1. CIVILIAN BACKGROUND
XY was born September 27, 1922, at Merlebach (Moselle). He was brought up at Ludweiler (Saar), where his father was employed during the French occupation that followed World War I. After 3 years of primary schooling at Ludweiler he attended High School at Teltow, south of Berlin; next, the Technical University at Frankenhausen (Thuringia); and finally the Mine Specialist School at Saarbrücken. In August 1939, on the eve of World War II, he was evacuated with his parents to Thuringia. From that time on he attended the Mining School at Freiberg (Saxony). Repatriated to Saarbrücken, he resumed his studies at the Mining Specialist School of that city in August 1940.
2. MILITARY ENLISTMENT
On December 17, 1940, his recruiting classification gave the eighteen-year-old-youth the choice either of volunteering immediately for the German Air Force without labor service or of joining the infantry with labor service in April 1941.
3. INCORPORATION INTO THE 1ST PARACHUTE REPLACEMENT REGIMENT (STENDAL)
XY chose the Air Force and asked to serve as a parachutist. He was ordered to report on December 18, 1940, at the 1st Parachute Replacement Regiment at Stendal (Aitmark). At that time, all the parachutist replacement units and all the parachutist schools were under the command of Colonel Ramcke, who reportedly was the oldest parachutist of the army. Ramcke later distinguished himself during the campaign of Crete, after which he was promoted to General Major (Brigadier General) and decorated with the Knight's Cross. As soon as XY arrived at the 1st Parachute Replacement Regiment, he was asked whether he would like to become an officer. Several of his comrades accepted the offer and were sent immediately in the grade of cadet captain (Fahnenjunker) to the school at Fassberg (Lüneburger Heide). On declining this offer, XY was sent to the 4th Battalion of the 1st Parachute Replacement Regiment, where he remained 4 days and received the first general notions about the Army. During these 4 days also he was supposed to assimilate the whole School of the Soldier. Discipline was extremely severe.
4. TRANSFER TO THE 3d BATTALION OF THE 1st PARACHUTE REPLACEMENT REGIMENT AT HELMSTETT, THEN TO FASSBURG
From Stendal, XY was transferred to the 3d Battalion, 1st Parachute Replacement Regiment, at Helmstett. After a few days this battalion was moved to Fassburg, where the largest flying school of the German Air Force was then located and where a parachute instruction center was being developed. As soon as he arrived at Fassburg, XY was assigned to the regiment's 10th Company, which was composed of 4 platoons of 36 men each. The two first platoons had 6 heavy mortars apiece. The instruction in this company lasted until the end of January 1941, that is, about a month. It consisted of instruction in heavy weapons (heavy machine guns and heavy mortars), individual combat, and section combat.
5. STAY AT THE PARACHUTE-JUMPING SCHOOL AT WITTSTOCK
After repeated medical examinations which involved chiefly the nerves, heart, lungs, feet, and muscles, XY was sent at the beginning of February 1941 to the Parachute-Jumping School of Wittstock on the Dosse. His training at this school lasted 26 days. For the first 12 days, 2 hours per day were devoted to technical instruction in the parachute and its folding. The other hours were given over to rigorous athletic training, especially in jiu-jitsu, and in trapeze and rope work. The daily program left the students completely worn out by evening. The 13th and 14th days were devoted exclusively to practical exercises in folding the parachute. The 15th to the 26th days, inclusive, were devoted to parachute-jumping exercises.
6. PARACHUTE-JUMPING EXERCISES
The first jump was made from an altitude of 725 feet, one man jumping at a time, that is, each time the plane passed the field chosen. The second and third jumps were from an altitude of 600 feet, 6 men jumping in rapid succession every time the plane flew over the field. The fifth, sixth, and seventh jumps were made from altitudes varying from 500 to 360 feet. On each of these jumps, 12 men, comprising a section, had to jump in rapid succession. After the 6th jump, the students were told that during combat, if a rapid-firing and well-adjusted AA gun rendered it necessary, the parachutists would perhaps be dropped from altitudes of 270 to 225 feet only; but the men were warned that in such cases their parachutes might not open in time fully to check the fall and avoid a violent landing on the ground.
7. REMARKS ON THESE TRAINING JUMPS
For these jumps, the only parachutes used were the RZ16. The airplanes used were Ju-52's. To be considered fit for combat with his branch, a parachutist must have made six jumps in a training school.
8. FURTHER STAY AT THE 1ST PARACHUTE REGIMENT AT STENDAL
From February 28 to March 5, 1941, XY followed a course of special instruction on the flame-thrower, the machine pistol, and the combat pistol. During these 6 days, the instruction continued almost without interruption; the students had the privilege of sleeping only 3 hours out of each 24.
9. STAY AT THE 1ST BATTALION OF THE 1ST PARACHUTE ASSAULT REGIMENT
On March 8, 1941, XY was assigned to the 1st Battalion of the 1st Parachute Assault Regiment at Hildesheim (Hanover). The 1st Parachute Assault Regiment was the first created (and remained the only one subsequently) of a series of parachutist assault regiments which were to contain the pick of the elite. This regiment was commanded by Brigadier General Meindl. The 1st Battalion, Hildesheim, was commanded by an officer already well known as the victor of Eben Emael and of the Albert Canal, Major Koch, who had been decorated with the Ritterkreuz. The 2d Battalion was at Goslar and the 3d at Halberstadt.
10. TRAINING IN THE USE OF FOREIGN WEAPONS
In this regiment, discipline was severe, training was intensive, and technical instruction was decidedly advanced. Much insistence was paid to the various French, English, Czech, and Italian weapons. During the period March 10 to April 25, 1941, the regiment made stays at the Sennelager Camp and at the Bergen Camp.
11. DEPARTURE FOR A SECRET DESTINATION
On April 26, 1941, the 1st Parachute Assault Regiment was given new uniforms and all its weapons were packed in weapon containers. On April 29, 1941, the regiment proceeded in trucks from its various barracks for a destination known only to the superior officers. XY remembers having passed through Leipzig, Dresden, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, and Bucharest to the Bulgarian frontier. Here the parachutists stopped for a few days, and they were told that the regiment would go into action at Megara in Greece on the Corinth Isthmus.
12. ACCIDENT AT THERMOPYLAE
At historic Thermopylae Pass in northern Greece, the truck on which XY was travelling overturned in the congestion and some of his comrades were killed. XY, seriously wounded, was transported in an airplane to Salonica and later to Athens. Consequently, he took no part in the Crete campaign.
13. RETURN FROM GREECE TO GERMANY
On July 10, when XY rejoined the 1st Parachute Assault Regiment at Megara, he found that the regiment had suffered a minimum of 60 Percent in casualties, three-fourths of whom had been killed outright. On July 20, the regiment left Megara to return to its garrison town in Germany, where the survivors were welcomed as heroes. The men were then given new uniforms and 27-day furloughs.
14. REORGANIZATION OF THE REGIMENT
At the end of August 1941, the regiment was brought up to strength in a provisional manner by elements from the infantry, so that it had an average of only 40 percent of trained parachutists. During the whole month of September 1941, the regiment was put through a very stiff program of training, consisting of advanced infantry and engineer training. At the end of September 1941, the 2d Battalion of Goslar was broken up and divided between the 1st and 3d (garrisoned at Hildesheim and Halberstadt), which thus obtained a proportion of 60 percent of trained parachutists. It should be mentioned that the trained parachutists (those having at least six jumps in a school) received a parachutist's pay, which meant an increase of 60 marks per month.
15. EMPLOYMENT OF THE REGIMENT AGAINST THE RUSSIANS
From the month of September, it was rumored in the regiment that its parachutists were going to be employed in Russia as infantry and engineers. As a matter of fact, from the beginning of October 1941, the battalions (not only of this regiment but of ordinary parachute regiments) left one after another for the region of Leningrad. XY got out of this campaign because he was ordered to take a course in telegraphy which lasted 4 months. During the month of February 1942, the remnants of the 1st and 2d Battalions of the 1st Parachute Assault Regiment returned from Russia to their garrison town of Hildersheim and Halberstadt. They had lost about 65 to 70 percent in casualties, including many officers; among others, Major Stenzler, ex-commander of the 2d Battalion.
16. ASSIGNMENT TO THE 5TH PARACHUTE REGIMENT
XY at that time was away on a 20-day furlough. Upon arrival at his station, he learned that the 1st Parachute Assault Regiment had been broken up and that, with the remainder, the 5th Parachute Regiment was being formed. XY was assigned to the 2d Battalion of the 5th Parachute Regiment. The regiment was under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Koch, who had been wounded twice in the head during the Crete campaign and had been promoted for exceptional bravery before Leningrad.
17. INTENSIVE INFANTRY INSTRUCTIONS
After a month and a half of instruction at its station, especially in infantry tactics, the regiment made a stay of 1 month at the Grossborn Camp near Neustettin, where infantry instruction was continued, with emphasis on day and night foot marches of 20, 25, and even 30 miles, with complete infantry equipment.
18. DEPARTURE FOR FRANCE
On May 17, 1942, the 5th Parachute Regiment left the Grossborn Camp by
rail for France, where it was to take part in the defense of the coast. It
followed the itinerary,
19. INCIDENTS IN THE DEFENSE OF THE CHANNEL COAST AGAINST ALLIED INVASION
During the night of May 20 to 21, the 3d Battalion was alerted and
continued on towards the west. But upon arrival of a counterorder toward
morning, the battalion was given a 2-day rest, during which numerous
reconnaissances of the coast were made for the purpose of determining
what defensive fortification was to be carried out. As soon as the
newcomers reached the Channel Coast, everybody lived under fear of
an Allied debarkation, the more so since a few days before the arrival
of the 3d Battalion of the 5th Parachute Regiment at Avranches, an
English coup-de-main had succeeded in capturing in silence, on the
coast right close to the city, a German guard of the strength of a
combat section; the English commander had written on the guard's
register: "Guard completely overpowered; we'll be back soon." The
3d Battalion was immediately obliged to furnish numerous guard
detachments. Moreover, each company had to form a reinforced alert
platoon (4 sections--about 45 men). Such platoons were formed into an
alert company which was kept under arms 24 hours out of 24, well supplied
with ammunition and explosives. For rapid transportation, the battalion
requisitioned five large buses which were kept always in readiness for
the alert company. The remaining men of the battalion were used to help
construct field fortifications along the coast.