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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“Verdammt! Was nun?”

A narrow dirt road, a soft road shoulder, a 10,5-cm leichte Feldhaubitze 18 weighing some two tons ends up in the ditch. No way the 17 soldiers will get the howitzer back on its wheels and hitched to the limber again. They’ll have to wait for a half-tracked tractor to pull it right. The body language of the artillerymen tells that they realise that there isn’t much they can do. Or is it? We will never know how they got the gun back on the road. One or two of the men in the photo might still be alive. They’ve seen things ordinary people wouldn’t believe. Tanks on fire in the fields near Kursk. They’ve watched tracers glitter in the dark in the Korsun Pocket. All those moments will be lost in time, like snow in the spring. Too few are still alive.

Just a flesh wound

Two soldiers and a an NCO posing next to a sign saying “Leichtkranken-Lazarett“, Eastern Front, winter of 1941-42. A Leichtkranken-[Kriegs]lazarett was a hospital behind the frontlines, where lightly wounded or those with a light illness were treated. They were expected to return to their units as soon as possible. For more serious cases, there were the Kriegslazarett, and also the hospitals back home. There was a total of 68 field hospital batallions, each fielding two field hospitals for severe cases and two field hospitals for lightly wounded, with a capacity of 1,000 patients for each Kriegslazarett.

In the case of a field hospital for lightly wounded, the staff consisted of 34 men: a chief physician, 2 ward doctors, 2 assistant doctors, a pharmacist with one assistant, a Sergeant major, 4 station supervisors (1 also serving as disinfector and bath overseer), a maintenance technician, 2 clerks, 2 medical corporals for the X-ray machines, 3 paramedic NCOs (1 for surgeon service, 1 for X-ray service, 1 barber), 2 more clerks, a cobbler, a carpenter, a bricklayer, a blacksmith, an MC driver, 4 truck drivers, and 2 cooks.

The field hospitals had much to do, but every time there was a major offensive or battle, their capacity was strained to the limit. Many hundreds of thousands of patients passed through them during the war, and countless soldiers had them to thank for their survival.

And now a reminder of…

The Grand World War 2 in Photos Contest!

This is my 200th post, and it’s time to celebrate with something special! Why not a little contest? As you might have noticed, I like to make puns and references to movies, books, and songs, and a number of the headlines in my posts are just that. So the challenge is the following: find as many of those puns and references you can. The three best contestants will win genuine German photos from WW2.

The rules:

  1. The contest ends on 31 December 2017, 24:00 CET.
  2. To enter, the contestant has to register as a follower of this blog. A contestant cannot enter more than once. Failing to register as a follower or trying to enter more than once are grounds for disqualification.
  3. The contestant who can identify the greatest number of sources for my puns and references will win. Two more contestants will win the 2nd and 3rd prizes.
  4. Points are scored by properly identifying the source or inspiration for a blog post headline. This could be a book, movie, TV series, song, or game. There are about 40 such headlines, counting from the beginning to 2 December, 2017. Any post made during the time for the contest (3 – 31 December, 2017) aren’t part of it and doesn’t count towards that total. Each correct answer scores one point.
  5. A post headline were the source is identified in the post doesn’t count. (Example: “Kiss Me Goodnight Sergeant Major”, as the song is clearly mentioned in that post.)
  6. Write down the headline of the post and what you believe is the inspiration or source for the pun or reference. (Example: If there’s a blog post about field bakeries in WW2 named “The Baked and the Bread”, the answer should include that headline and the source, which is the novel “The Naked and the Dead” by Norman Mailer.)
  7. Make a single list of your answers and send it to bjorn.hellqvist[at]comhem.se before the contest ends. Once the answers have been submitted, you can’t make additions to the list.

The 1st prize is 30 photos, the 2nd prize is 20 photos, and the 3rd prize is 10 photos, worth about 5 USD/Euro per 10 photos (sorry, no photos of tanks or other cool stuff). If two or more contestants get the same score, they’ll receive an equal number of photos. Two 1st prize winners get 25 photos each, the 3rd winner gets 10, or in the case of two 2nd prize winners, the 1st prize is 30 photos and the two 2nd prizes 15 photos each. If all three get the same score, they’ll win 20 photos each. In case there are more than three contestants with the same scores, those who sent in their answers first will win.

Good luck!

Joining the fray

By their looks, the soldiers in the photo are probably reservists, born 1897-1900, and called up in August, 1939. The photo could be from the winter of 1939-40, during the lull in the hostilities known as “the Phoney War”. Some of the men could be WW1 veterans if they turned 20 years old before that war ended. They were probably conscripted before the limitations of the Treaty of Versailles went into effect, but it’s possible that some of them are Zwölfenders, soldiers who had signed on for 12 years in the 100,000-man Reichswehr. On average, slightly less than 5 % of those year classes died in the war, indicating that most of them served in second line units or as occupation troops.

And now…

The Grand World War 2 in Photos Contest!

This is my 200th post, and it’s time to celebrate with something special! Why not a little contest? As you might have noticed, I like to make puns and references to movies, books, and songs, and a number of the headlines in my posts are just that. So the challenge is the following: find as many of those puns and references you can. The three best contestants will win genuine German photos from WW2.

The rules:

  1. The contest ends on 31 December 2017, 24:00 CET.
  2. To enter, the contestant has to register as a follower of this blog. A contestant cannot enter more than once. Failing to register as a follower or trying to enter more than once are grounds for disqualification.
  3. The contestant who can identify the greatest number of sources for my puns and references will win. Two more contestants will win the 2nd and 3rd prizes.
  4. Points are scored by properly identifying the source or inspiration for a blog post headline. This could be a book, movie, TV series, song, or game. There are about 40 such headlines, counting from the beginning to 2 December, 2017. Any post made during the time for the contest (3 – 31 December, 2017) aren’t part of it and doesn’t count towards that total. Each correct answer scores one point.
  5. A post headline were the source is identified in the post doesn’t count. (Example: “Kiss Me Goodnight Sergeant Major”, as the song is clearly mentioned in that post.)
  6. Write down the headline of the post and what you believe is the inspiration or source for the pun or reference. (Example: If there’s a blog post about field bakeries in WW2 named “The Baked and the Bread”, the answer should include that headline and the source, which is the novel “The Naked and the Dead” by Norman Mailer.)
  7. Make a single list of your answers and send it to bjorn.hellqvist[at]comhem.se before the contest ends. Once the answers have been submitted, you can’t make additions to the list.

The 1st prize is 30 photos, the 2nd prize is 20 photos, and the 3rd prize is 10 photos, worth about 5 USD/Euro per 10 photos (sorry, no photos of tanks or other cool stuff). If two or more contestants get the same score, they’ll receive an equal number of photos. Two 1st prize winners get 25 photos each, the 3rd winner gets 10, or in the case of two 2nd prize winners, the 1st prize is 30 photos and the two 2nd prizes 15 photos each. If all three get the same score, they’ll win 20 photos each. In case there are more than three contestants with the same scores, those who sent in their answers first will win.

Good luck!

Artillery in high places

A group of Gebirgsjäger looking at a 7,5-cm-Gebirgsgeschütz 36 L/19,3. The elite mountain rangers were rated as light infantry, as they couldn’t bring heavy vehicles or weapons with them in the mountains. What couldn’t be carried by the men had to be carried by mules, and that meant that heavier weapons must be able to be broken down in smaller loads. The 7.5-cm mountain gun 36 L/19.3 was developed between 1935 and 1938 by the arms manufacturer Rheinmetall, and introduced in 1940/41. It was a welcome addition to the arsenal of the Gebirgsjäger units, as it provided firepower in places where every advantage was needed and regular artillery couldn’t reach.

The 7,5-cm-Gebirgsgeschütz 36 soon became the standard weapon of the mountain artillery due to its good ballistic properties in both low and high trajectories, and was used by light mountain batteries until the end of the war. The 750 kg gun could be pulled by a couple of mules, or broken up in eight loads weighing 80-116 kilograms to be carried by mules with special pack saddles. It was served by a crew of five, and could fire six to eight 6 kg shells a minute up to 9.250 meters. The guns were used in batteries of four guns each.

Hermann Göring’s Workout Book

An NCO puts four Luftwaffe soldiers (one is obscured by him) through some physical training. The second guy from the right, a Gefreiter, holds an MP 40 submachine gun, the rest Kar 98k rifles. The photo appears to have been taken in the Netherlands in 1940, but with no note on the back or any real telltale signs, it’s impossible to really know. Still, it’s a fun photo.

Fieldworks, part 5: Can you dig it?

When taking up static positions, a good dugout is a must. The Red Army artillery was feared for the heavy barrages it delivered, so it was prudent to dig in as soon as possible. The Germans were known for well-built, cosy (relatively) dugouts, a craft that appears to have originated in WW1. A half-squad dugout was 3.1 x 3.9 meters, with 2 meters from floor to ceiling. Walls and floor were covered with boards like in the photo above or built from logs (like a loghouse), while the roof consisted of c. 30 cms thick logs in two layers (one single layer and a double layer with the logs crosswise) with 40-50 cms of earth between them, and then a meter of dirt on top of it all. That gave decent protection against most artillery shells.

Inside, there were bunk beds, a table, chairs or stools, a stove for heating and simple cooking, a weapons rack, and a radio (if available). Candles and kerosene lanterns provided lighting, and in some cases electrical lighting. Dugouts varied in size and layout depending on what they were used for, like headquarters, cooking, etc. Soldiers tended to add personal items like photos of girlfriends in order to make the dugout more like a home. If they were to spend time living underground, they wanted to do the best of it.