29 February – Today in German History

1916

  • On the afternoon of February 29, 1916, both the British armed merchant ship Alcantara and the German raider Grief sink after engaging each other in a close-range battle on the North Sea. The battle raged for 12 agonizing minutes at close range. The Alcantara lost 74 men in the battle; the Grief lost nearly 200. By the time a second British armed merchant ship, the Andes, arrived on the scene, both ships had been badly damaged. On fire and sinking quickly, the desperate Grief fired one final torpedo, striking the Alcantara. Both ships eventually sank. The crew of the Andes picked up the survivors of both ships, taking more than 120 German prisoners.

1940

  • German U-boat U-20 torpedoed and sank Italian steamer Maria Rosa in the English Channel, killing 12. 17 people were rescued.
  • German steamers Heidelberg and Troja left the Dutch island of Aruba in the Caribbean Sea after dark in an attempt to evade Allied patrols. Troja was intercepted 10 miles from Aruba from British cruiser Despatch; her crew set fire to the ship and abandoned her, which sank on the next day.
  • Adolf Hitler approved Nikolaus von Falkenhorst’s invasion plan for Norway.

1944

  • Oberfeldwebel Otto Meyer and Hauptmann Fritz Schmidtmann of the German Kampfgeschwader 55 wing were awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross.
  • The third major German offensive was launched at Anzio, Italy, which would again fail to dislodge the Allies.
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28 February – Today in German History

1944

  • Hanna Reitsch, the first female test pilot in the world, suggests the creation of the Nazi equivalent of a kamikaze squad of suicide bombers while visiting Adolf Hitler in Berchtesgaden. Hitler was less than enthusiastic about the idea.

    Reitsch was born in 1912 in Hirschberg, Germany. She left medical school in which she had wanted to be a missionary doctor to take up flying full time, and became an expert glider pilot–gliders were motorless planes that the Germans developed to evade strict rules about building warplanes after WWI. In addition to gaining experience with gliders, Reitsch also did stunt flying for the movies. In 1934, she broke the world’s altitude record for women at 9,184 feet. An ardent Nazi and admirer of Hitler, she was made an honorary flight captain by the Fuhrer, the first woman to receive such an honor.


    In 1937, the Luftwaffe, the German air force, put her to work as a test pilot. Reitsch embraced this opportunity to fly as part of what she called Germany’s “guardians of the portals of peace.” Among her signal achievements was the testing of a proto-helicopter in 1939. Reitsch came closer than any other woman to seeing actual combat during World War II, depositing German troops along the Maginot Line in France during the Germans’ 1940 invasion by glider plane. She won an Iron Cross, Second Class, for risking her life trying to cut British barrage-balloon cables. Among the warplanes she tested was the Messerschmitt 163, a rocket-power interceptor that she flew 500 mph. While testing the ME 163 a fifth time, she spun out of control and crash-landed even though she was injured during the crash, she nevertheless managed to write down exactly what happened before she passed out from her injuries. For this, Hitler awarded her an Iron Cross, First Class.

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20 February – Today in German History

1943 

  • Field Marshall Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps broke through the Allied defensive line at the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia, North Africa. It was the site of the first major battle defeat of the war for the United States.

1944 

  • “Big Week” as the Americans called it began as U.S. bombers began raiding German aircraft manufacturing centers during World War II.
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17 February – Today in German History

1855

  • Birth of Otto Liman von Sanders in Stolp, Germany. In 1913 Liman, a German general was appointed the head of the German military mission in Turkey with the purpose of reorganizing and building the Turkish army. His major victory was at the head of the Turkish 5th Army which forced the British and Australian troops out of the Dardanelles in World War I.

1912

  • Death of Graf Lexa von Aehrenthal in Vienna. He was the Austro-Hungarian foreign minister at the time of the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908.

1915

After encountering a severe snowstorm on the evening of February 17, 1915, the German zeppelin L-4 crash-lands in the North Sea near the Danish coastal town of Varde. The L-4‘s captain, Count Platen-Hallermund, and a crew of 14 men had completed a routine scouting mission off the Norwegian coast in search of Allied merchant vessels and were returning to their base in Hamburg, Germany, when the snowstorm flared up, bombarding the airship with gale-force winds. Unable to control the zeppelin in the face of such strong winds, the crew steered toward the Danish coast for an emergency landing but was unable to reach the shore before crashing into the North Sea. The Danish coast guard rescued 11 members of the crew who had abandoned ship and jumped into the sea prior to the crash; they were brought to Odense as prisoners to be interrogated. Four members of the crew were believed drowned and their bodies were never recovered. One month earlier, the L-4 had taken part in the first-ever air raid on Britain in January 1915, when it and two other zeppelins dropped bombs on the towns of Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn on the eastern coast of England. Four civilians were killed in the raid, two in each town. Zeppelins would continue to wreak destruction on Germany’s enemies throughout the next several years of war–by May 1916, 550 British civilians had been killed by aerial bombs.

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Normandy Commanders – Featured Picture

Three senior German commanders in the Battle against Allied troops in St.-Lô area, Normandy, 16 July 1944. From left to right: General der Fallschirmtruppe Eugen Meindl, SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS Paul Hausser, and Generalleutnant Dipl.Ing. Richard Schimpf. Behind Schimpf is SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl-Heinz Boska. In this meeting Meindl told his commander, Hausser, that the German defense position at St.-Lô was untenable any longer due to the superiority of the Allied forces on land and in the air. The next day Hausser forwarded this message to his commander, Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel.
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15 February – Today in German History

1368

  • Birth of Sigismund, the Holy Roman Emperor from 1433-1437, near Nürnberg, Germany. He was the last emperor of the House of Luxembourg. In 1396, he assembled and led an army against the Turks, who had penetrated as far as Serbia, but he was badly defeated in the campaign. It was Sigismund who invited Jan Hus to the Church Council of Constance to defend his views. After his appearance, Hus was burned for heresy. In 1428, Sigismund led another crusade against the Turks but was defeated again.

1637

  • Death of the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II, in Vienna, Austria. Ferdinand was the leading proponent of the Catholic Counter-Reformation and defender of the absolutist rule in the 30 Years’ War.

 

 

 

 

 

1818

  • Death of Friedrich Ludwig Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen in Silesia. Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen was a general of the Prussian army in the battle against Napoleon at Jena in 1806 in which the Prussian army was crushed and Prussia became a dependency of France.
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