Kompanie 11., Fallschirmjägerregiment 9.
On June 6, 1944, the Fallschirmjägerregiment 9. was located in Brittany, France. Our company, the 11th, was quartered in the town of La Martyre, on the Mont d' Arree, approximately 15 kilometers east of Brest. A very hard phase of infantry training on all types of infantry weapons had just been concluded, which included the Panzerfaust, Ofenrohr, mortars, and infantry howitzers.
On the German side, we knew that an Allied landing would eventually be conducted with success somewhere along the French Atlantic coast. We did not, however, know when or where it would happen. In order for us to avoid any losses in our area, under the heightened activity of Allied aircraft, our company was placed under camouflaged tents and divied up across the terrain that surrounded the village.
Diary Entry for 5-6 June 1944: Invasion attempts at Le Havre, Le Mans, St. Malo, Cherbourg, and Rennes. First landing early morning 0030 hours. Heavy Allied aerial activity throughout the entire night. Allied air attack on Brest. Awake from 0300 to 0500. Observation: From the northern and northeastern direction, Flak fire and bomb explosion flashes. During the day, several distant Allied reconnaissance aircraft visible.
Diary Entry for 7 June 1944: Landings at Calais during the night. During the evening at 1945 (hours), approximately 60-70 four-engine enemy aircraft pulling transport gliders over our area. Around 2000, two Allied fighters. General quarters sounded. Tents torn down, everything prepared for march. One Allied plane crashed. On the evening of 7 June 1944, we were prepared for march in order to go into action against the known landings at Normandy! All of our vehicles, except for the motorcycles, were turned over to the 1st Battalion that brought the vehicles to the front as quickly as possible. For us, this meant marching 25 to 30 kilometers daily, in the general direction of the front. During the day we were unable to let ourselves be seen and move as a result of Allied fighter-bomber aircraft. All of our equiptment, machine guns, munitions, mines, Panzerfausts, and the grenade launchers were brought along in horse-drawn wagons.
Diary Entry for 8 June 1944: Marched through the entire night. Walked a few kilometers bare foot as a result of poor quality boots. Rested from 0300 until 0700, then continued on to Heulgoat. In Heulgoat in research of a bicycle. Found: bread, eggs, butter, bon-bons, but no bicycle. Half of the company is already motorized (bicycles). By the second evening, almost everyone had a bicycle which we were able to acquire from the civilian population using our Bezugschein (purchase order certificate). The march to front was occassionally slowed by the French underground, from which we did not suffer any casualties.
Diary Entry for 9 June 1944: Arrive at Rostrennen at 0130 in the morning. Bicycle is broken, organize for a new one. Hanged terrorists in Rostrennen. Had to guard one of the hanged terrorists for several hours to prevent him from being cut down. Allied fighters on our route of march. Gas mask is missing. Right foot swollen. Sleep until noon in a courtyard 18 kilometers east of Rostrennen. At 1800 continue march, but only by night due to aerial threat.
Diary Entry for 10 June 1944: Continuous rain. Second bicycle broken underway. Organized new bicycle in Loudeac. Company hit early morning at 0500. Without suffering casualties, taken under fire by bandits. One man from third squad run over by automobile. Severely wounded.
Diary Entry for 11 June 1944: Another new bicycle. Rides well. Slept from 1200 to 1000 next morning. Excellent. Looked for forage. A woman is shot at because of butter. Two men missing from third squad.
Diary Entry for 12 June 1944: Bicycle is good condition. Continue on over St. Meen. Feldwebel (Staff Sergeant) returned from jump school (Fallschirmjaeger school). Stop and rest in Ploasne. Mail is able to be distributed. Wrote my first card.
Diary Entry for 13 June 1944: Continued on by horse-drawn wagon. Underway for about 12 hours. Supply is good. Continue on at night by bicycle. Heavy Allied aircraft activity. Stop at a market along the way, but very expensive.
Diary Entry for 14 June 1944: Continue on by bicycle. No air in the back tire. Fell off two times. Heavy Allied aircraft activity once again.
Diary Entry for 15 June 1944: Dropped off bicycles at II. Battalion. Replaced with wagons. I have a coach with a good horse. Four men on the coach. Have not had clothes off for last 4 weeks.
Diary Entry for 16 June 1944: Position taken at a small farm. My horse went wild and kicked me in my right knee. Wrote another card. Have not received any mail. Distant enemy artillery thundering. Supposedly, a new weapon has been introduced today for use against Britain. I have gone 5 weeks without a hair cut.
Diary Entry for 17 June 1944: Continue march through Brittany by coach. A few terrorists captured by our battalion in St. Hilaire. Constant attack by enemy "Jabos" (fighters). 9th Company suffers casualties. Burned out trucks along the road. "Tommy" drops leaflets.
Diary Entry for 18 June 1944: Continue marching by night over St. Pois. Fell asleep on the horse. Wagon capsizes. Came under shaft, both ankles swollen and no longer able to walk. Soldiers' garves on the side of road. Situated in an abandoned farm courtyard. Constant enemy aerial attack. No casualties reported from our company.
Diary Entry for 19 June 1944: Able to ride along on the wagon. Both legs are kaputt (out of commission, but not broken). I sleep throughout the entire day. Again, heavy enemy aerial activity. Nothing to see of our Luftwaffe.
Diary Entry for 20 June 1944: Reached Le Mesnil with horse-wagon. Another 12 kilometers on foot with various baggage. One pail with 10 liter of butter, canned goods, and wine is left behind by our group. Who wants to drag that along? I arrive at 0400 completely exhausted. The front lies only a few 100 meters away. Enemy artillery is constantly firing. The wounded are removed and for them it is over. This evening we go into position.
Diary Entry for 21 June 1944: We are still lying in the old positions. Apparently, we are not quickly moving forward. Artillery is firing constantly. Supply is insufficient. We slaughter a few rabbit. Taste good. Both legs have not yet healed.
Diary Entry for 22 June 1944: Hermann and Schwarz are constantly organizing things (procurring food). I would go too, but am unable. Seufer (individual) has found a straw hat and is reading French books. Klein (individual) and I are in the hole and sleeping on top of the supplies. We finally arrived at the front on 22 June 1944, in the vicinity of Le Mesnil-Raoult, approximately 12 kilometers south of St. Lô. Due to the fact that we could only move during the night, and since the French had changed the directional roads signs at all the intersections, and in some cases completely removed the signs altogether, the small Landser (common soldier) never knew exactly where he was. We then reached a Auffangstellung (troop-collection point) south of St. Lô at the foot of Hill 192. Our fighting shelters were well camouflaged against aircraft in a forest, but in reach of the American heavy artillery so that we suffered our first casualties.
Diary Entry for 23 June 1944: Beautiful weather. Time to sleep. That night I Finally received mail from my mother. Resupply is on its way. Supply is better. Artillery fire throughout the entire night.
Diary Entry for 24 June 1944: Lunch is terrible, unable to enjoy. Hermann and Schyns again underway. I shaved myself again and answered the letter from yesterday. Constant artillery fire and heavy aircraft activity. Read a nice novel in the hole and have good tobacco to smoke.
Diary Entry for 25 June 1944: Very nice weather in the morning. Piano music can be heard from the the 12th Company area. Artillery like every other day.
Diary Entry for 26 June 1944: Sleep until noon. Out organizing with Hermann. Nothing obtained at first, but then ate well for 50 Francs. Mostly meat and egg-cake. Group receives a new MG 42 and a small cannon. An Oberjäger (senior private) from the 12th Company severely wounded, one leg torn off. Night time march into a different position. Continuous rain. Impact recorded at approximately 5 kilometers distance. Our squad leader, Feldwebel (Staff Sergeant) Krause, splinter in knee. One soldier from a squad severely wounded, shoulder torn open, lung taken out. Soaking wet we go itno position. In addition a strong wind. In the early morning very sick. Sanitator is of the opinion it is a stomach cataract. With diarea bad pains in lower stomach.
Diary Entry for 27 June 1944: The sun is shining again. We dry our clothes as best we can. Artillery, mortars, and snipers make it hard to sleep. From 2230 until 0500 on post with Schyns.
Diary Entry for 28 June 1944: Hermann and Seufer off to find supplies; at 0430 they return. Gone since 2200 last night. There is a good lunch, although coffee is cold. Received bread, sausage, fat, and cigarrettes. 3 men per 1 bottle of cognac. During the entire night the "Yankees" sprays the entire terrain with fire. It is nice weather again. It rains only off and on once. I am able to rest until 0300.
Diary Entry for 29 June 1944: On post with Klein until 1430. Schwarz and Schyns get supplies at 0400. Gone approximately one hour. We have pea soup, coffee, chocolate, fat, bread, and oiled sardines. Per person 1/2 a bottle champaigne and 2 cigars. Snipers have recognized me again on post and are constantly firing. Relieved at 0700. Finally received a newspaper. I write to back home. A nice thunderstorm during the evening. My shelterhalf-covered-hole has styaed dry. This evening we had milk soup. The company had 3 casualties today, all from the first squad. We see a Yankee crash, the crew parachutes to safety. Today in the same clothes for 6 weeks.
Diary Entry for 30 June 1944: Gustl and I get supplies. Shot at one time. The weather is not good. At night we assume the positions of the 10th Company. Gustl and I are on the right flank of the group. We have one carbine and a self-loading rifle (semi-automatic G43) and explosive ammunition. A machine gun fires on our position the entire night. A few artillery rounds impact approximately 50 meters behind us. Very effective splintering. Finally 2 fast German fighters in the sky- probably the first jet fighters Me 262- nothing to see of the Yankees. 6 weeks since out of the same clothes. On 30 June 1944, we took over the furtherst most portion of the front of the 10th Company. This was the portion between Cloville-Le Parc and Hill 192. Any changes along the front were made during the night, due to the fact that as soon as anything moved during the day, the Americans responded with every weapon available. The German front was a chain of fighting shelters at the foot of the Bocage, separated at a distance of 5-10 meters. The fighting holes were reinforced with heavy branches or doors and planks from shot-up houses that were laid overhead at a slight angle. The camouflage shelter-half, carried by each soldier, was suspended over the top and used for protection against the rain and then covered with hay or straw. The overhead provisions against the rain did not, however, protect against impacts of mortars or egg hand grenades. For this reason there were continual casualties, both wounded and dead. For the most part, the mortars gave us the worst time. When ever we heard "blupp, blupp, blupp," we ran into our shelters at lighting speed the way a ground hog does! After counting the seconds, we were then happy and blessed when the rounds landed somewhere off in the terrain. At the same time, however, one could hear screams for the "SANI" medic. The infernal odor of decomposing livestock, or even humans, in no-mans land was indescribable. Depending on the direction of the wind, the blotted carcasses were shot at either by us or the enemy, in order to spread a beastly smell. This had a direct impact on our food provisions, so that we could no longer smell any meat that was contained in our vegetable pot-pie or lentil soup. During this period I lived primarily off of bread, milk soup, tub cheese, tea, cigarettes, and French cognac, which during normal times was served only in the most affluent homes. Naturally we also lived off the land. France was an agricultural country with a produce industry. Most of the livestock and all the farming products had been destroyed in the combat areas when they had not already been butchered, processed, conserved, and distributed by French or German specialists. Under these circumstances, the French population was also able to profit. I never had the impression that the rural French suffered from a shortage of food. A very important point was that most of us were between the ages of 17 and 20. The sleep deprivation we experienced, based on 2-3 hours of rest, from day to day and night to night, was simply tremendous. These conditions had a direct impact on our nerves. We were kept from having mental and nervous breakdowns through our high level of comradery and esprit de corps, even with our officers. Two or three American machine guns kept us under a constant state of strain. Possibly situated and mounted within trees, the Americans took our front line and rear area, day and night, under continual fire. Consisting of short bursts for the most part, sometimes they fired for several minutes. Since we had suffered several casualties from this nuisance, we form a raiding party on 3 July with the mission of silencing the disturbance of peace. Under the cover of darkness on 3 July, led by Oberfähnrich (First Lieutenant) Willmes, we moved in the direction of the American machine guns. Apart from our infantry weapons, the carbine and submachine guns, we had a few Panzerfausts. The raiding party consisted of my comrade Rudi Rollke, the Jäger Haase, another young Jäger whom I did not know, and myself. We carefully and quietly scaled the first rampart, but after approximately 80 meters, the American forward posts must have heard us. Apparently they had allowed us to penetrate into their rear area before they opened fire at close range. From that point on, I never saw Rollke again. He is still listed as missing to this day. 2nd Lieutenant Charles Curley, a rifle platoon leader in the Second Indianhead Division, did not report any captured or killed Germans for that evening. The young Jäger was also severely hit. As Jäger Haase engaged the Americans and provided covering fire, Willmes and I dragged the wounded back to our position. I do not know if the young Jäger survived. Jäger Haase was killed a day later. During the large American attack that was launched on 11 July one week later, Willmes entered captivity. Since my Gruppenführer Stabsgefreiter (Senior Staff Private First Class) Rudolf Siebenhuehner had already been killed on 2 July, I was promoted to the rank of Gefreiter (Private First Class). With this promotion I was charged with the leadership of the remaining 5-man group, until I was wounded on the early morning on 6 July. A grenade splinter had penetrated through my left shin and 2 smaller splinters hit below my knee. For such trifle incidents one was placed on the baggage train and brought into the rear areas. After a few days I suffered from high fever and was sent to a field hospital. There I was diagnosed with gas-burn poisoning and it was recommended that my leg be amputated immediately! Not knowing anything about infectious diseases, I decided to forego the amputation and thereby saved my leg.
The following comrades were killed during the period of 1-5 July: 1 July: Fritz Gösecke, Berliner, father of 3 children. 2 July: Rudolf Siebenhühner, my Gruppenführer. 3 July: Rudi Rollke, missing. 4 July: Johann Frühbauer; Jäger Pundrich; Karl-Heinz Hesse. 5 July: Horst Haase. Considering the 7 dead, 14 others wounded, and the sick, there were about 40 casualties up to 11 July. Only a third of the entire company was left. During the middle of October I was released from the hospital. In December 1944, but not completely healed, I was sent to the front in Holland where I joined the Fusilier Jaeger Regiment 24.
From our Fallschirmjäger Comrade Prof. Dr. Heinz Bliss: "They were loyal, gallant, and disciplined. They were able to survive under the most extreme circumstances. They fought in accordance with the laws as ordered and lost their lives. They can be an example for anyone who, today, wears the soldiers’ blouse and must act in representation of the law. Therefore, they are worthy of tradition, because they embodied all the virtues that are expected of a soldier."