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Grandparent's Tales of the War

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by Piron, Feb 6, 2008.

  1. Kol1983

    Kol1983 recruit

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    My grandF (1911-1994) had a 17 confirmed kills of german soldiers. Plus another member of my family (died at the age close to 90 in 2004) served as soldier and was wounded in to the legs somewhere on the south front in 1942.

    My brother (born in 1965) was a tank crew member in afgan's Chagcharan province. I remember his return his was weeping and was afraid of enemy fire at home.
     
  2. Milleniumgorilla

    Milleniumgorilla Member

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    After I read the great stories in this thread I decided to share the wartime experience of my family. I hope some of you find it interesting to hear some German stories.

    My grandfather from my mothers side was a WW1 veteran and after surviving Verdun he was pretty much fed up with war and joined the Social Democratic Party. When the Nazis seized power he was arrested several times but wasn't harmed very much because he was no leading member and his brother was in the NSDAP. When the war broke out he wasn't sen t to the front because he was relatively old and he was an engineer and therefore a war-important worker.During the war he worked in the Zitadelle Spandau in Berlin which was a military research facility at that time, where mainly combat gas was developed. When the Eastern Front crumbled he headed to East Prussia to get his family out and fortunately managed to get them on a train to Berlin. When the battle for the city started he simply didn't go to work anymore and hid till the fighting was over. There is a nice story where during the fighting he persuaded some Hitlerboys to lay down their weapons and go home. But we actually don't know if they really stopped fighting or if they rejoined the battle later. He was very bitter for the rest of his life and also was antimilitaristic and pacifistic.He passed away 1981 from a stroke.
    The career of his brother turned out to be very different. As mentioned earlier he was in the NSDAP and later joined the SS. He was in the adminstrative personnel and spent a lot of the war in the extermination camp of Majdanek. After the camp was given up he spent the rest of the war in Würzburg. He wasn't captured and after the war he managed to escape punishment. As far as I know he never spoke of his SS time and his children even don't know that he was there. The two brothers never ever spoke a word to each other after the war. My great uncle died 1996.
    My grandfather from my fathers side was also not at the front because after an accident he was almost deaf on one ear and therefore served in an Anti-Aircraft unit in Dortmund. His unit surrendered in the Ruhr Pocket without a fight. He was a POW for a short time but returned quite early because his father was a farmer and he was needed for the harvest. He died in 2005.
    One of his brothers was a in Army group North and fell during the Siege of Leningrad.
    His second brother was in Army group center and was finally captured at Seelow. He was also POW for a short time but was released for the same reason as his brother. He died in 2002.
    My fathers family lives in the village near the Möhnetalsperre which was one of the dams which were blown up . Luckily their house was on the hill and not in the valley so nobody from my family drowned.

    Grüße
    Philipp
     
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  3. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Phenomenal stories, Philipp. It's not often we hear such tales from the German side. You certainly had a varied set of grandparents. Thanks for sharing.
     
  4. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    I agree with Lou, great stories and thanks for sharing Philipp.
     
  5. bigmick

    bigmick Member

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    Firstly let me say this is a great thread.
    I would like to say a few words about my garndfather. he was a member of the 2/7 2nd A.I.F.(second battalion, 7th division, 2nd Australian Infantry Forces) and an original member of the 39ers.The first A.I.F was the 1st ww. 39ers were men who joined in 1939 once war was declared, and served right thru the war fighting the Germans, Italians and Japenese.He was very quiet about his war time experiences but he told me a few humorous stories. Now as stated in another post I have a few memory probs so unsure of dates but I would like to tell a story of him being sunk, twice?;)
    He was wounded in the Medditeranian campaign,he never told me where, could have been Greece , Crete or the African front, he fought in all these places. He was hit by shrapnel in the face. The shrapnel hit him in the cheek and exited his other cheek , never broke a bone or touched his teeth or tongue...lol. he was evacuted and put on a hospital ship. that ship was sailing somewhere when it was torpedoed. after ship sunk he was picked up and was soon on another ship , dont know if it was another hospital ship, and two days later that ship was torpedoed and once again he found himself in the water. after being rescued again he refused to go on another hospital ship and fought the brass to just go back to his unit , which he did. Apparantly he swore that if he was ever wounded again he would stay at the front with his mates as he thought it was safer...........? The 2/7 was returned to australia and was reformed and sent to New Guinea to fight the Japs.Luckily he was never seriously wounded again. twice very minor.
    Note: The 2/7 was selected with a New Zealand unit to delay the axis advance on Crete and only a small number escaped .Most were captured, wounded or killed, thats why it had to be reformed when it returned to Australia. There is a book called "pheonix rising" about the 2/7 but am unable to get a copy. if anyone has a copy and would like to sell,I would be very interested.
     
  6. olegbabich

    olegbabich Member

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    My grandfather passed away a number of years back. He was front line officer in the Russian army 1938-1944 and then served on Manchurian border in the 50’s.
    In Russia when I was little he told us all of the heroic and funny stories about the war. He could not and would not talk about being scared, hungry and sometimes pissed off and his superiors. That only came later after the end of USSR. He was a member of Communist Party his whole life.
    He served mostly with Sniper Recon platoon. Some small anecdotes that I remember:

    Sniping at Germans during winter, and they did not know that their comrade was hit. They thought he slipped on ice. Germans were laughing until another one went down.

    Sometimes when under sniper fire, Germans would use hooks attached to ropes to pull their wounded back into the trenches.

    My first German fraises that I learned were Hande Hoch (hands up) and Hitler Kaput. He was involved in numerous raids in German position with orders to bring back a (Tongue) as Russians used to call a prisoner captured for information. They had to crawl through no mans land at night, and the Germans would shoot flares and fire burst from belt fed weapons now and then. They did that even if they did not see anything. Recon still had to go forward without knowing if they were discovered or not.

    A young girl was driving a horse pulled field kitchen, which got hit by a large Mortar. A boot was all that was found from the girl.

    One time there was a pause in fighting. A general doing inspection at the front line asked commanding officer why his company was not firing at the Germans. Officer replied that the Germans were not firing at them at that time. That whole incident almost ended with general shooting that guy on the spot.

    I do not know if my grandfather even had to do this, but when German flame throwing tank would park over a trench, you had to quickly cover yourself with your heavy field coat. And when it got hot you would throw it off.

    He did not say what kind (I think TB-3), but a formation of Russian bombers was flying over the front line, when only one Messerschmitt attacked them. My grandfather described all of the bombers igniting like matches in a matter of minutes. Nothing but smoke and a couple of parachutes floating in the sky.

    There are many more stories that I remember and maybe I will post them at a later time.

    I will always remember him as strict but loving and fair man.
     
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  7. cfp

    cfp recruit

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    My grandpa was part of the 28th armored infantry division.. i rode on those half tracks and fired a .30 cal most of the time. He was part of the crossing of the Rhine. His group was one of the first over the Rammagen bridge. They got as many over as possible before the bridge collapsed soon after. He never talked about the war much but one story he told was about him and his squad were in a quiet pub in a basement in Germany. The people there were nice and fed them, but it was illegal for them to because of course, Americans were the enemy there. Suddenly, a small team of Germans walked in and saw them. My Grandpa's squad's guns were all leaned up on the wall near the door so they were defenseless. Fortunately, my grandpa had grown up in a family of Germans so he was fluent in the language. At that point in the war, both sides were just tired and knew it was over so he said something like "hey its okay, the wars over, come over and take a break." They drank a bit, and then my Grandpa told them they had to leave so they got there stuff and as soon as they were out, they made a beeline back to their camp, which was only probably 300 meters from the German camp.

    hah well thats his story. He died a few years ago but im happy someone can read it and know-:)
     
  8. James Cox

    James Cox Member

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    Great stuff. Thanks
     
  9. hyde

    hyde Member

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    This thread made me join the forum. Really great stories, so thanks to all previous posters! Some of them were really epic reading. I noticed that there isn't that many stories from the axis side but maybe I can chance that.

    So I shall also share the few little stories that my grandfather told about his experiences in the war. Naturally, as being Finnish, he served in the Finnish army. Sadly I never met him myself so I must rely on what I have heard from my grandmother, parents and other relatives.

    My grandfathers name was Totti Aleksanteri Marttala. He served as a private in both Winter and Continuation wars, and only as a private because he apparently didn't want the resposibility of the lifes of other men in his shoulders, something we all can relate to.

    When the Winter war began in 30th of November 1939 Totti was already in arms. He had been called to military refresher course as had many others when Soviet aggression increased on our border. First the unit in which he served (Independent infantry regiment 40 or JR.40) was kept in reserve for couple of weeks, to pinpoint the main Soviet thrust in the area, and then placed to stop the red wave. In December the regiment was finally moved to face the Russian attack along the arctic circle in Salla region of the front. According to my father, Totti had once told him about his first assignment in the front. To gather frozensolid russian corpses which had their arms stretched out. This was due temperature of up to -45 degree celsius which made wood to crack so the JR.40 and other units in the area used russian corpses as road sings.
    The JR.40 was able to stop the Soviet offensive in treeless fjelds of Salla. Totti used to say that they felt pity for their Russian counterparts. He said that they always attacked in daylight, running in meter high snowdrifts in treeless terrain. They killed them by companies at a time (one Finnish regiment and two separate battalions was facing two full Russian divisions supported by 3 independent brigades and still stopped their advance). Totti also said that they often tried to shoot the enemy officers and comisars first as they were the only motivator behind these crazy human wave attacks.
    After the initial offensive had been stopped in December the fight became a ww1 style stalemate for the rest of the war as neither side had the force or will to attack against the opponent. Totti, who was originally a runner, had been made a spotter to a sniper and mortar team during this trench war as there wasn't that much need for runners. He told how they used to dig holes through their trenches and snow at night and then place white steel cover on it. When the day came they aimed rifles on presighted targets behind the cover and someone quickly pulled the cover away and they would fire their weapons and then the cover was put back on its place. This way they could shoot the enemy without them being able to shoot back. The Winter war ended in 13th of March 1940. Totti returned home unharmed. In June 1941 he would be called to arms yet again but before that he would marry my grandmother and they would build their own house, not far from where I'm sitting right now.


    The JR.40 had lost so much of its strength during the last war, that when Finland started to prepare for Barbarossa in early summer of 1941, the regiment was disbanded and remaining men were placed in 6th Division. As German forces took charge of the northern part of the Finn-Russo border, the 6th was placed under German command in XXXVI Armeekorps. The area would be familiar to Totti, the korps would attack in Salla area which JR.40 had defended two winters ago.
    To Totti the Continuation war started in the night of 26th of June in form of a night attack. Their mission was to push through the frontline and keep going for few miles in order to create as big 'motti' as possible before Germans with their artillery and tanks would start to destroy these mottis at dawn. From this particular operation I have quite good info because Totti was wounded during the action and recieved the Order of White Rose. Due to these events I have some official papers from what happened.
    As said the attack started at night, it wasn't that dark cause the sun doesn't set at all in Lapland at summer, but still they achieved a supprise cause they overcame the defenders without a single shot being fired. Totti often said that in hand to hand combat, as one like that night witnessed, the only way to tell a difference between a Finnish and a Russian soldier was either so called 'breadbag' or a kinfes sheath both of which all Finns had in their waist. 'When you stumble over a man you crab his belt or shoulder and if there isn't any bag straps then you would try to kill him' he said. Anyways, the assault was succesfull and by morning they had created so big motti that it took whole week for the Germans to clear it and Russian stragglers were found long after the battle. Some of these stragglers involved the instance from which Totti had his medal.
    He was on guard duty on an edge of a clearing in the woods. His platoon was sleeping not far from the place he stand on guard in the middle of the night. Then he noticed a group of Russians coming from the other side of the clearing and he started shooting at them after letting them get little closer. He killed three and wounded two others after which two remaining Russians surrendered. This is the official version of the story. After the war Totti said that it did not went like that at all. The man to relieve him from the guard post was late and when he heard someone walking towards him he shouted something like 'about the damn time!'. He was terrified when the answer was yelling in Russia. He then picked up his bolt action rifle and shot towards the sounds. He heard that he had hit something and shot all his 5 cartridges from the magazine. Then suddenly there were two Russians in front of him unarmed and hands up. He thought that 'if I start reloading now they'll jump me' so he took them as prisoners with an empty weapon and recieved a highly appreciated medal for it. A month later Totti was wounded, a rifle bullet went through his right lung.


    After a while in military hospital in Oulu and then at home he was called back in the army, but was not fit enough to serve in frontline troops. The years 1942-1944 he drove a horse carriage for supply company. Totti and other old men of the 6th were not allowed to take part in the Lapland war and had to stay behind. When the Lapland war ended in 1945 Totti and my grandmother returned to their home in western Lapland only to find their home burned down by the Germans. They started over and had 7 children before Tottis death in 1967 from pneumonia, which he suffered repeatedly after getting wounded. Totti also had two brothers. The older one was hit in the head by shrapnel during Winter war and died for his wounds in April 1940. The younger was only 17 when the Continuation war ended. Instead he took part in the Lapland war. He stepped on two mines but by some miracle came out unharmed. He died last Autum in the age of 80.

    I was planning to write about my other grandfather also but this post came out to be so long that maybe next time. I just hope this isn't 'tl;dr' ;)
     
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  10. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Wonderful story, hyde. It's always informative to see and hear from the "other" side. Why not introduce yourself in the new member forum and tell us a little about yourself.

    Welcome to the forum.
     
  11. JagdtigerI

    JagdtigerI Ace

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    Wonderful first post Hyde, welcome to the forum!
     
  12. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    I missed this post somehow. Again, it's good to get another perspective. Thanks
     
  13. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor Patron  

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    No worries, we welcome everybody....look at me. My grandfather was in the Waffen SS.

    We want to hear it all. Another post would be great. :salute:
     
  14. Keystone Two-Eight

    Keystone Two-Eight Member

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    Good story Piron! Sorry I didn't see it until now, but really nice.



    I've got a friend named Henry Hirshman who was imprisoned in one of the concentration camps (Im sorry to say I cant recall which) for I believe two years, escaped, made his way to America, enlisted in the army and actually liberated one of the camps as a member of the U.S. Army.
     
  15. olegbabich

    olegbabich Member

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    Before she was evacuated my grandmother was Air Raid Warden in Moscow 1941.
    Her job was to be on the roof during air raids with shovels and sand. These people would put out incendiary bombs.
     
  16. IntIron

    IntIron Member

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    Hi,

    I have a story to tell about my grandfather. When the war started, he was living in Cheyenne, Wyoming. At this point in his life he was delivering coal to homes(coal fired still being the method of warmth in most homes). My Grandfather was eventually drafted, first to the army. He did not pass the physical due to his small size (5'5" and 92 pounds soaking wet), the marines likewise rejected him. He COULD have shirked his duty, but he insisted that he be allowed to serve, so he went into the navy. After completing basic training he was assigned to the USS Colorado(BB-45, I have the cruise book, its quite treasured). His position was that of Lookout and fire-control. (Mostly lookout though). My grandfather was with the Colorado throughout its entire tour. He told me about all of the island operations. Some were far more dramatic and intense than others. I was young at the time(7 to 12 is when I spent the most time with him), and he'd give me the non-censored version of events(maybe to impart the horror of war).

    One story that he shared with me:

    They were supporting the landings as Tinian, and the Colorado pulled in Close to shore to pour on the fire. The Colorado was pumping 16" shells, 5" shells, 40mm, and 20mm onto the beach in front of the Marines as fast as the ship could fire. The Colorado was doing this in order to destroy the defending units and help the Marines. All of a sudden a hidden shore battery(5" to 8") found their range and started to hit the Colorado. The Captain sent word out that they would not pull away from shore because of this, they simply would not leave their friends in the lurch. My grandfather said it would be impossible to describe the terror of having a shell hit the ship and take out an entire 20mm tub(There were 3 or 4 20mms grouped together). They stuck it out, found out where the battery was and as my granddad said, 'were repaid in kind'. The Colorado was hit 22 times. My grandfather and many others helped pick up the remains of the men in those positions.

    I have many more stories that he shared with me. If you'd like to hear them I'll try to post one a week.


    Yours,

    Bill
     
  17. kuuk

    kuuk Member

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    This parent story of coincidence starts at the final days of WW-One and ends shortly after WW-Two: My Father was a teenager at the end of WWI in Netherlands (NL). His parents permitted a young Austrian girl to stay with them in neutral NL for about a year until well after 11/11/1918 to recoup from malnutricition suffered during WWI.

    Fast forward to WWII: Five doors down from our house lived the German Ortskommandant (City boss). He had a family but was transferred to Normandy shortly before D-Day. A new commandant comes in. He had no family living with 'em and everybody hated him. A year later, well after our town was liberated (thank you Allied Troops) and the war was over, my Father received a letter from Austria written by the person who stayed with his family in '17/18. She hoped everybody survived the war. In the letter was a picture of her and her husband. My Father immediately recognized the husband as the second Orts Commandant! My Father wrote her back and told her of his "discovery". No reply was ever received.
     
  18. 1986CamaroZ28

    1986CamaroZ28 Member

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    My grandpa, Eddie, dropped out of high school at 16 and joined the Marine Corp. He was at Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, and Tarawa. I saw Saving Private Ryan with him, and he talked a lot after that. He thought the movie was too hollywoodized, and that the best scene was when the guys are trying to save their friend, but dies.

    Eddie said the beach scene wasn't bad, and that they couldn't make it any worse or the audience would walk out. The movie couldn't capture everything: vibrations rocking your body, ear drums aching, eyes strained, the taste of bloody salt water in your mouth, the warmth of your own body fluids running out, the smell of burned sand and flesh. He said Tarawa was the worst battle he was in, guys behind him were floating into the boat's propellers and bullets were riddling around him. At night he was attacked Japs, got bayoneted, but he smashed one of their heads in with his rifle. Their body was still there in morning, with the brain and eyes falling out of the collapsed skull. Later, when they were under artillery fire, one guy just got up and started screaming and jumping, and a shell landed near him. His whole body flew in the air, and it glittered cause there were hundreds of pieces of fragments in him.

    Eddie got malaria, and was sent home. The weird thing is, every seven years he kinda went crazy. He'd put on his old Marine dress blues, get on a bus, and go to his brothers house. It acted really weird, out of it, but didn't do any harm. After about a week he was normal again. The doctor said it happened cause of the malaria, who knows. He said he would have joined the Marines again, but he'd never want to go through combat again. He only told me a lot of this stuff, because he's a history teacher, and he understands that if know tells the secret truths like combat, less people will understand. He has a great loving for history, but he passed away years ago.
     
  19. Kris

    Kris Member

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    Thank you all for posting your stories, I love reading them! Keep posting! Urge all of us who can to interview all of those who were involved before their stories are gone.

    My maternal grandfather was 17 when he joined the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve in 1943. He spent some time out east in Halifax and was then transferred to Scotland. From there he was part of the crew of the landing craft LCIL 299 which was transferring the reserves on Juno Beach during Dday. I know from research that his boat hit a mine enroute to Juno and he had to spend some time on the beach. Unfortunately he never talked about his experience, if we did question him, he shook his head and start crying mumbling about bodies and heads in the water.Needlessly to say that is far as we ever got from him. Really regret not asking him more, maybe not about the landings but with other things such as if he did convoy work or such.

    On the other hand, my paternal grandfather who was in his 30's during the war, was originally born in Italy but had been working in Germany since 1935. He was working in Cologne I believe in an ammunition factory with Russian POWs (but I have to confirm this, maybe its a translation thing). He said he remembers waves and waves of American bombers flying over head as they were going towards somewhere to bomb and watching the planes overhead dogfighting (I think that this is the word for it) He said that he and his friends would go dancing at night and since most of the men were at the front, there were plenty of ladies to dance with :) I know that he told me that he was drafted into the Italian army but he fled and went back to Germany. Met and shook hands with Mussolini three times ( I swear that this is the highlight of his life :)

    I plan on interviewing him this year ( with my dad acting as translator) to save these stories for myself and for my children. If there are anymore interesting ones, I will definitely post them. He turns 94 in about 3 weeks and he still thinks that Mussollini was the greatest thing to come out of Italy since pizza, God Bless him!
     
  20. iantendo

    iantendo recruit

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