Like everyone who grew up in London, I am well aware of Hitler’s obsession with Veltungswaffe (reprisal weapons). I grew up in a neighborhood that was pocked-marked with great big holes, the rows of houses interrupted by patches of overgrown wasteground; sometimes still with bits of shattered brickwork jutting up out of the ground. Many of them were relics of the 1940–41 ‘Blitz’, the work of incendiary bombs for the most part, but others were made later in the war by the ‘doodlebugs’ (V-1 – we British always give cute names to terrifying things) and V-2s.
I Was There4 November 2014
This account comes from the memoirs of Helmut Ritgen, who was the Regimental Adjutant of Panzer Regiment 11, part of the 6th Panzer Division. Seated in his command tank on the night of 19 December 1942, he witnessed how strangely anticlimactic even an important victory can be. Operating well in advance of the main force, the biggest threat to the success of his unit’s mission was getting lost and running out of fuel in the featureless landscape of the Kuban Steppe. The poorly trained raw recruits of the Soviet 51st Army had probably never seen a German tank before, and so let them pass unharmed.
Wehrmacht In Action4 November 2014
Seventy-three years ago this month, the men of Gunther von Kulge’s Army Group Center were huddled in mud-filled foxholes or idling the engines of their vehicles in the fields around Mozhaisk, Kallinin, and Serpukhov. A mile or two to the east, across the Nara River, the Red Army was assembling one last defensive position along a line of rolling hills less than 50km (30 miles) from Moscow.