The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions." --American Statesman Daniel Webster (1782-1852)

Thursday, February 28, 2019

The First Special Operation units of the German Army in WWII

I didn't know about this until I was following a link relating to the "lion of Africa", a WWI  officer that was undefeated in South Africa during WWI and was feted as a hero when he returned in 1919.  He subsequently was treated poorly by the Nazi's because he was vocal in his opposition to Hitler but that is a story for another blog post :)

     I was looking at the models on one of my shelves and I decided to do a blog post on the "Special operation" units of the WWII German Army, I thought they were Otto Skorzeny group, but I was wrong,there was an older one that did well in their duties but the intercine warfare that the Germans engaged with each other spelled doom for the units despite their excellence and heroism. 

Brandenburgers were the members of the first German special operations unit. They specialized in operating far behind enemy front lines, performing covert operations right under the eyes of their enemies. Bravery and guile were their weapons.

Most of their missions were covered by a veil of secrecy due to the fact that the unit was run by the Abwehr, or German military intelligence service. They were hated by soldiers of their own army as much as by their enemies.

Interestingly, before World War II the German Army was reluctant to form a commando style unit, seeing them as completely useless. Army officials believed that the might of their panzer units combined with blitzkrieg tactics was sufficient to crush any enemy.
It was therefore an Abwehr officer, Theodore-Gottlieb von Hippel, who successfully pushed the idea of forming a special unit that would perform “irregular” tasks which standard units were not capable of carrying out.

 Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck "The Lion of Africa"
Theodore Hippel was a World War I veteran who had spent his war days in East Africa under the command of Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck. During the war Colonel Lettow-Vorbeck led local Askari tribes in fighting British colonial troops. With scarce resources, fighting an irregular warfare, they managed to cause a lot of problems for the numerically superior British.

Theodor von Hippel. Photo Source Bundesarchiv.

The experience he gained during this period made Hippel a great advocate of irregular warfare. Upon returning to Germany, he studied the campaign of Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence against the Ottomans in the Middle East. Hippel was more than impressed with their tactics and was certain that a similar type of warfare could be used in Europe as well.
Lawrence on the Brough Superior SS100 that he called “George V”
Hippel went to the head of the Abwehr, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, to present him with his ideas. Canaris and Hitler saw some potential in the idea and agreed to form a special operations unit. Knowing that the Army was against the idea, it was decided that the unit would be created under the umbrella of the Abwehr and would receive orders directly from the High Command of the Armed Forces.
Korvettenkapitän Wilhelm Canaris, chief of the German military intelligence agency Abwehr.

Captain Theodore Hippel was tasked with gathering recruits for the new unit. Among them were misfits and men with doubtful pasts, but there were also ordinary men willing to help their country.
Brandenburgers were everything but conventional soldiers. What Hippel was looking for were people who primarily had excellent knowledge of foreign languages and were familiar with the customs of nations that were targeted for German invasion. Soldiers with such skills were more likely to successfully infiltrate and then keep a low profile while operating.
Besides Germans, other nationalities were included too. Most of these foreigners joined with the hope that German troops would bring liberation to their own nations. Other foreigners were simply sympathizers of the Nazi regime and wanted to contribute to the establishment of the New Order.
Contrary to the practices of the SS, the Abwehr didn’t give much thought to the racial background of its operatives as long as they were doing their tasks properly. For that reasons, Brandenburgers included Tatars, Slavs, and others that were considered by the Nazis as impure.

Russia-North, Brandenburgers and a Panzer 35t. Photo: Bundesarchiv Shortly before the war, the first special operations unit was formed. It was called Deutsche Kompanie (“German Company”). Recruits were trained in the special abilities required for diversions and urban and guerilla warfare. Special attention was given to working in small formations and gaining navigation and survival skills. All combat trainings were performed with live ammunition!
In order to infiltrate successfully behind enemy lines, Brandenburgers learned about enemy formations and commands. For complete deception, Brandenburgers wore enemy uniforms. These were obtained in every possible way. Dutch uniforms were, for example, bought in second-hand shops. Soviet uniforms were obtained from Finns who had captured some during the Winter War in 1939-1940.

Soviet prisoners of war dressed with new clothes near the Arctic Circle at Rovaniemi in January 1940
However, they always wore German uniforms below their cover in case of being captured. In this manner they had a treatment of the POW, instead of being shot as a spies.
Learning to use foreign weapons was necessary as well. It was presumed that out there behind enemy lines, Brandenburgers would have to use captured weapons, especially because on most occasions they went to combat armed only with small arms and grenades.
Private of the Panzer-Grenadier-Division Großdeutschland with Karabiner 98k and mounted Schießbecher.Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild
With the invasion of Poland, German Company, still in a development phase, got the chance to prove its worth. On the dawn of September 1, 1939, 16 special forces teams seized key military and infrastructure locations to secure the way for incoming troops. They were even tasked with taking control of Silesian mines while dressed as Polish workers.
These were the first special operations missions in WWII. However, apart from their success on the battlefield, soldiers of the German Company were remembered for numerous atrocities against local populations.
Satisfied with what he had seen in Poland, Canaris approved the forming of Bau-Lehr-Kompanie z.b.V. 800, or “Special Duty Training and Construction Company No. 800,” on 25 October 1939. The company was designated as a construction unit purely as a cover.
Hitler watching German soldiers marching into Poland
Under the charge of Captain Theodore Hippel, the unit’s command was established in the town of Brandenburg-an-der-Havel, thus earning the nickname “Brandenburgers” for its soldiers.
The unit was organized as part of the Abwehr’s Abteilung II, or 2nd Department. This department was in charge of activities outside German borders and was considered to be the most aggressive part of the Abwehr.
The unit was quickly expanded to the level of Battalion on December 15, 1939 and then to the level of Regiment on June 1, 1940.
Otto Skorzeny (left) and the former Brandenburger Adrian von Fölkersam (middle) now with Skorzeny’s SS-Jagdverbände in Budapest after Operation Panzerfaust, 16 October 1944.            Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild
After Poland, Brandenburgers were also engaged in Norway and Denmark in spring 1940, and then during May and June 1940 were involved in the operations in the West.
Despite the fact that they were still being disrespected by Army officers, Brandenburgers made a big contribution to the victory of the Blitzkrieg in the Lowlands and France. By seizing and securing vital communication spots, such as bridges and railroad junctions, they ensured the quick movement of German troops. Without that, the Blitzkrieg would have definitively lost momentum in the early stages of the invasion.
One of the most spectacular operations the Brandenburgers conducted was seizing the railway bridge near the Dutch town of Gennep. This bridge was vital for the German plan of reaching Dutch defensive positions at the Peel Line before the Dutch could properly man them.
Units pass the Albert Canal Bridge,05/11/1940.Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild
At dawn on May 10, six Brandenburgers from the 1st Platoon of 4th Company appeared at the eastern end of the bridge, disguised as two Dutch soldiers leading four prisoners. The second they reached the eastern guard house they eliminated the Dutch guards. Then one of them, fluent in Dutch, reported to the guard house on the other end that he was sending four prisoners over.
As the four disguised prisoners walked across the bridge, the guards at the western end of the bridge spotted a German train coming. Before they could figure out what was happening, the bridge guards found themselves caught in a crossfire between the four fake captives and German soldiers on the train.
In just a few moments, the guards were overpowered and the bridge was secured. Later that day, the 9th Panzer Division quickly moved across the bridge.
9th SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen.Photo: BundesarchivAfter the 1940 campaign in the West, there was hardly anyone who still doubted the usefulness of the Brandenburgers. As the German conquest of Europe continued in 1941 and 1942, the Brandenburgers continued to impress with their daring missions. The mission that they carried out during the 1942 Summer Offensive in the Soviet Union was a most impressive one.
In the summer of 1942, the entire Brandenburg regiment was transferred to Ukraine to support the German offensive toward Stalingrad and the Caucasus oil fields. 8th Company of the 3rd Battalion received an order to help Army Group A units to seize the city of Maikop, an oil-producing center in the northern Caucasus.
German troops take cover behind a knocked out T-70 light tank and beside a Sd.Kfz. 250 halftrack, summer 1942.Photo: Bundesarchiv, 
A detachment of Brandenburgers dressed in NKVD uniforms headed for the city and reached it on August 2, one week before the offensive began. Completely unaware of who they were facing, the local NKVD office welcomed the disguised Brandenburgers and even gave them an inspection tour of the city’s defense posts. During the tour, the Brandenburgers made a plan for taking over the city.
On August 8 the Brandenburgers commenced their action. Split up in three groups, they seized the main oil storage tanks and key communication posts, which they then used to issue fake withdrawal orders to Red Army troops inside and in the vicinity of the town. On the following day, when the offensive began, the spearhead of the 13th Panzer Division took control of the city.
13th Panzer Division.Photo: Bundesarchiv,
The long-lasting rivalry between the Abwehr and the SS, especially the latter’s intelligence agency – Sicherheitsdienst or SD – was transferred to the Brandenburgers. The fame that they gained in the first years of war was seen as a big threat by the SS. A threat that had to be eliminated.
The best way to do so was to form a similar unit, but under the control of SS. In April 1943, the SS version of the Brandenburgers was formed: Friedenthaler Jagdverbande (“Friedenthal Hunting Groups”). Command over these small units was given to Captain Otto Skorzeny of the Waffen-SS, a man who became synonymous with German commando warfare.
SS Officer Otto Skorzeny, who helped organize and train the paramilitary “werewolf” forces that were never successfully deployedEven though the unit was only a few months old, Himmler managed to persuade Hitler to task the Friedenthalers with the daring mission of rescuing Benito Mussolini from captivity at Gran Sasso. The success of Skorzeny and his men in this operation meant the end for the Brandenburgers.
Mussolini rescued by German troops from his prison in Campo Imperatore on 12 September 1943.Photo: Bundesarchiv,
On April 1, 1943 Lehr-Regiment Brandenburg z.b.V. 800 extended to the level of Division. The unit was taken out of the organizational structure of the Abwehr and put under direct control of the Armed Forces High Command. Until the autumn of 1944, the Brandenburg Division engaged only in anti-partisan activities, primarily in the Balkans.
As time passed, the Friedenthalers took the role of the Brandenburgers, who on the other hand were gradually transformed into a standard Army unit. The process ended on September 15, 1944 when the division was redesignated as Panzergrenadier-Division Brandenburg. All 900 officers, NCOs, and soldiers who specialized in commando warfare were transferred to SS Jagdverbande units.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Some goins on at Casa De Garabaldi

What messed with my schedule was that I had to work then travel on my "off days".  I spent a lot of time in my truck driving to Tennessee and to Florida.  My Dad was in the hospital again, he had his lung collapse for the 3rd time in less than a year. He has COPD, and it is from a combination of Agent Orange and smoking for 40 years.   Normally my Dad don't look his age, he is 75 but he looks much younger and these past 3 weeks he really looked his age.  I and my brother have spent a lot of time with him lately because he is our dad and he taught us how to be honorable men. 

   These pics I took a bit over a year ago.  His age is "indeterminate", to me he looks like he is in his mid 60's if that much.  

 My Dad bringing his bird "Indy" toward my phone
His Bird "Indy" trying to eat my phone...and that bird would chew it up if I let him get hold of it.
My Dad and my son shooting at the range a few years ago.

    What I am getting at and this is hard is to see how mortal he looks, He has always have been strong, like a rock and with the attitude that "nothing will phase me".  I know that eventually he will pass beyond the rim, that is the truth of our existence but I do want him to see my son graduate from high school and be on the road of success.  This is part of the reason that I have been busy the past few weeks.

       I have seen this picture on facebook and this has cropped up on some of the veterans groups that I am part of...
     It to me speaks of my Dads generation.

I got the following video from a link from the Godfather A.K.A. Tom Kratman. 

It is a story about an old veteran from the Great Patriotic war, the stages of his life when he was young and to his age now.  It is a short video about 7.30 minutes long It was powerful to me especially with the issues of my Dads health, I do see him and the other veterans in the face of this elderly soldier.

     I also was working a project, as y'all know, I have a bull bar on my truck and I had an old set of fog lights that used to be on my Sport Trac that I had 15 years ago. I wanted to use but first I had to rebuild them....
I replaced the H3 bulbs
Used my battery box to test them after rebuilding them...
Yes they worked....

After completion, but they wound up not working on the bull bar, they are too long and stick out too much so I will put them on the shelf for another project down the line.  I wanted to post about this several weeks ago, but I was too busy and got overwhelmed by travel.


Monday, February 25, 2019

Monday Music "Dance Hall Days" by Wang Chung

 I forgot to set the time on Monday Music I set the date, but nit the time..Guess it will post late Monday....My Bad..

I am still trying to pull my schedule together from the past few weeks, I will post details later this week when I have a day off.

This song to me is one of those songs that define the 80's new wave and the direction of the music for the 80's generation.  I can listen to this song over and over and it will take me back to the 1980's before I joined the Army and had to become an adult, LOL

"Dance Hall Days" is a song by English band Wang Chung, released as a single in 1984. It was the band's only single to make the Top 40 charts in the UK, narrowly missing the Top 20. In the US, it peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and went all the way to number one on the Dance Club Songs chart.

Two different music videos were made to promote the single. The first version of the video, directed by Derek Jarman, is a collection of home movies with the majority of the archive footage consisting of a stage show with swimmers and fountains, and other World War II-era material. Apparently, the footage is courtesy of the director's father, who was one of the very first people ever to use a colour home movie camera. The toddler in the home movie footage is the director himself as a child. The home movies are interspersed amid footage of Jack, Nick, and Darren, lip-synching and playing the violin. The band are also dressed up as characters from The Wizard of Oz at the end of the video, with Jack Hues as the Tin Man, Nick Feldman as the Scarecrow, and Darren Costin as the Lion.

The second version of the video is the most well-known, and received heavy rotation airplay at MTV.It is a magical fantasy concept video set in the 1940s, the heyday of dance halls. The video begins in black and white, with Jack Hues stopping in front of a closed-down hall, setting down the suitcase he carries, and picking up a flyer. The scene shifts to color, featuring the band performing in the packed hall with the backing of a big band as couples dance (played by heavily made-up children from a local dancing school). Later, a disco ball descends to the floor and breaks open, allowing a mirror-covered dancer to emerge. The video ends in black and white, with Hues walking past the hall and down the street; he leaves his suitcase behind, but it sprouts legs and hurries off after him.

This version was nominated for Best New Artist at the 1984 MTV Video Music Awards, losing to "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" by Eurythmics.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Some unique German Armored Cars for WWII

One of my models...SD/251 "Stummel"
I ran across this article and I remembered the unique vehicles the Germans made during WWII.
The "KubelWagon" model that I also have along with my "Custer's last stand" a couple of German "Assault Troops" and an M-1 hiding behind a shotgun shell.

During the Second World War, the Germans made extensive use of military vehicles to master a new form of warfare, in which the combustion engine replaced horse power and armored formations dominated battlefields. To do this, they developed a wide range of military vehicles, including a series of armored cars.
     Though Hitler and his ministers did much of the work in turning Germany towards mobile, armored warfare, their predecessors were not ignorant of the power of fighting vehicles. In 1932, the year before the Nazis came to power, the German army commissioned its first widely used armored car
    The Kfz 13 was meant to fulfill two roles. In the long term, it would act as a reconnaissance vehicle, giving German scouts the speed, range, and protection they needed to safely observe enemy positions. In the short term, it would provide a stopgap vehicle for armored units until more tanks and specially built combat vehicles were available.
Kfz 13 (left).Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-04719A CC-BY-SA
To make production quick and cheap, the Kfz 13 was built by welding a steel hull onto the chassis of a commercially available car, the Adler Standard 6, and equipping it with a machine gun. Because of this design, it didn’t do well when traveling off road and it had a high center of gravity that led to accidents. Its armor wasn’t thick enough to properly protect the two-man crew even from small-arms fire.
The Kfz 13 was still in use in 1941, when some were used in Operation Barbarossa. It also proved useful as a training vehicle.
Left: a Kfz 13; right: an armoured Sd.Kfz. 232 with large loop antenna (6-wheeled radio and command vehicle).Photo: Bundesarchiv, Developed by Auto-Union/Horch and serving from 1935, the Sd Kfz 221 was the smallest of the specialist armored cars that superseded the Kfz 13. This time, the chassis was specially developed for military purposes, with a rear engine, four-wheel drive, low-range gears suited to cross-country travel, and sloped side armor. Its open-topped turret usually carried a 7.93mm machine gun, though some were equipped with an anti-tank rifle.
A Leichter Panzerspähwagen Sd. Kfz. 221 lies knocked out in Bredevad on April 9th, 1940
In 1938, an improved version was produced – the Sd Kfz 222. As well as minor changes to the design of the hull, this saw the turret weapon replaced with a 20mm automatic cannon and the engine upgraded to improve its power.
These vehicles saw service throughout the war.
British soldiers inspecting a captured German SdKfz 222 armoured car, 24 June 1941.
Though work on designs began in the late 1920s, it took until 1933 before the German army was equipped with its first six-wheeled armored car, the Sd Kfz 231.
The Sd Kfz 231 appeared in different models from three different manufacturers – Daimler-Benz, Bussing-NAG, and Magirus. All three models were built to the same specification, so despite differences in detail, they were largely similar.
SdKfz 231 6-rad from an unknown unit – Poland 1939
Each chassis was built around the commercial truck design of the relevant manufacturer, strengthened to make it suitable for a military role. The engine was at the front and could be operated either from there or from a secondary driving position at the rear, letting the vehicle travel at top speed in either direction. Bulletproof tires and armor 8-15mm in thickness gave the vehicle some durability.

Sd.Kfz. 231 Heavy armored scout car
    The Sd Kfz 231’s turret was hand operated. It carried either a 20mm cannon or a 7.92mm machine gun. Variations included a communications vehicle with a distinctive aerial array.
Around 1,000 Sd Kfz 231s were produced by 1936. At that point, they were superseded by an eight-wheeled vehicle and so manufacturing stopped, but the existing cars remained in service. They were used in the invasions of Poland and France, then relegated to internal security and training work.
Army Corps with Heavy Armored Car (Sd.Kfz. 231). Photo: Bundesarchiv,
Shortly after the development of the six-wheeled Sd Kfz 231, the military put out a requirement for an eight-wheeled armored car. Bussing-NAG had previously created a chassis for an aborted eight-wheeled cross-country truck, and this was adopted to form the basis of the new armored car, which became the Sd Kfz 232.
8 Rad Sd.Kfz. 232 radio vehicle of the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking in Russia, 1941.Photo: Bundesarchiv, BildThe Sd Kfz 232 had an armored body built over a relatively slender chassis. It was originally equipped with a 7.92mm machine gun and a 20mm automatic cannon, but this was later upgraded to a short 75mm gun, with this more heavily armed vehicle given the designation Sd Kfz 233. Despite its complex mechanical layout, this series of vehicles became very popular with the army and they were widely used.
The most distinctive feature of these vehicles was the way their wheels were arranged. They were divided into two sets of four, each mounted on a separate bogie, one at the front and one at the rear. All eight wheels were both steerable and driven, given power by a series of transfer boxes and differentials from the engine at the rear.
Sd Kfz 233 armored car
In most circumstances, the rear bogie was locked and the front wheels used to steer, but this arrangement could be reversed in emergencies, allowing a rear driver to steer the vehicle backward.
     By 1940, the eight-wheeled armored vehicles had already seen their engines improved, but now a more substantial redesign was ordered, resulting in the Sd Kfz 234.
This time, the chassis and suspension were integral to the hull. Thicker armor was added, along with greater fuel capacity and air brakes.
One of the big reasons for the redesign was so that the vehicle could be tailored to fighting in hotter conditions, as Axis troops were engaged in fighting against the British in North Africa, a theater were armored vehicles played a leading role. As a result, the Sd Kfz 234 was equipped with an air-cooled engine.
Sd.Kfz. 234/2 Puma
Sd.Kfz. 234 4 Pakwagen, Munster Panzermuseum, Germany
British and American troops inspect captured German guns and a Puma armored car, near Foy Notre Dame, 29 December 1944.
Panzerspähwagen Sd.Kfz. 234 3 Stummel (7,5-cm KwK L 24)
Schutzpolizei in front with several Puma Radpanzer Sd.Kfz 234 2 probably in Bruck an der Leitha Austria.
Problems with this engine slowed down the development of the vehicle and by the time it was ready the campaign in North Africa was over, thanks in part to the arrival of American forces. But the Sd Kfz 234 still found a useful place fighting against the Soviets.
Germany’s eight-wheeled armored cars were among the country’s best vehicles of the war, used widely and effectively in campaigns across Europe.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

A quick post...

I have made it back home, the past 2 weeks have been very busy, I will explain more in a subsequent post.  Basically in a nutshell, it was the perfect storm of events with my having to travel a lot with little opportunity to post with the exception of a bit on zuckerman creation.  I came back from my latest trip and was home an hour and the UPS man came by and returned my rifle...Remember a couple of weeks ago, I was having problems with my Henry Lever Action..Here is the post...last week?..or the week before....I can't remember...with my adventures of trying to mail the rifle to Henry Repeating Arms.  A friend of mine at work who is a hardcore Henry Rifle owner suggested I contact the company with their warranty program.  Well they told me to mail the rifle to them and they furnished the RMA which covered the shipping and the insurance.

"I then went to the UPS store to mail off my Henry rifle back to the factory, they are warrantied the issue so I went to mail the rifle off....Well the UPS store wouldn't take my rifle...Company policy..

     I then contact UPS via phone and got the run around, had to set up for "residential" pickup...and that was $14 more...The lady on the phone told me that "You could have used the UPS Store", I replied..."I tried....Your company policy forbid them accepting my rifle.to ship."

Rifle ready for pickup

Needless to say I am not enamored with UPS.."

 Here is the Post I made a month or so ago while I shot the Henry for the first time....Before it went to the Factory for warranty items...

"I pulled out the rifle and laid it on the bench and it took a bit of work to release the retaining rod.  Remember that part of the story....

 I loaded it with a mixture of .38 SPL and .357 magnum.  The rifle is loaded through a tubular magazine

I had a hell of a time getting the retaining rod to rotate the notch to lock it in place.  But I was able to do that.  It took some work but I got the rod locked in place.  The rifle was really easy to shoot, but I had initial problems with the action and some of the .38 rounds didn't eject properly...That is something that is known about the rifle.  The rifle shot the .357 no problem.
   I was able to get the rod out to reload the rifle but I couldn't get the rod to rotate to lock the rod in place.  I attribute this to the rifle being "new".  I wound up going to the guy behind the counter and asking for a set of pliers to help out.

The pliers did the trick, I then loaded the rifle for my son to shoot..

He enjoyed shooting the rifle, he did better with the action that I did, LOL   He made some comment about my age.

I sucked....I know this is breathing but I should have slowed down and focused more on the fundamentals.  I felt rushed because of the outside time factors we were under.   I will take the rifle again to the range and this time I will bring my own set of pliers and hopefully it will get easier as the rifle breaks in."

Well I was home and was planning on looking on the computer and checking in with Henry to see the status on my rifle.  Well the UPS guy came to my door and he had a box....

YES!!!! my rifle was back.....I opened up the box and read what they had to do to repair the rifle...

   They did a bang up job, It looks like the new barrel and magtube looks like it is in a different location

 and it works much better than the old one. (Above)
    The location of the new tube(Below)

 So far I am very impressed with Henry Repeating arms and when time presents I will see how the rifle shoots :)