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Why the Difference?

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by harolds, Nov 9, 2017.

  1. harolds

    harolds Member

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    At the end of the war, when Hans Ulrich Rudel and several of his subordinates flew from Eastern Germany to an American occupied airbase he was not only allowed to go into captivity with the Americans, but was feted by the American base commander. When Erich Hartmann surrendered his unit to the Americans, they-along with the families that had joined them, were turned over to the Soviets. Why the difference? Both men fought and found fame on the Eastern Front.
     
  2. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Probably the unit commander and location.
     
  3. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Hmmm...well yes, but I believe that there was a firm directive from Eisenhower, or higher, that originated from, I believe, the Potsdam Conference, that specifically stated that units that fought on the Eastern front would be handed over the Soviet Union. That was done with Hartmann's unit, but not Rudel's. I can't believe the Soviets didn't want him and would have protested the keeping of Rudel and his men in American hands. So what happened here?
     
  4. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I was in a previous discussion and just how knowledgeable the Soviets (or indeed any of the allies) were about the German "aces" of whatever flavor was brought to question. They were used for propaganda by the Germans but did the allies really care? Also almost every German unit fought on the Eastern Front at one time or another. So it would be interesting to see how that was defined. Just what the units claimed may have had an impact as well.
     
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  5. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member Patron  

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    I'm with lwd on this, much depended upon 'where' and when they surrendered, how convincing they were and how determined the Soviets were in demanding they were for turning them over.
     
  6. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Excuse me belasar, but what type of "convincing" are you talking about? Rudel flew into an American occupied base at lunch time with little or no advanced warning. They then proceeded to damage their planes on landing. They were treated to lunch before they were taken to a POW camp. Hartmann's unit surrendered to an American ground unit and then were turned over to the Soviets on orders from above. Both episodes happened about the same time-right after the surrender. Did the USAAF decide to ignore the order?
     
  7. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member Patron  

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    As you noted Rudel surrendered to a USAAF unit, while Hartmann's unit (along with families) surrendered to a Army formation. That alone might have been the deciding factor, How often would air base personnel 'capture' prisoner's? Ground units on the other hand was literally tripping over them and occasionally going out of their way to not capture prisoner's in order to avoid the hassle of processing them.

    A while back I read/reviewed a book called Another River, Another Town, A slim autobiography about a late war replacement tanker who while moving from his replacement center to his first combat posting became separated from his column by a dense fog. After awhile he and his crew bumped into a stalled column on the road, thinking he found his unit, or at least a friendly unit, he dismounted and walked forward. By the time he realized the vehicles were not American, he was captured by some rather ratty looking Germans and was presented to their Colonel. To his surprise The German officer was only too happy to surrender his whole Kampfgroup to a 90 day wonder and a single Sherman tank. He proudly led his captives to his unit (which the German officer had to direct him to) only to be greeted by his CO with abuse. They had known all along where these Germans were and that they were looking to surrender to anyone who would take them but had been ordered not to accept PoW's as it would slow their advance. Bypass or point them to the rear and keep moving east. Similar events took place during the First Gulf War.

    The USAAF unit might have seen Rudel's move as ballsy and processed him, then again a handfull of pilots were a lot easier to handle than a whole unit with civilians, also it was my understanding Rudel was something of a character compared to Hartmann and once in custody could have spun a good yarn about how great a prize he was. Certainly being a amputee probably did not hurt his chances in gaining sympathy. In any event Rudel was captured in the rear areas and not at the 'front' and may have lucked out by being deeper in the PoW processing chain..

    Hartmann was the better man in nearly every respect, but Rudel profited by that age old truism about war. Being in the right place at the right time often trumps skill, training or moral worth.
     
  8. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Hey belasar, thanks for thoughtful reply! Both surrenders were done just after the war stopped so I'm not sure that the U.S. Army was going to advance any farther. I do think that the idea that the Rudel surrender was a relatively small group while Hartmann's group was well over 100 could have been a factor. It should be noted that the Soviet soldiers started raping the German women before the Americans even had time to turn their trucks around. The Americans were able to pull a few of the fleeing women aboard their trucks and thus save them. Another factor I just thought of was that Rudel and many of his fellow officers could speak English and thus could form some sort of bond with the USAAF officers. Do you think that might have been a factor?
     
  9. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    Luck, human nature, the randomness of war.
    I don't think you can go looking for clarity or consistency in those closing days.

    Reading Winkle Brown's biography recently, and it's also quite clear that high-up flyboys were a strange breed, & relatively small community. Many of whom knew each other, or at least of each other's experience pre-war. It's a cliche, but there did sometimes exist a certain brotherhood among some pilots in what was still a relatively young science.
    A flyer heading to another flying unit to surrender seems a sensible move if you want to try and find more gentle treatment. Far from guaranteed, but likely a better chance.
     
  10. harolds

    harolds Member

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    I consider this a possibility also.
     
  11. green slime

    green slime Member Patron  

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    The Luftwaffe were not implicated in atrocities on the Eastern front to any degree. At least not to the extent the Wehrmacht was.
     
  12. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Wasn't the Luftwaffe part of the Wehrmacht? I haven't read much about either the Luftwaffe or the Kriegsmarine being accused of many atrocities. There were a few but certainly no where near what the Heer much less the SS were accused of.
     

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