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More Colorized 17th Airborne Photos

Tough subject to colorize the frogskin uniforms. The yellow color on the camo is not quite to my liking. I think it needs a bit more orange.

Colorized image of 139th AEB Troops working as umpires during the Tennessee Maneuvers, 1944

More work on Colorized Photos

Took some verbal instruction from the pixpast.com website. There are a few gifted artists who are working on colorizing b/w photos from WW2 to provide a glimpse into what it may have looked like. I continue to work on my technique and am making some progress. I selected a rather grainy photo which has some damage to the surface. Not an easy starting point. Here are the results so far.

Colorized 139th AEB Photo

 

 

Placement of German Forces Along the Rhine River Prior to VARSITY

Commander, FIRST Fallschirmjaeger Army, General Alfred Schlemm.

The commander of German Army Group H, General Blaskowitz expected an airborne assault in conjunction with the Rhein crossing, and he correctly surmised it would occur in the area between Wesel and Emmerich, where the terrain was more suited to parachute and glider operations. He also concluded that an assault in this region could quickly open the front for a successful Allied breakout into the openness of the North German plain.[1]  

 

In preparation for the anticipated Rhein crossing by the Allies, Blaskowitz assigned the defensive tasks for the Emmerich-Wesel sector to General Alfred Schlemm’s FIRST Fallschirmjäger Army.[2]  Schlemm had three corps available for defense in this sector. The II Fallschirmjaeger Corps, commanded by General der Fallschirmtruppen Eugen Meindl, consisted of elements of the 6., 7. and 8. Fallschirmjäger Divisions. Their defensive locations were in the areas designated for the British 6th Airborne Division’s landing and drop zones, although some isolated Fallschirmjaeger forces would meet up with 17th Airborne Division forces. Schlemm’s XLVII Corps consisted of the 84. and 180. Infanterie Divisions. The 180th was stationed south of Wesel, outside of the assigned area of responsibility for the 17th Airborne. The LXIII Corps was positioned much farther to the south of Wesel in opposition to the crossing sites of US NINTH Army.[3] Elements of the XLVII Panzer Corps were also available to Schlemm to be used as a strategic reserve. Calling it a Panzer Corps is a stretch, since the entire force could only muster about 200 tanks and assault guns.[4] Another source estimated a significantly lower combat effectiveness for the XLVII Corps’ two units, the 116.  Panzer Division and the 15.  Panzergrenadier Division. The estimated combined tally of tanks and assault guns was between 100 and 150 vehicles.[5]

 

Additional reserve forces consisted of a replacement training division, which would be pressed into combat in this sector.[6] Within the Wesel area, numerous Landschutz, Sicherheits and Volkssturm Battalions were positioned.[7] The conglomeration of units from various commands and services, including civil organizations made command and control of the gaggle an insurmountable challenge.

 

German Nashorn Tank Destroyer armed with the powerful Pak43/L71 88mm gun

Artillery proliferation and effectiveness was the only bright spot in terms of forces available to Schlemm’s FIRST Fallschirmjäger Army. They had a, “reasonable compliment of artillery,” including the feared Nebelwerfer batteries. Many anti-aircraft artillery batteries were moved into the Wesel area to counter the anticipated airborne operation.[8] The city of Wesel was declared a Festungsstadt and many of the anti-aircraft units were positioned around the city. The result of this was a higher than normal density of Flak weapons; there were approximately 80 heavy and 250 light AAA guns in the area.[9]

 

There was much discussion among the German command regarding the Allied crossing. The commander of the 84. Infanterie Division, Generalmajor Heinz Fiebig was of the opinion that the Allies would initiate the airborne landing at some considerable distance from the Rhein. General Alfred Schlemm was in total disagreement. His correct assessment was that the location of the landings and parachute drops would be closer to the proximity of the Rhein. His conclusions regarding Operation MARKET-GARDEN correctly noted that the airborne forces which dropped too far from their tactical objectives were simply ground up. As a result Schlemm intended to position his mobile reserve, as meager as it was, in the region between Bocholt and Erle. Schlemm was countered by Blaskowitz, and the reserve force was placed farther north. To mitigate this questionable decision, Schlemm placed a small Kampfgruppe closer to the anticipated landing areas between Borken and Dorsten.[10]


[1]The Last Offensive, 301.

[2]The spelling of German commander’s names is obtained from Ken Ford’s book The Rhine Crossing 1945 (Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd., 2006), 18.

[3] The Rhine Crossing 1945, 26, 34.

[4] The Last Offensive. 301.

[5] Die Luftlandungen,12.

[6] The Last Offensive . 301.

[7] Alexander Berkel, Krieg vor der Eigenen Haustür (Wesel: Selbstverlag des Stadtarchivs Wesel, 2004), 61. Landschutz: territorial protection. Sicherheits: security. Volkssturm: peoples assault troops.

[8]The Last Offensive, 301-2.

[9] Krieg vor der Eigenen Haustür, 61. Festungsstadt: Fortress City.

[10] Krieg vor der Eigenen Haustür, 65.

17th Airborne Division and 51st British Highland Division Make Contact

Following the slug fest just west of Bastogne, between 4 and 10 Jan 45, the 17th Airborne Division began its drive north to close with the Allies. The Germans had mostly disengaged and withdrew their troops north and west. The 17th began a drive to close with and contact the British forces to the north. On the 14th of January, elements of the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment made contact with a patrol of British soldiers from the 51st Highland Division. Here is a photo and map of the link-up:

Blue arrow annotates location of photo

With permission from the author, Pieter Stolte, here is the narrative of the link-up from the British perspective from Pieter’s book, 51st Highland Division in the Ardennes, Dec 1944 – Jan 1945

      “On the right, in the 153rd Brigade’s zone, Captain Patrick MacNaghten, in command of ‘B’ Squadron of the 2nd Derbyshire Yeomanry, dis­patched all of his reconnaissance troops forward from Ortho. They had to patrol over three different routes towards the river side, and, if possible establish contact with the Americans at the bridge south of Warempage. On the right, one troop was to probe towards Mousny, in the center another troop was to push along the Ber­togne road to the bridge site and, on the left, one troop was to clear Warempage and Herlinval. Each troop was accompanied by a section of engineers for mine clearing. No.2 Troop went to Mousny and reported it clear of enemy, but because of deep snow it was not able to recce further. The troop that went down the main road, no.1 Troop, commanded by Lieutenant Owen, found the road blocked by eight trees. There were no mines but the trees were too big to be removed and they asked for a bulldozer to be brought up. Mean­while no.3 Troop, commanded by Lieutenant P. Mucklow, entered Warempage, where it saw two enemy soldiers running into a house. By firing its 2-pounder guns and Besa machine­guns at the enemy occupied house they flushed out the enemy and before long 9 POW’s were taken. By the time Warempage and the nearby Herlinval were clear Lieutenant Muck­low’s no.3 Troop had rounded up 39 POW’s.”

      “Since Mucklow’s troop was fully engaged in clearing up the houses in Warempage, Captain MacNaghten decided to let no.1 Troop make a detour by way of Warempage and rejoin his original axis further south. Lieutenant Owen’s troop proceeded through Warempage, turned right and descended to the main road. When the troop almost rejoined the main road, the leading armoured car spotted some infantry in slit trenches, who ran into some houses at the crossroads. The method of dislodgement de­scribed above was tried again, without success. The enemy remained in the houses. When this was reported, Captain MacNaghten told Lieuten­ant Owen that he would send infantry – two platoons of the 5/7th Gordons and a troop of tanks of ‘B’ Squadron 144th Regiment RAC were held at stand-by at Ortho, for just such an eventuality – but Owen replied that this was not necessary and that he would try again. This second attempt was also unsuccessful and Owen, on his own initiative, sent two pioneers round the back and opened the front door him­self. He was confronted by a German officer and four men with their machineguns aimed at him. Owen fired two shots from his revolver which hit the ceiling over their heads and with­drew behind the door-post, covering the open­ing with his revolver, to await developments. He did not have to wait long as the Germans came out with their hands up. Obviously, the sight of the fiery Welshmen was too much for them and despite his bad marksman­ship they were only too willing to surrender. He then proceeded to collect more prisoners, making 14 in all. As soon as Lieutenant Owen was satisfied that it was safe to do so, he went on south only to find the road blocked once more by trees. As no.3 Troop was still fully engaged in Warempage, Captain MacNaght­en decided that it would be quicker to bring no.1 Troop back to Warempage once more and send them via the small road leading south from Herlinval to rejoin their axis. This they did. On rejoining the main road a second time, the leading car of no.1 Troop reported another road block manned by “determined-looking” soldiers. This was at 1140 hrs. On ‘closer ex­amination’, they proved to be Americans and, at 1155 hrs, ‘B’ Squadron was able to report that “contact had been established with friends from the South”. Lieutenant Owen went on, on foot, to investigate the bridge, which was blown. A full report on the condition of the bridge was sent to Brigade. Sergeant Peter de Graeve an armoured car leader in no.1 Troop, remembers an exchange of ‘friendly’ fire: “About half a mile north of the river Ourthe we came under small arms fire from a wooded area each side of the road. We in our car already had the gun at 2 o’clock and as soon as firing started I told John Madden, my gunner, to open up with the Besa machinegun, spraying the wood until Lieutenant Owen after a short time realized they were Americans and shouted to cease fire. Mercifully, there were no casual­ties in this fire fight. The Yanks had been cut off for several days and eagerly accepted tins of corned-beef etc. To save this moment for pos­terity, I took a photograph with my camera.”

Signs Of War

I wanted to pass on a great site: www.signsofwar.com    I have always wanted to buy an original WW2 city/street sign from Belgium near the area where the 17th Airborne fought. , but could never bring myself to spend $750-$1500. While searching for original examples I came across Michael Miller’s site and was astounded. I began working with him to create something for the war room based on this image:

 

Here is an amazing recreation of the sign, without the bends as it would have looked just prior to whatever explosion rendered the warping:

The finished product from wwwsignsofwar.com

You will find his prices VERY affordable.

Group Photos of the 155th Airborne Anti-Aircraft Battalion

In the interest of helping family members and veterans to identify photos of those they know,  I will begin to post all of the Platoon and Company level photos from the 17th Airborne Division on my blog. They will be posted by unit, usually 2-3 platoons per image and are scanned in 300dpi, grey scale. If you want a particular image in more detail, just ask me. These are from the 155th Airborne Anti-Aircraft Battalion.

Headquarters and Medical Detachment

Battery A

Battery B

Battery C

 

 

 

Battery D

Battery E

 

 

Battery F

17th Airborne Enlisted Men Wounded in Action 24 Dec 44 -15 Feb 45 (Zub-Zuv)

This will be the final post with lists of those Wounded in Action for the 17th Airborne Division.  While reviewing all of the documents that I scanned I noticed the pencil entries at the bottom of the pages is missing pages.  The pencil page number at the bottom of the page that ends with Carl W. Scott shows page 76 annotated. The next page, which continues with Donal E. Scott is annotated as page 86. I’m not sure who made the pencil annotations and I am not sure if there should be pages 77-86 in between. I assumed there would be a listing of casualties for Operation VARSITY, but the listing contains no such title. I cannot conclude if the pencil annotations are wrong, or if I am missing the start of the VARSITY KIA list or what.  The time I spent at NARA copying these, did not allow me the luxury of looking at each and every page in detail. i simply copied each page in the order of the folder as quickly as possible. With thousands of pages copied, its all i could do.

The only way I will solve this is to take another trip to NARA. For now, I am not sure what the answer is, but it is interesting that the names from page 76-86 align in alphabetical order. In any regard here is the last WIA page I have.

17th Airborne Enlisted Men Wounded in Action 24 Dec 44 -15 Feb 45 (Zub-Zuv)

Searching for Relatives of Noel B. Yewdell

I own a color slide of a WW2 airborne trooper. The  slide is annotated “Noel Yewdell – My Driver” I am trying to determine who Noel Yewdell was driving for during WW2 as I think he is the officer who took the color slides during the war. They were both assigned to the 139th Airborne Engineer Battalion. It is possible that Yewdell wrote a letter home or spoke of his times during WW2 and perhaps he mentioned for whom he drove. Any information would help. Here is a photo of Noel B. Yewdell taken probably in England between Late Aug 44 and before winter fell that year. There is a possibility that the image was taken just after VE_Day either in Germany or France.

Caption reads: Noel Yarnell-my driver

17th Airborne Enlisted Men Wounded in Action 24 Dec 44 -15 Feb 45 (Wai-Zsc)

17th Airborne Enlisted Men Wounded in Action 24 Dec 44 -15 Feb 45 (Wai-Wil)

 

17th Airborne Enlisted Men Wounded in Action 24 Dec 44 -15 Feb 45 (Wil-Zsc)

17th Airborne Enlisted Men Wounded in Action 24 Dec 44 -15 Feb 45 (Sto-Wai)

17th Airborne Enlisted Men Wounded in Action 24 Dec 44 -15 Feb 45 (Sto-Tho)

 

17th Airborne Enlisted Men Wounded in Action 24 Dec 44 -15 Feb 45 (Tho-Wai)