Hogging it

Somewhere  on the Eastern Front, mid-february 1943. German soldiers are apparently “procuring” a pig, which runs the risk of ending up at pork chops, roasts, and sausages. A couple of months earlier, those same troops were probably looking for a goose – or in a pinch a duck – for their Christmas dinner. It wasn’t without risk, though. Those Germans who ended up as prisoners of war, and who were found out to have engaged in theft of property of the Soviet state (like the pig above), could get several years added to their involuntary stay in the USSR.

Fresh meat was an appreciated addition to the diet on the frontline. Unless it was an army horse finally giving in to the hardships, or a wild animal, it meant that some Soviet farmer (or kolhoz) lost a cow, or sheep, or brace of chickens. As the Soviet civilians fared badly under the occupation, losing the one cow that could give milk was a serious matter. Later, when the Red Army harried the collapsing Reich, German farmers got to experience what the people under German occupation had endured for years.

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Gone to ground

A German cavalry unit has come across the wreck of a Soviet Tupolev SB 2M light bomber, its landing gear and engines ripped off in the crash landing. The location is somewhere in the Soviet Union, most likely during the first weeks of Operation Barbarossa. The Red Army Air Force suffered heavy losses, and it took the Soviets a couple of years before they had wrested air superiority from the Germans.

The Tupolev ANT-40, also known by its service name Tupolev SB (Russian: Skorostnoi Bombardirovschik – high speed bomber), was a twin-engined three-seat light bomber, first flown in 1934. More than 6,600 were built in different versions between 1936 and 1941. The rapid development of fighter planes made the design, which was considered successful in the mid-30s, in need of replacement by the early 1940’s. Still, 94 % of the Soviet bomber force was made up from SB 2Ms by the time of the German invasion in June, 1941, some 1,500-2,000 deployed near the border, where they fell victim to German attacks on airfields. Those that survived the initial onslaught were poorly used, and within a few days, losses forced most of the remaining SBs to switch to night attacks.

SBs continued to be used, in the defense of Leningrad and Moscow, mainly at night by attacking German artillery. By December 1941 almost all of the SBs had either been replaced by more modern bombers like Pe-2s or lost, although it remained in large-scale use until March 1942 in the North against Finland. The Finns used captured SBs against their previous owners. SBs continued in use for non-combat roles such as supply dropping, glider towing and training, and continued in use in the Far East until 1945.

Beep, beep, jeep, sheep

Rush hour in the pasture. A mittlerer ge­län­de­gängiger Personenkraftwagen (“medium cross-coun­try personnel car”), or “Kfz. 11” for short, is held up by a flock of sheep. When the German Army began expanding in 1935, the need for standardized cars with off-road capacity became apparent. The first light off-road passenger cars were delivered by Stoewer in 1936, followed in 1937 by the first medium and in 1938 by the first heavy models. The problems stacked up quickly – high costs, complex production, and manufacturers unable to meet the production goals. The Wehrmacht had to source 60% of their requirements elsewhere, converting regular civilian cars to military use, as well as employing requisitioned and captured civilian cars. This in turn led to many problems with maintenance, supply and training.

The different branches of the military complained that the Einheits-Pkw (standard passenger car) were also flawed designs largely unfit for wartime service, a serious drawback to say the least. Not even after simplifications were implemented in 1940 were the many shortcomings solved. Their complex designs and the excessive wear and tear aside, all types were mainly criticized for their high weight, which in turn meant a high fuel consumption and led to many breakdowns. Production of the three types ceased in 1942, 1943 and 1941, respectively. Their roles were in large parts taken over by the VW Kübelwagen.

Dog of war

Something for you dog lovers this time. This Luftwaffe Unteroffizier (corporal) seems to love his (or his unit’s) dachshund. It isn’t possible to determine the branch he serves in, but at least he isn’t aircrew, as his collar patch would be lighter. The dachshund was bred to flush out badgers (German: Dachs), but this one is probably kept as a mascot and for company.

A boy and his cat (and soldier father)

It’s Caturday again, and the son of that Luftwaffe soldier is so proud of his cat, that he wants it in the family photo. The soldier himself appears to belong to a ground unit, possibly an antiaircraft unit. He also seems a bit older, probably in his 30’s. Family photos are common among soldiers’ photos, and while they aren’t that interesting from a military aspect, they meant a lot to the people in the photographs. Sometimes a collector stumbles on a photo that has something extra, making it a keeper. This is one of those.

Got milk?

Nothing like a bucket of fresh milk, even if it’s from a Soviet cowmunist… German signals troops supplementing their food and arsenal, Eastern Front, 1941. The soldier on the left holds a Soviet SVT-40 semi-automatic rifle, while the guy on the right carries a Mosin-Nagant M1891/30 bolt-action rifle, which was the standard rifle of the Red Army. The SVT-40 was supposed to replace it, but the huge losses in weapons in 1941 prompted production of the simpler Mosin-Nagant. Besides, the SVT-40 suffered from precision issues, both in manufacture and shooting. Still, some German soldiers liked the ten-round magazine, which held twice the amount of rounds compared to the Mauser Kar98k.

The Mosin-Nagant was a typical bolt-action rifle, with no special traits that would make German soldiers want to use it instead of their Mausers. The PPsH-41 submachinegun, on the other hand, found favour with German troops with its 71-round drum magazine. Ironically, Soviet reconnaisance troops liked the German MP-40 because how how well manufactured it was. As in all times and armies, the grass is always greener on the other side…

Tiny Tiger

As I post this on a Saturday – also known as “Caturday” – and the Internet is primarily for pictures of cats, I want to share this photo of a tiny but ferocious kitten challenging a little puppy. The two soldiers evidently have differing preferences in pets. Soldiers have brought pets along on campaigns for centuries, as companions, mascots, and for tasks like catching rats. It wasn’t just cats or dogs, but also more exotic animals, like bears and lions. Taking care of a small animal provided some distraction and comfort, though, supplying a small measure of normalcy in the chaos of war.

They are all reclining on a triangular Zeltbahn, which could be used as a poncho, or buttoned together with other Zeltbähne to make a shelter, small tent, or even a larger tent. I will post other photos, where we will be able to see how that piece of equipment was put to use.