|A Veteran of the
3rd Fallschirmjäger Division tells his story.
| Scene out of the
Diekirch Museum, exactly as how the Germans in towns like Shoppen,
Thirimont, Faymonville, etc had to keep themselves warm in January 1945.
|Rolf Odendahl, Ensign and Platoonleader in
the 3rd Fallschirmjäger Division, 1st Company,
Fallschirmjäger Regiment 5.
Platoon Commander and Ensign Rolf Odendahl of the 1st Company, Fallschirmjäger Regiment 5, 3rd Fallschirmjäger Division: “On 1 January 1945 we were committed to the front line in the Bütgenbacher Heck area, at the edge of a forest track which formed the border between two divisions. There was a lot of snow, and we were housed in a earthen bunker built by the Americans. My platoon was barely over squad strength. With that we were supposed to hold several hundred meters of the frontline. My platoon consisted partly of senior sergeants and sergeants of the Luftwaffe, who were used as riflemen without any infantry training. One sergeant-major – former fighter pilot and Knights Cross bearer - was used as machine gunner. In my position was a lieutenant forward spotter for the artillery. Due to lack of ammunition he only had two rounds available to fix the locations of blocking barrages in case of an attack. By day we could see the Americans walk around on the slopes opposite us, but were not allowed to fire. Only in an emergency were we permitted to fire.
“Next to me there was a company of elderly Volksgrenadiers, led by a captain, with whom I established contact. This captain told me, ‘you have to do it all by yourself,’ pointing to a soldier who was chopping some wood nearby, what made a hell of a noise; he shouted, ‘Hey you!,’ and the soldier turned his head and said, ‘What, what did you say?’ and the Hauptmann turned his face to me and said,’This is the kind of soldiers I have to keep the lines with.’ Due to lack of soldiers our front line consisted of only two light machine guns and two advanced slit trenches. We depended on the dense fir woods and the high snow to save us from penetrations. Sadly this was in vain, as the soldiers of the US 1st Infantry Division in broad daylight and by night penetrated our lines. On 3 January 1945 we lost battalion commander First Lieutenant Hermann Wildbrett (buried at Ludwigshafen-Hauptfriedhof (Bundesrepublik Deutschland) Endgrablage: Grab 76) Company Commander First Lieutenant Paul Kruchen (Paul Kruchen ruht auf der Kriegsgräberstätte in Ludwigshafen-Hauptfriedhof (Bundesrepublik Deutschland). Endgrablage: Grab 75) and a senior sergeant behind our lines.
“I had great luck, as an American barely missed me from two meters distance. He hit just a pocket of my “Knochensack” (Bag of bones, as the jump suit of the paratroopers was called). I only cheated death because, according to the orders of my company commander, I collected food for my platoon at the company command post, took it to my earthen bunker and took cover in the hole. The attackers were wearing white camouflage clothing and could not be distinguished from our own troops. Therefore I shouted at the shooter: ‘You idiot, can’t you tell you’re firing at your own men?’ Then it suddenly became clear to me, that it was an American, and I used his astonishment about my shouting to dive into my hole.”
Read about the 3rd Fallschirmjäger Division in action between Christmas 1944 and the end of January 1945.
Two pictures below. Odendahl with soldiers of the Danish Army at his foxhole, telling them about the situation in January 1945.
|Heppenbach. At first this farm was the location of an HQ of a unit of the Fallschirmjäger Division. Later on Mr. Odendahl was brought in here as a POW by American troops.|
|Heppenbach. Farmyard of the farm. Everything is still the same.|
|At this point the POW's, amongst them Mr. Odendahl, where lined up for questioning. One was seperated from the rest behind the wall, and then they heard a shot. After 30 minutes the man was brought back, but in the meantime the others did tell what they shouldn't have told: where the other units had their defencelines.|