AN UNUSUAL RECRUIT
I have a sidebar to the article “In the Ashes of the Reich,” June 2006, about Armin Lehmann’s experiences during the Battle for Berlin. In the Korean War, I was recalled to active duty and served with the military police unit of the 101st Division at Camp Breckinridge, Ky., in 1951. A group of draftees from the East Coast who had received some training as MPs were shipped to us that summer. One of them had been promoted to corporal and put in charge of the group primarily because of his prior service experience as a teenage Wehrmacht soldier during the Battle for Berlin. I do not remember his name but found it ironic that he was now defending American interests as a draftee.
James E. Owens
NAVY’S SIDEWHEELER CARRIERS
Reading “Riding a Wildcat Into War,” June 2006, I noticed that John B. Maas Jr. had done carrier qualifications on USS Wolverine. This ship and its sister Sable had been converted from old sidewheelers, the type we think of as cruising on the Mississippi River. The Navy bought the Seeandbe and Greater Buffalo, built in 1912 and 1914 respectively, from the Cleveland and Buffalo Transit Company. Commissioned as Wolverine, Seeandbe began its war service in March 1942. Greater Buffalo joined it nine months later as Sable.
Both ships served as training carriers for fledgling Navy pilots on Lake Michigan before they were sent overseas. From Great Lakes airbases, pilots made eight qualification landings and takeoffs and then returned to base. By war’s end, more than 17,000 young men had qualified after training on the two ships.
A Navy air training commander later commended the two former steamers for their “vital role in the mission of this command.” The ships served well, but their glory days were numbered and both were scrapped in 1948.
PUZZLED BY ITS POPULARITY
First, I must tell you how much I enjoy your magazine, even if I do disagree with the assessment of the Browning Automatic Rifle that I recently read (“Armament,” June 2006). I don’t understand the affection that more than a few veterans have for the BAR. As a light machine gun its magazine capacity was woefully inadequate, and as a rifle it was devilishly heavy.
Why did your article only compare the BAR with the German MG34 while ignoring the incredibly successful MG42? Not only did the MG42 have a high rate of fire, but the gun addressed the bane of all automatic weapons — overheated barrels. The operator of an MG42 could change a barrel in seconds.
In my opinion, the Army’s lack of a superior squad automatic weapon during World War II is a faux pas second only to the glaring shortcomings of the Sherman tank. Anyway, keep up the good work.
AN ERRAND OF MY OWN
I enjoyed “A Fool’s Errand” in the July/August issue. I have read 48 Hours to Hammelburg as well as Raid, which both cover the exploits of Task Force Baum. My particular interest in this adventure is the fact that my uncle was one of the Americans held at Oflag XIIIB at the time of the raid. He had been captured in the Colmar Pocket while serving with Company I, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division.
A sad part to the story of the raid is what happened after its failure and the inmates’ brief liberation. The destruction of the camp left the Germans no alternative but to send some of the POWs to different camps. My uncle was in a group that was force marched from Hammelburg to Nuremberg. By that point it was nearly impossible to use railroads for anything but military essentials. Prisoners who were to be moved had to walk. My uncle’s group was fairly large and was made up of men of many nationalities, all of whom made the journey on foot in April 1945 while being repeatedly strafed and bombed by Allied aircraft unable to identify them. Many of the POWs died during the march. My uncle was lucky, being liberated when Nuremberg fell to the Americans.
While stationed in Germany in the 1980s, I had a chance to follow the route Task Force Baum took to Hammelburg. There are very few reminders of the trek. Most damage suffered during the war has been repaired or covered up. I couldn’t tell if the few things I did notice came from Baum’s column or subsequent fighting in the area.
It still amazed me that the Americans were able to get as far as they did. The terrain is not favorable for armor off the roads, and many sections of the route were winding and hilly. I did stop in Lohr, Neuendorf, Burgsinn, Gemunden, Grafendorf and Hammelburg and tried to find someone who remembered when the Americans came through, but no one did. All the people I talked to were friendly and cooperative but were either too young to remember or not originally from the area. At the end of the route there are not many good roads to where Oflag XIIIB used to be, but I did drive around in the general area.
Marck J. Custer
Battle Creek, Mich.
ANOTHER INFORMATION SOURCE
Although the entire June 2006 issue was quite good, it was actually your editorial that caught my attention. You provided some excellent advice on contacting the various archives, especially the National Archives and the historical sections maintained by each of the uniformed services.
I expect that many of your readers are also interested in the materiel of war — vehicles, aircraft, ships, weapons, etc. — and many of your articles provide excellent introductions to some of the more interesting (and unusual) advances in technology made during the war. To that end, I would suggest using the archives of the very companies that made this materiel. Many of these firms were recognized for their efforts with the Army-Navy E Award for production.
I have found corporate archivists to be very enthusiastic and supportive of my own research. A good place to reach these archivists is the Business Archives Section of the Society of American Archivists Web page, which can be found at www.archivists.org. Keep up the great work!
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