Pages 32 and 33 will always be of great importance to any Wehrpass collector as they detail the actions the unit the soldier the Wehrpass belonged to was involved in. These come in many shapes and forms. Normally they take the form of handwritten entries but often printed entries stuck straight into the Wehrpass are also encountered, as in this particular case. In Hans’ case the war diary entries cover the progress of the 16th Infantry Division through its early participation in Operation Blau. It details the breakthrough battles and follow up operations up to the River Don. Hans also followed his Division into the Caucuses with actions at the Kuban river and the Kalmuk Steppes. The 16th Infantry (Mot) was also the unit that pushed its troops the further East as some of its recon elements came as close as 20kms to Astrakhan. As the tide turned Hans was also involved in the harsh retreat from the Caucuses after the surrounding of 6th Army at Stalingrad. His service record for 1943 is full of ‘Abwehrkampf/Abwehrschlacht’, defensive battles as the Red Army inexorably pushed Westwards. The names of the rivers (Mius, the Dontez, and the Dnepr) read as the different defensive lines where the Wehrmacht tried to make a stand and stem the Soviet steamroller. Still attached to a reconstituted 6th Army, Hans continues his service in the workshop company. In early 1944 elements of the 16th Motorised along with elements of other units are used to create the 116th Panzer Division, the Windhund Division famous for its involvement in the Normandy Campaign. Hans however seems to have to stayed deployed in the Reich as shown by the entry ‘Verwendung in Heimatskriegsgebiet’ (service on the Home Front Area of Operations).
I was called to a famiy members house last night to be met by a series of medals and an Army Service Book. It turns out an uncle had passed away and had left his medals and service book behind. He’d served in the Gloucester Hussars and saw action in North Africa and in Tobruk during its siege by Rommel in 1941. A small handwritten not of reminisences was also included. Among the medals, Defence and War medal, Africa, Italy and, Europe Stars was amuch older one from the Boer War I think. It had two clasps: Transvaal and Natal. Around the edge the name Pte Smith and Rifles Brigade along with a service number was inscribed.
The next pages of relevance in the Wehrpass is usually page 12 which details the units the soldier spent his career with. It is largely the information on Page 12 that makes the Wehrpass collectable or not! As we can see from the scan Hans spent his war with Werkstatt Zug 550 and then 566. The Werkstatt Zug was essentially the mobile repair unit of the parent division. Hans’ skills as an auto mechanic in civilian life would have stood him in good stead in his war time service. More detail about the Werkstatt Zug can be found in this article from Lone Sentry. No doubt his services as a driver would have also been employed. Likewise it also explains the award of the War Merit Cross with Swords Second Class. It was a lesser award than say the Iron Cross Second Class but recipients must have been in an area that could have come under direct enemy fire or interdiction to able to qualify for the award. The 16th Infanterie (Mot) Division has a busy war time career and thus Hans would have no doubt been close to action on more than one occasion.
Pages 22 and 23 contain the information about any promotions or awards the soldier received or earned. In Hans’ case page 23 records his two aforementioned awards and their awardng units. Once again we see the stamp with FPN 41944 and the signature of an Oberleutnant (1st LT) authorising the award. His Ostmedaille however seems to have been awarded when he was serving with KW-Trop 666, a unit used for special purposes hence the z.b.v abbreviation you can see in the scan. His promotions record his service as first a driver, then a Gefreiter and then an OberGefreiter. Promotions in the German Army were usually back dated to the first day of any given month in order to facilitate pay.
Read this article in the Yahoo news feed. Might be of interest to those interest in the Pacfic Theatre of War.
Maybe its one of those SSX’s (Midgets) I keep on seeing around New Guniea in my game vs Herb 😉
Wehrpasse were issued to all men of military age that were called up by their Wehrkries, a regional unit that controlled recruitment across the areas of the Reich. They managed the flow of replacements into the Ersatz und Ausbildung Battalions (Training Units) defore the recruits entered front line service. There are three types of cover for Wherpass. The early and pre-war Wehrpass had an stylised eagle with dropped wings. The mid and later war Wehrpass had a more military looking eagle with straight wings, The main difference is that the late war Wehrpass has the word ‘Wehrpass’ printed in Latin print rather than the Gothic used in the earlier versions. Hans Meier’s Wehrpass is of the Mid-War Type, an example cover is shown below.
In the small box occupying the top right hand corner of the pass the owners initial would be printed, this would aide clerks rifiling through filing cabinets at the units depot. The branch of service would often be stamped on or written in the alrge rectangle under the eagle. The words ‘Heer’ (Army), Luftwaffe (Air Force), Kriegsmarine (Navy), or Waffen SS (Armed SS) would normally be printed here but not all the time.
The first page would include the soldier’s Wehrnummer, that would be replicted in the Unit’s Stammrollen. His name as well as his ID Number (If applicable not in this case), his Workbook number (Nummer des Arbeitsbuches) and his dog tag number (Erkennungsmarke). In Hans’ case his dog tag was stamped Kw.Werkstattzug.550/5. The bottom half of the page held all the administrative information of the Wehrbezrikskommando.
Grounds for award
This award was created by Adolf Hitler in 1939 as a successor to the non-combatant Iron Cross which was used in earlier wars (same medal but with a different ribbon). The award was graded the same as the Iron Cross: War Merit Cross Second Class, War Merit Cross First Class, and Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross. The award had two variants: with swords given to soldiers for exceptional service in battle above and beyond the call of duty (but not worthy of an Iron Cross which was more a bravery award), and without swords for meritorious service behind the lines which could also be awarded to civilians. Recipients had to have the lower grade of the award before getting the next level. There was also another version below the 2nd class simply called the War Merit Medal (German: Kriegsverdienstmedaille), set up in 1940 for civilians in order to offset the large number of 2nd class without swords being awarded. It was usually given to those workers in factories who significantly exceeded work quotas.
One notable winner of the War Merit Cross was William Joyce (aka Lord Haw-Haw) who received both the second and first class, both without swords. Recipients of the Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross customarily received the medal from holders of the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross, to symbolize the link between the combat soldier and their supporters, who helped maintain the war effort.
There was one extra grade of the War Merit Cross, which was created at the suggestion of Albert Speer: The Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross in Gold, but this was never officially placed on the list of national awards as it came about in 1945 and there was no time to officially promulgate the award before the war ended. The Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross in Gold (without swords) was awarded ‘on paper’ to two recipients on 20 April 1945: Franz Hahne and Karl-Otto Saur.
The ribbon of the War Merit Cross was in red-white-black-white-red; that was, the red and black colors being reversed from the ribbon of the World War II version of the Iron Cross. The ribbon for the War Merit Medal was similar, but with a narrow red vertical red strip in the center of the black field. Soldiers who earned the War Merit Cross 2nd Class with Swords wore a small crossed-swords device on the ribbon. The War Merit Cross 1st Class was a pin-backed medal worn on the pocket of the tunic (like the Iron Cross 1st Class). The ribbon of the War Merit Cross 2nd Class could be worn like the ribbon of the Iron Cross 2nd Class (through the third buttonhole).
Combat soldiers tended to hold the War Merit Cross in low regard, referring to its wearers as being in ‘Iron Cross Training’, and prior to 28 September 1941, the War Merit Cross could not be worn with a corresponding grade of the Iron Cross, which took precedence.
A total of 118 awards of the Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross with swords, and 137 awards of the Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross without swords were awarded. Considering the relative rarity of the award compared with the grades of the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross, it took on extra meaning. For example, Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring made a concerted effort to get Hitler to award him this order, much to Hitler’s annoyance. In response, Hitler outlined a series of criteria governing the awarding of this decoration and the philosophy of such awards, and directed that “prominent party comrades” were not to be awarded with the Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross (or similar decorations), and withdrew the proposed awards of this order to Gauleiter Erich Koch and State Secretary Karl Hanke. Directing his comments at Göring personally, Hitler ordered that such attempts to gain this award be stopped (from a letter dated 27 August 1943 from Führerhauptquartier). Also, the scarcity of the award of the Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross compared with the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross gave it an “air of exclusiveness” it did not really deserve, as it ranked below the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross.
Six persons received two Knights Cross’ of the War Merit Cross (one with Swords and one without Swords): Walter Brugmann, Julius Dorpmuller, Karl-Otto Saur, Albin Sawatzki, Walter Schreiber, and Walter Rohlandt.
Here is a link to an interesting article about a HMNZS survey ship playing about with its sonar at Rabaul harbour.
Herb’s latest moves in our WitP:AE game has made reread a PDF file I downloaded from the University of New Orleans website. A thesis on the Japanese submarine doctrine that I found very interesting and enlightening. The file is for public use and therefore I can share it with you guys here!
A little bit of History fluff on the Mandate Islands from Wiki
South Pacific Mandate
The South Sea Mandate (南洋庁 Nan’yō-chō?) was the Japanese League of Nations mandate consisting of several groups of islands (modern-day Palau, Northern Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Marshall Islands) in the Pacific Ocean which came under the administration of Japan after the defeat of the German Empire in World War I.
Under the terms of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, after the start of World War I, Japan declared war on Germany on 23 August 1914 and participated in a joint operation with British forces in the Battle of Tsingtao to capture the German settlement in China’s Shandong Province. The Imperial Japanese Navy was tasked with pursuing and destroying the German East Asiatic Squadron and protection of the shipping lanes for Allied commerce in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
After the end of World War I, as determined in the Treaty of Versailles, Japanese occupation of former German colonies in Micronesia north of the equator was formally recognized, and Japan was given a League of Nations Class C mandate.
In line with the terms of the mandate, Japan sought to incorporate the islands as an integral part of its empire, mounting aggressive economic development and immigration programs. Japanese, Okinawan and Korean immigrants eventually came to outnumber islanders by as many as two to one.
During the 1930s, the Japanese Navy began construction of airfields, fortifications, ports, and other military projects in the islands controlled under the mandate, viewing the islands as “unsinkable aircraft carriers” with a critical role to play in the defense of the Japanese home islands against potential American invasion. These became important staging grounds for Japanese air and naval offensives in the Pacific War. This work was done in secret, but this was not a direct violation of the Washington Naval Treaty as that treaty, by its own terms contained in Article XIX, did not apply to the Mandated Islands.
- Kwajalein was a major base supporting the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Wake Island.
- Palau supported the Battle of the Philippines
- Saipan supported the Battle of Guam
- Truk became the base for amphibious landings on Tarawa and Makin in the Gilberts, as well as Rabaul, in the Australian mandate Territory of New Guinea
- Majuro, was used in air strikes against Howland Island
- Jaluit Atoll was the base from which the Japanese Navy seized Nauru and Ocean Island.
In addition to the islands’ naval importance, the Japanese Army utilized the islands to support air and land detachments. The “island-hopping” strategy employed by the United States military caused the Japanese Empire to lose control of its Pacific possessions between 1943 and 1945.
The League of Nations mandate was formally revoked by the United Nations in July 1947, and the United States was made responsible for administration of the islands under the terms of a United Nations trusteeship agreement which established the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands
Saipan in the Marianas archipelago was the most important island militarily and economically in the South Pacific Mandate, and became the center of subsequent Japanese settlement. Another important island was Truk in the Carolines archipelago, which was fortified into a major navy base by the Imperial Japanese Navy.
The administration of South Pacific Mandate was managed by the Imperial Japanese Navy, which divided the region into six administrative districts reporting to naval headquarters in Truk. Later, in April 1922, civilian government was established in the form of a civil administration department which still reported to the local naval garrison commander in each of the six administrative districts: Saipan, Palau, Yap, Truk, Ponape and Jaluit Atoll.
Later, the headquarters of the South Pacific Mandate was transferred from Truk to Koror, Palau, and its governor reported directly to the Prime Minister of Japan. However, after the establishment of a Ministry of Colonial Affairs, the mandate’s governor was ordered to report to the colonial minister in June 1929.
When colonial affairs were absorbed into the Ministry of Greater East Asia in November 1942, the primacy of the Imperial Japanese Navy was again recognized by appointing an admiral as governor. Furthermore, the six administrative districts were reduced to three in November 1943: Marianas, Truk and Palau.
The population of the South Seas Mandate was too small to provide interesting markets and the indigenous people had very limited financial resources for the purchase of imported goods. The major significance of the mandate to the Empire of Japan was its strategic location, dominating sea lanes across the Pacific Ocean and providing convenient provisioning locations for sailing vessels in need of water, fresh fruit, vegetables and meat. Later, the islands became important coaling stations for steam-powered vessels.
The mandated territories produced significant quantities of sugar cane, bananas, pineapples, taro, coconuts, and other tropical farming products on a par with Taiwan. The islands also provided bases for the Japanese fishing fleet.
In terms of mineral products, many islands yielded phosphates for farming, especially from Angaur island, which produced some 60,000 tonnes per year. Bauxite was another segment of the colonial economic structure, although the mineral was only present in the Palau group. Large quantities of pearls, both natural and cultured, were extracted from the islands.