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Major Alfred Becker and the Paris Baukommando

Discussion in 'Armor and Armored Fighting Vehicles' started by JCFalkenbergIII, Mar 22, 2008.

  1. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    I have always like reading about the accomplishments of individuals and their
    impact on the war. Major Becker is one of them.

    Major Alfred Becker, a First World War veteran and mechanical engineer, was heavily involved in the conversion of captured vehicles from 1940.
    In 1942 he converted captured French carriers into the 15cm (Sf) Lorraine Schlepper self-propped gun, which meet with great approval from the OKH. These were shipped to Afrika to supplement Rommel’s forces in the desert.
    Towards the end of 1942 he was transferred to France to devise ways of utilising various captured French vehicles. Becker’s engineering staff set about their work and were soon pumping out a variety of innovative designs. From 1943 he started to convert the Hotchkiss H35 and 39 light tanks to mount a 7.5cm PaK40 or 10.5cm leFH16 as an assault gun. In the summer of 1943 he was given command of the 200. Sturmgeschützabteilung, part of the rebuilding 21. Panzerdivision, which he equipped with the new assault guns. By the time of the Allied invasion in June 1944 he had built the StuG abteilung up to five batteries of 10 vehicles (4x 7.5cm PaK40 and 6x 10.5cm leFH16 each). Becker was however more than just a simple engineer. In 1914 he had won the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd class, and during the fighting Poland had added the 1939 Bar to each of his crosses (commanding the 15. Batterie, 227. Artillerie-Regiment, 227. Infanterie-Regiment). For his inventive use of captured vehicles he was awarded the War Merit Cross 1st Class with Swords and by 1945 had earned himself a Knight’s Cross of the War Merit Cross with Swords.
     
  2. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    He was a smart guy who was a first class recycler!

    I heard about these Hotchkiss being converted. There were a whole bunch captured in 1940, including spares so that an entire unit could be created with German coloured Hotchkisses. I have posted 1941 pics in the Gilze Rijen thread. The reason is because Nick found spares there too. I also saw a video on youtube of Hotchkiss tanks driving to the front (apparently all the way from southern Frnace. Then during the 1944 retreat they were still serving, however I do not know how many were converted to Pak 40. Probably not that many because by then the original which were sent to front in 1941 would mostly have been destroyed and not tha tmany left in France .
     
  3. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    I found a little more about him :).

    The answere is simple: One single person (Hpt. Alfred Becker, 227. ID (Artillery) was in charge ot the salvage the whole French captured AFV's. He collected the scrap in one place and did a triage with the vehicles:
    1. Minor repairs and refits
    2. Major repair and refits
    3. Spare parts source

    The the vehicles where repaired by importance all of one type in one step. All remaining spare parts where stored away. What was left was shipped back to the steelworks.
    The Wehrmacht had only on Alfred Becker, so most captured vehicles in Russia where doomed!

    Alfred Becker was an interesting guy. He started the war in the west with his Batterie (12.) horsepowered. After reaching the first dutch artillery depot on the way of 227. ID he equiped his Batterie and the recon element of 227. ID with motorized vehicles.
    OK, motorized is fine, but mechanized is better. So Becker started to refit his Batterie with SPA's (!!!) (BY HIMSELF, WITH AN ARCWELDER !!!! ). After 6 month the FIRST armored artillery Battery of the German Wehrmacht was combat ready (without one vehicle build by a professional manufacturer!!!). The armoured artillery vehicle was composed from Vickers Mk.6 under-carriages with 10,5cm Feldhaubitze 16.
    After that Becker was instantly transfered to Alkett to help this armourworks build a SPA on a French Lorain ammo-carrier.
    In 1942/3 Becker salavaged all usable tank wreckage he found in France as described above. Now his unit was called "Baustab Becker". His production output (more than 1800 tanks and other Vehicle) was used to form "verstarkte schnelle Brigade West". Becker was also simultaniously commanding officer of Sturmgeschütz-Abt. 200 (later Sturmpanzer-Abt. 200).

    Feldgrau.net :: View topic - What happened with all the russian tanks?
     
  4. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Thanks Falkenberg, guys like him were worth gold for the Germans. You gave him a few outdate chassis a turret , a couple of bolts and after some welding he'D invent a new hybrid (or shal I call it centaur) . I can't confirm about the Russian material, all I know is that he worked on the westfront first.
     
  5. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    As was mentioned before about the huge amount of armor captured by the Germans from the Soviets in 1941 Im surprised his skills and expertise were not used on the Eastern Front also.
     
  6. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    Im surprised that there were not alot of conversions of the Soviet BT series that were captured.
     
  7. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    The major reason more wasn't done with captured tanks and equipment was simply that the Wehrmacht in general had little interest in fully exploiting this avenue for gaining equipment. As has already been pointed out Becker, initially at his own expense and initiative, began as virtually a one man show. Only when it became apparent to the entrenched management types that this sort of operation was not only feasible but desirable did Becker's efforts get official sanction.
    This is simply a case of a hide-bound management system that was too myopic to see the true value of mass captured equipment and make a systematic effort to utilize it efficently.

    In the "what-if" category, what if such an effort had been made? That is, there were field recovery units tasked with rounding up and shipping back to Germany all captured useful equipment captured. The large number of Soviet tanks alone might have been systematically refurbished and sent to form units for service in France or Africa (avoiding misidentification problems). A spares system could have been instituted as part of this effort to keep the vehicles in running order.
    French equipment, likewise, could have been better utilized than it was. The R 39 and H 39 tanks were already in service with Romania's military. These could have been given to them enmasse to bolster their units ability where they already had spares and maintenance systems set up for them.
    Equipment that proved too expensive or unrepairable could have been scrapped for its raw material value.
    But, the Germans apparently gave little or no thought to such operations prior to the war or even once it started. Most efforts in this area were more local operations than any systematic one that had official sanction.
     
  8. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    Certainly a waste of materials and talent.
     
  9. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    [​IMG][​IMG] marderI(a).jpg (168.7 KB) Viewed 3063 times
     
  10. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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    Great thread indeed!

    The Soviets themselves did something in this line of work with the SU-76i, a sort of rationalized StuG.

    Why the Germans didn't do this themselves with Sov equipment? In the first place we have to recognise that the good Major had all the time in the world in a backwater. So he had the time to riffle through organised stocks, warehouses and yards.

    No such thing in the East Front. At most you could remove the turret out of a T-60 and hey presto, an artillery tractor. No great possibility at all of being able to do that kind of work. Besides, from Feb 43 the frontline was already moving in the wrong direction for the peace of mind required.

    In any case lots and lots of artillery pieces, for instance, were captured and used, and indeed a significant number were used in self-propelled mounts, albeit in Pz38(t) and PzII chassis.

    There was some extemporaneous use of Sov. vehicles, but these were mostly improvisations and one-offs, to be abandoned at first malfucntion for lack of organised spares.

    Here's what a Stug should look like, not that crazy mass of wild angled plates. Take that, PzJgr! :D

    [​IMG]
     
  11. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    There was a program to move suitable comercial wheeled transport into Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe use. Perhaps the management and enginering attention went to that critical effort diverting effort from AFV salvage?

    Beyond that there does not seem to be a truly efficent effort at exploiting the industry of the occupied territorys. A university professor I studied under had researched the Cezchoslovakian economy in the 1930s. in the 1950s he looked at data for the subsequent decades and thought that industrial outpout of Cezch industry actually declined during the era of nazi control. I've heard similar opinions expressed for industrial production in other occupied areas.
     
  12. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    That could be one of the problems. There were certainly more types and makes of wheeled transport in German service then any other country during the war. As I mentioned in another thread it must have been a maintinence and supply nightmate.
     
  13. YLG80

    YLG80 Member

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    Hello,
    I've more information on Alfred Becker, as he decided to setup is HQ in 1944 in my father-in-law house, here in Fosses-la-Ville (Belgium)
    He was kind of a gentleman, as reported by my father-in-law, at least compared to the others that have occupied is house during the war.
    He reported that Becker did personally opposed himself to arriving SS troops trying to violently requisition cars and house during their withdrawal.
    According to my father-in-law, Becker was first an engineer before being a soldier.
    That's likely the reason why he was so clever to convert captured equipement.
    Prior to the war, he had lots of connections in the German industrial world which helped him a lot in his Märder conversion task.
    Prior to escape when the US troops arrived over here, he gave a picture of him to my father-in law. (see attachement).
    He gave also a picture showing him with Rommel and Feuchtinger in Paris likely in May 1944.
    My father-in-law took discretly pictures of his special "autobus" where he was coordinating his activities.
    That command car was parked in my father-in-law garden, under the trees.
    There is a photo of that bus escaping a few hours prior to US troops arrival.(6/09/1944)

    There is more information on Becker's successful contribution to the battle of Normandy in the Lt Colonel Von Luck book - Panzer commander - Cassel edt.
    He is also mentioned in "Six armies in Normandy" from John Keegan.

    By any chance do someone have more information on what happened with him after the begining of September 1944, when he escaped from here.
    I've read somewhere that he was captured in Alsace later on.
    Thanks in advance for any information
     

    Attached Files:

    Kai-Petri and Za Rodinu like this.
  14. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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    Let me congratulate you for an excellent first post :)
     
  15. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Yes indeed,

    thanx for the excellent extra info and the pic, YLG80!
     
  16. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Welcome to theforum. This is great information. It's nice to know that Becker was a good man. Incredible that he stayed at Fosses and that you dad could take pictures of his bus. Any chance of posting a few of these pictures? I don't know about Becker being captured in Alsace.
     
  17. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    I would have done it a bit differently. All the captured Soviet equipment would have been shipped back to Western Europe and Germany where it would have been gone through thoroughly. Spares could have been stocked from vehicles too damaged for economical repair etc.
    This equipment would then have been issued as something like "substitute standard" to units in Western Europe and the Mediterrainian where there would have been no real problem with mistaken identities in battle.
    So, panzer units in France would have had Soviet captures as their primary vehicles. Rommel would be fighting in North Africa with T 34s.
    The other advantage to such a system is that it denies this equipment to its former owners. Taking full advantage of captures and being systematic in their issue would have had great benefit for the Germans. Note how the US and British rounded up German equipment regularly and sent it to boneyards in their rear areas. Now, they had little use for much of what was captured having equal or better equipment of their own and little shortage of that. But, they made a systematic effort to round up captures that the Germans apparently did far more haphazardly.
     
  18. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    I don't know how I miss this from before LOL. Interesting ideas you have there T.A. :). The German military in some areas did not show alot of forethought. Concentrating more on the immediate then the future.
     
  19. Miguel B.

    Miguel B. Member

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    Amazing thread. just found it :)

    The problem with the recovering and refitting new vehicles was that it took time and resources. For instance, if they did as TA suggested, The Germans would be faced with a logistical nightmare even worse than that they really suffered. they had so many types of vehicles that the spare parts inventory of some divisions could have as many as 1,000,000 different pieces. Imagine the work required to maintain all in some resemblance of order. True that by allocating specific resources to certain scenarios would in part blunt this burden however, from 43 onward when war was really going bad, this system would more likely than not collapse simply due to the sheer need for replacements needed to retrofit the divisions. It could have the short term advantage of increasing the available number of equipment but in the end, it would only serve to drain Germany's strategic resources quicker than they did. Regarding German economy, it would be too little too late. Maybe if they were to have 10 Beckers
    in charge of the industry and supply gathering pre war, they could've made the war lasted longer and field more mechanised/armoured divisions including the "foreign" ones. However, they'd still loose.
    It would give a good what if tough...


    Cheers...
     
  20. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    It wouldn't be as bad as you might think. If for instance, the panzer units in France are equipped with ex-Soviet equipment they have literally nearly two years to stockpile components and service their vehicles. If the Germans simply shipped everything they captured from the Soviets to France and let the local units deal with all but the major repairs much of the logistical system could be in place when the fighting started.
    By 1944 the amount of ex-Soviet artillery in the German military is staggering. The Germans are producing their own shells for the 76mm field piece and converting some to anti-tank guns using their ammunition.
    The Atlantic Wall is already being equipped with artillery from all over Europe of virtually any sort. Here, we are just adding vehicles to the list. Divisions in France could have had Soviet 82mm mortars issued with either Soviet or German ammunition; either will work in them. The 120mm mortar is also German standard.
    Give the infantry divisions all Soviet artillery and AT guns. It would have actually eased the problems in logistics over a polyglot of French, Czech, Italian, and who-knows-what that was being issued anyway.
    The Soviet GAZ truck is Ford. Have Ford Germany provide the parts. They are already making vehicles for the Wehrmacht and the Model A truck is a worldwide standard.
    The only issue I see with Soviet tanks is that they are diesel powered. That would make fuel a bit of an issue. But, if some tank battalion in France had KV 1 instead of H39s it would have made far more of a difference in combat.
    You don't need "10 Beckers." What you need is one general higher up that recognizes the value of the one you have and gives him the power to actually carry out such a plan.
    While the Germans would still have lost it is a better plan than the haphazard way they went about much of their beute utilization.
     

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