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Fallschirmjaeger EK documents


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Here are a couple to set the ball rolling.

Robert Kohnen's document bears a manuscript Student signature. His EKI was certainly for Crete as the 2. Kompanie did not participate in the jump over the Corinth Canal.

2./Fallschirm-Sanit?ts-Abt 7 jumped to the west of Heraklion, near Gazi, with III./Fallschirmj?ger-Rgt 1 on May 20th 1941 as part of Gruppe Ost. The company commander was Stabsarzt Dr. Carl Langemeyer, who would later win the DKiG and the RK.

The clerical error is interesting in that the unit had been redesignated Fallschirm.Sanit?ts.Abteilung. XI.Flieger-Korps in October 1940. Obergefreiter and Kriegsberichter Finkler jumped with 2./Fallschirm-Sanit?ts-Abt 7 and took many photos of the 2. Kompanie during the battle. Some of these can be seen in Jean-Yves Nasse's excellent book Fallschirmj?ger en Cr?te.

The Fallschirm-Sanit?ts-Abt returned to their base in Brandenburg after Crete and remained there until their departure for Russia at the end of the year. Decorations were awarded while the Fallschirmj?ger were still on the island of Crete after the battle but many awards were also made back at their bases in Germany in June and July.

Edited by PKeating
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An EK2 document to a Senior NCO serving with 1. Fallschirm-Korps in Italy with rare hand signature of corps commander Alfred Schlemm and bearing his headquarters stamp. 1. FK were defending the Gothic Line in northern Italy at this time. Schlemm held the RK, DKiG, Knight?s Cross of the Hohenzollern House Order and a host of other awards. Schlemm signed this document just before handing over to Generalleutnant Richard Heidrich in Northern Italy and moving to Holland, where he ended up as commander of 1. Fallschirm-Armee before being wounded and captured in March 1945. He died in 1986. Schlemm was widely suspected of condoning if not sanctioning the war crimes committed in Tuscany by 4. Fallschirmj?ger-Division and the Hermann G?ring Division in the summer of 1944. Schlemm signatures are rarely encountered.

PK

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Erwin Forkel received the EK1 for the Sicily campaign whilst serving as an Oberj?ger with 10./Fallschirm-Artillierie-Rgt 1. This document is shown on Page 93 of Bender?s The IRON CROSS of 1939 by Gordon Williamson and is just about to wing its way to Daniele Tirelli, who bought the Forkel group from me to reunite it with Erwin Forkel's photograph album, a rare victory against the group-splitters. The document bears a facsimile Heidrich signature.

PK

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Sometimes you get lucky because the family is still alive and can give you some details, or the WASt chooses to be forthcoming, but in the main, working out the story behind German award documents is a process of informed guesswork involving close study and research of the man's unit(s) and an appreciation of how long it might take for a given award to be approved.

With the document below, to Otto Bracht of the 2nd Airlanding Squadron, it would have been hard were the document found by itself. Handsigned by Generalleutnant Walter Lackner, in charge of the Fallschirm-Armee-Oberkommando in the southern French town of Nancy, the document presents several possibilities. Dated 6.6.1944, a link with the Normandy Landings is clearly ruled out. In any case, there would have been no reason for Otto Bracht to be anywhere near Normandy, even if the German administrative machine were fast enough to get his document processed the same day!

At the time, 3./LLG2 were flying Heinkel IIIs and Go242 gliders and had been based with the rest of the Gruppe at Hagenau in Germany from September 1943 to June 1944, when they moved to Nancy. Prior to that, they had been in Istres, in southern France, and had participated in the Sicily airlifts in July 1943, flying out of Naples and other airfields in Catania. Eleven months would be a tad long for Bracht's EK2 to come through.

It occurred to me that the Germans had been obliged to make quite an effort to find pilots and aircraft for the raid on Tito's headquarters at Drvar in May 1944 and that they might have taken pilots like Bracht from units in reserve or training in Germany and France. Moreover, having seen other Drvar award documents dated 6.6.1944, it was a possible fit, even though one might have expected such an award to come through the headquarters running the Tito operation rather than the FSAOK.

PK

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And then, whilst researching Luftwaffe KB images held in the French military archives in Paris (ECPAD) for a book that never was, I came across a photo of Bracht, taken by the man reposing under this grave marker in the Ukraine. Ufz und Kriegsberichter Eugen Gremelbacher of the Fallschirm-Propaganda-Kompanie (Now, there's an obscure unit for you, Paul!) was KIA on 8.3.1944.

PK

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The photograph I found in the French ECPA-D archives at Fort d?Ivry of Otto Bracht in combat kit was from a roll of film shot by Gremelsbacher in the Ukraine sometime during the winter of 1943/44. 2. Fallschirmj?ger-Division had been transferred from Italy to the southern sector of the Eastern Front in November 1943. To be more precise, some elements of 2. FJD had been transferred to Shitomir, the rest being sent off as cadre for the newly-forming 4. FJD.

The heavily understrength division, comprising I./FJR2, III./FJR2, IV./FJR2, II./FJR5 and some supporting arms, fought at Shitomir and then at Kirovograd in January 1944. Retreating through Krioj Rog, Uman, Novgorodka and Kiev, April 1944 found the remnants of 2. FJD in the Kishinev zone, from where they were moved back to Germany for R&R and thence to Western France, ending up eventually in Brest with Ramcke.

Here is the photo in question, along with Bracht's Military Glider Pilot Licence (very rare document) and the EK2 document. So, as much as I would dearly love this EK2 document to have been for the raid on Drvar, I am more inclined to believe it to have been awarded for combat on the ground during the withdrawal through the Ukraine with 2. FJD.

That said, it could have been for Drvar. But as Herr Bracht is dead and nobody in the family can tell me if he was ever in the Balkans, I have run up against the proverbial brick wall on that one. The only hope is to study more SS-KB photos of the LW glider pilots on the ground during the battle on May 25/26 1944 in the hope of spotting a shy-looking chap in spectacles! I haven't seen him in any of the photos I've looked at yet.

So, there are two possibilities: Bracht?s EK2 could have been for something he did when on the ground with 2. FJD in the southern USSR after airlanding reinforcements or supplies, perhaps during the Battle of Kirovograd, or it could have been for the Battle of Drvar on 25/26.5.1944. The OKW issued their Drvar communiqu? on 6.6.1944 and awards were made for Drvar on and around that date.

If seconded to pilot a DFS 230 into Drvar, Bracht would have come from Hagenau and would have been back there by the evening of 26.5.1944 or the following day and from there to Istres when news of the Allied landings broke. Although LLG2 was primarily equipped with the huge Gotha 242 gliders, they also flew DFS 230s and Bracht would have been DFS 230-qualified.

As far as I know, glider pilots and other attached personnel were evacuated from Drvar shortly after the end of the battle on the morning of 26.5.1944. So his EK2 might have been for Drvar but issued by the FS-AOK in Nancy, on 6.6.1944 along with other awards. The Luftwaffe awardee lists would have been telegrammed or telexed to local Luftwaffe headquarters so it would make sense, especially as it is handsigned by Lackner. However, I tend to think Bracht's EK2 was for actions in southern Russia with 2. FJD. Drvar seems too good to be true, which means it probably is too good to be true.

Anyway, I hope this little digression will prove useful to anyone considering the collection and study of award documents. It sometimes involves a lot of study, detective work, analysis and no small amount of luck. But it can be very rewarding.

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wonderful progression from documents/details to a story with

a name and face!

that face.... the picture in the last grouping is one i've seen before

and have always been thoroughly intrigued by. a face that's seen a hundred years

compressed into 3 or 4.....

was Herr Brecht KIA?

fascinating thread!

joe

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wonderful progression from documents/details to a story with

a name and face!

that face.... the picture in the last grouping is one i've seen before

and have always been thoroughly intrigued by. a face that's seen a hundred years

compressed into 3 or 4.....

was Herr Brecht KIA?

fascinating thread!

joe

My dear Joe,

Otto Bracht survived the war and became a fairly prominent figure in postwar gliding in the BRD. His name comes up on relevant websites if you Google him.

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  • 2 weeks later...

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