MHQ Reader Comments: Paratrooper Propaganda for Hitler’s Assault on Crete, 1941

Some readers suggest that our Winter 2010 cover subject, a German paratrooper, was the famous boxer Max Schmeling.
Some readers suggest that our Winter 2010 cover subject, a German paratrooper, was the famous boxer Max Schmeling.
The photograph on the cover of MHQ’s Winter 2010 issue—of a German paratrooper leaping from a Junkers Ju-52 transport purportedly during Hitler’s 1941 assault on Crete—is packed with drama. So much drama, in fact, that some readers believe it was staged. “First, no sane photographer would get that close for an air-to-air photo,” Army Maj. Kenneth S. Brooks wrote to us. “Second, the Fallschirmjäger’s facial skin is not being distorted by the prop blast/slipstream as happens whenever a jumper stands in the door of an aircraft in flight.” Several readers believe the photo was a German propaganda shot featuring none other than Max Schmeling, the German heavyweight boxer famous for his prewar matches with American Joe Louis. Indeed we’ve confirmed that Schmeling, a Fallschirmjäger, was at the battle and was previously photographed for propaganda purposes. Major Brooks also noted similar physical features between Schmeling and the paratrooper on the cover, particularly “the malalignment of the left cuspid and lateral incisor.” We can’t confirm that the cover photo was snapped from the ground; our photo source’s scant information suggested it was over Crete. But is it Schmeling? Our analysis of photos of the boxer suggests it is not. Judge for yourself: above right [FIX] is the photo from our cover, next to a 1941 image of Schmeling. Send us a note with your thoughts at mhq@weiderhistory.com. And for a vigorous debate on the role of Colonel Andrew at Hill 107 at Crete’s Maleme airfield, see Robert Citino’s blog for our sister publication, World War II, at www.historynet.com/judge-not-colonel-andrews-mistake-at-maleme.htm.
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2 Responses

  1. Tom

    It appears to me that this was not the man it projects. Knowing Nazi propaganda and it being built on deception then the man pictured is not the one implied. Also the plane is on the ground. Look at the windows than note that the aircraft is setting in a way that says it on the rear wheel. If this was done in the sky it would have required that the plan be stalled which puts everything at risk in this type of plane. So we can say this is a fake in my opinion designed for Hitler’s Propaganda machine.

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  2. Walt

    I think this photo is staged, not only for the well documented errors written above, but for the body placement in the door. German paratroopers of WW2 dove headfirst from the aircraft not feet first as US paratroopers and since the JU52 had a single troop door on the port side he would have been approaching the door on his right side, so only a quarter right turn would have him placed correctly for exit. Also, since the plane is sitting on the ground he has his weight distributed to countr that not ready to leap to glory.

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