Wilhelm II and Von Moltke the elder, photographs

Searching for military photographs you sometimes come across something that does not fit in the collection and that you buy nevertheless. These two pictures came to me that way years ago. They were part of a larger group of pictures all with Wilhelm II and other famous German people of that period, late 19th and early 20th century. I bought the group in Utrecht, close to Doorn where Wilhelm II spend has days after WW1 in exile. So my hypothesis is these are somehow linked to that fact. There was no further info when I bought the photos so it is impossible to prove it but they might have been from someone is his entourage. A lot of former German military and noble families followed him here. Some to stay forever and some for only some years.

Both pictures were made by court photographers and are original high quality prints. This one of William S. Berger in Potsdam. The picture of Von Moltke is by Loescher & Petsch in Berlin. Both also are embossed by the photographer on the print themselves!

The print of Wilhelm II has originally been framed but that frame was gone when I bought the group. Interestingly it is written in Dutch on the reverse that it should be framed in small plain oak.

These are the only copies of these photo’s I could find online. Many pictures were also sold to the public or even made into postcards for an even larger audience. But these seem to be rare if not unique prints.

What I did find that of both pictures a drawing based on the pictures does exist. The one of Von Moltke was used for a book of the famous Germans of the century (a book printed in 1899). The one of William II could not trace its origins but it is clearly based on this photo but without the building behind Wilhelm II.

As can be seen in the embossed mark the picture was printed in 1887 a year before he fully retired but already at the very end of his career. More can be read here.

If you have a copy of one of these photos or other relevant information do let me know.

Hungary – Operation Frantic 1944, Debrecen

Photo albums can be a great source of historic information but sadly often the context of the photo’s has been lost over time. This blog is in regard to such an album that has been in my collection for a long time. Recently I dove into it again and now with the modern digital sources I found an interesting background.

The photos seem to be of an NCO in a Hungarian military unit that is involved in railway repairs. There is family crest with name in the beginning of the album and next to the military photos there also some pictures of the man with his family but I have not been able to establish anything beyond the family name.

Two groups of photo’s help to establish the exact timeframe and specific context of a part of the album. They show two heavily bombed railway stations in Debrecen and Szolnok and their damaged surroundings, railways and trains.

Both cities were bombed as part of American shuttle raids which were executed during Operation Frantic that took place between June and September of 1944. This was one of the few direct operational cooperations between the Russian and American forces. Bombers of the 8th and 15th US Army Air Force would undertake bombing flights on the way between bases in the UK and Italy to locations in Ukraine where they would reload with bombs and fuel and on the return flight again would bomb targets that were agreed upon between the Russian and US forces. That is why these were called shuttle raids, the planes would shuttle between the bases in Western and Eastern Europe and bomb targets on the way in between.

On the first and the last flight of Operation Frantic there would be also Hungarian targets. On the first flight on June 2nd Debrecen would be one of the targets. On the last flight on September 22nd Szolnok would be one to the targets. In both cases the railway station and the related area would be the main targets as these were of importance to the German military logistics, movement of soldiers and material like tanks to the Eastern front.

The photo’s show people of the Railway repair crew but also labour units working hard to repair the damages. IMostly trains and wreckage of railways and buildings but also some casualties, of which there were many due to the fact that not only railway related buildings were hit in the raids. Please be advised that photo’s of casualties are at the end of the blog.

Unexploded 500 pound bomb?

A total of 130 planes would hit Debrecen with more than 1000 bombs between 8.46 hrs and 9.00 hrs. The damage would be great but the loss of life was also enormous. Whole streets in the proximity of the railway areas would also be destroyed. Almost 1200 death and close to 700 seriously wounded would be the direct human impact of the bombing with hundreds of buildings (including many regular houses) completely destroyed.

Due to the nature of the album the photo’s are mainly of the railway related impact and not the civilian impact.

The last few pictures show casulaties of the bombings and the location were they were found. Probably most casulaties would have been removed before the repair crews started working but I assume these were uncovered during the repair works.

I cannot express the sadness I felt seeing that little shoe sticking out between the big boots of the men under the cover of tent halves…

You can read more about the bombing in Hungarian here that is also the source for the numbers used in my blog.

The next blog will be about Szolnok where the repair crew went next (based on the photo’s in the album at least) which was the last action of Operation Frantic.

There are many more photo’s in the album, this is a selection.

Sources:

http://hbml.archivportal.hu/id-1508-debrecen_elso_bombazasa_1944_junius_2.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Frantic

Gerrit’s Travels, Part 2 – Vietnam

Gerrit spent the first half of the ’60s in Greenland working at the BMEWS base, one of the coldest parts of the world. You can read more about him in part 1, the earlier blog about him. The second half of the ’60s he spent in tropical Vietnam working official US (Army) related contracts. Probably 5 years in total between 1965 and 1970 but exact starting and ending dates are unknown. Only one passport survives has his 1969 Vietnam dates in it and some other paperwork from around 1969 survives but not much.

As he passed away I am not sure I will ever know what he did there exactly. He worked in some capacity for RMK-BRJ the largest building conglomerate active in Vietnam during the war. You can read more about their history here: RMK-BRJ wiki

He had some form of medical education in the US (he stated to be an MD but I found no actual proof for this though) and he worked in some medical capacity it seems, probably in the line of Health and Food safety for RMK-BRJ.

Below a photo of his kit-bag (his original Dutch one, not a US version!): GHM Medical Department / Facilities & Operations RMK BRJ / 6th Division Vietnam

001
Photo of his kit-bag (his original Dutch one, not a US version!): GHM Med.Dep. (Medical Department) / F&O (Facilities & Operations) RMK BRJ / 6(th) Div (Division) VN. (Vietnam)

His late war MACV ID Card (Military Assistance Command Vietnam)

As he spent a long period in Vietnam he witnessed most of the war and not always from a safe distance! On several occasions he risked his life in the line of duty. As can be read on the Wiki regarding RMK-BRJ more than 52 employees were killed in those years.

I’ll share here some of my favourite pictures from his collection (these are mainly prints I took from the slides he made) there are many more!

Some local forces:

Do you see something bulbing inside his white shirt? He told me he always carried a grenade there for safety reasons, but not visible…. not sure how that would work….
This white truck appears on several photo’s so I assume it was his!

Driving a river boat, he went with the river forces (riverines) on patrols on several occassions, just for fun and he spoke French fluently so he could help out in communications too.

After a request on the US Militaria forum I learned the ship must have been part of River Patrol Section 532 based on the patch visible on one of the pictures!

Above shooting a M-79 grenade launcher and below driving the boat himself.

Patch of River Patrol Section 532 as I have learned!

With the Marines he had a Dutch friend there too, recently emigrated to the US.

I think his white truck can be seen on this photo!

And some random photo’s. A forget me not club, location unknown and with a Tiger Stripe boonie hat.

Some of the items he collected during this period:

The Marbles pilots survival knife he already got in Greenland and brought to VN.

DSCF0441

The Rolex Datejust he bought for his Birthday during R&R in Bangkok in 1967! It can be seen on the stairs of a friends house in Saigon. He is guarding the house with his M1 with double (taped together) banana magazines.

A relatively rare item among his military gear are these: Military Survival Kit – Hot Wet environment. Mainly issued to Special Forces in Vietnam. For more info see this page

005

You cannot hide your heritage, reading a newspaper from Deventer, the Netherlands, in Vietnam!

DSCF0510

Gerrit’s Travels, Part 1 – Thule Air Base, BMEWS

Missiles in Greenland, war in Vietnam, problems in Persia…..

During my teens in the early ’80’sof last century I got to know Gerrit. He was an acquaintance of my parents. He had stories and photo’s of countries and places where nobody else I knew had ever been. He was a bit of an adventurer so there was much to tell. Being only a kid much of this information was lost over time. After Gerrit passed away I helped his widow some years later to sell some of his collections and I got many of the photo’s and items which had interested me so much in my youth.

In this small series of blogs I will share some of these photo’s and items from his travels in the 60s, mainly his life in Greenland and Vietnam. In both locations he was working as a civilian contractor for the US military.

Gerrit wearing a USAF cold weather parka in Thule, Greenland

Gerrit was born in 1929 in Deventer, Holland. In the early 50s he studied Hotel Management in Switzerland and soon after emigrated to the US where he became a citizen, after his retirement he returned to Deventer in the Netherlands our mutual home town. During his period in the US he studied medicine but it remains unclear if he actually became a MD as he later claimed.

To be honest much of his life remained unknown which probably added to the “mystique” around his travel and activities abroad. He always seemed to work in troubles locations. After Vietnam came Persia and after that Congo just before the local revolutions happened that ended in changing the names of these countries.

The Cold War

In the ’50s and ’60s of last century the tension between the western world and the east, especially the Soviets was building up. The war in Korea, the Cuba crisis and later the Vietnam war were al very visible examples of this. The cold war was also one of fear for a Nuclear war with Ballistic Missiles flying over the oceans. If you could stop the enemies missiles you could win this potential war….

BMEWS – Ballistic Missile Early Warning System

In order to find and after shoot down enemy missiles the US started the BMEWS project in 1959 which was completed in 1964. The main contractor for the entire project was RCA, short for Radio Corporation of America. The contract was close to 500 million USD initially. They were building enormous radar sites with linked computer systems. There was a total of 12 radars at several sites, Thule being the biggest with 5 of these radars the location was known as the J-Site. Next to the Radars there were jets for interception and NIKE missiles but I will get back to that later.

Gerrit in front of the BMEWS Radars in Thule

In the years that Gerrit worked in Thule (63/64/65) everything was aimed at completing the project as soon as possible in order to guarantee the USA a higher level of safety against the Soviet threat….

As mentioned he worked for RCA in the field service, probably in the role of facility manager (he later had several more of these type of roles in other locations).

Here his address at the time as stated in the postcard also seen at the top of this blog.

And here a folder for new RCA arrivals at the Thule BMEWS project. On the inside he describes the location of his sleeping quarters in spring so this is probably from 1963. The location of the dot on the inside corresponds with the map on the outside.

Thule Air Base – 4683rd Air Defense Wing

thumb_img_4209_1024

Obviously Thule was an Air Base next to the BMEWS radar station. In the period Gerrit lived here (’63/’65) the 4683rd Air Defense Wing was stationed there. This unit was formed in 1960 and discontinued in 1965 so Gerrit witnessed most of its lifetime.

Thule Times of 1964 with the Wing Commander and the Base commander

They flew with the Convair F-102, Delta Dagger as pictured below in Thule.

NIKE Missile base

I am not sure how secret these things were back in that period but Gerrit was always proud of his Security Clearance (he said the highest a civilian could get). I did not see any of the NIKE missile pictures until after he passed away and I received his box of Greenland pictures….

Several pictures of the NIKE Hercules missiles, ready for action…

Next to the Jets and Missiles there were other planes….

People had to be brought, supplies had to be brought so plenty of other planes on the Air Base like these:

DC3 and it’s big brother, a C137 Stratoliner

On ski’s

Or Danish visitors:

thumb_img_4308_1024
Probably a Catalina, adapted with ski’s.

And of course the Fire Brigade in case of problems….

thumb_img_4307_1024

And there were helicopters too!

thumb_img_4262_1024

A HH43 – Huskie Helicopter

Prized possessions of an Arctic Traveller

Gerrit lived as a civilian on the Air Base. It seems that in his role he had acces to military supplies and also to the military shop, the so called Base Exchange (BX). A place it seems were also luxury items like Omega watches could be bought or ordered.

thumb_img_4204_1024

Next to the photo’s I have some of his most prized possession of that time, his parka, knife and watch. I will discuss them here as they are quite unique…at least to me!

thumb_img_4316_1024

In most photo’s he can be seen wearing his N3B US Air Force cold weather parka. Next to the Parka I have the matching trousers and a pair of aviators fur lined boots…

He also had a Marbles Jet Pilot survival knife that he kept on using in the Vietnam war. Marbles designed the knife but they did not get the Defense Contract. So probably this is a private purchase from the Base Exchange. In any case it is a rare knife by now.

thumb_img_4326_1024
jet_marble_rtn800

And here is Gerrit wearing and using the knife! First in his dormitory with the parka on the chair, the knife on the table, used to open a can? And plenty of Kodak films in the drawer…

thumb_img_4272_1024

And here worn on the belt during his trip to Dundas

thumb_img_4304_1024

And my personal favorite, as it can still be used, his Gold Omega Seamaster. Bought January 1963 on the Base Exchange!

Dundas Mountain

Gerrit somehow got the opportunity to make a trip with the local inhabitants, the Inuit or as they often were called in that time Eskimo’s. Today there are companies offering dog sled tours in that area but looking at these photo’s it was not a commercial business yet in the 60s. Dundas mountain is quite near to the Thule site so it appears on many pictures. As the picture below show the trip started from BMEWS itself, four of the five radars can be seen here and of course the dog led sled!

thumb_img_4303_1024

As I have no details on the trip itself from Gerrit it was good te see that on some pictures he made captions of what we can see!

The caption reads: An Eskimo from Dundas with gun and screen for the seal hunt

thumb_img_4232_1024
It seems he made the trip with some unknown friends from the base.

He mentions one of the dogs by name and says he often took it into his truck

thumb_img_4244_1024
Probably this one?

Two photo’s of “locals”, really love these, they could be in a period National Geographic…

Also during his time in Vietnam Gerrit always had good relations with local people. Not being in the military himself probably gave him some more possibilities for this.

thumb_img_4254_1024
thumb_img_4255_1024

The family that took him on the trip?

thumb_img_4241_1024
Skinning after the hunt, pole fox?

Dundas from the seaside…

thumb_img_4300_1024

This wildlife booklet must have helped, he studied it well. He brought even some items with him that are no longer here like a Narwal tooth, from the unicorm of the seas…

thumb_img_4206_1024

Life on the base

In the years Gerrit was in Thule the base was still quite new and still being built. It was not a place of luxury but of a very simple life, work, eat, sleep, repeat….

Here some pictures of that simple life in the harsh conditions of the Arctic.

Construction still ongoing!

As on any base there was also a Chapel for the churchgoing part of the staff. And of course Xmas specials on the menu.

Dormitories were quite simple with small rooms. Not sure if private rooms were available to all personnel?

thumb_img_4237_1024
The barracks in summertime, looking very new

Outside of the dormitory and inside.

Just enough place for a bed, a small table and some personal belongings…

Weather conditions were very harsh, even in spring and summer

Describing weather conditions and leaving his Jeep near the other Barracks for better protection against the snow.

thumb_img_4249_1024

And of course US Mail!

Later after the 1968 accident with a B-52 there was radiation but no idea what the radiation could have been before 1965?

thumb_img_4301_1024

And the ubiquitous sign post found on every base far from the States!

thumb_img_4211_1024

Vervalste persoonsbewijzen!

Raadsel. Deze groep is nog steeds een beetje een raadsel. Een set van drie persoonsbewijzen en wat foto’s van dezelfde man als een officier (in opleiding) voor de oorlog.

De foto’s van hem als officier zijn de sleutel naar zijn naam. Hij is een deelnemer aan de internationale militaire vijfkamp en de bijbehorende medaille helpt om de juiste man te vinden.

Het is G. Struijs en hij is geboren in 1911. Voor de oorlog wordt hij opgeleid tot officier, reserve 1e Luitenant der Artillerie per 1 januari 1937. Na de oorlog doet hij wederom dienst, dit keer in Indonesië. Zijn laatste rang is die van reserve Majoor der Artillerie per 1 november 1949.

De oorlogsperiode zelf blijft een raadsel. Geen van de PB’s bevat zijn echte naam alhoewel er één wel in de buurt komt.

pb

Alles roept actief verzet maar verdere informatie is er niet. De rechter variant (Gemeente Smallingerland) heeft een controlezegel die bij Amsterdam hoort en is daardoor herkenbaar als een vervalsing. Ook het watermerk is zwakker dan bij de twee andere PB’s. Of de andere twee “origineel” zijn met alleen een “nieuwe” persoon of dat het volledige vervalsingen zijn is nog niet duidelijk.

Tijdens zijn dienst als officier kreeg hij de volgende medailles:

– Vijfkampkruis NOC
– Bronzen NOC medaille
– Oorlogsherinneringskruis met gesp ‘Nederland Mei 1940’
– Ereteken voor Orde en Vrede met 3 gespen
– Officierskruis XX

Verder is er nog een G Struijs die het Verzetsherdenkingskruis gekregen heeft maar dat blijkt niet om dezelfde persoon te gaan!

Met dank aan John Stienen en Theo Schalke voor de input!

Voor mij is de speurtocht hier doodgelopen maar als er mensen zijn met meer info dan houd ik mij aanbevolen!

Austro-Hungarian Marchbatallion XXVI, BH2 – Bosnian Infantry Regiment 2

These are pictures of an officer from Trautenau who volunteered (1 year volunteer) and became an officer in BH2 together with several of his friends or familiy members. The earlier pictures in this blog came from the same album!

Photo while still as an aspiring officer (so NCO in rank, training as an officer) in 1916
Sitting in the middle
Back row, second from left, now as a decorated officer (in training)
On the right side
And as a decorated officer in 1918