Fallschirmjager Tankbusters- Normandy 1944

While working on this ‘Battle of the Hedgegrows’ project, the thought of a duo of Fallschirmjager tankbusters armed with Panzerfaust 30s crossed my mind, necessitating the kitbashing of another Fallschirmjager; gathering the necessary kit, gear and weaponry and of course weathering them. Modifications and repainting were the order of the day! The figure and headsculpt (slightly repainted) is by Soldier Story.

This figure will be attired in the Soldier Story FJ Sumptarn jumpsmock. The original smock, is extremely impressive in its detailing although the camo colours appear richly saturated. A couple of washings did not help diffuse the saturated colours and I had to resort to painting the fabric. Washes of a mix of brownish/greyish/black acrylic paint resulted in the colours you see in the smock on the right. This was then heavily weathered and the pockets filled up . The LW eagle was substituted by a CVI eagle decal and weathered/toned down.

These are Dragon Panzerfaust 60 from my spare box- the surface has been heavily weathered. Unfortunately they went into operation a few months later after the Normandy invasion; so these will be substituted by Panzerfaust 30. Thanks to B Hellqvist for pointing this out.

 

Should I be able to find better sources for the safety pin, I will definitely customise a couple for this pair.

Been working on this FJ project for some weeks now, it’s a veteran armed with the gas operated, air-cooled, selective fire FG42 Type I; fighting among the hedgegrows of Normandy. These are an assortment of final and some initial photographs taken to check out the headsculpt painting and ‘fieldcraft’ camo. The headsculpt is Dragon’s Brandon Chase –  it’s one of my favorites. The jump smock is 21st Century as is the shirt; helmet camo cover scratchbuilt; black and white dotted scarf by BattleGear Toys (would have loved those polka dots to be just a wee bits smaller); Italian camo-ammo FG42 bandolier by DML; Boots by Soldier Story, pants – can’t recall, everything else by DML.

FJ illustration by Ron Volstad.

My 'hommage' to illustrator Ron Volstad, a pose that captured the sense of desperation and stolidness of the Fallschirmjagers fighting the Battle of the Hedgegrows in Normandy.

Test shot

Test shot - Second run. The collar tresse has yet to be painted in.

Test shot - Second run

Test shot - Second run

First run - test shot

First run - test shot: Check the facial paintwork on the headsculpt. Headsculpt was painted as per my usual method, the 'charcoal' and dirt effect were created by daubbing on Tamiya's Weathering Master's soot and mud. I quite like the grit on his skin. Hope it stays there. More experimentation with pastel dust to follow...

First run - test shot

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The Germany army in Normandy

The Wehrmacht in Normandy in June of 1944 was an international army. It had troops from every corner of the vast Soviet empire — Mongolians, Cossacks, Georgians, Muslims, Chinese — plus men from the Soviet Union’s neighboring countries, men who had been conscripted into the Red Army, then captured by the Germans in 1941 or 1942. There were some Koreans, captured by the Red Army in the 1939 war with Japan. In Normandy in June 1944, the 29th Division captured enemy troops of so many different nationalities that one GI blurted to his company commander, “Captain, just who the hell are we fighting, anyway?” Ethnic Germans also surrendered. Even veterans of the Eastern Front. Corp. Friedrich Bertenrath of the 2nd Panzer Division explained, “In Russia, I could imagine nothing but fighting to the last man. We knew that going into a prison camp in Russia meant you were dead. In Normandy, one always had in the back of his mind, ‘Well, if everything goes to hell, the Americans are human enough that the prospect of becoming their prisoner was attractive to some extent.'”

By no means were all the enlisted German personnel in Normandy reluctant warriors. Many fought effectively; some fought magnificently. At St.-Marcouf, about ten kilometers north of Utah Beach, the Germans had four enormous casements, each housing a 205mm cannon. On D-Day, these guns had gotten into a duel with American battleships. On D-Day Plus One, GIs from the 4th Infantry Division surrounded the casements. To hold them off, the German commander called down fire from another battery of 205 cannon some fifteen kilometers to the north, right on top of his own position. That kept the Americans at bay for more than a week while the German cannon continued to fire sporadically on Utah Beach. The casements took innumerable direct hits, all from big shells. The shells made little more than dents in the concrete. The casements are still there today — they will be there for decades if not centuries, so well built were they — and they bear mute testimony to the steadfastness of the Germans. For eight days the gun crews were confined in their casements — nothing to eat but stale bread, only bad water, no separate place to relieve themselves, the ear-shattering noise, the vibrations, the concussions, the dust shaking loose — through it all they continued to fire. They gave up only when they ran out of ammunition.

Among other elite German outfits in Normandy, there were paratroopers. They were a different proposition altogether from the Polish or Russian troops. The 3rd Fallschirmjäger Division came into the battle in Normandy on June 10, arriving by truck after night drives from Brittany. It was a full-strength division, 15,976 men in its ranks, mostly young German volunteers. It was new to combat but it had been organized and trained by a veteran paratroop battalion from the Italian campaign.

Training had been rigorous and emphasized initiative and improvisation. The equipment was outstanding. Indeed, the Fallschirmjäger were perhaps the best-armed infantrymen in the world in 1944. The 3rd FJ had 930 light machine guns, eleven times as many as its chief opponent, the U.S. 29th Division. Rifle companies in the FJ had twenty MG 42s and 43 submachine guns; rifle companies in the 29th had two machine guns and nine BARs. At the squad level, the GIs had a single BAR; the German parachute squad had two MG 42s and three submachine guns. The Germans had three times as many mortars as the Americans, and heavier ones. So in any encounter between equal numbers of Americans and Fallschirmjäger, the Germans had from six to twenty times as much firepower.

And these German soldiers were ready to fight. A battalion commander in the 29th remarked to an unbelieving counterpart from another regiment, “Those Germans are the best soldiers I ever saw. They’re smart and they don’t know what the word ‘fear’ means. They come in and they keep coming until they get their job done or you kill’em.”

These were the men who had to be rooted out of the hedgerows. One by one. There were, on average, fourteen hedgerows to the kilometer in Normandy. The enervating, costly process of gearing up for an attack, making the attack, carrying the attack home, mopping up after the attack, took half a day or more. And at the end of the action, there was the next hedgerow, fifty to a hundred meters or so away. All through the Cotentin Peninsula, from June 7 on, GIs labored at the task. They heaved and pushed and punched and died doing it, for two hedgerows a day.

Converted for the Web from “Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army From The Normandy Beaches, To The Bulge, To The Surrender Of Germany” by Stephen E. Ambrose

“On the day of the landing, 6 June 1944, Hitler ordered that a Planspiel be staged inRennes. Aimed at assessing the efficiency of strategic plans and the strength of availableforces, the Planspiel was to be attended by the division commanders and their staff officers, army and unit commanders as well as one regiment commander from eachdivision. I was not the only one to be taken aback by a potential enemy attack and by the decision to stage a Planspiel as the premonitory signs that a major operation was in theoffing were growing with every hour. On 5 June, a large number of Alsatian drivers deserted from my regiment’s support unit. Later, the number of sabotage actions against our communication lines rose sharply as well as the radio transmissions between theFrench resistance and their countryman in Britain.According to the Planspiel, the bulk of the participants was to arrive in Rennes in the evening of 5 June. This had to take place under the cover of darkness as American aircraft ruled the skies.

On 5 June, I called at the headquarters of General Marcks,commanding LXXXIVth Corps, and seized the opportunity to ask him if we could drivetogether to Rennes. I also hoped that, during the ride, we could discuss the possibility ofactivating a resistance movement against Hitler. General Marcks kindly offered me alift, but stressed that the larger part of the officers were not expected until the nextmorning at about 5am. In fact the General felt that it was risky to leave his command postfor the night. I totally agreed with him and so, promised that I would report to St-Lo at5am. I thought that I had better spend the night with my regiment as the neighboring 91.LL-Infanterie-Division was left without command after its chief and IA had decided totravel to Rennes on 5 June.

In the night of 5 June, Luftwaffe radio locators reported that numerous transportaircraft were regrouping over the south of England. At 11pm, my liaison officer notifiedme of this and so, I placed my regiment on immediate standby and ordered the men to beready to drive off to combat. Even though our signals were jammed, I managed to get intouch with Heer and miscellaneous units deployed in the sector.At long last, I managed to talk to general Marcks over the telephone network ofhis headquarters. He too, had been advised by the Luftwaffe of the unusual increase inair traffic over Britain and shared my opinion about the imminence of a landing.After midnight, the last doubts were dispelled when American parachute dropswere reported to the north of Carentan.

I ordered my regiment, quartered to the north of Periers, to form into combatorder and to proceed towards Carentan.

Driving up the Cherbourg highway, the vanguard of my unit reached the north of Carentan in the grey light of dawn. In the distance, the rumbling of combat could befaintly heard.Riding a side-car, I decided to reconnoitre the sector and set off ahead, on myown, in the direction of combat. Driving down a narrow, hedge-lined path, I reached a hamlet called Ste-Marie-du-Mont which, according to my map, was the last villagebefore the coast. In the main square stood an old church with a fairly high steeple. I got hold of the keys and from the top, had a breathtaking view which I shall never forget.

Under my eyes stretched the dark blue, almost motionless sea while, on thehorizon, countless warships were lined up, forming an almost unbroken chain. Numerous barges delivering American soldiers to the beach were unceasingly plying between thefleet and the shore. Of our defence line, only one bunker located on the right, was firingat the scores of invaders pouring in from the sea. A thick pall of artificial fog hid theAmericans from our sight and hampered the aim of German artillery”

Major Baron von der Heydte, commander of FJR 6

FJR 6 was the first Airborne unit to see action against the allies in Normandy around Carentan. During the battle of Carentan, The Green Devils were entrenched along a mainroad leading into the city and held the American advance. After the FJR 6 was forced to withdraw towards Carentan, a single causeway surrounded by marshes was the only routeinto the city.

On June 11th, the American 101st airborne attacked the FJR 6th positions. After heavy artillery strikes, the 6th moved into Carentan. The 101st was finally on theoutskirts of the city after a three day battle. On the morning of 12 June 1944, the 6th withdrew from Carentan finally giving the city to the allies after four days of fierce fighting.
On June 13, the SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment 37 of 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division Gotz von Berlichingen, supported by Stugs of the division’s Panzer Abeilung and the 6th Fallschirmjager attacked American paratroopers from the 502 and 506 Parachute Infantry Regiments in what the Americans called the Battle of the Bloody Gulch. The German Forces routed several paratroop companies before their attack was stalled by the arrival of the US 2nd Armored Division.

FJR 6 was caught in the Falaise pocket in July and after escaping the pocket, von der Heydte’s 6th Parachute regiment had lost a staggering 3000 men killed or missing since June 6th. The regiment was moved to Guestrow-Mecklenburg.

In September 1944 RJR 6 was assigned to 1st Parachute Army assigned to holding thefront in the Low Countries between Antwerp and Maastricht. FJR 6, the only survivors of the old 2 Fallschirmjager division, fought against the Allied landings in the Arnhem corridor during Operation ‘Market Garden’.

FJR 6 mounted a small scale parachute drop on 15 December 1944, in support of theArdennes attack. The drop, in deep snow near the Malmedy-Eupen road, was a disaster with only 125 men landing on target. The majority of FJR 6 including von der Heydte was captured.

Source

A Fallschirmjäger’s Reflections on  

Fighting in the Normandy Bocage

 

  

Sergeant Alexander Uhlig

Iron Cross Second Class recipient, Norway 1940, and Knight’s Cross recipient, Normandy 1944  

“I was a member of Third Battalion, Sixth Regiment, Second Fallschirmjäger[Parachute] Division. The Second Fallschirmjäger Division was commanded by General Ramke, and there he headed Regiments 2, 6 and 7. Major Von der Heydte was my regiment’s commander.

During the first days of the D-Day beach invasion, I was at home in Liepzig on leave for my wedding on the fifth of June 1944 — one day before the invasion. And I was sent back to Normandy by train about 15 days later, so about June 20th. I was south of Carentan, between Carentan and Périers. I was around the flooded areas in the bocage, near Méautis and Sainteny and la Roserie. These towns were near the highway [the N171] connecting Carentan and Périers. We were fighting for control of that highway against United States infantry units.

At this time, I had war experience from years before. I fought in Poland, Norway, Crete, Italy, Africa — so I had a lot of experience, but not against Americans. So, Normandy was my first battle experience against Americans. They had a lot materiel, a lot of materiel, we had less materiel which made a difference. They were a lot of men, we were less. Our regiment was in action from the first day of the invasion until end of July 1944 and our companies were small; we were 140 to 160 men at the beginning, and at the end of June there were 30 to 40 men. We lost most at Carentan, one battalion, the First Battalion against American paratroopers.

The bocage terrain, the hedgerows and so on were difficult. You couldn’t . . . it was difficult for both sides because you couldn’t see what goes on. You could see only 50 or 100 meters and then the next hedgerow came. I think the Americans did a good job but they used always a lot of artillery, a lot of artillery. And a lot of air force planes, so it was hard for us to attack. We had no German planes in the air. So in the daytime, it was hard for us to move.

We had a feeling of danger, but I myself I felt good and confident — because I believed I had to do my duty, had to do my job there and there was no question for me, I had to do it. I could feel we could win the war, I do believe there was a possibility for us with new weapons to change the situation, like the V-1 and the V-2 rockets.

After my battle at Seves Island [Editor’s note: Mr. Uhlig is referring to the Normandy town of St. Germain-sur-Seves; see the February 2000 issue ofWorld War II magazine’s cover story], I came back to my regiment’s post. On the next few days there was a big raid by the American air force against St. Lô. From my post I saw many American bombers bombing St. Lô, because Périers is not so far from St. Lo. Then our front line was broken by American infantry, maybe be it was 27 July. On the next night, Major Von der Heydte gave me orders to withdraw my men in the direction of Countances. But we were cut off by an American armored division. So we tried to make a breakout but it was not possible so I became a prisoner. I was captured near St. Michel south of Périers. I think I was captured on the 29th or 30th of July. And so the war was over for me.

They sent me to a prison camp, it was only a base with barbed wire around, near Utah Beach. Then I came by ship to south England in a special camp, American camp, I think. I remember the name of the camp was Devise. The American officers at the camp knew my military history. They told me, “you were captured in Norway 1940 but you were freed. This time we send you to USA so you cannot be freed.” (Laughter.) And then from south England I came to a POW camp near Liverpool, England. Then I was sent by ship with 1,000 other German POWs from Liverpool to New York, and then by train from New York to Missouri. The name of the camp in Missouri was Camp Clark. All the German prisoners on the ship came not to Camp Clark. In New York, they took some men to this camp, some men to other camps. Camp Clark was a camp for non-commissioned officers. We were not forced to work there.”

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