Friday, March 9, 2018

Color Photos of World War II Part 7

Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) 'spotter'  color photos of World War II
December 1942: An Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) 'spotter' at a 3.7-inch anti-aircraft gun site, most likely in London.
This is another in my continuing series on color photographs of World War II. These are all portions of more complete photographs contained in the Imperial War Museum's "The Second World War In Colour" (2017). If you like these samples, you definitely should consider hunting down the book.

Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) plotters  color photos of World War II
December 1942: Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) plotters at work at Coastal Artillery Headquarters in Dover.
These types of pages enable us to step back a bit and get a bigger perspective on the war than simply battles and winning and losing. War is a complex organization of people committed toward a common objective. Many of those people are never recognized afterward, never remembered, and there is no place for them in a chronological recounting because they are always there, in the background, but never stand out from the pack.

Lancaster bombers in Avro's factory at Woodford color photos of World War II
1943: Lancaster bombers in Avro's factory at Woodford near Manchester.
As I've stated on other pages of this type, most color photographs of World War II that you will see anywhere on the Internet are colorized. There is nothing whatsoever wrong with colorized photographs, especially when it is done well. They make the war more accessible to modern audiences. However, these particular photographs are, as noted above, color originals.

Lockheed Hudson at Yundum in Gambia color photos of World War II
April 1943: Local workers helping RAF fitters change the engine of a Lockheed Hudson at Yundum in Gambia.
It is tempting to think that technology began yesterday when we first picked up a smartphone. However, color photography was very well developed during World War II. The reason that almost all photographs from the war are in black and white is simply that color film was several times as expensive as black-and-white film, and there were very few ways to use it in days when newspapers and magazines were almost always in black and white.

B-17F Flying Fortress color photos of World War II
May 1943: B-17F Flying Fortress 'Mary Ruth - Memories of Mobile' of the 91st Bomb Group, US Eighth Air Force. The bombers are on a mission to attack the U-boat pens at Lorient. 
Another oddity about color photographs of World War II is that they tend to cluster around certain themes. That is because certain themes are simply more interesting to audiences. Like it or not, photos of Adolf Hitler and German troops are the most common subjects of colorized photographs, followed closely by female Soviet troops. That may change in the future, but it seems to be a definite pattern at the moment.

Land Army girls color photos of World War II
1943: Land Army girls sawing larch poles for use as pit props at the Women's Timber Corps training camp at Culford, Suffolk.
So, with this page, we aim to correct the balance a bit. This entire page is original color photographs of the Allied side during World War II.

Crusader tank at El Aroussa in Tunisia color photos of World War II
May 1943: A crew from the 16th/5th Lancers, 6th Armoured Division, cleaning the gun barrel of their Crusader tank at El Aroussa in Tunisia. 
I have put the photographs in chronological order, though a few I don't have dates on, so they are just put in wherever seemed most suitable.

Farmers cutting grass color photos of World War II
1943: Farmers cutting grass for winter silage at Eynsford in Kent. Don't sneer at this kind of photo, this type of thing is what really won World War II.
If you like these color photos, you may wish to check out my other pages of color photos of World War II.

You may find more color photos of World War II on page 1 and page 2 and page 3 and page 4 and page 5 and page 6 and page 7 and page 8 and page 9 and page 10 and page 11 and page 12 and page 13 and page 14 and page 15 and page 16 of this series.

Sherman tank of the 3rd County of London Yeomanry in Sicily color photos of World War II
August 1943: Local children crowding aboard a Sherman tank of the 3rd County of London Yeomanry in Sicily.
Thanks for visiting, and I hope you enjoy your time here.

Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Hospital at Halton in Buckinghamshire color photos of World War II
August 1943: Nurses and convalescent aircrew at Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Hospital at Halton in Buckinghamshire.

5.5-inch gun crew from 75th (Shropshire Yeomanry) Medium Regiment color photos of World War II
September 1943: A 5.5-inch gun crew from 75th (Shropshire Yeomanry) Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery, in action at Salerno, Italy.

P-51D Mustang color photos of World War II
1944: Lieutenant Vernon R Richards of the 361st Fighter Group escorting some bombers in his P-51D Mustang.

SHAEF color photos of World War II
February 1944: General Dwight D Eisenhower and his senior commanders at Supreme Allied Headquarters (SHAEF) in London. I don't recognize everyone offhand, but you should be able to pick out Eisenhower, General Omar Bradley and Field Marshal Montgomery.

B-24 Liberator bombers of the 491st Bomb Group color photos of World War II
1944: B-24 Liberator bombers of the 491st Bomb Group, US Eighth Air Force on their way to bomb Germany.

Air Raid Precautions (ARP) warden color photos of World War II
Unknown date: An Air Raid Precautions (ARP) warden inspects damage in Holborn, London.

Private Alfred Campin of the 6th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry color photos of World War II
March 1944: Private Alfred Campin of the 6th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry demonstrating proper bayoneting technique.

British paratroopers color photos of World War II
April 22, 1944: British paratroopers preparing for a practice jump from an RAF Dakota based at Down Ampney in Wiltshire.

Wing Commander James 'Johnnie' Johnson color photos of World War II
July 1944: The RAF's top-scoring fighter pilot, Wing Commander James 'Johnnie' Johnson, with his Spitfire and pet Labrador Sally in Normandy.

Churchill Crocodile flamethrower tank color photos of World War II
August 1944: A Churchill Crocodile flamethrower tank in action, You can just barely see the wheel of its armored trailer behind it which contains the fuel.

Liberation of Eindhoven color photos of World War II
September 1944: Liberation of Eindhoven by Allied forces. The Germans took a rather dim view of this sort of thing, so the Luftwaffe bombed the town, which they knew well from having had their own base there, a few hours later.

Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery pointing out the German West Wall region to King George VI  color photos of World War II
October 1944: Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery pointing out the German West Wall region to King George VI in his command caravan in Holland. The King outranked Montgomery - and not just by virtue of being King - and thus could at least in theory override any decision that Monty made.

British soldiers at the Acropolis color photos of World War II
October 1944: British soldiers have arrived, and, just like the Germans in April 1944, they pause to admire the Caryatids on the Acropolis. They thought the hard part of the war was over, but in fact it was just beginning in Athens.

Female munitions workers color photos of World War II
1945: Women producing bullets and cannon shells in an underground munitions factory on the Wirral, Merseyside.

German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper color photos of World War II
May 1945: German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper in dry dock at Kiel. Sold for scrap a few years later. 

VE Day in England color photos of World War II
May 8, 1945: VE Day in England, at the Cenotaph in Whitehall.

Winston Churchill color photos of World War II
This one of Winston Churchill is colorized.


Monday, March 5, 2018

Heil Honey I'm Home (1990)

Heil Honey I'm Home logo
"Heil Honey I'm Home" logo, which is an obvious takeoff on that of US television series "Married With Children."

And now, as they say, time for something completely different.

Heil Honey I'm Home Neil McCaul
Neil McCaul as Adolf.

This is the first entry on an occasional series on this site which will go under the general category of "modern reimaginings of World War II." It is a quick look back at "Heil Honey I'm Home," a 1990 British television series with a somewhat odd concept. It merges characters taken wholesale from the Third Reich and that period of history, slaps them into a supposedly unaired sitcom from the 1950s, and adds a pinch of irreverence from 1980s shows such as "Married With Children."

DeNica Fairman Heil Honey I'm Home
DeNica Fairman as Eva.

"Heil Honey I'm Home" is not exactly a famous show. In fact, it only aired for one episode, on 30 September 1990. It is what those in the business call "high concept." Adolf Hitler - yes, that Adolf Hitler, not some joker just called Adolf Hitler - is portrayed as a suburban apartment dweller in an unnamed English city.

Heil Honey I'm Home Neil McCaul
Hitler's uniform apparently resembled that of a Boy Scout.

Now, let's get something straight right off the bat: this is not some pro-Hitler thing or anything of the sort. In fact, the show's creator Geoff Atkinson goes to some pains to emphasize that most of the people involved with "Heil Honey I'm Home" are Jewish. Satellite television channel Galaxy, part of British Satellite Broadcasting (which later became part of BSkyB), commissioned the series from writer Atkinson (more known as a writer for "Don't Watch That, Watch This," "Going Forward" and other British television series). Let's just say that Atkinson must have put on a whale of a pitch when given the chance.

Neil McCaul DeNica Fairman Heil Honey I'm Home

Without going into too many details - well, there aren't that many details, considering the show only aired once and lasted for only 26 minutes - Hitler (who is identified in the credits only as "Adolf," but completely named within the programme itself) is a suburban apartment dweller. His neighbors are a world-weary Jewish couple trying to set up their niece Ruth with the interesting parade of people who grace Hitler's door. These have included Mussolini and (in the episode that actually aired) Neville Chamberlain.

Heil Honey I'm Home Neil McCaul
Hitler trying to figure out how to get out of signing Chamberlain's silly piece of paper.

Everything is played for laughs, but there are a lot of historically accurate flourishes that are bound to offend some people. For instance, barely two minutes into the show, Hitler's wife Eva has given Hitler the Hitler salute (Hitlergruß) not once, but twice. Incidentally, did you know that you can and will be arrested in Germany for doing that to this day? It's true. The series is set in 1938, not actually during the war.

Heil Honey I'm Home Neil McCaul Patrick Cargill
Hitler greeting Neville Chamberlain, played by Patrick Cargill, better known for starring in " Father, Dear Father" (and who served in the military during World War II, incidentally.

During the series, Hitler talks incessantly about invading Poland and the Rheinland and so on and so forth, and gets a call on the telly from his pal Joseph Goebbels. High points of the episode are when someone is told to "Grab hold of the Fuehrer's butt" (in a conga line) and Chamberlain trying to get Hitler to sign the "Peace in our Time" statement (which Hitler throws in the oven).

Heil Honey I'm Home Neil McCaul

Veteran television actor Neil McCaul plays Hitler in the style of  Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden, though he looks eerily like John Cleese (who, incidentally, shall feature in a future installment of my series on modern reimaginings of World War II). Canadian DeNica Fairman plays Eva Braun as a sort of Peg Bundy (from "Married With Children") knockoff (DeNica dropped out after the pilot for unexplained reasons, but we can hazard a guess or two).

Heil Honey I'm Home Neil McCaul

Gareth Marks and Caroline Gruber round out the regulars by playing Arny and Rosa Goldenstein, who are fun... ethnic stereotypes. The series (according to the few who have seen it or the scripts) develops into a plot by Hitler to kill the annoying Goldensteins, who keep spoiling his attempts to impress people like Mussolini, Chamberlain and Stalin.

Apparently, there were eight episodes completed of "Heil Honey I'm Home," and parts of others, but only one has been released in its entirety. I am informed that you can find all eight if you devote all your time and energy to doing so, but I haven't found them. Watch at your own risk, only you know if the idea of a funny yet homicidal Hitler is something you want to see.

Heil Honey I'm Home Neil McCaul

Anyway, below are some captures of the series, apparently from videotape. Note that it has been condemned by Jewish groups and others.

Heil Honey I'm Home
Geoff Atkinson of Vera Productions, the creator of "Heil Honey I'm Home."

Curious British Telly has a great page on "Heil Honey I'm Home," which you are invited to visit for more information on the series. Below is an interview they did with the show's creator, Geoff Atkinson.

CBT: Hello, Geoff, and many thanks for taking the time to chat to us. We’d like to start by hearing about your life prior to Heil Honey I’m Home. You spent most of the 80s writing for British greats such as The Two Ronnies, Rory Bremner and Spitting Image to name but a few, but how did your writing career start?

GA: Simple, luck. I wrote a sketch with a friend arrogantly assuming it would be read and sent it to Ronnie Barker at BBC for consideration for the Ronnies. Not only did he read it and consider it he got back with words of encouragement and an offer for me to send more. For six months he guided, sent back feedback, and gave me the confidence to think it was possible. First thing they eventually commissioned was a RB monologue, after that I sent off cold to radio and Punch, latter took a comedy article, former invited me in to meet John Lloyd and Douglas Adams. I was very very lucky.

The Galaxy channel – which aired Heil Honey – was relatively small compared to the powerhouses of BBC and ITV, so what led to you working with them? Were any other channels approached?

At the time BSB was a fledgling channel but they had an output deal with Noel Gay that was well funded, brave and innovative. Paul Jackson who I knew from other shows was running it along with the nicest bunch of producers you could meet. I produced a series for Nick Hancock and talk turned to sitcom and it just grew from there. One of those ‘what if’ moments. I suspect other channels may have struggled.

Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun live next door to Jewish couple Arny and Rosa Goldenstein. They’re the very epitome of each others neighbour from hell. Comedy is borne from conflict, but why did you choose this particular scenario over, say, a family of cats living next door to a family of dogs?

Well cats living next door to dogs could well have worked so it’s not really a choice thing. One thing to remember about Heil Honey is it was set in 1938, before the war, but the west had a good idea what Hitler was up to. Yet we appeased him. Maybe the thought of another war was too much. This is about that moment, what do you do when the guy next door is a thug and a bully but you can hardly report him. Sometimes you can destroy bullies by laughing at them. Sometimes you may not win if you laugh but at least you have the satisfaction of seeing them for the fool they are. This isn’t about denying what happened – how could you, it was wicked and inhumane – it’s about being human in the face of inhumanity.

Our favourite aspect of the show is the acting. It’s absolutely top draw with feisty, energetic performances from all the cast. Neil McCaul’s take on Adolf Hitler via Jackie Gleason, in particular, was a real highlight. What were you most pleased with regarding the show?

Yes like all shows you make you learn a lot from the first series that you can build from. The cast were great, Maria Freidman was a great Eva and Gareth Marks (his father Alfred was the first person I wrote for on radio) a very good Arny having just finished in the West End playing the Big Bopper. I’d always wanted it to be in B/w, shot three cameras, with canned laughter, a faithful pastiche of the 50’s show it was supposed to be. I think we could maybe have done that better. And the scripts again got slightly caught in 80’s pastiching the 50’s rather than true to era. I’d have allowed the satire on appeasement to come through more. Maybe another day.

Our initial reaction to the show’s concept was “WHAT?! REALLY?!”. However, after watching the pilot episode we didn’t find it that controversial. Sure, you’re putting a famous monster from history in the limelight, but the humour seems to lie in the ineptitude of those who could stop him. Nonetheless, there are a lot of reactionary types out there who live to be offended. Prior to the pilot screening, did you have any concerns there could be a backlash?

It was always going to be a controversial piece. That wasn’t the reason for making it but equally wasn’t a reason not to. The reaction when it came was interesting – there seemed to be two strong views. It was insensitive, or it was absolutely legitimate territory. The cast – three quarters Jewish – were in the latter camp and had no problem and a lot of others were in there too. My feeling is with time we could have won the doubters round, most of the reaction was to the idea without seeing it. It is a subtle mix, wrapped around a less subtle idea. Something you glimpse, react to, glimpse a bit more, and find yourself drawn to for a slew of reasons. It’s partly about setting out something an audience may not immediately think they’re going to like and watch them come round.

It seems that, over the years, every man and his dog has given an opinion on Heil Honey. The number of people subscribed to the Galaxy channel, however, was relatively small. What, therefore, was the public’s reaction to the show in 1990?

I’d say mixed, but again, as above, a lot was a reaction to a reaction rather than those viewing it. Vowed I’d never mention The Producers – best film ever – but what appealed so much was the slow turn around in the audience when they realised they could laugh their way through taste barrier. Maybe maybe.

Shortly after the pilot episode aired, the Galaxy channel’s parent company British Satellite Broadcasting was merged with Sky. Galaxy continued on for a while, but eventually ceased transmitting in December 1990. Is this what led to the cancellation of Heil Honey or were other factors at play?

I suspect it was one reason. Not sure this was where their heart lay then. Now of course Sky have poured money and talent into comedy but back then giving airtime to the Nazis was probably less of a priority than building up Andy Grey and Richard Keys. How times have changed. Premise was this was a show made thirty years ago which has remained on the shelf, twenty years later it’s odd how it’s playing out its own premise.

Do you feel that, in this post-Sachsgate era, it would still be possible to pitch a show such as Heil Honey and get it commissioned?

I’d hope so. Tastes do change – one of the reasons for setting Heil Honey as a fifties sitcom was to reflect on the way different periods accept or deny certain things. It’s curious how this sometimes throws up anomalies and occasionally the fear is that rather than open up, we shut down. I suspect Till Death Us Do Part would be a hard pitch today. Comedy isn’t always about creating role models, characters are often flawed, damaged, or unreconstructed. We laugh at them not because we share their views but because we see through them. But there are no rights in this, writers and producers just have to bang on the door, back their convictions, and hope those making the decisions haven’t got one eye on their pension.

There are several accounts online of people attending recording sessions for unaired episodes of Heil Honey. Gareth Marks, also, has included a few clips from unaired episodes in his Comedy Showreel. This begs the question as to what happened to the unaired episodes. Were they burnt in a remote field by anxious executives? Or are they collecting dust on your shelf? If so, are they ever likely to see the light of day?

Well I do have a set of VHS’s gathering dust, yes. There’s a bit of me that would like them to play, the other bit feels with time to reflect on it all, and the inevitable holes you spot, the thing I’d like most was to return to the front line and do it again, a bit better, a bit sharper, a bit more audacious. In other words, the second series that never was.

Finally, is there anything else you would like to say regarding Heil Honey I’m Home?

Well there’s unbroadcast scripts for a series, we can make it on a tight budget, and 75 years after his death, what better way to deal with Hitler’s dark past than debunking all he stood for and laughing at him.  Paul Jackson recently told me that when he travels people always want to talk about it and where there was reluctance there’s now enthusiasm. Maybe twenty years on it’s time to try again. Any takers?

Geoff, it's been an absolute pleasure. Thank you for your time.


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Hans Hube, Greatest German General?

"Der Mensch"

Hans-Valentin Hube
Hans-Valentin Hube (for all pictures on this page, the photographer is unknown and copyright has expired in the US unless otherwise indicated).

The names of the top German generals of World War II include a familiar litany of name: Rommel, Manstein, Rundstedt and Guderian always pop up. Occasionally, you will see Model, Kesselring, and a few other well-worn names added for variety. One general who almost never gets mentioned - he is barely mentioned in Corelli Barnett's classic "Hitler's Generals" (Grove Press 1989) - but may have been more effective for the Axis war effort than any of the above was Hans-Valentin Hube. Known throughout the Wehrmacht as the "one-armed Panzer General," Hans-Valentin Hube is my candidate for the top German general of World War II.

Let's learn a little more about this overlooked master tactician.

Hans-Valentin Hube

Hans Hube's Background

Hans Hube was born on 29 October 1890, at Naumburg a der Saale (on the Saale River), the German Empire. This birth date placed Hans Hube squarely within the "sweet spot" for top German World War II generals, almost all of whom were born between 1875 (Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt) and 1891 (Erwin Rommel and Walter Model).

Hans-Valentin Hube

Naumburg was a garrison town not far from Leipzig. He followed the well-worn path of young men from his area and enlisted as an officer cadet (Fahnenjunker) on 27 February 1909. He advanced quickly and soon was promoted to Leutnant (Lieutenant J.G.) in the 26 Infantry Regiment. World War I began a few years later, and the 26th took place in the First Battle of the Marne and subsequent trench warfare.

Hans-Valentin Hube

The end of the line for many World War I soldiers was the Battle of Verdun, and it almost was for Hans Hube, too. He was wounded in General Erich Georg Anton von Falkenhayn's "mincing machine" and had his arm amputated. Hube repeatedly requested reassignment despite his injury, and ultimately was promoted to captain during the war.

Hans-Valentin Hube, Hyazinth von Strachwitz, Colonel Rudolf Sieckenius
Major Hyazinth von Strachwitz, Colonel Rudolf Sieckenius, and General Hans Hube left to right.
There were a lot of disabled soldiers, and only 100,000 slots permitted to the Reichsheer (German army) by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. The spots were highly coveted for their steady employment during tough post-war times, and Hube snagged one despite having lost his arm. Reportedly, Hube was the only one-armed captain in the entire Reichswehr (German military). Hube rose slowly up the command chain, being promoted to major in 1929 and lieutenant colonel on 1 June 1934.

Hans-Valentin Hube
Hube with a subordinate.
The Germans had lagged badly in panzer development during World War I. However, they had seen how effective Allied tanks were and worked hard to remedy that failing and turn it into a strength. In 1934, Hube took command of an experimental motorized infantry battalion. He handled the unit well in maneuvers, and this led to the creation of the first panzer division in 1936. As a reward, Hube was appointed commander at Doberitz, the large infantry school near Berlin. He then took command of the Olympic village beginning on 1 October 1935 (adjacent to Doberitz), taking responsibility for security and the accommodations themselves, which received favorable reviews. This brought Hube into contact with Adolf Hitler, who took a personal interest in Olympic preparations. Due to his good job at the Olympics, Hube received a promotion to full colonel on 1 August 1936.

Hans-Valentin Hube Panzer III
Hube while commanding the 16th Panzer Division (1. Panzer-Armee). Hube is standing on a Panzer III during the opening phase of Operation Barbarossa in July 1941. Note the commander's banner on the left of Hube's panzer - at this stage of the war, Panzer III's were worthy of a Division Commander. Incidentally, this shot must have been well behind the front lines, since the tank has a row of gas cans perched on the turret.
Hube continued training cadets at Doberitz until the outbreak of the war, introducing courses in motorized infantry. As he had during World War I, he petitioned the army (the Heer) personnel office. In October, as the campaign for Poland was winding down, he became commander of the 3rd Infantry Regiment of the 21st Infantry Division. However, Hube was unhappy with the 21st because it was a secondary, static unit slated for use against the French Maginot line rather than in fluid mobile warfare. Once again, Hube petitioned the personnel office, and once again they rewarded him with a staff appointment to Colonel General Fedor von Bock's Army Group B. This soon led to further promotion, to command of the 16th Infantry Division in Belgium.
Hans-Valentin Hube
A rare photo of Hube which indicates his missing arm.
The 16th Division was perfect for Hube because the army high command (OKH, Oberkommando des Heer) had it on the list for conversion to a panzer unit and already had been partially motorized. Hube was in command for the capture of Mont Damion on 22-23 May and received a promotion to major general on 1 June 1940. After the Battle of France, Hube took his division to Muenster for full conversion to motorization. After that, the 16th moved to Bulgaria to serve as a reserve for Colonel General Ewald von Kleist's 1st Panzer Group, participating in the occupation of Belgrade. After that, along with many other Wehrmacht formations, the 16th moved to Silesia in preparation for Operation Barbarossa.

Hans Hube in Russia

Hans Hube led the 16th Panzer Division in the southern prong of the invasion of Russia. It became one of the first Wehrmacht units to breach the Stalin Line. The 16th completed the encirclement of Kyiv on 14-15 September 1941, linking up with the 5th Panzer Division. Even before the 667,000 prisoners could be counted, the 16th continued heading east toward Rostov, participating in the capture of that city but also the unexpected withdrawal to the Mius River (which cost General von Rundstedt his command of Army Group South). Hube helped hold the line there even as the German forces to the north suffered one calamity after another during the Soviet counterattack.

Hans-Valentin Hube Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen
Generalleutnant Hube while Commander of the 16th Panzer Division. He is with Generaloberst Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen, head of Luftflotte 4 on the outskirts of Stalingrad, August 23, 1942. This was the day that the Luftwaffe launched its first concentrated attack on Stalingrad, causing tremendous damage and essentially opening the campaign for the city.
Hube was getting noticed. He received the Knight's Cross on 17 August 1941, the Oak Leaves on 21 January 1942, and a promotion to lieutenant general on 1 April 1942. When the Soviets mounted their ill-fated offensive against Kharkiv in May 1942, Hube's men went into action. As part of Ewald von Kleist's 1st Panzer Army, the 16th completed a vital linkup west of the Donets and south of Kharkiv that led to the encirclement of huge numbers of Soviet troops. This "Bacaklesa Encirclement" led to the capture of over 100,000 Soviet troops and blew a huge hole in the southern part of the Soviet line.

Hans-Valentin Hube Hyacinth Graf Strachwitz von Groß-Zauche und Camminetz
Hube talking with Hyacinth Graf Strachwitz von Groß-Zauche und Camminetz (mustache). I don't have a date for this picture, but it likely was during the first phase of the battle for Stalingrad, because Camminetz was wounded on 13 October 1942 and sent to Germany to recuperate.
The 16th Division headed east along with the rest of Army Group South. The XIVth Panzer Corps (General Gustav von Wietersheim), of which the 16th was a part, scored one of the biggest successes of the Stalingrad campaign when it broke through Soviet lines and reached the Volga ahead of the rest of General von Paulus' Sixth Army at the end of August 1942. The XIVth was overextended, however, and von Wietersheim prudently counseled withdrawal from the river until stronger forces could be brought forward. The OKH, via General Paulus, quickly cashiered Witersheim ("called away to another assignment") on 16 September 1942, and Hube - who, somewhat ironically, agreed completely with von Wietersheim - replaced von Wietersheim in command of the XIV Panzer Corps.

Hans-Valentin Hube Albert Kesselring
Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring with Hube, Italy, November 1943.
Hube also made a racket with his higher-ups as commander of the corps, complaining about the same things that von Wietersheim had. However, while it was a very close thing, the corps survived and formed the bulwark in the north for the remainder of the battle of Stalingrad. OKH promoted Hube to general of panzer troops on 1 October 1942, likely because he had become a Hitler favorite due to his string of successes. The XIVth Panzer Corps, a mobile unit, then got bogged down in defensive warfare along with the rest of the Sixth Army. This unfortunate situation was notably exacerbated when the Soviet Uranus Offensive began on 19 November 1942. The Stalingrad forces - including the XIVth Panzers - were encircled on 23 November. Hube flew out of the pocket on 26 December 1942 to confer with Hitler, who promised reinforcements. After Hitler conferred the Oak Leaves on Hube on 29 December, Hube took a brief vacation and then flew back to his command in Stalingrad on 7-9 January 1943. However, the Soviets launched another offensive on 10 January, and the 6th Army defenses crumbled. The XIVth Panzer Corps remained a bulwark in the north, but the pocket was compressed by the Soviets moving in from the west.

Hans-Valentin Hube Bern von Baer
Hube awards Lieutenant-Colonel of the General Staff Bern von Baer with the Knight's Cross, February 1944.
It is at this decisive moment when the legend of Hans Hube truly begins. Hitler, sitting at his command headquarters, reviewed his options at Stalingrad. He noted that an unnamed soldier trapped there privately had given a summary of the Stalingrad commanders (all mail from Stalingrad was confiscated, reviewed by military intelligence, and not released to the public for many years). Basically, the soldier wrote off everyone as useless ("should be shot") - except for Hube, who he called "Der Mensch" (the Man). On 16 January 1943, Hitler ordered Hube to report to Berlin immediately for reassignment. The Soviets already had captured one of Stalingrad's two airfields, and the other was in peril, but there were still a few flights out. Hube resisted, saying that he wanted to stay with his men whom he had led into such a situation, but on 18 January a special Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor transport plane landed at Gumrak airfield. Keeping the desperate German soldiers at the airfield away, the SS men on the plane took Hube (and his aides, Colonel Thunert, Lt. Colonel Eysen, Colonel Walter Muller and one other man) under gunpoint to the plane. The plane flew out, barely making it back to German lines after being hit by ground fire. It was one of the last planes to make it out of the pocket (cauldron). Stalingrad fell completely in early February, but the calamity there for the Wehrmacht was unavoidable and obvious long before that.

Hans-Valentin Hube Nikolaus von Vormann
Hans-Valentin Hube and Nikolaus von Vormann.

Hans Hube in Sicily

Back in Germany, Hube and the aides with whom he had flown out rebuilt a new XIVth Panzer Corps. After a short stint in Ukraine with his headquarters - which had few assigned troops, and basically just organized formations heading further east - Hube received new orders: head to Rome. There, his headquarters studied the terrain, visited Sicily briefly, and wound up near Naples in command of three divisions operating further south. Hube received orders from General Alfred Jodl, chief of operations at the military high command (OKW), as follows:
The vital factor is under no circumstances to incur the loss of your three divisions. At the very minimum, our valuable human material must be saved.
This was a radical departure from the OKW attitude at Stalingrad, and the order puts Hube's next success in context.

Hans-Valentin Hube

On 10 July 1943, the Allies based in North Africa invaded Sicily. The Italians had heavy forces there, but they were poorly trained, not motivated, and some actually helped the Allied unload their equipment on the beaches. Some Italian units did fight hard - armored units at Gela Beach put a real scare into the Americans landing under General George S. Patton - but the only men really fighting hard were the three German units. Hube arrived in Sicily in mid-July as the Axis forces were being pushed back from the beaches. While official histories invariably state that Sicily was under the command of Italian General Vittorio Ambrosio throughout the campaign, in actual fact, from the moment that he arrived on the island, Hans Hube was in complete command.

Hans-Valentin Hube
Hube sized up the situation quickly. Sicily is in the shape of a triangle, with one end next to the Italian mainland. This point near Italy - the port of Messina - was the key to the entire island, because whoever controlled it also had command of passage to the mainland. The narrowing approach to Messina also compressed the defense, allowing the Germans to take out formations as the battle proceeded and send them back to the mainland in sequence. This all required a great deal of planning and relied upon very unreliable ferries, but the Germans - Hube - pulled it off. A lesser general would have tried to please Hitler by trying to hold Palermo and other "prestigious" points in the west - but Hube was smarter than that. He stayed in the northwest just long enough to force the American troops to move there en masse, then quickly pivoted back toward the east - forcing the Americans to fight tooth-and-nail along the entire north coast. Basically, Hube led the Americans on a wild goose chase in the wrong direction while his real objective was Messina in the east all along.

Map of Sicilian campaign World War II
The tactical situation in Sicily. Mount Etna in the northeast divides the approaches to the critical port of Messina in two. This simple fact,  along with the narrowing approach to Messina, formed the foundation of Hans Hube's strategy.
Hube then ordered a delaying strategy wherein his forces fanatically held off the British on the "short road to Messina" in the south at Catania, while grudgingly giving up western Sicily around Palermo to the Americans under Patton. Hube's defense was aided by Mount Etna, which divided the approaches to Messina so that the British and Americans could not link up. Thus, three separate campaigns developed in Sicily: the Americans advancing east along the north coast, the British advancing north past Augusta and Catania along the east coast, and the Germans under Hube retreating in good order east to Messina without allowing themselves to be trapped. All three campaigns succeeded to varying degrees, with Hube's being the only one that beat reasonable expectations.

Straits of Messina
The Straits of Messina, toward the Italian mainland. While it does not appear very far across, much smaller bodies of water had led to ruin for German forces in the past (Courtesy Rome Alive Again).
While the Allies conquered Sicily, it took them six weeks - much longer than initially expected - and Hube wound up evacuating his entire command (60,000+ German troops) back to the Italian mainland in Operation Lehrgang. Through very judicious planning, involving precise timetables and relying upon the "Anglo Saxon habit of lunch breaks" (as one participant recalled) during which Allied airplanes disappeared from the skies, the evacuation succeeded beyond all reasonable expectations. Troops would fire their last shots, then walk directly to waiting ferries and be on the mainland, fully intact and armed, within a couple of hours. Hube (and, let's give proper credit, evacuation coordinators Colonel Ernst-Guenter Baade and Commander (Fregattenkapitaen) Baron Gustav von Liebenstein) even evacuated all of their heavy equipment, leaving behind only some railroad cars. In addition, about 100,000 Italian troops escaped, along with their equipment - which the German troops on the mainland quickly "requisitioned."

Bridge Hung in the Sky Sicily
Among Hans Hube's tactical decisions, one of his most efficient was blowing the many bridges on the road toward Messina along the northern coast of Sicily. Here, on 13 August 1943, General Lucian Truscott becomes the first to cross the famous bridge that was "hung in the sky" by the 10th Engineer Battalion of the 3rd Infantry Division at Cape Calavà. Hube also made very liberal use of minefields, which greatly slowed down the Allies. Good strategy never neglects the little things, which often decides matters. 
The evacuation featured perhaps the first "roll-on-roll-off" technique in military history, where, rather than have porters unload trucks at the port, the trucks themselves were ferried over, fully loaded. This saved immense amounts of effort and, more importantly under the circumstances, time. Operation Lehrgang, which concluded on 22 August 1943, made the later successful defense of southern Italy at the Gustav Line (aka the Winter Line, centered at Monte Cassino) possible. Considering that the US 7th Army had 217,000 men on Sicily, and the British an additional 250,000 troops, Operation Lehrgang was an astounding evacuation success, achieved in the teeth of absolute Allied domination of the sea and air.

Hans Hube Back In Russia

Hans Hube now had two hugely successful commands under his belt - the brilliant advance on Stalingrad and the efficient defense of Sicily - under his belt, but he was far from through. After briefly commanding his rescued troops from Sicily around Salerno - another efficient delaying operation against Allied Operation Avalanche, the invasion of mainland Italy - Hube returned to Germany to take command of the Fuehrer Reserve OKH. This was simply a waiting room for Hube, however, and on 23 October 1943, he was named commander of the 1st Panzer Army (officially assuming command in February 1944). By this time, the Wehrmacht forces in the USSR were being forced back steadily, and this created numerous cauldrons. One of these pockets of trapped German troops, the so-called Korsun-Cherkasy Pocket, required desperate relief efforts. Hube managed to slice his III Panzerkorps close enough to the pocket against fantastic Soviet resistance for many of the trapped Germans to mistake (how many is hotly debated, but likely around 30,000 men escaped). It was another brilliant success.

Hans-Valentin Hube

However, saving the men in the Korsun-Cherkasy Pocket required Hube to keep his main forces further east than was prudent, given the waves of Soviet troops heading west. Some of the Soviet forces under Marshal Zhukov encircled Hube's own 1st Panzer Army near Kamenets-Podolsky. The stage was set for another Stalingrad, as Hitler wanted Hube to stay where he was until relieved by German troops coming east - something that Hube knew was impossible. He counseled heading south, while army group commander Field Marshal Erich von Manstein favored heading due west. Ultimately, Hitler gave in and authorized a breakout to the west.

Hans-Valentin Hube

This led to perhaps Hans Hube's greatest victory of all. He created a new type of formation - a "mobile pocket" - which concentrated its armor along the line of advance and strong infantry formations serving as a rear guard. Hube's men struggled through the mud of the Rasputitsa (the spring thaw) from 27 March until 15 April 1944, crossing several rivers. They reached the German lines intact. Hans Hube had saved an entire panzer army, without which the German defenses in the east certainly would have crumbled much sooner than they actually did. A defeat there, with the destruction or capture of one of the largest formations left to the Wehrmacht, would be much better known - but sometimes victories get less attention than the disasters.

Death of General Hube

Hans Hube now had achieved outstanding successes in the initial invasion of Russia, the defense of and evacuation from Sicily, and during the withdrawal from Ukraine. Very few soldiers in history have demonstrated such versatility. He had justified his position as a Hitler favorite - something not everyone in a similar position managed to pull off. Hitler decided to recognize Hube once again. On April 20, 1944, Hube left the front lines and flew to Berlin. He was there to receive the Diamonds to the Knight's Cross and to receive his promotion to Generaloberst. Significantly, this was Hitler's birthday, always a huge event in the Reich, and the fact that Hube was invited on that day was an indication of respect.

Hans-Valentin Hube Adolf Hitler
Hitler personally awards Hube the Diamonds to the Knight's Cross. This was the reason for the flight that killed General Hube.
After receiving the award, Hube got back on his Heinkel He 111 to return to the front. Shortly after stopping at Ainring airstrip in Salzburg on 21 April 1944, the plane crashed into the mountains. Everybody aboard perished, and the only identifiable remains of Hube was his replacement arm made of black metal. Parenthetically, Field Marshals were forbidden from flying precisely because of the risk of accident, but, despite rumors that Hube was in line to command his army group, he was not yet at that rank. Thus, Hube was still able to fly and flew to his death. There were rumors that the plane crashed due to sabotage, but there is no evidence of that, and accidents do happen.

Adolf Hitler Hermann Goering
Hube's funeral. In front, Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring flanking an unidentified family member. Beyond them are Erhard Milch and Günther von Kluge. In the next row, from right to left: Rudolf Schmundt, Julius Schaub, Karl Jesko von Puttkamer, and Friedrich Fromm.
Hans-Valentin Hube received a state funeral, which by that time was far from unusual. The notable aspect of the funeral was that Hitler attended, which by that point in the war was not common. In fact, this was among the last funerals Hitler attended, another mark of respect.

Heinrich Himmler Karl Doenitz
Hube's funeral on 26 April 1944. Front row: Generalfeldmarschall Hans-Günther von Kluge, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, Großadmiral Karl Dönitz and Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel. In the next row: between Kluge and Himmler is General der Infanterie Joachim von Kortzfleisch, with Generaloberst Hermann Hoth between Dönitz and Keitel (head bowed) (Ang, Federal Archives).
Hube was - is - buried at the Invalidenfriedhof in Berlin. The original tombstone was replaced in 2000, but the grave remains undisturbed and may be visited.

Hans-Valentin Hube


At a minimum, I hope to have convinced you that the name Hans-Valentin Hube is worth knowing in the context of World War II. Everyone can argue about who was the top general of World War II (who I don't think was a German, but that's another story). However, hopefully, you will acknowledge that Hans Hube was an extremely talented general who merits study and at least consideration for that accolade.

It is easy to dismiss all German generals as evil because they served the Third Reich and its well-known vicious ends. It is perfectly rational to do so about Hans Hube as well. Nobody expects you to honor one of Hitler's minions. However, consider that there is no evidence that Hube knew anything about slave labor or extermination camps or the many atrocities of the war - he was just a soldier. Not only was he a soldier, but he was one of the top generals of the entire conflict. Had he survived the war, Hube might be much better known today, but his record of military achievement remains untarnished for those who choose to understand it.

Hans-Valentin Hube
Hans Hube.