became isolated, and a platoon leader and several squad leaders got killed or wounded before contact could be regained. The supporting armour

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strike appeared to have little effect, primarily because it was aimed at the already wellbombed centre of town and not at the enemy defensive positions, which were scattered in a deep belt around the outskirts. As the last of the B-26s departed, the American divebombers and artillery took over, hitting known German battery positions, fuel dumps and other targets. Postponed by the belated air strike, the ground attack did not jump off at the same time everywhere, CCA already starting at 1445 but the 30th Division not until 1510. Just before it was about to begin, the American commanders learned that there were large chemical warehouses in the city but it was too late to equip the men with gas masks. The 120th Infantry in the north had formed up in the town of Barleben. Start line of the attack was the Hannover-to-Berlin Autobahn, some two kilometres distant from the northern edge of Magdeburg. Colonel Purdue planned to attack into the city with only one battalion up front, the 3rd (Major Chris McCullough), with the 1st and 2nd Battalions grouped behind and ready to assist. However, the regiment would start the assault by taking two intermediate objectives: Company K of the 3rd would advance to a point, code-named ‘Harold’, about a kilometre south of the Autobahn and just short of the built-up area, where it would halt for a few minutes and carry out a final reconnaissance for the battalion’s main attack into the city. At the same time, further on the left, Company G of the 2nd Battalion would advance to capture objective ‘Teen’, the cluster of railway tracks running through the north-eastern suburb of Rothensee, in order to secure the regiment’s left flank. The attack went off to a good start. At 1510, Company K crossed the Autobahn and, moving across the flat open ground, protected by smoke-screens laid down by supporting 81mm mortars, within half an hour reached ‘Harold’. There was a brief halt while the rest of the 3rd Battalion, with a platoon of tanks and one of tank destroyers, came forward along the exposed main road from Barleben. Meanwhile, on the left, Company G secured ‘Teen’ without meeting much resistance. Now, all was ready for the main attack into the city At 1545, while smoke from the bombing still curled up from the skyline, the 3rd Battalion moved off, with Company L on the right of the main road and Company I on the left. There was no opposition until the troops

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Right: Having entered the built-up area, the riflemen proceed north up the first street, Marienbader Strasse. The house on the right, with the electricity post in front, is the same one as seen in the centre of the previous shot.

Left: Meanwhile, another platoon moved to clear the southern part of the settlement, turning the corner of Marienbader Strasse and Brüxer-Strasse. The houses in the background

stand on Ascher-Strasse. Another fire from the bombing rages in the far distance. Right: Brüxer-Strasse is today Libellenweg and Ascher-Strasse is now named Grillenstieg. 17

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Right: Moving up with the platoon, Vandivert pictured them passing AscherStrasse. Comprising a grid of three eastwest and five north-south streets, the whole SA settlement contained 153 family homes, most of them rented houses and just four privately owned. They included several types of standardised designs (socalled Einheitstypen), about half of them for single families, the rest for two families. The houses on this side of AscherStrasse were all Einheitstyp AET 73.

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edged into alleys and side streets to escape the 88mm fire but still suffered losses: moving up Umfassungs-Strasse, an M10 tank destroyer from 3rd Platoon, Company B of the 823rd TD Battalion, in support of Company L, was knocked out and set ablaze by a Panzerfaust, killing two of its crew, Corporal David Paiz and Gilbert Borel, and wounding three others, one of whom, Sergeant Walter S. Clark, died the following day. At one point, the tanks of 3rd Platoon, Company B, 743rd, were held up by a stone

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Right: Looking south on Grillenstieg today.

Left: Proceeding deeper into the settlement, the same platoon moves up Karlsbader Strasse. All rented houses in the settlement had an attached stable for small animals and a hayloft. 18

Evidence of Germany’s preparation for war was that about a quarter of them were fitted out with an inbuilt air raid shelter. Right: Karlsbader Strasse is today called Wespenstieg.

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As the platoon reaches the end of the street, they take cover against snipers.

The house they are crouching outside is an Einheitstyp BET 1, of which there were only two in the whole settlement, at the northern end of Karlsbader Strasse/Wespenstieg. Unfortunately, the house in Vandivert’s picture — No. 1 — has been replaced by a modern house, so we have taken our comparison at No. 2. observed targets and to block intersections after they had been passed. By 2115 hours, the 120th Infantry had cleared most of the Neue Neustadt district and reached an east-west regimental phase

line code-named ‘Pork’. Here, the 1st and 3rd Battalions halted and took up defensive positions for the night. Casualties had been considerable, the 3rd Battalion alone having lost 23 men.

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wall and a Sherman tankdozer was called forward to push it over, allowing the armour to break into a street. However, once there, the tanks found themselves without any infantry protection. The platoon commander, Lieutenant Carroll E. Hibnes, jumped from his tank in order to contact the riflemen, but he was shot in the back by a sniper. Medics evacuated him to the rear. The infantry were at last contacted and the tank platoon split in two sections, each advancing down a different street. With the 3rd Battalion meeting heavier resistance than expected, Colonel Purdue at 1650 ordered the 1st Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel Ellis W. Williamson) to deploy to the right of the 3rd. This battalion had been following behind the 3rd, its Company A riding on the decks of the Shermans of Company C, 743rd, and its Company C moving abreast on the left of the road. Accordingly, Company A dismounted at ‘Harold’ and from there moved south in two columns along different streets about half a kilometre apart, the Mittelweg and the Lerchenwuhne. Behind each column followed a reinforced company — Company C with two platoons of tanks on the right and Company B with one platoon of tanks on the left. As they probed forward, the lead 2nd Platoon encountered a road-block consisting of a dozen wagons piled on top of each other. The platoon leader, Lieutenant Walter T. Johnson, led his men around the barricade and returned to report it unoccupied whereupon two tanks were sent forward to break through the obstacle. However, just then two Panzerfaust projectiles were fired. One of them disabled the lead Sherman with a hit through the turret, the penetration wounding the tank commander, 1st Lieutenant Bernard W. Fruhwirth, and the cannoneer, Pfc Robert G. Andrews, and killing the gunner, Corporal Richard E. Davis. The explosion of the other Panzerfaust wounded Lieutenant Johnson. Despite the heavy enemy fire, two medics, Pfc Herman Gershon and Herbert F. Schain, ran forward under a Red Cross flag and brought the wounded men to safety. Fighting around the road-block continued into dusk. Combing through the rubble, searching large apartment houses room by room, and mopping up was a laborious process and took time. Artillery, which had showered the city heavily in the days preceding the attack, was of little use in the close-quarter fighting, and 60mm and 81mm mortars proved the most-effective weapons to support the infantry. Another problem was that the direction of attack was often contrary to the direction of streets, necessitating numerous changes in direction, forcing one unit to hold while another moved rapidly in an arc. It was difficult to manoeuvre tanks and tank destroyers to give close support, and their role was mostly limited to laying fire on

Left: Having reached the northernmost diagonal street, Gablonzer Strasse, the GIs cautiously proceed through the gardens. Note the

damage to the roofs from shelling and bombing. Right: Seven decades later the street is named Hamsterbreite. 19

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Left: Having cleaned out the SA settlement, the 41st Armored Infantry moved into the next neighbourhood, Hopfengarten, an area of more-luxurious villas and tenements, where they met stiffer opposition. Vandivert pictured a GI guarding five captured Germans sitting, as he noted in his caption, ‘in the lee of

Right: Taken in the same district, this is Hopfenbreite (formerly Cäcilien-Strasse), just past its intersection with LärchenStrasse, looking south-west. The house with the curved roof on the left survives to confirm the comparison. 20

methodically cleared the area. By 2100 hours they had reached their objective, the line of the Sedan-Ring, about two kilometres inside the built-up area, and there consolidated positions for the night.

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1st Platoon of the supporting Company C, 823rd, destroyed one of the guns, expending ten HE rounds on the target. Steadily pushing forward, through the residential streets of the Hermann-Beims-Siedlung, the battalion

Finishing up his coverage of the day, Vandivert pictured a Sherman of the 66th Armored Regiment rolling through an area heavily affected by the preparatory bombing and shelling.

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Colonel Johnson’s 117th Infantry, attacking from the north-west with the 1st Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel Robert T. Frankland) on the right and the 2nd (Lieutenant Colonel Ben T. Ammons) on the left, pushed into Olvenstedt and, using the Olvenstedter Chaussee as it main axis, drove forward into Wilhelmstadt. As elsewhere, the Germans defended with what they had, road-blocks built around machine guns and anti-tank guns, and snipers hidden in the rubble, armed with rifles and Panzerfäuste. Wagons or tramcars filed with dirt were used to block roads. Not all defences had been completed before the assault began and in some places the Americans overran labour details still working on anti-tank ditches and road barricades. At the road-block on Olvenstedter Platz, Hitlerjugend teenagers came rushing out towards the Americans, firing wildly until they were mowed down. An M10 from Company A of the 823rd TD Battalion engaged an enemy 88mm antitank gun, needing four high-explosive rounds to finish it off. A Sherman from 2nd Lieutenant Donald L. Mason’s 1st Platoon of Company A, 743rd tanks, moving up with the 1st Battalion, knocked out another. Steadily, the regiment drove forwards from one phase line to the next. At 1650, Colonel Johnson committed the 3rd Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel Samuel T. McDowell), ordering it to secure the left flank behind the 2nd Battalion and send out patrols to contact the 120th Infantry. By nightfall, the forward battalions had reached phase line ‘Jig’, about halfway through the Wilhelmstadt district, and settled down for the night. Colonel Baker’s 119th Infantry Regiment, attacking from due west, jumped off at 1515 with its 2nd Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel Hal D. McCown) and 3rd Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel Stewart’s unit, hardly recuperated from its difficult time in the Westerhüsen bridgehead three days earlier). Side by side, they pushed forward through the Diesdorf suburb, meeting only slight resistance. However, as they moved through the large Westfriedhof cemetery south-east of there, they encountered stubborn resistance from road-blocks manned by Volkssturm and Hitlerjugend troops armed with Panzerfäuste and small arms and covered by three 88mm guns. An M10 tank destroyer from the

a house about 100 feet from a street-fight’. The man on the right is a Luftwaffe soldier. Right: It took some time to find the spot, but the prisoners were sitting on the corner of Birkenweg. The view is looking across a diagonal street, Lindenweg, into Rüsternweg.

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Wartime Allied map of Magdeburg showing the main locations in our story. [1] Barleber Chaussee. [2] Olvenstedter Chaussee. [3] Halberstädter Chaussee. [4] Leipziger Strasse. [5] SA-DankopferSiedlung. [6] Schönebecker Strasse. [7] Krupp-Gruson tank factory.

[8] Polte munitions factory. [9] Junkers aero engine factory. [10] Brabag synthetic oil refineries. [11] Hindenburg-Brücke. [12] Strom-Brücke. [13] Hubbrücke. [14] Adolf-Hitler-Brücke. [15] General-von-Hippel-Kaserne. [16] Dom cathedral. [17] Justizpalast. 21

Right: While one part of the 41st Armored Infantry struck at the SA settlement and Hopfengarten, two kilo metres further east, on the other side of the Leipzig-to-Magdeburg railway line, another part of the regiment attacked into the city from the south-east. Their axis of advance was the main road which led into the city from Westerhüsen. Accompanying this force was Signal Corps photographer Sergeant Lou Lindzon, who took this picture of an M8 light tank with a public address speaker mounted on its turret to call for surrender of the enemy troops. By this stage of the war, such tactics were often used, soldiers of German descent being used to broadcast the messages.

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General Collier’s Combat Command A in the south jumped off at 1445, half an hour earlier than the regiments of the 30th Division. Its attacks used the main thoroughfares as axes of advance. The 1st Battalion, 119th Infantry (Lieutenant Colonel Robert H. Herlong), in the south-west, attacked with Companies A and C leading, with Company B in reserve. Company A rode into battle mounted on the tanks of the 1st Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment (Major Henry Zeien). Starting out from the village of Hohendodenleben, the force pushed through the suburb of Ottersleben using the main road, Halberstädter Chaussee, as its main axis. Like elsewhere, the troops were harassed by Panzerfaust and mortar fire, and met stiff resistance at road-blocks, the battalion suffering 11 casualties, including two killed, but taking 75 prisoners. By evening they had progressed some two kilometres up Halberstädter Chaussee and captured most of the Sudenburg district. In the south, the 2nd Battalion, 41st Armored Infantry, used Leipziger Chaussee to push into the residential districts of Lindenhof and Hopfengarten. Further east, other troops of the battalion used another thoroughfare, the Schönebecker Strasse, to penetrate the riverside district of Buckau, home of the Krupp-Gruson armaments factories. Resistance, mostly from Hitlerjugend fighters, was troublesome but not too intense. German civilians helped the Ameri-

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Right: The building behind the tank still stands at Nos. 114-118 Alt Salbke. Note that the open space between the last houses of Salbke and the first houses of Fermersleben has been completely filled with new housing (both communes had been incorporated into Magdeburg in 1910). See also page 3.

A kilometre on, Lindzon pictured curious civilians watching the American troops advance into their city. Note the numerous white flags hanging from the windows. 22

The view is from Alt Fermersleben (the continuation of Alt Salbke), looking east into Sophien-Strasse. The street remains unchanged except that the corner block on the left has gone.

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Reconnaissance Battalion inspects an 88mm gun shortly after it was captured. Right: Buckau today is full of closed and abandoned factories but fortunately the building where this gun was set up still survives on Schönebecker Strasse.

Left: As it happened, Lieutenant Swenson of the 397th Bomb Group was pictured inspecting the same gun some time later. The 397th had been one of the medium groups of the Ninth Air Force that bombed Magdeburg prior to the ground

assault, so Swenson probably visited the city to check on the results of their work. Right: Debris has been cleared away and bomb damage repaired. The view is looking towards the city centre.

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Left: The German defenders had erected several road-blocks covered by 88mm guns on this road too. One was at the southern entrance to Buckau, the industrial district along the Elbe river. Here Tec/5 Nolan Manley of the 82nd Armored

cans by pointing out buildings in which defenders were hiding. In return, the Americans promised not to destroy the informant’s house, and every effort was made to keep that promise. By the end of the first day, the Americans had everywhere broken through the main belt of defences and captured about one third of the city. Opposition had definitely

been more-determined than expected. All regiments halted for the night at prearranged phase lines, sending out patrols to contact neighbouring units. By this time, Magdeburg’s Kampfkommandant was no longer in the city. In the late afternoon of the 16th — a few hours after refusing the 30th Division’s surrender ultimatum — General Raegener and his staff had

evacuated their command post in the General-von-Hippel-Kaserne, moving it ten kilometres eastwards to the village of Königsborn. There on the 17th, he received word that the OKW had awarded him the Oak Leaves to his Knight’s Cross for his defence of Fortress Magdeburg. Before he left, he had put Oberst Fritz Albrecht in charge as commander of ‘Kampfgruppe Magdeburg’.

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Right: Buckau was home of the giant Krupp-Gruson tank factory, producing PzKpfw IV tanks and StuG IV assault guns for the Wehrmacht. Repeatedly bombed by the US Eighth Air Force from February 1944 onwards, by April 1945 much of the factory complex lay in ruins. The parts section had been bombed out of working order in August 1944 but the assembly section remained active until the end although much reduced by the shortage of manpower and raw materials. Sergeant Du Tiel pictured completed tanks parked outside one of the bomb-wrecked halls. Taken over by the Soviet Military Administration in 1945 and then by the GDR, the plant continued life as a state-owned heavy machinery factory, the VEB Schwermaschinenbau ‘Ernst Thälmann’, which by 1989 employed 30,000 people. With the demise of the GDR, the plant was split up into several companies, one of them, now privatised, having since become a leading producer of wind-farm turbines. Today, a large part of the old factory buildings have been totally cleared away, making a comparison of this picture impossible. 23

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Left: Much of the fighting in the southern part of Magdeburg on the morning of the second day, April 18, centred around the intersection of Halberstädter Chaussee and Leipziger Strasse. Here a tank soldier of the 66th Armored Regiment escorts four German prisoners to the rear past the huge building of the Justizpalast (Palace of Justice) that towers over the inter-

The 2nd Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel Eads G. Hardaway) moved off at 0615, advancing south-eastwards through the Eichenweiler residential district with Company E on the right and F on the left. Company F was initially held up by a machine gun firing from a house but Corporal Elmer B. Sniff crept forward and eliminated the sevenman crew with hand-grenades, and the company soon caught up with Company E. Pushing forward, by 0930 the battalion had taken 23 prisoners and reached the Y-junction of railways, where it turned east towards the Elbe. However, the Herrenkrug railway bridge, which crossed the river near there,

had already been blown up by Germans the previous afternoon. Resuming its attack at 0630, McCullough’s 3rd Battalion found that the two 88mm guns that had given so much trouble the previous day now stood abandoned, their crews having fled during the night. Crossing the railway line, they entered the Neue Altstadt district where they pivoted east towards the river. As they advanced through the bombflattened sections of this part of the city, Company I on the left made contact with 2nd Battalion’s right-flank Company E. At one road-block, an infantry platoon was pinned down. Neglecting the risk of exposing him-

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APRIL 18 Next morning, Thursday, April 18, at 0630 the attack was resumed. During the night, General Hobbs, the 30th Division commander, had decided to widen the sector of the 120th Infantry, adding 200 metres to the west. Because of this, Colonel Purdue, the regimental commander, decided to commit his 2nd Battalion in the eastern zone around the railway area and the Rothensee industrial district close to the Elbe. The 1st and 3rd Battalions were to continue their southward push, pivoting around the 2nd to the east and to the river. Phase lines were to be used to control the advance.

section. Another picture by Sergeant Du Tiel (see also the front cover). Right: Heavily damaged by Allied bombing and the fighting of 1945, the Palace of Justice was not finally restored until 2001, albeit that the destroyed southern section was replaced by a structure of modern design. Today it houses the Landgericht (Regional Court of Justice) Magdeburg.

Left: Sherman tankdozers were frequently called forward to fill in bomb craters that held up the advance or to clear away roadblocks. Signal Corps cameraman Tec/5 Ecker filmed a dozer of the 66th Maintenance Company driving up Sudenburger Wuhne 24

towards its junction with Halberstädter Chaussee. The building on the left is the city jail that stands behind the Palace of Justice. Right: The prison makes for a perfect comparison. On the right is the north-west corner of the Justizpalast, equally unchanged.

Right: M26 Pershing tanks turning into Leipziger Strasse from Halberstädter Chaussee. Newly developed and hastily introduced to the European Theater in February 1945, the first batch of 20 Pershings had been split equally between the 3rd and 9th Armored Divisions (see After the Battle No. 153). Regular deliveries of the new tank got underway in late March, the 2nd Armored receiving its allotment of ten on the 23rd, the vehicles being evenly divided between the 66th and 67th Armored Regiments. Featuring a powerful 90mm gun, the Pershing was a worthy successor to the Sherman which had been the mainstay of the US armoured forces throughout the war. The tanks seen in this particular photo most likely belong to the platoon of Company F of the 66th, commanded by Lieutenant Donald Critchfield.

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self, Corporal Marlyn H. Bartsch from Company B of the 743rd Tank Battalion drove his tank into the street and fired 12 rounds of high explosive at the machine guns that were covering the barricade, knocking them out. At mid-morning, men of McCullough’s battalion came upon the command bunker in the Nordfriedhof. A few hand-grenades lobbed into the doorway sufficed to bring out the occupants, the first being Oberbürgermeister Markmann holding a Red Cross flag, who proceeded to officially surrender the part of the city west of the Elbe. Arrested with him were the former Oberpräsident (provincial governor) of Sachsen, SA-Obergruppenführer Curt von Ulrich. Inside the bunker the Americans found the bodies of Stadtrat (city councillor) Hofmann and his wife and of SA-Obergruppenführer Adolf Kob, chief of the provincial SA-Gruppe Mitte, who had all committed suicide. Captured at the bunker was a group of 134 policemen, which brought the 3rd Battalion’s total prisoner score of the day to 280. Shortly after, at 1130, the unit reached the bank of the Elbe. Meanwhile, Williamson’s 1st Battalion on the regimental right wing was making good progress. The road-block that had stopped its advance the previous day was finally subdued by Company B after a half-hour stiff fight with German troops entrenched in a group of houses, who in the end gave up in a mass surrender. Company A on the right overran a German motor pool, capturing 15 trucks and taking 74 prisoners. Pushing

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Right: The modern face of the Palace of Justice.

Left: The railway viaduct at the northern end of Halberstädter Chaussee, just past the intersection with Leipziger Strasse, formed a kind of gateway to the inner city, so it was no wonder that the Germans had built a road barricade there. Once that

was overcome, the 119th Infantry and CCA were able to continue into the Altstadt. Here an M10 of the 823rd TD Battalion is about to pass the road-block and proceed into the inner city. Right: The barricade has gone but the viaduct remains. 25

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Left: Ninety per cent of the inner city lay in ruins and the Americans advanced over a wasteland of rubble-filled streets lined with gutted buildings. Sergeant Du Tiel pictured tanks and tank destroyers moving up Moltke-Strasse, escorted by rifle-

cleaned and 144 prisoners taken. Searching the houses, the battalion moved over the last section of the regimental objective, the town district of Nordfront. As they approached the Elbe, men of Company B met a Polish forced-worker who had just been liberated, who told them he knew the way to the Hindenburg-Brücke, the last surviving road bridge over the Elbe, and

could also point out the cable leading to the explosive charge that the Germans had planted to demolish it. Fifteen men volunteered to run ahead of the battalion and follow the Pole to the bridge. Over a devious route he led them to houses within 100 metres of the river, where he indicated that only a handful could follow. Three men — Staff Sergeant William D. Cloud, Pfc Easton

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rapidly past the scattered factories and warehouses, the battalion arrived at the northsouth railway through the city where they too pivoted east. The Germans attempted a feeble stand along the line of the railway but this was quickly overcome, and the battalion reached the Exerzier-Platz, the large paradeground square in the north-west corner of the Altstadt. By 1100 hours, this had been

men from Company B of the 117th Infantry. They are on their way to the Elbe riverfront. Right: The street is now named Kepler-Strasse, Only the corner building, at the intersection with Breiter Weg, remains.

Left: Breiter Weg, lined with beautiful baroque houses, had been Magdeburg’s principal shopping street, but little of that remained in April 1945. Right: Rebuilt in GDR times, the street never regained its former glory, long stretches of it today being lined with the ugly Plattenbau (prefabricated 26

concrete panel) buildings so typical of East German cities. The part seen in Du Tiel’s picture, between Kepler-Strasse and Danz-Strasse, was being redeveloped when we took the comparison. The spire sticking out above the ruins is that of the Dom cathedral.

1400 both the 1st and 2nd Battalions had reached the riverbank (Phase Line ‘Roger’) and set up defence positions along it. In the south-west and south, CCA continued its advance. The 1st Battalion, 119th, reached the junction of Halberstädter Chaussee and Leipziger Strasse, dominated by the large buildings of the Polizeipräsidium (Police Headquarters) and the Court of Jus-

tice, and there joined up with the 41st Armored Infantry force that had come up the latter street. Breaking through the roadblock at the railway overpass, they pushed into Hallische Strasse and into the bombwrecked inner city. As the force reached the Elbe, they saw that the Hubbrücke, the vertical-lift railway bridge, was still standing. Armored engineers went forward to remove

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B. Dalton and Pfc Paul Gravenstein — went with the Pole but close to the riverbank, just as he pointed out the cable, a huge detonation split the air and the bridge went up, debris and steel flying in all directions. Noting a dugout nearby, Sergeant Cloud and his men moved toward it. Inside was the bridge rear-guard — 80 German soldiers with six machine guns, several automatic weapons and numerous Panzerfäuste — who quickly surrendered. The rest of the 1st Battalion was not far behind. Company A had two casualties from sniper fire and called forward a tank which blasted the house and caused the snipers to surrender. Moving forward, the company came upon the big air raid bunker on Fürsten-Strasse, finding 1,800 terrified civilians inside. Shortly after, the company reached the riverbank. By 1400, the entire battalion had consolidated along the riverfront. In all, they had taken 433 prisoners, including a regimental commander. (For his leadership in the battle Oberst Albrecht, the commander of ‘Kampfgruppe Magdeburg’, was awarded the Knight’s Cross on the 19th). The Rothensee industrial district in the north was now the only area in the regimental sector not yet taken but 2nd Battalion’s Company G and anti-tank platoon, together with the Regimental Anti-Tank Company, rapidly moved through the area against no opposition, announcing it cleared at 1700 hours. The 117th Infantry resumed its attack at 0630, pushing closer towards the inner city. Along the way it overran the Polte munitions factory (from which the slave-workers had been marched off to the east six days earlier). As the regiment drove south-east, it passed in front of the 119th Infantry, squeezing that regiment out of the battle and leaving it with just the task of mopping up its own area. By mid-morning the force had neutralised the road-block on Schlageter-Platz, allowing passage through the old ramparts that ringed the inner city. Block by block, the infantry moved from house to house, with the supporting armour moving down the streets. The latter were full of huge bomb craters, holding up the tanks and tank destroyers, and Sherman tankdozers frequently had to go up ahead to fill in the craters that blocked the advance. By

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Right: Moving up Breiter Weg, the troops passed the Scharnhorst-Platz, site of a large statue of Otto von Bismarck, the founding father and first chancellor of the German Empire. War photographer Fred Ramage of Associated Press could not resist picturing GIs enjoying their rations on the statue’s plinth, showing — as the caption put it — ‘little respect for this Prussian hero’.

Left: Tec/5 Ecker filmed a tank destroyer at the same spot. Right: The statue was removed by the municipal authorities in

1947 (and subsequently melted down in 1951) and the square renamed Friedensplatz (Peace Square). 27

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Left: The Dom, dating from the 13th century and the earliest Gothic cathedral in Germany, had been severely damaged by the Allied bombing, particularly in the USAAF raid of September 12, 1944 and the heavy RAF attack of February 16, 1945. The large hole seen in the front façade was the result of a

bomb dropped by a fighter-bomber escorting the USAAF daylight raid on that same day. The building caught fire but fortunately it was possible to extinguish the blaze before it burnt down completely. Right: Reconstruction took ten years, the church being officially reopened in September 1955.

the barricade blocking the span’s western end but as they were working at it, German engineers fired the detonator, blowing up the bridge in the Americans’ faces. The very last of the Elbe bridges was gone. (That morning, General Simpson, the Ninth Army commander, had telephoned General Bradley to say

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Right: None of the city’s road or rail bridges were captured intact, German engineers demolishing all of them before they could be taken. Sergeant Du Tiel pictured the Hubbrücke, the vertical-lift railway bridge, which was blown just in time in the early afternoon of the 18th as 2nd Armored engineers were already working to remove the barricades on its approach. Vaguely visible in the background, behind the railway bridge’s central span, is the Adolf-Hitler-Brücke road bridge, already blown on the 12th, five days before the American assault on the city. he expected to capture a bridge at Magdeburg intact. Bradley, as his aide Major Chester B. Hansen recorded, ‘almost hoped the other fellow would destroy it’ and when Simpson called in the afternoon to say they had, Bradley was relieved: ‘Thank God, there is no need to worry about a bridgehead there’.) By the early afternoon, all American units had reached the west bank of the Elbe, and all that remained was mopping up and collecting prisoners, some 1,000 in all.

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Left: Repaired after the war but no longer in use as a railway bridge, the Hubbrücke has been turned into a pedestrian’s crossing, providing an extra access to the Werder, the island in the Elbe river, from the inner city. The former Adolf Hitler Bridge was not finally rebuilt until 2005, regaining its old name, Stern-Brücke. 28

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lying in the river. The smoke seen rising up from Werder island (then still in German hands) was from an ammunition dump set ablaze by American artillery.

The same view from St Johannis Church new bridge, the Neue Strom-Brücke, upstream from the old one. Plans for its dated from 1936 and its abutments had

completed before the war (they can be seen on the extreme right in the wartime picture). A temporary bridge (see page 35) replaced the old one for many years and so the new span was not finally completed until 1965.

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The Strom-Brücke road bridge was blown in the late evening of April 16. This picture, taken from the tower of the JohannisKirche in the Old City on the 19th, shows the wrecked structure

today. Note that the lies a few metres construction already in fact already been

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FRED RAMAGE

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door which, on being opened by unwilling bank personnel, gave access to a stairway leading into the vaults. To Happy’s amazement, these turned out to contain even more neatly-stacked packets of banknotes. The total amount, as a subsequent count revealed, added up to a staggering 708,110,070 Reichsmark — about 70,000,000 US dollars at the 1945 exchange rate. There were also a few cages of silver ingots and some paintings and other works of art brought to safety from the Magdeburg city museum. Right: Fred Ramage of Associated Press pictured Happy (right) with his battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Ben T. Ammons, examining their hoard.

Left and centre: Happy immediately informed Regimental Headquarters who notified Major Jasper Ackerman, Military Government Officer at Divisional Headquarters (who in civilian life happened to have been vice-president of the Exchange National Bank of Colorado Springs). He impoun ded the treasure and placed ‘Geschlossen’ (Closed) signs on the bank’s doors. Two weeks later, on May 7, Military

Government officials supervised the removal of the silver bars from the building, an operation recorded on film by Signal Corps cameraman Sergeant William V. Figge. Right: The loading platform with the double doors was in the bank’s southern wing but has long since been replaced by a single door. The façade was just being reconstructed when Karel Margry visited Magdeburg.

the streets were thronged with civilians. They offered no opposition but mob looting flared up in many places, especially at food warehouses. The plunderers included not just Germans but also many foreign slave-workers — Russians, Poles, French, Dutch — who had

broken out of their labour camps and workplaces and were rambling the streets. The Americans were forced to rapidly send out sentries, squads, even whole platoons to guard liquor stores, butcher shops, clothing depots, and a multitude of other establishments.

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Even before combat came to an end, civilians were getting in the way of the fighting, their presence interfering with movements of troops and sometimes even obstructing fields of fire. They had to be shooed off the streets. By the time the town was completely cleared,

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Left: As his men were approaching the Dom, Captain Virgil L. Happy, commander of a company of the 2nd Battalion, 117th Infantry, noticed four men, suitcases in hand, coming out of a big building across the square from the cathedral. Shouting them to halt, he ordered one man to open his suitcase and his eyes bulged when he saw it was full of 1,000-Reichsmark notes. On questioning the man, he told them the building was the local office of the Reichsbank and he himself was Walter Lubzka, president of the bank. Going inside to investigate further, Happy then found three trolleys, each of which was loaded with more packets of banknotes. They stood parked next to a heavy steel

Left: With the fall of Magdeburg, the 117th Infantry became responsible for maintaining law and order in the city and its command post, set up in the large building of the Regional Waterways and Shipping Authority at No. 16 Kaiser-Friedrich30

Strasse, became a hub of activity. Here German civilians line up outside the building. Right: Today, the street is named Gerhart-Hauptmann-Strasse but the building still houses the Waterways and Shipping Authority.

WILLIAM VANDIVERT

WILLIAM VANDIVERT

Right: In the days after the fall of Magdeburg, thousands of German troops crossed the Elbe into the American lines to surrender. A prisoner of particular note to the Americans was Generalleutnant Kurt von Dittmar, who was well known to the Allied world because he was the official German General Staff news commentator who spoke frequently on German radio. He came across together with his 16-year-old son Berend, two orderlies and Major Werner Pluskat, the Magdeburg artillery commander, in a rowing boat under a white flag on April 25. Landing in the zone of Company K of the 3rd Battalion, 117th Infantry, Dittmar had come, so he said, to arrange aid for German wounded on the east bank and the evacuation of the civilians there. It was then discovered that he commanded no troops and had crossed to the west without the knowledge of the German sector commander. He turned down an offer to surrender himself but, on his way back to his boat, changed his mind and surrendered along with his son and Major Pluskat. Here the General and his son (holding the white flag) are being brought in from the Elbe riverbank by Lieutenant Colonel Sam McDowell, CO of the 3rd Battalion (second from right, holding the cane), and Captain Henry Abbes, commander of Company K (far right).

War correspondents flocked to interview the VIP prisoner. Colonel Walther M. Johnson, the 117th Regimental commander (centre), listens in.

Left: The initial interviews over, Colonel Johnson escorts General Dittmar and Major Pluskat (in the leather coat at the top of the stairs) to divisional headquarters. (Pluskat would gain special fame in 1959, featuring in Cornelius Ryan’s bestseller The

Longest Day as the commander of a coastal battery overlooking Omaha Beach who first saw the Allied Normandy invasion fleet appearing through the morning haze on D-Day.) Right: Down these steps the warriors went.

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WILLIAM VANDIVERT

McDowell brought Dittmar to the 117th Infantry command post on Kaiser-Friedrich-Strasse, where William Vandivert was on hand to record their arrival.

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Outside, Captain Abbes, the Company K commander, proudly posed with his catch for the camera of Sergeant Boll.

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metres. In the line, from north to south were the 120th, 117th and 119th Regiments. The flow of Germans coming across the Elbe wishing to surrender had by now grown so big that it became difficult to feed, handle and evacuate them and the division had to take some stern measures. Some groups were sent back across the river to

fetch their own field kitchen facilities and food stocks before they were accepted, others were simply refused passage, sometimes with the use of gun-fire. Still, in the three weeks between the capture of Magdeburg and VE-Day, the division captured 7,468 prisoners — more than in its first three months of fighting in 1944.

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AFTERMATH With the capture of Magdeburg, the 2nd Armored and 30th Infantry Divisions had fought their last action of the war. For the next few days the river front was active as patrols crossed to the Werder island in the Elbe to obtain surrender of the German troops still there. The latter’s position was pretty hopeless, menaced as they were by the Soviet Red Army approaching in their rear, and ever more troops waved a white flag and surrendered, crossing the Elbe over the broken bridges or in boats, with some individual soldiers even swimming across. Military Government was quickly set up in the city. Already on April 18, immediately after the end of fighting, Major Jasper D. Ackerman, Civil Affairs Officer at 30th Division Headquarters, deposed Oberbürgermeister Markmann, ordering the deputy burgomaster, Julius Götsch, to replace him. However, Götsch was a Nazi Party member too, so the following day, Ackerman appointed Otto Baer, the pre-war chairman of the local branch of the German Social-Democratic Party who for 12 years had been persecuted by the Nazis, as ‘Chief of Civil Administration’, a title soon upgraded to Oberbürgermeister. Baer immediately put the city departments back on their feet to organise housing, food and other relief for the civilian population. By now, Civil Affairs Detachment I2D3 had arrived in the city to take over from Major Ackerman, setting up headquarters in the command post of the 117th Infantry in a large building at No. 16 Kaiser-Friedrich-Strasse. On April 20, General Raegener, the exKampfkommandant, made a radio broadcast on the Reichssender Berlin, congratulating his troops for the magnificent defence of the city and extolling his Führer Adolf Hitler. That same day, the 2nd Armored Division was relieved along the Elbe by the 30th Division and moved back to the Braunschweig area. The Hickory Division now assumed responsibility for holding the entire river line from Schönebeck in the south to Heinrichsberg in the north — a frontage of 25 kilo-

The building on Gerhart-Hauptmann-Strasse, unchanged since the war, makes for a perfect comparison.

Later that day, Boll pictured Dittmar and his son seated at dinner table with General Leland S. Hobbs, commander of the 30th Division (on right).

Right: To cope with the number of prisoners taken in Magdeburg, and streaming across the Elbe in the days following, the 30th Division opened a prisoner-ofwar cage in the grounds of the Polte munitions factory on Polte-Strasse, captured by the 117th Infantry on the second day. By late May, the camp held some 7,000 POWs, among them 226 female auxiliaries. Supervising the whole establishment was Corporal Raymond J. Wick of the Divisional MP Platoon. Fred Ramage pictured Wick taking the salute at the daily march-past of the prisoners.

FRED RAMAGE

Early on May 5 — a full ten days after the first link-up between US and Soviet forces on the Elbe at Torgau (see After the Battle No. 88) — the first Red Army troops appeared on the east bank opposite the 30th Division. They belonged to the 370th Infantry Division of the CXI Corps of the Sixty-Ninth Army. Two days later, on May 7, General Hobbs officially received MajorGeneral Petr S. Gavilevski, commander of the 370th Division, at the 117th Infantry’s command post on Kaiser-Friedrich-Strasse. Following agreement reached at that meeting, both armies built pontoon bridges across the river. The Russian 1st Pontoon Regiment completed their bridge, located between the blown Adolf-Hitler-Brücke and the Hubbrücke railway bridge, first, on May 9, and in the following weeks this was used to allow thousands of Displaced Persons — liberated slave-workers from East and West — to cross the river en route for home. The Americans chose a site further downstream, the 180th Heavy Pontoon Battalion on May 12-13 constructing a 225-metre-long pontoon bridge next to the blown HindenburgBrücke, which they christened the ‘Roosevelt-Stalin Bridge’.

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Left: Carried on as a state-owned metal factory in GDR times, the former Polte works went into bankruptcy a few years after the reunification of Germany. What buildings remain in the old factory grounds on what is today named Liebknecht-Strasse stand mostly disused and dilapidated, but fortunately the one where Wick took the salute survives. A memorial to the victims of the small concentration camp, a sub-camp of Buchenwald, that housed slave-labourers forced to work in the munitions plant in 1944-45 stands across the road from the old factory.

On May 5 the first Soviet troops appeared on the Elbe east bank opposite Magdeburg and two days later there was an official celebration of the link-up of the two armies when General Hobbs of the 30th Division received Major-General Petr Gavilevski of the Soviet 370th Infantry Division. The meeting took place at the 117th Infantry command post on Kaiser-Friedrich-Strasse, now

also the headquarters of Military Government Detachment I2D3. Illustrative of the language problems encountered with the EastWest link-up is that General Gavilevksi ended up in the American unit records with his name wrongly given as Bagilevsky; Press war photographer M. Lecardeur of the Acme agency, who took this picture, had his name down as Govolovksi! 33

blown Adolf-Hitler-Brücke and Hubbrücke. Here a large group of Displaced Persons uses it to cross to the Werder island.

Left: Yanks and Ivans fraternising at the bridge. Right: The Stadthalle (city exhibition hall) and its Aussichtsturm (belvedere) on the far bank, both landmarks of Magdeburg, help to pinpoint the site of the bridge. Built in 1926-27, both are

famous representatives of the Neue Bauen architectural style of the era. While the tower survived the war relatively unscathed, the hall suffered serious bomb damage and burned out completely, restoration not being finished until 1966.

Left: The Americans in their turn threw a bridge further downstream, just north of the blown Hindenburg-Brücke, the 280th Heavy Pontoon Battalion completing the Roosevelt-Stalin Bridge on May 13. Right: Looking across the Elbe to Werder

island today. Repair of the old Hindenburg road bridge was completed in 1952, being renamed Wilhelm-Pieck-Brücke. A second span was added in 1996 (just visible on the far right) and since then the pair is jointly known as the Jerusalem-Brücke.

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On May 9, the Russians opened the first pontoon bridge over the Elbe, built by their 1st Pontoon Regiment between the

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Most of the ruins along the Elbe waterfront were pulled down in the post-war reconstruction of the city, leaving a band of open terrain between the river and the first buildings, partly filled with parkland and partly with a new four-lane thoroughfare, known today as the Schlein-Ufer. The abutments of the old Strom-Brücke, and the breach in the wall where the Friendship Bridge was built, can still be discerned.

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On May 8, VE-Day, the sector held by the 30th Division — now called Zone of Occupation — was hugely expanded to include an area stretching 60 kilometres along the bank of the Elbe and 60 kilometres to the west of the river, as far back as Wolfsburg, Helmstedt and Halberstadt. The division had to redistribute its units to administer so large a territory. However, this situation was to last less than three weeks. Between May 25 and June 11, the northern half of Ninth Army’s zone of occupation was taken over by the British Army. As part of this, between May 27 and June 1, the 30th Division was relieved by the 52nd (Lowland) Division, its place in Magdeburg taken over by the 7th Cameronians. One day before the last Americans left, on May 31, a 135-metre-long steel trestle bridge across the Elbe was opened in the city, next to the blown Strom-Brücke, and was dedicated as the ‘Friendship Bridge’ in a joint ceremony of representatives of American, British and Russian armies. British presence in Magdeburg lasted just one month. This part of Germany fell within the Russian Zone of Occupation as agreed at the Yalta Conference and so on July 1, the Cameronians left the city and Soviet troops of the Third Shock Army moved in to establish their military administration. They would remain for 46 years, until the re-unification of Germany in 1991.

abutments of the planned-but-still-far-in-the-future Neue Strom-Brücke, it was festively opened as Friendship Bridge on May 31, in a joint ceremony by American, British and Soviet troops.

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A more-permanent steel trestle bridge was built by the 250th Engineer Combat Battalion of the 1149th Engineer Combat Group (a Ninth Army unit). Tightly emplaced between the wreckage of the blown Strom-Brücke and the

Having marched across to Werder island, the parade returns to the city side of the river.

The tower of the Johannis-Kirche (from which the photos on page 29 were taken) links past and present. 35

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The famous cine sequence of the first paratroopers dropping west of Heraklion airfield on May 20, 1941, the first day of the German airborne invasion of Crete, has intrigued many over the years. Now Greek historian Yannis Prekatsounakis has

been able to identify the two Junkers Ju 52 transport aircraft seen going down and crashing in the images, and also to give names to the aircrews and Fallschirmjäger who died in the crashes.

JU 52 CRASHES AT HERAKLION The piece of cine footage of German paratroopers jumping from Junkers Ju 52 transport aircraft while two of the aircraft, both trailing smoke, are seen crashing at Heraklion during the first day of the German airborne invasion of Crete in May 1941 has become iconic of that battle (see After the Battle No. 47). Our aim was to investigate the story behind these much-reproduced images and discover the details, the exact places and the people involved. The film was shot by Lieutenant Gordon Hope-Morley, the Intelligence Officer of the British 14th Infantry Brigade, the formation responsible for the defence of the sector. Commanded by Brigadier Brian Chappel, it comprised the 2nd Leicestershire, 2nd York & Lancaster, 2nd Black Watch and 2/4th Australian Battalion with other British, Commonwealth and Greek units under command. Brigade Headquarters was located in 36

a cave in an old quarry at the base of the rock formation south-west of the airfield. The characteristic rock that appears in the last two of Hope-Morley’s still images is easily identified, as it still towers above the Katsabas area today. A comparison photograph can be taken from various positions but we wanted to determine the exact standpoint from where the cine footage was shot. Nikos Valasiadis, my fellow battlefield researcher, achieved this and he found that it was indeed not far from the cave that had served as Brigade HQ. THE 3. ZUG, 14. KOMPANIE The Heraklion area was the eastern sector of the German invasion and the responsibility of Gruppe Ost and of Fallschirmjäger-Regiment 1 under Oberst Bruno Bräuer, its mission being to capture the town and the airfield four kilometres to the east. The regiment’s

By Yannis Prekatsounakis I. Bataillon parachuted east of the airfield in the Vathianos Kampos-Gournes area, together with the regimental staff and Oberst Bräuer. The II. Bataillon landed near the airfield, both west and south of it, while the III. Bataillon landed just west of the town. A main clue for identifying the aircraft in the footage was the anti-tank gun seen being dropped attached to five parachutes in Hope-Morley’s still No. 4. The only anti-tank unit deployed in this area was the 3. Zug (3rd Platoon) of the 14. (Panzerjäger) Kompanie of Fallschirmjäger-Regiment 1, which fought in the area of Nea Alikarnassos, west of the airfield. This fact prompted us to have a careful and detailed look at the deployment and losses of this particular unit to see if we could draw some conclusions.

AWM/NIKOS VALASIADIS NIKOS VALASIADIS

The film was shot by Lieutenant Gordon Hope-Morley, the Intelligence Officer of British 14th Infantry Brigade, who was standing a short distance from the brigade’s command post, which was located in a cave in an old quarry south-west of the airfield. Nikos Valasiadis stitched the six stills together to produce a Commanded by Leutnant Otto Schamberger, the 3. Zug of the 14. Kompanie had a strength of 33 men and was equipped with three 3.7cm PaK 35/36 anti-tank guns (although it seems that only two were carried on the operation). Four Ju 52s transport aircraft from Kampfgruppe zur besonderen Ver-

panoramic image of the terrain covered by the film sequence, enabling him to produce a comparison panorama from the same spot. Today this is near Emmanuel Xanthou Street. (For a graphic presentation of the stitching see Valasiadis’ clip WW2 Crete 1941. Heraklion Battlefield Then and Now on YouTube.)

wendung 101 (Combat Wing for Special Purposes, or KGr z.b.V. 101 for short), each fitted with special equipment under the fuselage for holding and dropping the guns, were assigned to carry this platoon and drop it on Heraklion airfield. Three of them, each with ten paratroopers, would drop a gun, while the fourth

would carry the platoon’s KS600 Zundapp motorcycle with sidecar, which could be dropped from the same belly rig, with its threeman crew. The rest of the stick was filled with men from another unit. (On the day of the operation, May 20, the fourth Ju 52 started late and it arrived 25 minutes after the other three.)

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Right: The Ju 52 seen going done in Hope-Morley’s still No. 6 was G6+EK, an aircraft from 2. Staffel of Kampfgruppe zur besonderen Verwendung 101 and one of four carrying men from the 3. Zug of the 14. Kompanie of Fallschirmjäger-Regiment 1 to Hera klion. The 14. Kompanie was the regimental anti-tank unit, and three of the four aircraft carried a 3.7cm PaK 35/36 anti-tank gun under their bellies, each to be dropped from five parachutes. This photo was taken by a member of the 14. Kompanie at Athens-Topolia airfield just before take-off for Crete. Accepting that the ten to 12 aircraft that carried the 14. Kompanie were all from KGr z.b.V. 101, it is quite possible that the Ju 52 with the distinctive ‘E’ is actually G6+EK. Although the picture is in black and white, and the letters in black cannot be read, it is obvious that the ‘E’ is neither white (indicating 1. Staffel) nor yellow (3. Staffel) but looks rather like red (2. Staffel) or blue (4. Staffel), with the latter not likely. The red ‘E’ was unique for a specific aircraft of KGr z.b.V. 101. The PaK 35/36 seen hung underneath the aircraft on the left is another sure indication that these aircraft were transporting an anti-tank unit. 37

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also be used to drop other heavy loads, such as motorcycles. Right: The five-parachute bag (right) compared to the singleparachute bag (left) used for the normal drop containers.

The drop of another PaK 35/36, this one of the 1. Zug of the 14. Kompanie, was photographed near the command post of

Fallschirmjäger-Regiment 1, east of the airfield, most probably during the supply drops that followed after May 21.

The 3. Zug of the 14. Kompanie dropped at Heraklion airfield as part of Gruppe Dunz. The aircraft came in from the north, then turned east to fly along the coast to the drop zone. Hit by extremely heavy anti-aircraft fire, at least three of the Ju 52s came down in the immediate area of the airfield, with a fourth

probably crashing in the sea, and we have indicated where G6+EK and G6+KL, the two that had casualties among the crews, came down. The crash site of the one that had no casualties, G6+GK, is unknown. Gruppe Dunz suffered extremely heavy casualties, being wiped out almost to a man.

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YANNIS PREKATSOUNAKIS

MIKE SMYTHE COLLECTION

Left: The PaK 35/36 and its parachute pack consisting of five parachutes — known as a ‘Fünfling’ (quintuplets) — was attached to the Ju 52’s belly by means of a special rig. This could

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As the Ju 52s approached the north coast of Heraklion, they flew over the island of Dia which was used as the navigation entry point to the area of the operation. They turned left (east) over the port, maintaining a track parallel to the coastline and headed eastward directly to the airfield. The area between the port and the airfield and especially the one at the western edge of the airfield — Alikarnassos and the open space known as ‘Buttercup Field’ — was a heavily defended zone, full of anti-aircraft guns of various types, but mainly the 40mm Bofors. The aircraft came under heavy AA fire in this area, causing the formation to break up; one of the Ju 52s was hit and went down in flames as can be seen in Hope-Morley’s frame No. 6. Because of the operational restrictions imposed by the Pak35/36’s parachute (actually a system made up of five parachutes), these particular Ju 52s were flying at a slightly higher altitude (approximately 360 feet/120 metres) than the usual Fallschirmjäger operational drop altitude (300 feet/91 metres), thus giving the gunners on the ground more time to aim and hit their target. After much research in the German archive records (Luftwaffe loss lists, Fallschirmjäger casualty lists, etc) and a study of other sources and accounts, we managed to track down the serial number of this specific Ju 52 and the names of the men on board. The key element was the discovery of the crew list. This led to the identification of the aircraft as the G6+EK (Werknummer 6240) from 2./KGr z.b.V. 101 and the names of seven men recorded as killed in the crash. They were the four members of the crew — Unteroffizier Helmut Biewendt (pilot), Unteroffizier Willi Schürme (co-pilot), Unteroffizier Werner Kirmse (radio operator) and Feldwebel Erich Mählig (flight engineer) — two paratroopers, Obergefreiter Willi Lutter and Oberjäger Josef Weimann, and one unknown. After the war all the German dead were concentrated in the German War Cemetery at Maleme. Five of the seven men from G6+EK — Kirmse, Mählig, Lutter, Weimann and the unknown man — lie in two common graves, Nos. 445-446. The pilot, Helmut Biewendt is buried separately in an individual grave, No. 424, the likely explana-

COURTESY FLEMING MELIN CHRISTIANSEN

Right: The crash site of G6+EK, pictured by a German soldier several days later. At right, the PaK 35/36 anti-tank gun that was being transported by the aircraft can be seen upended, with its carriage arms vertical. Mount Jouhtas is in the background, indicating that the area of the crash is just south of the airfield.

The place where the aircraft tail ended up is today a schoolyard on the corner of Mafsolou and Michael Eleftheriadi Streets. tion being that his body was discovered some distance from the crashed aircraft. The body of the co-pilot, Willi Schürme, was never found or identified and he is still listed as missing.

The date of death of the three aircrew members — Biewendt, Kirmse and Mählig — is wrongly given on their grave markers as May 21, probably the result of a lack of communication between the appropriate Luftwaffe

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COURTESY PAUL DEKKERS

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Left: The crash site seen looking north-west. Features that appear in both images are the rock of the 14th Brigade HQ [1] and Mount Strouboulas [2]. Note the rough wooden cross on

one of the field graves. Right: Although the site is now an urban area, the big rock still dominates the landscape. The lane on the left is Michael Eleftheriadi Street. 39

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COURTESY SHAUN WINKLER

department and the Wehrmacht unit that built the initial war cemetery at Heraklion in 1942. It was common practice to list flight crews as missing in action the day after their loss. The date of death of the two paratroopers, Lutter and Weimann, is correctly given as May 20. According to an account by Ernst August Meyer, one of the only three survivors of the 3. Zug (he flew in the aircraft that carried the motorcycle), the Ju 52 that was hit and shot down also carried Feldwebel Günther Gottschald. His body was never identified so his name has been included on the appropriate panel listing the unidentified (as opposed to ‘missing without trace’) at Maleme Cemetery. According to German records, Gottschald was killed south of the old road from Heraklion to Malia and this location provides additional evidence that he was aboard the crashed Ju 52. Other paratroopers from the platoon who remain unidentified and were most probably in the same aircraft are Jäger Alois Atzinger, Oberjäger Erwin Bohlander, Gefreiter Paul Rösch and Gefreiter Wilhelm Krause. Atzinger’s body was initially buried as unknown but he was identified at a later stage and today lies in Maleme in Grave 453. Directly adjacent to the above-mentioned common graves (445-446) are the graves of three unknown dead, Nos. 444, 447 and 448. It is our assumption that these are also men from the 3. Zug who were aboard G6+EK and either jumped at the last moment and were killed, or remained in the aircraft and died in the crash. In fact, if one includes the one unknown in Grave 446, one might assume that these four unnamed graves contain the remains of Gottschald, Bohlander, Rösch and Krause. If the seven paratroopers named so far — Lutter, Weimann, Gottschald, Atzinger, Bohlander, Rösch and Krause — were indeed all in the same stick aboard G6+EK, there remain three members of the stick whose names we do not know. Even if they were able to parachute in time, they were probably killed shortly afterwards or even while in the air since they dropped exactly on the British positions. Of the 33 men of the 3. Zug, no less than 30 were killed, either in the crash of G6+EK or through jumping too low or by enemy fire either during the descent or shortly after landing. All of them were in the three aircraft that arrived with the main

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Right: At least five graves can be seen in this picture, two of them topped with a paratrooper helmet. The second grave on the left still has a rough marker, but the others have had the original crosses replaced by more-elaborate ones. The grave on the right is marked ‘1 Deutscher Fallschirmjäger’, indicating that this paratrooper was unidentified when he was buried.

Left: Feldwebel Günther Gottschald belonged to the stick of paratroopers aboard G6+EK. Killed in or shortly after the crash, he remained unidentified and was listed as missing in action. Born in the town of Plauen in Sachsen, he had served with the 14. Kompanie of Infanterie-Regiment 102 of the 24. Infanterie-Division before volunteering for the paratroopers. His father, who was town’s senior police officer, after the war placed an advertisement in a newspaper requesting information on the circumstances surrounding his son’s death. This was because the letter he had received from Hauptmann Franz Grassmel, the commander of 14. Kompanie, was not very detailed. Right: Ernst August Meyer was the driver of the platoon’s KS600 motorcycle. His aircraft arrived at the drop zone some 25 minutes after the other three Ju 52s of his platoon and dropped its stick west of the airfield. Meyer was one of only three men of the 3. Zug to survive the Crete battle. group. The only survivors of the platoon were the three men that flew in the fourth Ju 52, which arrived 25 minutes after the others and dropped its stick well west of the airfield.

THE CRASH WEST OF THE AIRFIELD By studying the German archives we were also able to identify the other aircraft seen crashing in Hope-Morley’s footage. The Ju 52 in the first three stills, which crashed to the west of the airfield, was G6+KL commanded by Oberleutnant Hans Rehrmann from 3./KGr z.b.V. 101. The crew are today buried in adjacent graves in the Maleme cemetery: Grave 907, Hauptmann Helmut Wiegand, Grave 908, Oberleutnant Hans Rehrmann (pilot), Grave 909, Oberleutnant Johann Kraus (copilot/observer), Grave 910, Feldwebel Werner Leymann (flight engineer), Grave 911, Unteroffizier Josef-Franz Auburger (radio operator). Hauptmann Helmut Wiegand was actually the commander of the 3. Staffel of KGr z.b.V. 101. His presence aboard the aircraft can be explained by the probability that it was also Left: Five of the men killed in the crash of G6+EK today rest in two common graves, nos. 445 and 446, in the Maleme German War Cemetery.

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YANNIS PREKATSOUNAKIS

Left: Battle relics discovered at the crash site of G6+EK. The area was a defensive position of the 236th Battery of the 7th Medium Regiment, RA, which explains the British 0.303 round. Some poles used in fences in the surrounding fields and farmyards appear to carrying Hauptmann Werner Dunz, the commander of Gruppe ‘Dunz’, the force comprising the 6. and 7. Kompanie and the 3. Zug of the 14. Kompanie, all from FallschirmjägerRegiment 1, plus the 1. Kompanie of Fallschirm-FlaK-MG-Bataillon 7, whose task it was to capture the airfield. That Dunz was aboard this aircraft is strongly supported by the fact that he is buried in grave 912, right next to the aircrew of G6+KL. The only other paratroopers from his combat group buried there are some unidentified men who were likely in the same aircraft. What is also known, but not illustrated in Hope-Morley’s footage or any other images, is that another Ju 52 also crashed in this area that day, G6+GK flown by Oberfeldwebel Heinz Otto. There were no casualties among the crew.

KGr z.b.V. 101 buried there, scattered over the cemetery and lying among men from various units. This is strong evidence of one more crash near the airfield and we can assume that this one went down in the sea and that the members of the crew were initially buried in field graves near where they washed ashore. The locations of their graves in the present-day cemetery indicate an area along the coast of the airfield but there is no information about the aircraft number, despite the fact that since the war pieces of a Ju 52 have been discovered in the sea north of the airfield. The crew, if it is one, consisted of: Oberfeldwebel Hermann Rehorst (pilot) from KGr z.b.V. 101, who lies in Grave 313 among men of the 6. Kompanie and the machine-gun unit. Oberfeldwebel Reinhold Krüger (radio operator) from 1./KGr z.b.V. 101, who is buried in Grave 635 among men of Regimental Headquarters of Fallschirmjäger-Regiment 1 who were killed on the coast east of the airfield. Unteroffizier Hans Heuten (position in aircraft unknown) from KGr z.b.V. 101, who

rests in Grave 725 among men of the 6. Kompanie, Gefreiter Karl Kulinski (position in aircraft unknown) from KGr z.b.V. 101, buried in Grave 612 among men of the 7. Kompanie and Fallschirm-FlaK-MG-Bataillon 7. The battle for Heraklion lasted until May 29 when the Allied forces evacuated the area and were transferred by sea to Egypt. During the battle there were more Ju 52s shot down but most of them crash-landed without casualties among the crews. The Ju 52s in HopeMorley’s pictures were probably the first ones to be destroyed and their loss was a serious blow for the force assigned to capture the airfield and resulted in the total failure of the operation. The Germans were not finally able to occupy the airfield until after the evacuation of the Allied garrison. This research is based on the work of Yannis Prekatsounakis for his book The Battle for Heraklion, Crete 1941 — The Campaign Revealed Through Allied and Axis Accounts (Helion & Company: Solihull, 2017). The topographic study, the methodology of cemetery research and archive information are by Nikos Valasiadis.

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THE GHOST JU 52 The last mystery of the Ju 52 crashes near Heraklion airfield is that of a ‘ghost’ aircraft. We have been unable to uncover any data about it, but just by looking at the casualties and the graves in the Maleme cemetery, it appears that there is another Ju 52 crew from

be parts of the aircraft. Right: A small building that still stands next to the crash site was used by the Germans as an NCO’s mess during the occupation. A big map of the Mediterranean drawn by a German soldier still survives on one of its walls.

Left: Oberfeldwebel Reinhold Krüger, a radio operator in 1./KGr z.b.V. 101, ended up buried in a field grave on the coast east of the airfield next to these graves of men from FallschirmjägerRegiment 1 (Krüger’s grave is just outside of the picture).

Together with Oberfeldwebel Hermann Rehorst, Unteroffizier Hans Heuten and Gefreiter Karl Kulinski, he probably made up the crew of a Ju 52 that crashed into the sea off Heraklion. Right: The same spot today. 41

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MARC DOUCET

When Hitler met Maréchal Philippe Pétain, the head of the Vichy government of France, at Montoire-sur-le-Loir in October 1940, the organisers of the diplomatic tour chose a useful shelter for the Führer’s special train at a railway tunnel at SaintRimay, four kilometres to the north-east. Two years later, this

same tunnel became the site of Führerhauptquartier ‘Wolfsschlucht 3’, the most western of Hitler’s headquarters. These men of Infanterie-Regiment 173 of the 87. Infanterie-Division then billeted in Montoire were pictured in front of the ruins of its medieval castle.

FÜHRERHAUPTQUARTIER ‘WOLFSSCHLUCHT 3’ By Jean Paul Pallud

Right: Work on the new Führerhauptquartier began in the spring of 1942, the Organisation Todt building two massive bunkers and some 100 other constructions around the Saint-Rimay railway tunnel. This is one of the two bunkers close to the north-eastern end of the tunnel. 42

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As the Organisation Todt was constructing the huge Führerhauptquartier ‘Wolfsschlucht 2’ at Margival near Soissons (see After the Battle No. 149), works were underway in parallel at Saint-Rimay near Montoire-sur-le-Loir, 50 kilometres north of Tours and 15 kilometres west of Vendôme, for the construction of a second headquarters for Hitler in France, code-named ‘Wolfsschlucht 3’. For decades, the site remained completely unknown and as late as 1989 the late Dr Richard Raiber, author of ‘Guide to Hitler’s Headquarters’ in After the Battle No. 19, was misled to assume that ‘Wolfsschlucht 3’ was another code-name for FHQu ‘Brunhilde’ near Thionville in Lorraine. It was only in the early 1990s that the site of SaintRimay was finally recognised for what it was: the former Führerhauptquartier ‘Wolfsschlucht 3’. On May 29, 1942, Hitler issued his Directive No. 42 covering instructions for operations against unoccupied France and the Iberian Peninsula. ‘The development of the situation in unoccupied France, or in the French possessions in North Africa, may render it necessary in the future to occupy the whole of French territory. Likewise, we must reckon on possible enemy attempts to seize the Iberian Peninsula, which will call for immediate counter-measures on our part.’ In accordance with the preoccupation of the German high command with a possible second front in the West in the Iberian Peninsula, the decision was taken in the spring of 1942 to construct a second Führer headquarters in France. The new one was to be located deeper in France than ‘Wolfsschlucht 2’ already being built at Margival. It appears that someone remembered the tunnel at Saint-Rimay which had been earmarked to shelter Hitler’s personal train when it stopped at Montoire-sur-le-Loir to meet Marshal Philippe Pétain in October 1940 (see After the Battle No. 178). As this might form an ideal location, on June 22,

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1942, a team headed by the commander of the Führerhauptquartier, Oberst Kurt Thomas, arrived at Montoire to carry out a detailed survey of the tunnel. Available records do not state who took the decision to go ahead and build the second FHQu at Saint-Rimay, and when, but everything points to Oberst Thomas giving the orders following his survey. Construction of ‘Wolfsschlucht 3’ started in June 1942 but it is odd that three months later Albert Speer, the Armaments Minister, still seems to have been ignorant of the fact that construction had already begun. In late September he sent a memo to the head of Organisation Todt, Xaver Dorsch, directing him ‘not to begin building a second FHQu establishment (in France) without my express permission’. Even so, on October 23, Oberst Gerhard Engel, Hitler’s Heeresadjutant, inspected both ‘Wolfsschlucht 2’ and ‘Wolfsschlucht 3’ with Siegfried Schmelcher, the Chefbaumeister der Führerhauptquartieranlagen (Senior Construction Engineer of the Führer Headquarters Installations) at Organisation Todt, and his deputy, Oberbauleiter Leo Müller. The presence on the tour of Engel, a member of Hitler’s inner staff, indicates that by now Hitler must have heard about the construction of this second French FHQu, though he may not have been party to the details. The task of building the headquarters was the responsibility of the Todt organisation and ‘Oberbauleitung Wolfsschlucht 3’ was formally established under the auspices of OT-Einsatzgruppe West (OT Assignment Group West) — the Organisation Todt operational command covering France, Belgium, Holland and the Channel Islands. Baurat Simon was assigned the work, assisted by architect Luis Gerland of Schmelcher’s FHQu building group.

These three men belong to the Reichsarbeitsdienst (RAD, Reich Labour Service). Two are Obertruppführers but the rank of the third man cannot be seen. They wore the RAD paramilitary uniform with a large swastika armband and the RAD badge on the cap. Another shot in this series of photos shows the unit badge worn on the upper left sleeve, identifying the men as belonging to RAD-Abteilung 364, a unit from the XXXVI. Arbeitsgau of the RAD based in south-eastern Austria.

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RAILWAY TUNNEL Like ‘Wolfsschlucht 2’ at Margival, it was the existence of a suitable railway tunnel that settled the decision to build ‘Wolfsschlucht 3’ at Saint-Rimay. Baurat Simon commissioned geological experts to survey the ridge through which the tunnel ran and they reported back in February. They explained that the tunnel had been bored through chalky lime. This meant that there was a risk of deep penetration from shells of large-calibre guns and heavy bombs, although shells would meet high friction in this soft chalk lime which might decrease their ability to penetrate deeply. Also, because of the softness of the lime, the pressure of exploding shells would be dissipated better than in hard rock. Referring to a report by the Inspekteur der Landbefestigungen West (Inspector of Land Fortifications in the West), a department of the Ob. West headquarters, which recommended that the material above the tunnel had to be at least 30 metres thick to give adequate protection, the survey pointed out that only the central section of the tunnel had the required cover. (The maximum coverage of about 41 metres was at a point 150 metres from the eastern entrance.) At the western end, the 30-metre cover was lacking for a length of 81 metres from the entrance, and for 36 metres at the eastern end. Also, an abandoned quarry above the tunnel at the western end additionally weakened the protection. Because of the inadequate cover, the report recommended reinforcement of the tunnel at each entrance and both should be provided with fortified porches.

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Centre right: From May 1942, the unit of the Organisation Todt involved in the construction of ‘Wolfsschlucht 3’ established its headquarters in the Château de Prépatour, midway between SaintRimay and Vendôme. Right: The château was purchased by Chinese investors in 2017 to build a luxury leisure centre. 43

However, the OT engineers decided against trying to strengthen the weak lengths at each end with reinforced concrete, and instead they planned to seal the tunnel with massive armoured doors. These would be positioned either side of the central section, at 40 metres and 35 metres respectively from each entrance. Each hinged door was to measure five metres by five metres, recesses being provided in the tunnel wall to fit the door when open. Another recess facing it was made to seal the door when it closed. Loco drivers of the Führer’s personal train were to be told to halt in between the two doors, and that these would be shut if an air raid alarm was sounded.

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DESIGN AND LAYOUT A report by Schmelcher in 1944 covered ‘work on an existing tunnel and construction of a station platform as a shelter for a Sonderzug’ and also ‘construction of a bunker for the Führer and a meeting bunker and construction of huts’. It pointed out that these constructions were only for the FHQu, hence, contrary to what was done at ‘Wolfsschlucht 2’, nothing was to be built to house services of the Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH, Army High Command) or the Reichsführer-SS. Unfortunately, the report does not include a plan of ‘Wolfsschlucht 3’ and no other original

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The decision to build a Führerhauptquartier at Saint-Rimay was influenced by the existence of a railway tunnel which could shelter Hitler’s personal train. The railway line from Blois to Pont de Braye via Vendôme was built in the late 1870s with a tunnel some 510 metres long running beneath a flat ridge near Saint-Rimay. The German surveyors found that both ends of the tunnel lacked the required cover of rock above it to give adequate protection and the Organisation Todt engineers therefore sealed the central part with massive armoured doors. The Führer’s personal train was to halt in between the two. The two doors survived post-war modernisation of the railway network and can still be seen, in perfect state, tucked away in their recesses in the side of the tunnel. Each hinged door measures five metres by five metres, with four-centimetre-thick armoured plate fixed to large ‘I-beams’. A cross beam in the middle reinforces the construction, as does an additional Xshaped structure. This shot shows how one recess was dug into the tunnel wall on one side to fit the door when open, while another recess in the facing wall receives it when it is closed. 44

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The Saint-Rimay station was built close by the southern entrance to the tunnel which is so perfectly straight that one can see right through to the northern exit in the distance. plan of this Führerhauptquartier appears to have survived. Also, no photos of the headquarters taken during the war have been discovered, which is no surprise for one can understand that the Germans would have banned all photography for security reasons. The Schmelcher report stated that the work had used 9,000 cubic metres of concrete and provided 7,000 square metres of useful space. However, only 190 square metres covering two bunkers had been built to ‘Baustärke A’ standard, most of the surface buildings being wooden huts. Some were to house services in the centre of the compound, with additional accommodation for the Flak and security forces all over the place. The entire population of Cherchenois, the hamlet that lay close to the heart of the planned headquarters at the north-eastern entrance of the tunnel, was evacuated, and farmers were provided with passes to enable them to return to work their fields, though they still had to be accompanied by a German guard. Other habitations in the area, even those close to the southern entrance of the tunnel, were not affected. Work started in June 1942 with a workforce of 500, this being increased to 1,000 in July. Later, after an inspection to check on progress by Oberbauleiter Leo Müller, Schmelcher’s deputy, on October 13, the labour force was increased to reach a peak of 2,500 in November, December and January 1943. It then decreased to 1,000 in March and all work finally ceased in August 1943. By then construction of Führerhauptquartier ‘Wolfsschlucht 3’ had involved 400,000 working days. The majority of the labour force was provided by French building firms contracted to the Organisation Todt, and local people recollect it included French, Belgian, Dutch and Italian workers. Some of them were quartered in the Marescot Barracks at Montoire, commuting by train to Saint-Rimay, while others were lodged either at Vendôme, being brought in by rail or road, or billeted locally. The Germans conscripted local manpower to provide the necessary transportation, and each of the villages in the neighbourhood — Thoré-la-Rochette, Saint-Rimay and Houssay — was required to provide 15 men and a horse-drawn cart for three days. Each man was paid 250 francs a day for his service.

The station is now closed, and the railway crossing automated, but the place remains remarkably unchanged after threequarters of a century.

This photo of the northern entrance of the tunnel taken by an unknown photographer in September 1944, only a few weeks after the Germans left, shows the long wooden platform built alongside the track. This was to allow for easier unloading of both the labour force and the construction materials, and for the benefit of Hitler’s entourage alighting there once the construction was completed. On the hillside beyond, above the so-called ‘meeting bunker’, the Germans added huts on each side of an existing small manor house to provide additional office space.

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Right: The railway between Montoire and Vendôme is still in service, though now only as a secondary track for small traffic. Certain sections were refurbished in 2016. Goods trains from the wheat silo in Montoire run once or twice a week while tourist trains, running from May to September, carry over 6,000 passengers annually along the Loir river valley. 45

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BAUSTÄRKE A The most impressive constructions at ‘Wolfsschlucht 3’ were two bunkers built to the ‘Baustärke A’ standard, i.e. with walls and ceilings comprising 3.5 metres of reinforced concrete. These were capable of withstanding the heaviest artillery and direct hits from bombs of up to one ton. Both bunkers were built in the immediate vicinity of the north-eastern entrance of the tunnel. One was the ‘bunker for the Führer’ as it was called in Schmelcher’s report. It was built on the hillside, slightly higher than the railway track, on the right-hand side of the tunnel’s northern entrance (when facing the entrance). A farmhouse that stood on this spot was demolished. The bunker measured 32 metres in length by 18 wide. The entrance to the inner part was through a gas-lock provided by a pair of gas-proof armoured doors, the external door opening onto the long corridor running along the whole length of the bunker, the internal door directly onto the small corridor inside the shelter. It included two toilets and a bathroom with tub. At one end of the bunker was the engine room with two Type HES 2.4 air purifiers (2.4 standing 46

This sketch illustrating what was constructed at ‘Wolfsschlucht 3’ appeared in the report issued in November 1944 by Siegfried Schmelcher, the Senior Construction Engineer of the Führerhauptquartier Project at Organisation Todt (Chefbaumeister der Führerhauptquartieranlagen). The document reported on the 16 various headquarters for Hitler that had by then been built and of the three that were still under construction. As to ‘Wolfsschlucht 3’, the report states that the work had provided 190 square metres of useful space in strong bunkers, 7,000 square metres in wooden huts and had used 9,000 cubic metres of concrete. It indicates that neither Stollen (tunnels), nor Massivhäuser (concrete-reinforced buildings) or ummantelte Barracken (concrete-reinforced huts) were built on the site.

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Sand and gravel was produced locally from pits along the Loir river but supplies of cement, steel and timber were brought in by train. To allow for easier loading and unloading of both the labour force and the construction materials, a temporary wooden platform was built alongside the track at the northeastern end of the tunnel. The Germans used the airstrips located at Houssay and Villiersfaux, five kilometres south-east of Saint-Rimay, to service the headquarters. These airfields had been prepared in the autumn of 1939 for use by squadrons of the RAF that moved to France with the BEF. However, they saw little use, the Fairey Battles of No. 142 Squadron pulling back from Faux-Villecerf to Villiersfaux on June 6, 1940, while No. 150 Squadron was at adjacent Houssay. Both squadrons then operated from there for nine days before leaving for England on June 15. The Germans added some Flak positions around the airfield and a command bunker at La Soivrie. A cave originally used as a mushroom farm had been taken over by the RAF for storage of bombs but these were left in situ and, as of 2018, in spite of legal action by the land-owner, no moves have been made to clear the site.

The report indicated that construction of ‘Wolfsschlucht 3’ had involved 400,000 working days (by comparison, that of ‘Wolfsschlucht 2’ at Margival had involved 2.7 million working days). The sketch shows precisely how work started in June 1942 with a workforce of 500. It then increased to 1,000 in July, 1,500 in September and 2,000 in October, to reach a peak of 2,500 in November, December and January. Work stopped in April to resume in May, finally ceasing in August, although it is possible that this final five-month period just involved the work to dismantle the site.

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Above: A series of aerial photos taken in April 1949 gives an early post-war view. This is the hamlet of Cherchenois covering the area by the headquarters compound. The red rectangles indicate the sites of the huts that were built in 1942 but quickly removed, either by the Germans in 1943 or destroyed by the Americans in 1944. In the top left corner one can see the two large bunkers [1] and [2], the concrete mixing platform [3] and the location of the huts that were built on either side of the manor house. In the centre, the huts were built on a slope with retaining walls on the lower side, most having a cellar that housed the heating installation. The last hut in this series (at the right-hand end) housed the soldier’s mess. At the bottom is the series of huts built along the edge of the wood, hidden under the trees. On the extreme left of the row, a four-metredeep excavation provided a sheltered platform for a large hut, the concrete walls all around being taller than the hut. Right: The excavation is still there today (the tip of wood pointing downward at bottom centre) but nearly filled up with detritus and covered by trees and bushes. In the top right corner, close to the railway line, were the carpentry shop [4] and the material depot [5] where supplies and equipment, particularly the bags of cement, were stored after being unloaded from the nearby railway. 47

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Above: The report by Schmelcher makes it clear that the large ‘Baustärke A’ bunker on the right-hand side of the tunnel’s northern entrance was reserved ‘for the Führer’. The long corridor that ran along the whole length of the bunker had three entrances, a gas-lock giving the only access to the interior. From left to right were situated the engine room [1] with two Type HES 2.4 air purifiers; a toilet [2]; offices [3]; the gas-lock with its pair of gas-proof armoured doors [4]; the bathroom with a tub and another toilet [5], and Hitler’s personal quarters [6]. Outside the bunker, two cellars [7] housed the coal-fired central heating installation. Right: Taken only a short time after the departure of the Germans and the arrival of American troops on August 11, 1944, this photo shows the front entrance to the bunker with the camouflage netting still in place. It also shows how close the bunker was to the tunnel entrance, the railway line actually passing through a cutting in between the bunker and the house in the background.

The bunker was cleared of trees and bushes in 2017, giving Jean-Paul Brillard the opportunity to take this comparison for us. 48

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Right: To the left of the tunnel entrance stands the second bunker of ‘Baustärke A’, equally impressive as the first, which was described in the Schmelcher report as the ‘meeting bunker’. It has two separate entrances in its eastern façade, each with a pair of gas-proof armoured doors. Below: The bunker is divided into four sections. From left to right, the first section [1] housed toilets and the air purification equipment featuring three Type HES 2.4 ventilators/filters. The second room [2], the largest in the bunker measuring six by five metres with no sub-division, would have served as the conference room for Hitler and his generals (although it was never actually used for that purpose). In the next compartment [3] brick walls provided three separate office spaces for adjutants and staff. The last room [4] is symmetrical to that at the other end and the remains of cables in one corner indicate that it most probably housed the electric plant.

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The tour organised by the Hist’Orius association (see page 55) takes in the interior of each of the two ‘Baustärke A’ bunkers. 49

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This odd-looking platform, 20 metres long and 8 metres wide, still stands only a few hundred metres from the two large

bunkers. Local people say that it was used to accommodate a row of large concrete mixers.

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for the volume of air in cubic metres that it could process per minute). This bunker had central heating, the installation being housed in two cellars outside the bunker, one for the solid-fuel boiler, the other for storage of coal, both being accessed via a stairway. Built on the left-hand side of the tunnel entrance, slightly lower than the railway line track, the second ‘Baustärke A’ bunker was described as the ‘meeting bunker’. This measured 30 metres by 15 metres with two separate entrances with gas-proof armoured doors. The bunker was divided into four sections. One of these, at one end, was for the air purification equipment. 50

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Centre right: The sewage farm was located at the bottom of the wooded slope, less than 300 metres north-west from the two main bunkers. In 1949 (above) the ditch which ran straight to discharge into the Loir river was still clearly visible. Right: Some 200 metres further along the edge of the wood was a light bunker housing the electric generators. It remained abandoned for decades but the owner, concerned at the danger created by the decaying structure, had it demolished in 2011.

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TELEPHONE BUNKER

At Les Coutils, about one kilometre south-east of the main compound, was the bunker housing the telephone and teleprinter exchange. With concrete walls and roof 70cm thick, it measures 42 metres by 12.6 metres and provided about 20

rooms for the operators on each side of a central corridor on the ground floor, including a dining room and toilets. The basement, six by 12 metres, housed the cables distribution frames and central heating.

It is unclear whether the internal furnishing of these bunkers was completed when work was suspended in August 1943 but a report dated March 6 that year stated that ‘just like in Vinnitsa’ (see After the Battle No. 171), the interior walls of the bunkers in ‘W 3’ must be clad with untreated wood only ‘since, for reasons of health, varnished wood is not conducive for the Führer and his staff’. Additional office and service buildings were built close by the two bunkers. Several wooden huts were erected in the hamlet of Cherchenois, while many of the existing buildings were taken over.

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OTHER CONSTRUCTIONS A third large bunker was built south-east of the centre to house the telephone and teleprinter exchange. This had thinner walls and roof only 70cm thick. It measured 42 metres by 12.6 metres and provided about 20 rooms on each side of a central corridor on the ground floor and had a large basement. In addition to the telephone and teleprinter equipment, it housed two generators, while other rooms provided offices, a dining room and toilets.

The Germans set fire to the installations before they abandoned the site and, although the flames destroyed the bunker’s sloping

roof, the concrete roof underneath survived. The bunker now remains in relatively good shape and is accessible. 51

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At Villavard, on the south-western side of the complex, this Flak position appears to be one of the most elaborate on the site, comprising several gun positions and many huts for the crews.

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As the French network of telephone trunk lines was not available in this remote rural area, new cables had to be laid. By the end of 1942, the 70-kilometre-long stretch between ‘Wolfsschlucht 3’ and Le Mans, and the 55kilometre-long stretch between ‘Wolfsschlucht 3’ and Tours, had been finished, and work was proceeding on the section between ‘Wolfsschlucht 3’ and Orléans. By the time construction was suspended in August 1943, ‘Wolfsschlucht 3’ could access the French network at three points and from there connect to the Reich. Another lighter bunker, eight metres long and five metres wide, was built in the woods north-west of the FHQu to house generators. A sewage farm, discharging into the Loir river, was added to deal with waste water. On top of the hill, four large concrete underground reservoirs were built, in two identical pairs, fed by water pumped from local springs. Total capacity was nearly 500 cubic metres. One of the best-preserved constructions to be seen today is a large platform, 20 metres long and eight metres wide, standing some two metres above ground. Located near the two main bunkers, it is believed to have been built as a hardstand for six large concrete mixers. A large number of wooden huts were built all over the site, some in the HQ part of the compound to provide offices, storage, and services and accommodation for the staff. Other hutments were spread out in the various Flak emplacements to serve as barracks for the gun crews. The total number of huts was about 100, which is consistent with the Schmelcher report which recorded the constructions at ‘Wolfsschlucht 3’ provided 7,000 square metres of useful space. These huts were all of the same type with a central corridor running from one end to the other giving access to rooms on each side. There was a brick chimney for a stove and the walls and roof were insulated with glass wool. The huts were painted grey and were camouflaged under netting. Each hut was built on a cement base and was surrounded by a concrete wall higher than the hut and banked with earth for blast protection. There was a passageway about one-metre-wide in between the huts and the blast walls. Numerous anti-aircraft emplacements were to be built on the heights around the site to protect the Führerhauptquartier against air attack: the main ones were at Villavard in the south, Les Roches in the west, Fouassay and Les Bordes in the north, and at Saint-Nicolas, La Cave Brune, Les Grandes Vignes, Croix du Bourger and La Conivardière at Saint-Rimay

Although nothing remains to be seen from the air today, the aerial cover from 1949 shows what could then still be seen of the flak positions protecting the headquarters.

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At Saint-Rimay, a short distance east of the southern entrance of the tunnel, the Flak position at La Cave Brune also comprised the anti-aircraft battery’s command post.

When the farmers were able to return to their land, they worked hard to clear away all the German constructions and fill in the excavations remaining. The whole site is now back to peaceful agriculture.

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itself. However, only some had been completed when the whole plan was dropped. On the Flak sites, the huts were generally built in groups of three, some in their own excavation within the blast walls, while sometimes all three huts were installed on the same base. The German engineers also planned to protect the headquarters with barbed wire and foxholes, but this work had barely started before construction at ‘Wolfsschlucht 3’ was stopped.

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At Les Bordes, some 4.5 kilometres to the north-east of the complex, this large Flak site comprised five-gun emplacement with a command post and six huts.

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All that remains to be seen today are tell-tale patches of vegetation isolated in the middle of fields.

THE END In spite of all the work and effort spent on building the complex, it was never used for its intended purpose. From mid-August 1943, the same companies that had built the huts returned to begin carefully dismantling them. Wood frames, windows and doors, including fixtures and fittings like water pipes and electrical appliances, were all carefully loaded on lorries and taken away. Anything that could not be removed was burned on the spot. All that remained were the concrete foundations and the brick chimneys. All the huts in the Flak emplacements were cleared though those in the central part of the compound were left. It is estimated that over two-thirds of all the huts built were thus removed. German engineers also removed all the telephone cables and lines they had laid down. Immediately upon receiving news of the Allied landings on the Normandy coast on June 6, 1944, the local OT management team, ‘Atlas’, took over at ‘Wolfsschlucht 3’, a possible indication that they had orders to prepare the installation for Hitler’s arrival. In the event the Allies made such substantial territorial gains during the first month that Hitler would not risk placing himself so far west. He did not even occupy his ‘Wolfsschlucht 2’ headquarters near Soissons, only visiting it for one day on June 17 to confer with Field Marshals Erwin Rommel and Gerd von Rundstedt about the Normandy front. Unlike many of the other Führer headquarters, the Germans did not carry out wholesale demolitions of the site before withdrawing on August 11, simply blowing the power station and setting fire to the telecommunication centre. At around 3 p.m. that same day, three Jeeps from the 22nd Field Artillery Battalion, 4th Armored Division, of the US Third Army entered Montoire from the north-west. The various constructions in the HQ part of the compound were all still intact, including internal furnishings like beds, drawers, desks and crockery, and a visitor just after the German departure described how a small

Left: At Fouassay, some 1,8 kilometres north of the HQ compound, on the far bank of the Loir River, another Flak site appears to comprise a single emplacement with a command

post and three huts. Right: Two excavations still remain on the southern side of the site, one of them wholly covered by trees and bushes. 53

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JEAN-PAUL BRILLARD

existing manor had been nicely renovated with the oak flooring and the old wooden beams cleaned. Huts were added on each side of the manor house, while more huts were built further down the slope on different levels. The quality of the interior fitting was seen to be impressive. There were large numbers of electric plug sockets, fashionable lighting globes; plenty of wash basins with hot and cold water, toilets and bathrooms, and central heating. The interior was painted in a light cream colour. Inevitably looting began to remove anything that had been left behind by the Germans, so guards had to be posted to control the compound. With American support, the mayor of Saint-Rimay recovered what he could of the German furniture and artefacts to put them up for auction. The money thus obtained was then distributed to those villagers who had suffered the most from the German occupation activities. American technicians began to repair the communication network although it is unclear how far the work progressed. Meanwhile, the Americans decided to demolish all the huts still standing, using German POW labour, and have all that remained burned on the spot. The clearance work was finished in October 1944 and by the end of the year the Americans had departed.

HIST’ORIUS

Left: Being located close to the two large bunkers and the odd platform, the Flak position at la Croix du Bourger was one of the constructions in the ‘Wolfsschlucht 3’ site that first aroused interest in the 1990s. It comprised a 6.5 by 7metre-wide platform for an 88mm Flak gun, with a 3.5-metre-wide sloping entrance to bring the gun down into position (top left in the 1949 aerial). In both the left and right-hand side walls, niches about 1.5 metres deep were provided to store ammunition. Beside the emplacement, a 3.2-metre-deep pit, 9 metres wide by 14 metres long, was provided for a 7 by 12-metre hut (bottom right in the aerial). Above right: After the site was abandoned to nature, it was progressively engulfed by vegetation with the excavations used as convenient rubbish pits. The Hist’Orius Historic Association laboured hard for four months in early 2017 to clear the position. Right: The gun platform, with its sloped entrance, then appeared in a perfect state of conservation, almost as if it had just been built.

The foundation of the hut nearby also emerged in perfect shape, the spot where it had stood being clearly visible in the centre, as well as the concrete passageway that ran all around between the hut and the protecting walls.

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HIST’ORIUS

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JEAN-PAUL BRILLARD

JEAN-PAUL BRILLARD

The Hist’Orius association organises visits to the Führerhauptquartier, twice a month from June to October and once a month from February through May. For groups over ten persons, a special tour can be organised at any time by prior arrangement. The two large bunkers at the northern entrance of the tunnel are included in the tour, as well as a visit to the interior of the railway tunnel to inspect the armoured doors. Above left: Jean Pierre Gort briefs a group in front of the northern entrance before entering the tunnel. The telecommunications bunker (see page 51) is another viewpoint of the tour as well as the three ammunition depots dug into the hillside above the bunker, each with two entrances like this one (above right). Right: Also included are hut platforms on top of the hill above Le Côteau de Fleurigny (bottom right in the aerial on page 47.) To check the dates of the tours, contact the tourist office at Montoire-sur-le-Loir: [email protected]

Left: At the edge of the wood, the blast walls still survive today, in remarkably good condition. At this one, the protecting walls, which are about 2.2 metres high, provided a platform measuring 7.4 metres by 10.4 metres. Its entrance

shows a surprisingly elaborate structure with overhanging porch. Right: Each hut had a stove with a brick chimney but most of them are now lying broken on the ground. We found this one still standing in the wood. 55