Das Reich panzers rush to the defence of Kharkov

A view of men from Das Reich during Unternehmen Zitadelle, July 1943.

Under continuous heavy artillery, mortar, rocket, and tank fire, and due to the incessant day and night bombardment of the main line of resistance by enemy aircraft and the bitter defense against enemy attack, the regiments, which have been in continuous combat for the past six weeks, especially those of the 198th, 168th, and 3rd Panzer Divisions, have been bled dry. Not many more enemy attacks can be withstood in the present positions.




Kursk: Massive tank battle at Prokhorovka

Massed German Panzers including captured T-34s attack at Kursk.

All day long planes fired at each other in the sky. There was a hail of splinters and bullets. That was familiar enough: but watch out, you might get killed by falling aircraft! Pilots parachuted here and there. One had to be careful not to confuse our men with the Germans. We could often see how the parachuting pilots continued their fight by firing pistols at each other. We wanted to help them, but how? If only our parachutes had had stars on them or the fabric was of a specific colour.




General George S. Patton arrives on Sicily

Men of the 6th Durham Light Infantry chat with an American paratrooper in Avola, 11 July 1943.

While we were on the beach at Gela, waiting for a boat to take us out to the Monrovia, I saw the most stupid thing I have ever seen soldiers do. There were about three hundred 500-pound bombs and seven tons of 20 mm. high-explosive shell piled on the sand, and, in between the bombs and boxes of ammunition, these soldiers were digging foxholes. I told them that if they wanted to save the Graves Registration burials that was a fine thing to do, but otherwise, they’d better dig somewhere else.




A German view of a Panzer attack at Kursk

Soviet Union - "Operation Citadel" - fighting in the area Belgorod-Orel - Waffen SS Division "Das Reich", crew during a stop in front of her Panzer III.

Oberfeldwebel Allgaier identified a dug-in KV-1, one of many. With typical Swabian composure and calmness, he took up a sight picture. But the distance was still too great; the 7.5-centimeter rounds ricocheted. He then fired with high-explosive rounds in front of them, so that the churned-up dust and dirt would rob the enemy of his visibility. He then used the time to get closer. He repeated the same game several times. Then he was at the spot he needed to be. With an anti-tank round in the breech, he waited in ambush. The dust blew away and revealed the target. Round on the way! Direct hit! lt was masterful.




A Soviet artilleryman blown up at Kursk

A familiar sight on the Kursk battlefield, both sides took enormous losses in tanks.

The last plane dove directly upon our battery and released its bomb load. One of the bombs flew directly at my dugout. I saw my own unavoidable death approaching, but I could do nothing to save myself: there was not enough time. It would take me five to six seconds to reach a different shelter, but the bomb had been released close to the ground, and needed only one or two seconds to reach the earth – and me.




The last German offensive in the East: Operation Citadel

SS Panzergrenadiers with a Tiger I of the 2nd SS Panzergrenadier Division Das Reich during the Battle of Kursk

Having ordered the gunlayer to keep one of the tanks, which had come to the fore and was moving towards our vehicle, in his gunsight, I quickly checked the other guys in my crew: Valeriy Korolev was seemingly composed and had his right hand on the gun’s trigger; Plaksin and Emelyan Ivanovich kept their eyes glued to the enemy tanks through their vision slits and were noticeably anxious; the driver-mechanic Vitya Oleinik was agitated, and his hands were idly grabbing and releasing the clutch levers, but at such a tense moment this was natural.




A Soviet infantryman prepares for battle

The German 'tank destroyer", the Jagdpanzer  Sd.Kfz.184  "Ferdinand" during driving and gunnery tests at Kummerstdorf proving ground, Spring 1943. This was a

We veterans explained to the greenhorns the particular weaknesses of Tigers, Ferdinands, Panthers, and so on. You should always act in pairs. The enemy tank must ride over you, over your trench, then one soldier fires at the accompanying infantrymen, while the other throws the bottle or grenade. Because of the intensive exercises involving tanks, we realized that very soon we’d be taking part in some heavy fighting between large armoured forces.




A prisoner snatch on the Eastern front

Tiger I towed by two Sd.Kfz. 9, Russia, June 1943

We heard cries of alarm from above us. Firing on the move, Germans were already running through the forest in our direction. Our man responsible for the boat couldn’t find the end of the cable in the water, panicked, and swam across the river to our side, although later he told us that he had gone to get the boat. We made so many mistakes due to our lack of professional training!




The US 34th ‘Red Bull’ Division takes Hill 609

US infantry advancing, somewhere in Tunisia.

Toward morning one platoon succeeded in forcing its way up the goat trail, which the Germans had believed was not a feasible means of approaching their positions, and took the stubborn men of the “Barenthin” Regiment by surprise from the rear. Temporarily stunned, the enemy was quickly overcome and Hill 609 was ours. Immediately a battalion was placed in occupation of it and our artillery forward observers accompanying the foremost infantry elements soon were directing fire upon the rapidly retreating enemy causing great havoc.




British tanks break through German lines overnight

Valentine tanks carrying infantry of the Black Watch, March 1943.

At times the tanks were crunching over occupied enemy trenches, and we could see terrified parties of Germans and Italians running about with their hands up. But we hadn’t time to bother about prisoners. Our progress was desperately slow. That was my chief worry. If we didn’t succeed in getting through in the dark, the situation in the morning didn’t bear thinking about. We should be surrounded by the enemy and dominated by the hills on either side of the valley.