General Manstein, one of the Wehrmacht’s top Generals. Part 1.

During the battles around southern Leningrad, in October and November 1941, in temperatures reaching -40 degrees, the 3rd Fallschirmjager Regiment, FJR3, 7th Flieger Division, commanded by General Student, was dispatched to defend parts of the River Neva and repulse any Russian attempts at creating a bridgehead. They were used in battalion sized units in a fire-fighting role and consequently some elements suffered up to 75% casualties.

This unit was just a small piece of the jigsaw of Army Group North’s push through the Balkans during Operation Barbarossa, launched by Hitler on Sunday, 22nd June, 1941.

General Manstein also had a key role to play in the invasion of Russia, taking command of LVI AK, LVI Army Corps, in February 1941, under the command of Panzer Group 4. He was assigned the 8th Panzer Division, 3rd Infantry Division (motorised) and the 290th Infantry Division and was ordered, along with Reinhardt of the XLI AK, to strike through the thinly held Russian defences and encircle the Russian 8th Army, before continuing their advance towards the Dvina River and force a crossing. The ultimate goal for Army Group North, was to destroy the Red Army holding the Baltic States, capture Leningrad and link up with the Finnish Army.

Manstein was born in Braunfels in Hesse, on the 24th November 1887, one of ten children. Although born to the Lewinski family, his father a Prussian artillery Generalleutnant, he was brought up by his mother’s sister, as they had no sons with whom to carry the Manstein name forward. Manstein was related to a number of famous Prussian Generals and naturally pursued a career in that same field. After completing his training and attending the Royal Military Academy at Schloss Engers, near Koblenz, he was attached, as a young officer, to the 3rd Garde-Regiment zu Fuss.

At the outbreak of World War 1, in August 1914, he initially served in Belgium before being transferred to the Russian Front in October, where, during the retreat from Warsaw, he was wounded and sent to Wiesbaden to recover.

After the war and under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, where the size of the Army was limited to 100,000 men, much of his time was spent in an organisational role and it wasn’t until October 1921 that he got his first command, 6th Company, 5th Infantry Regiment. He was now married to Jutta von Loesch and his second child, a son, was born.

To overcome the restrictions placed upon the Army by the Treaty small study groups were created, leading to new doctrine in infantry, armour and motorised warfare. Manstein was fortunate to be included in one of these groups helping develop new military concepts.

Promoted to Major in 1928 and Oberstleutnant, Lieutenant Colonel, in 1931, he commanded II Jaeger battalion of the 4th Prussian Infantry Regiment in Kolberg. He was at Kolberg when Adolf Hitler became Reich Chancellor in January 1933, and along with the rest of the German Military, swore an oath, pledging their loyalty to him. His Wehrmacht service had begun…

The Invasion of Crete, WW2.

This would be the first ever airborne invasion in military history. The Fallschirmjager, supported by the famous Gebirgsjager mountain troops, are up against 40,000 allied soldiers – who will fight to the bitter end to protect Crete.

Before dawn on the 20th May 1941, the JU-52’s, “Tante Ju’s”, warmed up their engines on the Greek airfields of Corinth, Megara and Tanagra ready to undertake the first full scale invasion of a country from the air. They were to attack the 160 mile long Island of Crete.

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Loading a weapons canister into a JU-52.

Within minutes of the first few taking off, carrying their loads of paratroopers towards their objectives, a dust storm had been created by the backdraft from the three engined Junkers, playing havoc with the German’s carefully planned schedule. Eventually, waiting for the clouds of dust to settle, all were launched.

Ju-52’s and towed DFS-230 gliders on route to Crete.

On Day 1, the glider companies landed successfully on their targets, capturing the bridge over the Tavronitis and securing an area on the outskirts of Maleme airfield. The 3rd battalion, Luftlande Sturmregiment, started their drop landing directly on top of two New Zealand battalions. The 2nd battalion landed east of Spilia and the 4th battalion west of Travonitis. Once Generalmajor Meindl had secured his HQ, and dug in on the outskirts of the airfield, he sent two companies to take Hill 107, a key position overlooking Maleme airfield. Major Koch, of Eben Emael fame, the commander of  the 1st battalion, received a head wound while helping to take Hill 107.

Fallschirmjager, paratroopers, dropping onto Crete. 

The second major drop that day was around the town of Chania. A second wave of aircraft dropped more paratroopers in the afternoon, along with further gliders containing heavy assault troops. Rethymnon was attacked at 1615 hours, Heraklion at 1730. The Fallschirmjager suffered heavy casualties that day.

Day 2

The Fallschirmjager took advantage of the New Zealand forces withdrawing from Hill 107, this eventually giving the Germans control of Maleme airfield, enabling them to land aircraft and reinforce the units on the ground.

Fallschirmjager in Crete, their distinctive helmets and combat smocks clearly visible.

Before midnight, Rear Admiral Glennie’s Force D, three light cruisers and four destroyers, intercepted a water born landing by German reinforcements. Out of the 2,000 strong German force, over 1,000 managed to escape.

Warships berthed close to the Island – Crete 1941

The Germans now had a foothold on Crete and with Maleme airfield in their possession, they flew units of the 5th Gebirgsjager, Mountain, Division in to join in the attack.

A bitter battle was fought – destroyed British light Mark VI,  tanks, 1941.

It was an exhaustive battle for the Fallschirmjager

But after 10 days of battle they had their victory march – Crete 1941.

But they suffered heavy casualties and it was the last major jump completed by the Fallschirmjager in WW2

The following are pictures from my visit to Crete while writing Devils with Wings: Silk Drop. The visit helped me with my descriptions of the environment they fought in.

When you read about Max and a certain incident, this is the plant I was describing

2010

1941

This exciting fictionalised retelling of the invasion of Crete is written by an author with extensive experience in army intelligence. It’s the follow up to Devils With Wings, and continues the wartime adventures of Fallschirmjager paratrooper Paul Brand and his Feldwebel Max Grun. On a high after their successful subjugation of Fort Eben Emael, Paul Brand, now in command of his own company, and Feldwebel Max Grun, are parachuted into Greece to help capture the bridge spanning the Corinth Canal. Tough times are ahead when the German High Command decide to invade the Island of Crete. This will be the first ever airborne invasion in military history. The Fallschirmjager, supported by the famous Gebirgsjager mountain troops, are up against 40,000 allied soldiers – who will fight to the bitter end to protect Crete. Operating behind enemy lines, Paul Brand and Max Grun will face challenges that not only tests their fortitude but strains the close bond between them. Silk Drop is a thrilling sequel to Devils With Wings and is based on a factual episode.

Photographs copyrighted to Harvey Black

 

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ref=sib_dp_kd

This exciting fictionalised retelling of the invasion of Crete is written by an author with extensive experience in army intelligence. It’s the follow up to Devils With Wings, and continues the wartime adventures of Fallschirmjager paratrooper Paul Brand and his Feldwebel Max Grun. On a high after their successful subjugation of Fort Eben Emael, Paul Brand, now in command of his own company, and Feldwebel Max Grun, are parachuted into Greece to help capture the bridge spanning the Corinth Canal. Tough times are ahead when the German High Command decide to invade the Island of Crete. This will be the first ever airborne invasion in military history. The Fallschirmjager, supported by the famous Gebirgsjager mountain troops, are up against 40,000 allied soldiers – who will fight to the bitter end to protect Crete. Operating behind enemy lines, Paul Brand and Max Grun will face challenges that not only tests their fortitude but strains the close bond between them. Silk Drop is a thrilling sequel to Devils With Wings and is based on a factual episode.

Grüne Teufel – Green Devils

The battle of Crete, Operation Mercury, began on the morning of the 20th May, 1941. Greek and Allied forces defended the Island.

The Fallschirmjager, German Paratroopers, were used on a huge scale, the first ever mainly airborne invasion in history.

Up to 15,000 elite, Fallschirmjager initiated the attack by glider and parachute, later supported by up to 15,000 Gebirgsjager, Mountain Troops. Nearly five hundred transport aircraft were used, the famous Junkers JU 52, Tante Ju, Aunty June,  to the paratroopers.

Although a success, taking Crete in only 10 days, it was a Pyrrhic victory. Up to 7,000 were killed or wounded and over 350 aircraft were destroyed. They were never again used in large scale airborne operations, but as elite troops, they fought in every theatre of the war, by the River Neva near Leningrad, Monte Casino, Italy, Battle of the Bulge, Normandy and Africa.

A Video Clip of the Fallschirmjager

http://www.youtube.com/user/HarveyBlackAuthor/feed

 

General Manstein, one of the Wehrmacht’s top Generals. Part 1.

During the battles around southern Leningrad, in October and November 1941, in temperatures reaching -40 degrees, the 3rd Fallschirmjager Regiment, FJR3, 7th Flieger Division, commanded by General Student, was dispatched to defend parts of the River Neva and repulse any Russian attempts at creating a bridgehead. They were used in battalion sized units in a fire-fighting role and consequently some elements suffered up to 75% casualties.

This unit was just a small piece of the jigsaw of Army Group North’s push through the Balkans during Operation Barbarossa, launched by Hitler on Sunday, 22nd June, 1941.

General Manstein also had a key role to play in the invasion of Russia, taking command of LVI AK, LVI Army Corps, in February 1941, under the command of Panzer Group 4. He was assigned the 8th Panzer Division, 3rd Infantry Division (motorised) and the 290th Infantry Division and was ordered, along with Reinhardt of the XLI AK, to strike through the thinly held Russian defences and encircle the Russian 8th Army, before continuing their advance towards the Dvina River and force a crossing. The ultimate goal for Army Group North, was to destroy the Red Army holding the Baltic States, capture Leningrad and link up with the Finnish Army.

Manstein was born in Braunfels in Hesse, on the 24th November 1887, one of ten children. Although born to the Lewinski family, his father a Prussian artillery Generalleutnant, he was brought up by his mother’s sister, as they had no sons with whom to carry the Manstein name forward. Manstein was related to a number of famous Prussian Generals and naturally pursued a career in that same field. After completing his training and attending the Royal Military Academy at Schloss Engers, near Koblenz, he was attached, as a young officer, to the 3rd Garde-Regiment zu Fuss.

At the outbreak of World War 1, in August 1914, he initially served in Belgium before being transferred to the Russian Front in October, where, during the retreat from Warsaw, he was wounded and sent to Wiesbaden to recover.

After the war and under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, where the size of the Army was limited to 100,000 men, much of his time was spent in an organisational role and it wasn’t until October 1921 that he got his first command, 6th Company, 5th Infantry Regiment. He was now married to Jutta von Loesch and his second child, a son, was born.

To overcome the restrictions placed upon the Army by the Treaty small study groups were created, leading to new doctrine in infantry, armour and motorised warfare. Manstein was fortunate to be included in one of these groups helping develop new military concepts.

Promoted to Major in 1928 and Oberstleutnant, Lieutenant Colonel, in 1931, he commanded II Jaeger battalion of the 4th Prussian Infantry Regiment in Kolberg. He was at Kolberg when Adolf Hitler became Reich Chancellor in January 1933, and along with the rest of the German Military, swore an oath, pledging their loyalty to him. His Wehrmacht service had begun…