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Interview with a Pz.IV Gunner pt.2 - D-Day


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Waelwulf #1 Posted Oct 19 2013 - 20:36

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Continuing from this thread: http://forum.worldof...day-background/

I decided to cut this part out of the battles with the Canadians since he wasn't involved in any direct fighting June 6th. That way the combat and equipment observations are nicely separate, and this just seems to fit in a bit more with pt.1.

As before lets keep the discussion constructive and if there are questions PM and I might be able to answer them. If there are problems let the mods know.

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D-DAY

Once you got back to your tank what was the mood? What actions did you take?
It took us about 45 minutes running in the dark being scared of every shadow to get back through all the very jumpy sentries. We all raced to our tanks or defensive positions because we knew this was the invasion.
How so?
The British wouldn’t throw away airborne on a raid this far inland. If the infantry were under attack by airborne this was the beginning of the invasion.
Okay back to the tank what was going on?
Herbert our driver had fired up the engine and pull the panzer forward next to a low wall and out of the tree we were using as air cover. He did this to give the turret more room to maneuver the gun. Kurt the radio man was completely absorbed in his sets madly switching channels to try and find out more about what was going on.  Karl our loader was actually up the nearby tree to get a better vantage point and he was yelling down how the whole horizon to the north was being lit with flashes. It was then that I noticed the low growling thunder and it hit me that the constant noise was a massive aerial bombardment, the sound was so constant we didn’t even here the planes passing overhead after their bombing runs. Our commander Peter was apparently off at a situation meeting or briefing. Once I was sure the panzer was ready to go I ran off to grab extra food and extra ammo for our MP40s.
What next?
When I got back to the panzer Peter was back and he confirmed this was it and that we were all to be ready to move in a minute’s notice. We sat there for an anxious hour or hour and a half listening to confused battle traffic on the radio when Kurt managed to find something. Finally around 03:00 we received word that the 21st Panzer had found and engaged British airborne elements and our battalion was ordered to move out to secure their flank from a possible second airborne unit. The rest of our division was to hold in place until orders from high command came in.
You fought British paratroopers that morning?
No. <laughs> We fought British mannequins that night. The British had dropped dummy paratroopers in different areas to confuse us and tie us up chasing shadows. It took us about until about 05:00 to confirm the area and the 21st flank was secure. The sky was just starting to lighten with the dawn and then truly  the might of the Allies came down on us, as now ground attack planes and light bombers began their near constant harassment of anything they could find. We could see the Flak of the 21st defending their positions while artillery gently began to thump on British Airborne positions, while off towards the beaches we could hear the beginning of the naval bombardment. The radio traffic from the beaches rapidly lost it’s professional tone and you could hear the panic in the defenders voices reporting what was coming towards them. I think every panzer was listening in even though we were ordered not to as we returned to the Division. You couldn’t help but listen with shock and horror as slowly different transmissions started screaming in desperation then went silent one by one.
What could you hear the defenders reporting?
They were reporting that cruisers and battleships were just firing non-stop at the defenses and that the sky was black with planes. I vividly remember one describing the Allied planes like a flock of sparrows, just too many to count or even take in. Others were reporting that the horizon was full of ships and that all of them were firing and the smaller ones were getting closer and closer. We thought it was the British attacking the beach in our sector because some frequencies were actually broadcasting bagpipes. We got back to the Division right around the same time we started hearing of confused and panicked reports of landing craft actually firing artillery and tanks coming out of the water. We thought the 1st radio operator had lost his mind then others started reporting the same thing. When the men hit the beach we heard a different song being played on the radio broadcast and broadcast over the Battalion net “Oh Hell it’s the Canadians”. I vividly remember that. I learned later he recognized ‘The Maple Leaf Forever’ being broadcast.
Really?
Yes. Like I said before Hans (Sturmbannfuhrer Hans Siegel) had always been fascinated by the Canadians in the Great War, I think because some of his family had faced them and been taken prisoner at Passchendaele. Our Battalion were quite familiar with the Canadians in the Great War actually since Hans used to lecture us on “knowing your enemy” and during our training in Belgium we had often visited Great War Battlefields and had seen all the memorials. Lectures by Great War veterans as part of our history training had always made note of the Canadians and that they had actually volunteered for the Hellish trench warfare. Besides we had all seen the Hollywood films like River’s End or Rose Marie, so we had this image of brave Mounties, rough trappers and lumberjacks, and savage Natives.
I didn’t think films like that were approved?
<laughs> They weren’t but we were the SS so we confiscated the contraband and no one questioned it and just assumed we destroyed the contraband. I’m sure you’ve confiscated contraband like alcohol in the field yourself. Did you “properly dispose” of the contraband?
Speaking of the fearsome image of the SS, how did you get along with locals?
Not well, but that was to be expected. We were the occupiers so of course we were hated and feared. The attitudes of the many of the “living examples” of Nazi ideology just made dealings worse.  We all heard what a company under Walter Hauck from the 12th SS Reconnaissance did the month after we arrived in Normandy. That is when Martin stopped being a brother to me. I think it was very brave of the tens of thousands of French to attend the funerals and to strike in protest, and like many other in the regiment I didn’t blame the partisans for coming after us after that.
What about your dealings with other German units?
Relations with other units were problematic. One because we were seen as spoiled brats who got everything and that we got away with everything. Two many soldiers resented how our presence agitated the locals which made life difficult for them, and that was before Walter Hack’s actions. Three many soldiers adopted a paternalistic or would talk down to us simply because of our age which led to resentment and the odd fight. Four all the attention we received from the photographers and film-makers made us seem like “glory hounds”. Lastly our opinions of other units didn’t help as we felt we were superior to any of the other garrison units around except for the other SS combat units and of course Rommel’s 21st Division.
When did you first encounter the Canadians?
Not until much later in the day and by then it was too late. Everyone in High Command must have been very confused as by late in the morning the 21st had even been ordered to break-off fighting with the British paratroopers. We sat and waited for the order to move out and counter attack the landings but for hours and hours it never came. So for hours and hours we endured constant harassment by fighters and bombers, while the officers poured over maps listening to radio broadcasts from the front trying to piece together what was going on. Radio check ins and reports within the Division took a hard edge as time wore on as we all listened to reports of other landings filtering in, and of the landing in our sector advancing seemingly unchecked despite terrible losses. I noticed that there was a lot less of the Nazi rhetoric on the radio net and we all heard quickly that Kurt Meyer had snapped on an officer from the 25th SS Panzergrenadiers because they kept insisting on ending every radio check in with their usual ‘Heil Hitler’. Finally at around 14:00 or 15:00 we received orders to counter-attack along with the 21st and the whole Division began to move out as order by High Command. It took us around 8 hours to reach our assembly point because of the constant and unceasing waves of planes attacking the roads and bridges. Our senior officers were livid at the delayed orders and the delays getting to our assembly point. We later learned that the 21st had actually successfully counter attacked and fought to the beach at Lion-sur-Mer driving a wedge between the Canadians and British but we weren’t in place to support them or to expand the wedge. We had let the 21st, and we had let down Rommel. We had wasted June the 6th doing nothing while the Canadians and British reinforced and pushed-out of their beachhead. On June 7th though we hit back.
How did you feel going into battle?
Surprisingly I felt great because I was finally doing something. When you are young and foolish you have no idea of battle of than what the stories and films have taught you. You think it'll be glorious and that other people will die, but not you. You have this image in your mind of being a hero. I know I wasn't the only one because it seemed everyone had this wolfish grin and walked around with purpose. I didn't learn to fear battle until after I had been in one.
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Okay that's it for the lead up, as things will get a little more dense when he talks about the battles/campaigns.

Cheers, (I'm off to the pub for my traditional post editing pints)

PS> Let me know if there are issues with the format or editing style.

Winterpwner #2 Posted Oct 19 2013 - 20:43

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This is actually pretty interesting. :D

Cornduggle #3 Posted Oct 19 2013 - 20:51

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Such a good read, Waelwulf. Looking forward to part 3.

panzerabuser #4 Posted Oct 19 2013 - 20:58

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good stuff, thank you for sharing

Staz211 #5 Posted Oct 19 2013 - 21:03

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I will be keeping an eye on these threads. Fantastic work.

Xlucine #6 Posted Oct 19 2013 - 22:21

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View PostWaelwulf, on Oct 19 2013 - 20:36, said:

You fought British paratroopers that morning?
No. <laughs> We fought British mannequins that night. The British had dropped dummy paratroopers in different areas to confuse us and tie us up chasing shadows. It took us about until about 05:00 to confirm the area and the 21st flank was secure.

:teethhappy:

Quote

We got back to the Division right around the same time we started hearing of confused and panicked reports of landing craft actually firing artillery and tanks coming out of the water.

I'd heard the british put a load of rockets on some landing craft, but apparently they didn't have much noticeable effect on target because they were so difficult to aim. I'm glad to hear they did something to the defenders morale! Also good to hear the DD tanks doing what they should be doing - they get a bad reputation from the CF that was omaha, on other beaches they were very reliable at getting onto the beach.

coupe89 #7 Posted Oct 19 2013 - 22:58

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thanks great read

Dominatus #8 Posted Oct 19 2013 - 23:13

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It's amazing reading this. I look forward to the next part!

View PostXlucine, on Oct 19 2013 - 22:21, said:

I'd heard the british put a load of rockets on some landing craft, but apparently they didn't have much noticeable effect on target because they were so difficult to aim. I'm glad to hear they did something to the defenders morale! Also good to hear the DD tanks doing what they should be doing - they get a bad reputation from the CF that was omaha, on other beaches they were very reliable at getting onto the beach.
I think some of the crafts had regular tube artillery as well, which was a real shocker to the Germans, seeing artillery being fired from the landing craft. I don't think they actually hit anything though.

Bitter_N_Twisted #9 Posted Oct 20 2013 - 03:36

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good job OP, great read,  I think your format and editing is just fine
+1

Brickfight #10 Posted Oct 20 2013 - 04:22

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I know there was some awkwardness when you first started posting, but man, it's gone in my brain with this series. As someone who's really interested in airborne infantry, you scratched one hell of an itch, not to mention how generally interesting these are to read.

Edited by Brickfight, Oct 20 2013 - 04:23.


Hanz_Gooblemienhoffen_42 #11 Posted Oct 20 2013 - 16:17

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great stuff...wish i had more upvotes for you!

Waelwulf #12 Posted Oct 20 2013 - 20:48

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View PostXlucine, on Oct 19 2013 - 22:21, said:

I'd heard the british put a load of rockets on some landing craft, but apparently they didn't have much noticeable effect on target because they were so difficult to aim. I'm glad to hear they did something to the defenders morale! Also good to hear the DD tanks doing what they should be doing - they get a bad reputation from the CF that was omaha, on other beaches they were very reliable at getting onto the beach.

I wondered about it when it was mentioned in the interview. I knew that there was some landing craft equipped as rocket-bombardment craft but the artillery thing seemed a little didn't seem to fit... but low and behold yes the Canadians used M7 Priest SPGs sitting in landing craft to provide close in fire-support believe it or not. Found references (in Vol.3 of the Official History of the Canadian Army of WWII - 1944-45) to Canadian field artillery units in the first wave with FOs on the beach and M7s sitting back off shore co-ordinating with the Allied naval support. Seems insane even to think about but apparently the landing craft moved closer than called for to help provide accurate fire-support because the first wave was suffering.

Brickfight #13 Posted Oct 20 2013 - 21:07

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Canada is crazy as shit.

Waelwulf #14 Posted Oct 20 2013 - 21:22

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Crazy was the M7 equipped LCTs being order 'back' because they were advancing faster than the LCTs carrying the DDs  and the second wave - they had actually gotten mixed in with the 1st wave of infantry, engineers, and commandos

Shanzival #15 Posted Oct 21 2013 - 19:46

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View PostWaelwulf, on Oct 20 2013 - 20:48, said:

I wondered about it when it was mentioned in the interview. I knew that there was some landing craft equipped as rocket-bombardment craft but the artillery thing seemed a little didn't seem to fit... but low and behold yes the Canadians used M7 Priest SPGs sitting in landing craft to provide close in fire-support believe it or not. Found references (in Vol.3 of the Official History of the Canadian Army of WWII - 1944-45) to Canadian field artillery units in the first wave with FOs on the beach and M7s sitting back off shore co-ordinating with the Allied naval support. Seems insane even to think about but apparently the landing craft moved closer than called for to help provide accurate fire-support because the first wave was suffering.
The rocket craft in question would be the LCT®, a variation of the LCT that carried at least hundreds if not over a thousand 3" rockets.

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rossmum #16 Posted Oct 21 2013 - 20:14

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Good lord.

Xlucine #17 Posted Oct 21 2013 - 22:10

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We really wanted to take that beach. Look up the grand panjandrum if you wanna see something even more hilarious, bored brits with explosives can throw up some hilarious results

EndlesNights #18 Posted Oct 24 2013 - 17:00

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View PostWaelwulf, on Oct 19 2013 - 20:36, said:

“Oh Hell it’s the Canadians”

Not sure who's scarier, the Fins or the Canadians.

rossmum #19 Posted Oct 24 2013 - 23:19

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View PostEndlesNights, on Oct 24 2013 - 17:00, said:

Not sure who's scarier, the Fins or the Canadians.
Children born to one of each, I would imagine.

EnsignExpendable #20 Posted Oct 25 2013 - 00:53

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View PostPresident_Romney, on Oct 21 2013 - 19:46, said:

The rocket craft in question would be the LCT®, a variation of the LCT that carried at least hundreds if not over a thousand 3" rockets.

I know they weren't fired all at once, but I want to believe.




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