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Falaise Pocket Heer Camo And SS Helmets
Old 11-29-2018, 04:38 PM   #1
WalterB
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Default Falaise Pocket Heer Camo And SS Helmets

I was recently reading some interesting posts about the Memorial at Mount Ormel and the Battle of the Falaise Gap. I thought I had previously posted a thread about such battle (relating to two helmets in my collection with direct provenance to such battle) and I now realize such thread was only posted on another forum. Well, as they say, "better late than never". I hope you enjoy.

I acquired these helmets about 9 years ago, shortly after they were found at an antique store. As you will see, I believe that that the G.I. who brought the helmets back was part of the 90th Infantry Division (the "Tough 'Ombres"). From the information he wrote in notes attached to the helmets, he gave the helmets to his grandson and tried to include a little of the history of these helmets. Since the helmets were found in an antique store in 2010, it is clear that the grandson cared little for these gifts of his grandfather and actually got rid of them / sold them shortly after receiving them. Oh well, at least these helmets and their history will be preserved.

Before I post the helmets in greater detail, I would like to post an overall picture of the helmets, together with the notes written by the G.I. to his grandson.

The first helmet is an M42 single decal Heer with a well worn tri-color camo of tan, green and brown. The M42 is a ckl size 64 with lot number 2916. The chinstrap is unmarked and the liner band markings could not be discerned due to the tightness of the band against the shell. The second helmet is an M40 SS single decal ET size 64 with lot number 368. The chinstrap is marked "gxy 41" and the liner band markings could also not be discerned.
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Old 11-29-2018, 04:39 PM   #2
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The M42 had attached a small note between the liner band and the shell that contains the following information:

"Normandy. August 20, 1944. Battle of Falais Gap. 66 years old. Goodwood. Chambois, France".
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Old 11-29-2018, 04:42 PM   #3
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Next, the M40 has pasted on its skirt a sticker with the following information:

"A major battle during World War II, Falaise Gap, after engagement picked up these 2 German helmets. One is the Reg[ular] German army Wermach, other the German Elite SS. The lightning streakes is SS, and I was there. Granpa Al. (Terrible carnage) (But thank God I was spared)"
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Old 11-29-2018, 04:45 PM   #4
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Beofre I go into the details and pictures of the helmets, I would like to include a little of the history of the Battle for the Falaise Pocket in order to put the helmets in the correct context of their known history and so we can appreciate how the facts surrounding such battle corroborate perfectly with the date, place and circumstances that the G.I. described to his grandson. Although I have read many books about the Falaise Pocket and the various battles fought prior, during and after the formation of such pocket, I have decided to distill in summary form parts of the Falaise Pocket described in Wikipedia, since it had a fairly accurate general summary of such events.

The Battle of the Falaise Pocket.

The Allied ground forces commander, General Bernard Montgomery, ordered on August 8, 1944 that his armies converge on the Falaise-Chambois area in order to encircle the German Seventh Army. Thus, the U.S. First Army would form the Southern pincer, the British Second Army would form the base to the West, and the Canadian First Army would be the Northern pincer (and both pincers would meet at the Falaise-Chambois area). However, the Germans fought hard to keep an escape route open, although their withdrawal did not really materialize until August 17, 1944. Operation Lüttich was a codename given to a German counterattack during the Battle of Normandy, which took place around the American positions near Mortain from August 7th through the 13th, 1944. The main thrust of Operation Lüttich can be seen by the long red arrow going SW in the map below. This operation was ordered by Adolf Hitler and was an attempt to eliminate the gains made by the First United States Army during Operation Cobra and the weeks thereafter. The main German striking force was the XLVII Panzer Corps, which was composed of one and a half SS Panzer Divisions and two Wehrmacht Panzer Divisions. Although they made initial gains against the defending U.S. Army units, they were soon halted and Allied aircraft inflicted severe losses on the attacking troops. The German forces eventually lost almost 50% of their tanks which had been involved in the attack and even though fighting continued around Mortain for six days, the American forces had regained the initiative within a day of the opening of the German attack.
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Old 11-29-2018, 04:47 PM   #5
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By August 13, 1944, the thrust of Operation Lüttich had petered out, and the German forces were being pushed out of Mortain. As Hitler ordered the German forces in Normandy to hold their positions, the U.S. VII and XV Corps were swinging east and north toward Argentan. As American forces advanced on Argentan, British and Canadian forces advanced on Falaise. The German commanders had warned Hitler that there was little chance of the attack succeeding, and the potential for great catastrophe was all too real, given that the concentration of their armored reserves would be at the south western end of the front in Normandy and which would cause the bulk of such units to be outflanked, resulting in many of the German troops in Normandy being trapped in what eventually and infamously became known as the Falaise Pocket.

After the failure of Operation Lüttich, the Germans were forced to retreat towards the city of Chambois. On August 17, the British and Canadian troops had captured the city of Falaise, so the Germans were left with control of Chambois, the only remaining avenue of escape for the remnants of the German Seventh Army. Canadians units reached the area near Chambois and were able to defeat the Wehrmacht forces at the river and encircle Chambois. The U.S. 90th Infantry Division (the "Tough 'Ombres") also closed up on Chambois from the South.
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Old 11-29-2018, 04:50 PM   #6
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For the Allies, time was the critical factor in blocking the German army's escape, but with the Americans held at Argentan and the Canadian advance towards Trun proceeding slowly, by 17 August the encirclement was incomplete. It was at this time that General Stanisław Maczek's Polish 1st Armored Division, part of the First Canadian Army, was broken into three battlegroups and ordered to make a wide sweep to the south-east to join up with the American at Chambois. Trun fell to the Canadian 4th Armored Division on August 18th. Having captured Champeaux, on August 19th, the Polish battlegroups converged on Chambois and, reinforced by the 4th Armored, by that evening the Poles had secured the town and linked up with the U.S. 90th Infantry Division and the French 2nd Armored Divisions. The pincer arms of the encirclement were in contact but the Allies were not able to fully block the Seventh Army's escape route in any great strength and their positions came under frenzied assault. During the day, an armored column from the 2nd Panzer Division broke through the Canadian's blocking line in St. Lambert, taking half the village and keeping a road open for six hours until it was closed again toward nightfall. Many Germans escaped along this route, and numerous small parties infiltrated through to the Dives river during the night.

Having taken Chambois, two of the Polish battlegroups drove north-east and established themselves on part of Hill 262 (Mont Ormel ridge), spending the night of August 19th entrenching the lines of approach to their positions. The following morning Field Marshal Model renewed his attempts to force open an exit and ordered elements of the 2nd and 9th SS Panzer Divisions to attack from the East (i.e., from outside the pocket) towards the Polish positions. Around midday several units of the 10th SS, 12th SS, and 116th Panzer Divisions managed to break through the weak Polish lines and open a corridor, while the 9th SS Panzer Division prevented the Canadians from intervening. By mid-afternoon, about 10,000 German troops had been able to exit the pocket.
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Old 11-29-2018, 05:00 PM   #7
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Despite being isolated and coming under further strong attacks the Polish units clung on to Hill 262. Although they lacked the fighting power to close the corridor, they were able from their vantage point to direct artillery fire on to the retreating Germans, exacting a deadly toll. Exasperated by the losses to his men, Colonel General Paul Hausser—commanding the Seventh Army—ordered that the Polish positions be "eliminated". Substantial forces—including the remnants of the 352nd Infantry Division and several battle groups from the 2nd SS Panzer Division—inflicted heavy casualties on the 8th and 9th Battalions of the Polish 1st Armored
Division, but the assault was eventually beaten off. Their stand cost the Poles almost all of their ammunition and left them in a precarious position. Lacking the means to intervene, the Poles were forced to watch as the remnants of the XLVII Panzer Corps escaped the pocket. After the brutality of the day's combat, nightfall was welcomed by both sides. With contact being avoided, fighting during the night was sporadic, although the Poles continued to call down frequent artillery strikes to disrupt the German retreat from the sector.. German attacks resumed the next morning; although the Poles took further casualties and some were taken prisoner, they retained their foothold on the ridge. At approximately 11:00, a final attempt on the positions of the 9th Battalion was launched by nearby SS remnants, which was
defeated at close quarters. Soon after midday, the Canadian Grenadier Guards reached Mont Ormel's defenders, and by late afternoon, the remainder of the 2nd and 9th SS Panzer Divisions had begun their retreat to the Seine.

On the evening of August 20th, the Americans made their attack against the Germans entrapped in Chambois. The American 90th Infantry Division was successful in taking over Chambois, and subsequently repelled every German counterattack. By evening of 21 August, tanks of the Canadian 4th Armored Division had linked with Polish forces at Coudehard, while the Canadian 3rd and 4th Infantry Divisions had secured St. Lambert and the northern passage to Chambois.

"We received orders to abandon our positions during the night of August 19/20 and break through in the direction of Trun. There was still a gap of five kilometers in which only a few enemy patrols had been detected. For our battle-weary unit the withdrawal by night was almost superhuman. The closer we got to the break-out point, the more ghastly was the scene that met our eyes. The roads were blocked by two or three shot-up, burnt-out vehicles standing alongside each other, ammunition was exploding, tanks were burning, and horses lay struggling on their backs until they were eventually released. In the fields far and wide was the same
chaos. The enemy artillery fired into the turmoil from all sides; everything was pressing east. We had to pass through Saint-Lambert. There, a small operation staff had been set up; Panther and Tiger tanks of the SS Divisions took the lead.
While the enemy fired non-stop into the village with antitank guns and artillery, we forced our way through regardless. Shot-up tanks and vehicles were pushed aside; many dead and wounded from previous break-outs lay by the side of the road. As far as room was available, we took the wounded with us, or at least cared for them. We jumped out of our armored personnel carriers to cover the SS tanks that a number of enemy anti-tank guns had neutralized. Two generals, whose infantry divisions had been wiped out, just shook their heads over our reckless attempt to break out. They marched with us.

During the night we made a brief stop, so that the men could rest and the wounded be attended. Through the vigorous thrust of the SS tanks the enemy sustained such heavy losses that they were unable to close the pocket even on the following day, August 21. While the tanks held the gap open, more and more groups, some quite small, filtered through the hole to the east. We set a course by compass and marched off; we had escaped the inferno once again. In the afternoon of August 21 it was all over; the pocket was closed. How, if at all, could the men recover from this blood-letting and terrible experience?" -- Lieutenant Hoeller,

 The Falaise pocket had finally been sealed on August 21st with approximately 50,000 Germans remaining inside. Around 20–50,000 German troops (leaving almost all of their heavy equipment) escaped through the gap, avoiding encirclement and almost certain destruction. The remnants of the German Seventh Army and her tank counterparts left within the Falaise pocket were forced to capitulate, and the German army was eliminated, either killed or captured. General Hausser himself was a casualty, staying with his army until he was shot in the jaw during the battle.

This marked the end of the Falaise Gap, as the last German resistance had been beaten.  The area in which the pocket had formed was full of the remains of battle. Whole villages had been destroyed and ruined and abandoned equipment made some roads totally impassable. Corpses littered the area—not only those of soldiers, but civilians and thousands of dead cattle and horses. In the hot August weather, maggots crawled over the bodies and hordes of flies descended on the area. Pilots reported being able to smell the stench of the battlefieldhundreds of feet above it. General Eisenhower recorded that:

"The battlefield at Falaise was unquestionably one of the greatest 'killing fields' of any of the war areas. Forty-eight hours after the closing of the gap I was conducted through it on foot, to encounter scenes that could be described only by Dante. It was literally possible to walk for hundreds of yards at a time, stepping on nothing but dead and decaying flesh."

[to be continued]
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Old 11-29-2018, 06:10 PM   #8
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So far so good ! Great Thread, great info !! Congrats to you on two super helmets with history and rock solid provenance ! This is what collecting is all about.

I knew a teacher at my high school that was at Falaise, the death and destruction you described is accurate.
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Old 11-29-2018, 06:30 PM   #9
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Wow. I've never seen a thread like this posted. Great read and fascinating in how it connects the helmets

Last edited by R_Bell; 11-29-2018 at 06:52 PM.
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Old 11-29-2018, 06:35 PM   #10
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Next we turn to a few period pictures. This first three pictures show the area near Hill 262, specifically the road to Mont Ormel / Hill 262 from Chambois. The last picture shows Chambois.
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File Type: jpg IMG_2533.JPG (197.5 KB, 484 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_2534.JPG (145.0 KB, 485 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_2535.JPG (84.2 KB, 484 views)
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Old 11-29-2018, 06:37 PM   #11
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Next are some modern drawings of "the Highway of Death". I read ine account where from a distance a black cloud could be observed over the area, which was odd since the days were sunny and clear. Only upon closer inspection did the black cloud could be discerned to be millions of flies attracted by the rotting corpses.
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File Type: jpg IMG_2539.JPG (146.7 KB, 480 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_2540.JPG (97.8 KB, 477 views)
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Last edited by WalterB; 11-29-2018 at 06:45 PM.
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Old 11-29-2018, 06:41 PM   #12
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Next is an account from an SS staff officer from the "Gotz Von Berlichgen" Division after he was captured. His account is of interest because not only does it describe his move towards Normandy right after the invasion, but also the retreat and escape through Falaise.
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File Type: jpg IMG_2537.JPG (119.0 KB, 484 views)
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Old 11-29-2018, 06:48 PM   #13
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Now that we have some historical context, here are pictures of the helmets:


First, we will look at the M42 camo. The first series of pictures were taken outside with some nice sunlight that caused its camo colors to be exhibited at their best. The next group of pictures were close ups in higher quality.
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File Type: jpg IMG_2495.JPG (129.6 KB, 472 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_2497.JPG (108.2 KB, 471 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_2498.JPG (137.3 KB, 472 views)
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Old 11-29-2018, 06:50 PM   #14
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Walter
Very Nice Helmets and Presentation.
Thanks for taking the time to post.

Matt
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Old 11-29-2018, 06:50 PM   #15
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More pictures
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File Type: jpg IMG_2500.JPG (104.5 KB, 471 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_2501.JPG (121.7 KB, 467 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_2502.JPG (107.2 KB, 471 views)
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