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Andrea Wego's Soldbuch Story
By Eric Tobey


The following was taken from the Die Neue Feldpost newsletter & was done so with permission of the publisher.  We would like to thank him for his generosity as well as thank all those who have contributed to this article.  It is with their efforts, we are able to share this valuable research with the rest of you.

As many of you know, quite a number of German sailors were transferred into the Army towards the end of the war.  This is a translation of the Soldbuch and associated papers of one of them: Andreas Wego.

Andreas was born in Strommeln (somewhere near Cologne) on April 15th, 1927.  His mother's maiden name was Wego and no father is listed in his records, so perhaps Andreas was born under "unfortunate circumstances".  He grew into a young man who was about 5 feet, 8.5 inches tall, with a "strong" build, dark blond hair, and blue eyes.  He was a mason's helper by trade and of the Catholic faith.

He was serving his obligatory RAD (which stands for Reichs Arbeits Dienst, or Reichs Labor Corps) service as late as June 20, 1944, because there is an RAD immunization record from that date in his Soldbuch which states that he received shots on May 11th and 18th.  This RAD unit was located in Wassenberg-Myhl (who knows where that is).

On July 10th, 1944 (and probably right out of the RAD), Andreas was inducted into the Kreigsmarine, (German Navy) by Naval Replacement Battalion 2, which was stationed in Wilhelmshaven.  He was then passed over to the 2nd Company of Naval Replacement Battalion 14 (also located in Wilhelmshaven), and his Kriegsmarine Soldbuch was issued on July 19, 1944 by the same unit.  On July 21st, eleven days after his induction, he was issued the typical blue, white, and fieldgray naval gear and then departed for basic training with the 6th Company of Naval Replacement Battalion 12, which was located in a camp near Altenwalde.  Altenwalde was a satellite station of the larger Naval complex of Cuxhaven and was situated about 5 km inland from the North Sea, and about 110 km west of Hamburg.  All of the above mentioned replacement units were part of the 2.Admiral der Nordsee training command.  He was with this unit until he was transferred to the Army.

By this period in the war, the basic training for the Kriegsmarine was structured along infantry lines; OKW realized that the Navy would be needing men more for land employment than sea-service.  In the reminisces of another Navy transferee1 the contents of this 3-month Naval training included "...kilometer-long forced marches with a 30 kilogram pack and combat gear while wearing a gas mask.  This was followed by classroom training back at the barracks...".  Sometimes during this training period he had his photograph taken for his Soldbuch: the picture shows a stern-looking kid with slicked-back hair, a very angular face, deep-set eyes and acne scars.  A very hardened looking character for being only 17 years old!  The photo shows him wearing a brand-new blue naval pea-coat with the plain blue collar patches of a naval enlisted man, brass buttons, and no breast eagle.  He was also issued one of the peculiar Kriegsmarine dogtags with the inscription: 52408/44D.

Sometime in September of 1944, he was informed that he was headed for the front, but not in navy blue.  On September 18th, he turned in most of his blue and all of his naval fieldgrau clothing at the naval stores, and left his navy unit on September 19th.  That the Navy left him with only a limited amount of blue clothing made sense because the Navy was organizing its own land forces at the time and it would need the field gray to clothe its own troops.  He was still in possession of the following:
 

Cap tally "Donald Duck" cap
blue trousers blue cover for cap
blue jacket blue shirt
3 pr. drawers square collar for blue shirt
3 pr. socks 3 handkerchiefs
3 undershirts Low quarter boots
canteen with cup cleaning supplies kit
Navy Soldbuch mess kit
Navy dogtag Zeltbahn
Eating utensils

Naval equipment and clothing lists are interesting because the researcher is confronted with a number of names which appear to have no parallels or different translations from their Army equivalents.  For example, an item called "Utensilien" appears on Andreas' list.  At first we assumed this meant "eating utensils", but this explanation posed a problem since the correct term "Eßbesteck" appeared elsewhere.  A local Kriegsmarine vet solved the mystery when he described "utensilien" as a kit which contained brushes, soap, toothbrushes, a towel, etc..  This would have been similar to the Army's "Putzzeug".

It appears that on the day or shortly before he left the Navy, he was paid up until the end of September (30 Reichsmarks) and given provisions to last him until Sept. 21, soap and shaving soap to last until October 10th, and tobacco products to last until the end of the month.

Andreas was sent along with a bunch of other naval transfers to Divisions Kampfshule 272 (272nd Division Battle School), which was located at Berlin Falkensee where the old 272nd Infanterie Division was being rebuilt as a Volksgrenadier division.  The Kampfschule was the place where the 272nd Volksgrenadier Division had a chance to educate its newcomers to the finer art of land combat, and they undoubtedly had their hands full with the large influx of Navy and Luftwaffe transfers.  On October 2nd, he turned in all the rest of his naval blue clothing and received two army blankets.  Some other Army depot issued him further clothing and equipment until his kit included the following:
 

Issued by the Navy:

3 pr. socks 3 handkerchiefs
3 undershirts Low quarter boots
3 pr. drawers eating utensils
canteen with cup Zeltbahn
mess kit Navy dogtag
Navy Soldbuch cleaning supplies kit

 

Issued by the Army:

wool tunic wool trousers
HBT tunic HBT trousers
Overcoat leggings
sweater another pair of low-quarter boots
steel helmet belt and buckle
pr. suspenders  2 blankets (mentioned earlier)

Some important omissions can be noted: field cap, breadbag, pack, etc..  It is probable that some of these items were not commonly stocked in divisional stores since they were usually issued by the Army replacement units which normally sent new soldiers to the Field Army.  There are no pages to record weapons issue in a Naval Soldbuch, so no weapons issue is recorded.  In fact, the Army Administrators had to improvise a page to record Andreas' unit: on a page which normally chronicles a sailors transfers, the army clerk manually ruled out some boxes to record the field unit and corresponding replacement unit.  Andreas was assigned to Füsilier Kompanie 272, and arrived on October 2, 1944, and was the 189th man on the rolls.  In November, without time to grant him a leave, his unit headed for the Western Front.  Andreas was part of the Second Rifle Platoon.

Although Andreas may have been under-trained as an infantryman, he must have performed well in combat.  On Christmas Eve, 1944, an order was drafted which promoted Andreas to Gefreiter, and as with most German promotions, it was retroactive to the beginning of the month.  The order was written after the company was engaged in some very costly fighting against the American 78th Division a week before, and Andreas must have demonstrated some capability to have been promoted; only 12 other men were promoted in that same order.  The company also needed combat-experienced junior leaders to fill gaps made in those same battles.  Late in December, large numbers of brand-new replacements were arriving at the unit, and junior leaders were surely needed.  Then it was back to the war and a rendezvous with fate.

At shortly after 7 PM on January 4th, 1945, the Füsilier Company began an attack which was intended to take Siegfried Line Bunker #27 away from the Americans.  After this attack failed, another one was launched shortly after midnight.  The combined strength of the 1st and 2nd Platoons for this second attack was only 22 men.  This attack also failed and the company commander pulled his unit back to Bunker 24 to regroup.  The HQ group and the 1st and 2nd Platoons took the inside of the bunker, and the 3rd Platoon took the outdoor positions to the right of the bunker.  Exactly what happened next is a mystery for now, but at 10 AM the commander of the heavy machine-gun squad heard motor noises, running and yelling coming from the direction of Bunker 27 as the Americans mounted an attack.  At 10:30, the sound of a loud explosion carried over to the heavy machine-guns from the direction of Bunker 24.  The Americans then left the scene and the Germans eventually arrived to clean up.

One of the dead was Andreas the ex-sailor.  No records were found regarding his death, but even his Soldbuch did not escape untouched, for a small splinter pierced it.  The letter informing his mother was drafted on January 24th, and his personal effects were inventoried by Spieß Fuhrmeister on Feb. 2:

One notebook with cover
One pair of scissors

Andreas was buried in the military cemetery at Gemünd (with the wrong date of death: the inscription on his marker reads "Dez.44") and shares a marker with a 32 year-old soldier named Ludwig Sagmeister, and this pair of names seems almost indistinguishable from the 4,000 others in that place.  It seems that in death, this young man with such a checkered background had finally achieved uniformity with his army comrades.

 


1...named Friedrich Schmäschke, who recounted his experiences in the 916th Grenadier Regiment in the 1986 book "Schicksale zwischen Sauer und Our" by Roland Gaul.

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