07 April, 2012

07 April 1945


438th AAA AW BN

APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.

7 April, 1945

Dearest Sweetheart –

This is the 1st time in 2 days I’ve had a chance to write you. We didn’t get in until fairly late last nite – having been on the road – truck and train – for 2 days and one night. I almost believed it wasn’t worth coming back so far – but this is the city. I really didn’t get a chance to see it when I was here in August. It’s beautiful!

I’m writing this from one of the several officers’ ARC clubs that are in the city. We’re sleeping and eating here. I’m here with Major [Ernest L.] Bolick and Mr. [John D.] Sandri of our outfit and this p.m. we’re just going to look around and sight-see. We have 2 days more here – leaving Monday p.m.

I hope you’ll excuse the V-Mail darling, but that’s all that’s available here and besides – the fellows want to get going. All for now, dear, love to the folks and

All my deepest love

P.S. And I love you from here, too, G.

The following photos were taken by Greg
on 7-8 April 1945 during his Paris leave.

Paris - Our Sightseeing Bus
No - Don't Look for Me. I took it
April 1945

Paris - Enter the Men's Sidewalk Toilet - April 1945

Paris - Exit the Men's Sidewalk Toilet - April 1945

Paris - Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel - April 1945

Paris - Opera House - April 1945

Paris - Lafayette - April 1945

Paris - Joan of Arc - April 1945

Paris - Bicycles with Carriages for Hire - April 1945

Paris - Some GIs Out for a Ride - April 1945

Paris - Greg in a Buggy - April 1945

Paris - Sidewalk Cafe - April 1945

Paris - Cafe de la Paix - Famous Meeting Place
Greg with Major Bolick and Warrant Officer Sandri
"Wasn't Drinking a Thing!"
April 1945

Two Paris Street Scenes - April 1945

Paris - A Hat Shop - April 1945
"Camera didn't quite catch the latest styles."

Paris - The Latest Styles - April 1945


about The Sonderkommando Elbe

Rammjäger Sonderkommando "ELBE" (Ram Fighters, Task Force Elbe) was the name of a World War II Luftwaffe task force assigned to bring down Allied bombers by ramming German aircraft into the bombers. There were 2,000 volunteers out of which 300 inexperienced fighter pilots were selected. Their motto was "Treu, Tapfer, Gehorsam", or "Good, Brave, Obedient."

According to Wikipedia, the intent of this operation was to suspend Allied tactical bombing for four to six weeks while manufacturing a significant number of the Me 262 jet fighters. Sonderkommando literally means "special command", and Elbe is a river that runs through Germany to the North Sea. While the Luftwaffe had a ready supply of airplanes at this point in the war, well-trained pilots and fuel were two components in short supply. Despite the grim 10% chance of survival of such a mission, the unit was not a true "suicide unit" in that the pilots were expected to either attempt to bail out just before colliding with the Allied aircraft, or attempt to bail out after colliding. This is unlike the Japanese Kamikaze attacks, in which Japanese pilots had no chance of survival, as the explosives detonated with the crash of the aircraft itself.

The aircraft of choice for this mission was a Messerschmitt Bf 109 stripped of armor and armament. The chopped-up planes had one machine gun instead of four and were only allotted 60 rounds each, a joke when it came to defensive fighters. To accomplish this mission, pilots would typically aim for one of three sensitive areas on the bombers. The easiest part of an Allied bomber to damage was the tail assembly, with its delicate control surfaces on the elevator and rudder. Another potential target were the engine nacelles, which connected to the highly explosive fuel system. The final target, the cockpit, was also the most gruesome. One of the most famous reports of cockpit ramming was against the Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber, nicknamed "Palace of Dallas", along with another bomber that the German plane careened into after slicing the cockpit of the "Palace of Dallas".

The task force's only mission was flown on 7 April 1945 by a sortie of 180 Bf 109s. While only 15 Allied bombers were attacked in this manner, eight were successfully destroyed. 120 German pilots died. The mission, which caused no halt to the bombings of the United States Army Air Force, was considered such a failure that news of it was squashed. 

Hans-Joachim "Hajo" Herrmann (1 August 1913 – 5 November 2010), a leading exponent of the tactical deployment of the so-called Rammjäger Sonderkommando Elbe, was captured by the Soviets after the war and held prisoner for 10 years before returning to Germany in 1955. Once back, he studied law and settled in Düsseldorf. Among others, he defended Otto Ernst Remer, the head of the neo-Nazi Socialist Reich Party; and the Holocaust deniers David Irving, and Fred A. Leuchter. In 1959 Herrmann married the German soprano Ingeborg Reichelt, and the couple had two children.

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