Oberleutnant Rudolf Schaaf Normandy 1944
by reinaart on 5. Sep 2010, 20:57
In his book"Overlord" Max Hastings provides quite a few excerpts from an interview he had with Rudolf Schaaf. From these it becomes clear that Schaaf was the commander of 10th battery of 1716. Artillerie Regiment (716. ID). Hastings actually mentions 3rd battery but that is probably a mistake (according to most sources that is). Apparently this was a self-propelled battery which in all probability consisted of s.FH 13/1 (155mm howitzers) on Lorraine Schleppers. I find Schaaf's experiences quite fascinating and I wonder if any memoirs of/ or interviews with this man have been published. I would also like to know if some of the following events could be traced back in British war diaries. The following quotes are all from "Overlord":
"Some of the fire falling upon Sword beach during the morning came from the four 150mm self-propelled guns of 3rd Battery 1716th Artillery Regiment, firing from a position at Plumetot, 3,000 yards inland from the coast. After standing by since midnight, at dawn its commander, Lieutenant Rudolf Schaaf, walked forward a little way until he could see the great invasion fleet stretched out before him off the coast. He found the spectacle impressive rather than frightening-it all seemed somehow detached from himself-"Well", he wondered thoughtfully, "what do we do now ?"Contact with the battery's forward observer in a resistance nest on the beach was lost soon after first light. Thereafter, the guns fired on predetermined DF's-Defensive Fire Targets- measured many weeks before. Around midmorning, Schaaf was suddenly ordered to take his guns immediately north to the coast, and counter-attack towards Lion-sur-Mer with infantry of the 3rd Batallion of 736th Regiment."
"It was a pathetic episode. The first man of the battery to be killed was a taxi-driver from Leipzig who had been posted back to Germany several days earlier, but lingered in order to buy food and presents to take home. Now he died driving forward a truck loaded with ammunition. The German infantry were middle-aged men. They were strafed intermittendly from the air as they advanced in open order down the gentle decline to the sea, and soon found themselves under fierce gun and small-arms fire. Schaaf's guns, astonishingly, approached Lion intact at around 10.30 a.m., and the Germans watched British infantrymen scuttling for cover, lacking heavy weapons or tanks to deal with them. As they fired into the buildings over open sights, little clusters of invaders emerged with their hands up, and were hustled to the rear. But the weight of British fire rapidly overwhelmed the infantry. When the Germans at last despaired and began to pull back, only 20 men of the 3rd/736th remained with their guns when they reached the old battery position. They examined their prisoners, and were awed by their superb maps, food and equipment. Schaaf ordered them to be herded into a shell hole. In great agitation, a German-speaking British officer produced a copy of the Geneva Convention which he waved at the artilleryman, declaring forcefully that it was illegal to shoot them."Nobody is going to be shot,"said Schaaf brusquely. A few minutes later he was telephoned by the excitable Major Hof, his batallion commander, and ordered to advance immediately to regimental HQ, two miles away on Hill 61, and attempt to extricate them from heavy attack. Schaaf abandoned his prisoners in their shell hole, and departed south-eastwards."
One May morning, Rommel visited the 1716th Artillery Regiment in their positions around Quistreham. He told the assembled circle of artillery officers:"If they come, they'll come here". Schaaf did not really believe him. Twice wounded in the leg in Russia, Schaaf was one of many officers and men posted to France because they were unfit for further service in the east- he walked with a pronounced limp. He and most of his comrades were enjoying their time in France, with plenty to eat and drink, all of it cheap. Above all, they were thankful to be out of the east. "The soldiers did as little work as possible,"he said, and we were too busy putting up wire and planting Rommel's asparagus to have much time for training.
Lieutenant Rudolf Schaaf, commanding a self-propelled battery of the 1716th Artillery, was telephoned at 3.00 a.m. and ordered to take his guns to join the counter-attack against the British airborne bridgehead. Yet he had driven only a few miles across country when he received a radio message recalling them to their original positions.
Meanwhile the KSLI (King's Own Shropshire Light Infantry) had been pressing on alone down the road to Caen, fighting a brisk battle for the possession of Hill 61, whence Major Hof had telephoned Schaaf and asked him to bring his self-propelled guns to the aid of regimental HQ. Schaaf duly advanced through cornfields. He saw the heads of the Shropshires peering at him over the standing corn, rapidly disappearing when he opened fire. But by now, a squadron of the Staffordshire's Shermans had caught up. When Schaaf spotted these, he determined that for self-propelled guns to engage tanks was beyond the call of duty. He beat a hasty retreat. When he next found a telephone line and tried to contact regimental HQ, an English voice-presumably one of the victorious KSLI- answered the call.
The German batallion commander of the 3rd/18th Infantry told Schaaf that he had been told to pull back to Caen with his 30 or so surviving men. Without orders since the fall of his regimental headquarters, Schaaf decided to do likewise. Driving south-eastwards, he lost one gun, which threw a track and became bogged down in a ditch. The drive continued without incident, until he glimpsed ahead a rude roadblock of farm implements manned by British soldiers. He ordered his men to take off their helmets, and laid a tarpaulin over the side of the hull to conceal the German black cross. As they roared past the roadblock, they could see that the British had identified them but they were too surprised to intervene. They saw no more troops of any nationality until three miles on, at the outskirts of Caen, where they encountered German infantry. A stream of stragglers and survivors, men and vehicles, were making their way back into the perimeter from the coast. When Schaaf reported to the divisional artillery headquarters, he was told that his was the only battery, among 11 in the regiment, to make contact since morning. They pressed him for information about the situation forward, about which there was still a terrible confusion. Then he was ordered to take up position near Epron, just north of the city. They remained in action there until, weeks later, ceaseless use had reduced their guns to wrecks.
Throughout the 7th and the 8th, the Canadians and the fanatical teenagers of the SS Hitler Jugend fought some of the fiercest actions of the campaign, with heavy losses to both sides. Lieutenant Schaaf of the 1716th Artillery was at Corps headquarters in a mineshaft outside Caen when a swaggering colonel from the 12th SS Panzer arrived to announce his intention not to halt anywhere before the sea. This, of course was the legendary Meyer, who assumed command of the division a few days later......
......"The SS showed that they believed that thus far, everybody had been fighting like milkmaids," said Schaaf. He watched the bleak young men of the Hitler Jugend Division riding forward into their attack, and saw some of them return that night, utterly spent, crying tears of frustration for their failure to reach their objective. "It was a very sad chapter for them".
Some men had been fortunate enough to achieve their Heim ins Reich before the collapse in Normandy came.....
.....Lieutenant Schaaf and his gunners of the 1716th Artillery had been sent back to re-equip with new guns when those which they had fired since 6 June were worn out from ceaseless use.
Re: Oberleutnant Rudolf Schaaf Normandy 1944
by Sam Wren on 7. Sep 2010, 20:37
this may not be the book you were thinking of, but Hubert Meyer refers to this batterie on Pg 72 of Kriegsgeschichte der 12.SS-Panzerdivision "Hitlerjugend" erste Band:
"Die weiter links angreifende "Gruppe Rauch" konnte dagegen gut vorankommen. Sie stieß genau in die Lücke zwischen der 3rd British und der 3rd Canadien (sic) Infantry Division. Im weiteren Forschreiten schloß sich diesem Angriff das III./Grenadierregiment 736 mit der 15 cm Selbstfahrlafettenbatterie "Graf Waldersee" aus dem Raum nördlich Plumetot an. Diese Kampfgruppe hatte am Vormittag schon in einem Gegenangriff den Strand bei Lion-sur-Mer erreicht, mußte aber zurückgehen, als sie in Flanke und Rücken angegriffen wurde. Gegen 19 Uhr errichte die so verstärkte Kampfgruppe Rauch den Strand bei Luc-ser-Mer, wo sich noch einige deutsche Stützpunke gegen alle Angriffe gehalten hatten. Sie bereitete sich darauf vor, entlang der Küste weiter vorzustoßen und die Engländer, die im Vorgehen nach Süden waren, von ihrer Versorgungsbasis abzuschneiden. Da trat ein Ereignis ein, das eine entscheidende Wendung herbeiführte."
The same text is found on Pg. 129 of the Stackpole softback English version, The 12th SS, Volume One:
" "Kampfgruppe Rauch", attacking further to the left was able to make good headway. It pushed exactly into the gap between the 3rd British and the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. During the further advance, the III./Grenadierregiment 736 with the 15 cm self-propelled batterie "Graf Waldersee" joined this attack from the area north of Plumetot. This Kampfgruppe had already reached the beach near Lion-sur-Mer during a counterattack before noon, but had to withdraw when it was attacked on the flank and in the rear. Around 19.00 hours the reinforced Kampfgruppe Rauch reached the beach near Luc-sur-Mer where a few German strongpoints had withstood all attacks so far. The Kampfgruppe prepared to advance further along the coast and to cut off the English, who were advancing to the south, from their supply bases. Then an event occurred which brought about a decisive turn-around."
For what it's worth, Kortenhaus says this (Pg 63 of Reprint) and my questionable translations:
"Die einzige bewegliche Batterie, die 3./I Abteilung "Graf Waldersee", verfügte über vier Geschütze s.F.H. 414 (französisch) Kaliber 15 cm auf französischen Selbstfahr-Lafetten. Die Batterie stand in Feldstellungen bei Plumetot...
"The only mobile battery, the 3./I. Abteilung "Graf Waldersee", had four sFH 414 (French) 15 cm caliber guns mounted on French self-propelled gun carriages. The battery stood in field positions at Plumetot..." [obviously, Kortenhaus was wrong about the howitzer]
"Die noch einsatzfähig gebliebene 3./Artl.Rgt. 1716 "Graf Waldersee" der 716.Inf.Div. schoss bei aufkommender Helligkeit, von einer B-Stelle geleitet, mit ihren vier 15 cm - Geschützen Sperrfeuer auf den Strand zwischen Luc-sur-Mer und Lion-sur-Mer und auf die Merville-Batterie."
something like this in English:
"The still operational 3./Artl.Rgt. 1716 "Graf Waldersee" of the 716. Inf. Div, directed from an observation post, remained firing in the emerging light, with its four 15 cm artillery barrage, onto the beach between Luc-sur-Mer and Lion-sur-Mer and the Merville Battery."
Still on Pg. 107:
"Noch vor 10.00 Uhr trat das III./Inf.Rgt 738, unterstütz durch die Batterie "Graf Waldersee", aus dem Raum Plumentot zu einem Gegenangriff in Richtung Lion-sur-Mer an. Der Angriff stieß bis zur Kirche von Lion-sur-Mer durch, und zwei Geschütze der Batterie "Graf Waldersee" erreichten die Wasserlinie...Ein starker englischer Gegenangriff von Westen im Rücken zwang die Kampfgruppe zum Rückzug"
"Even before 10.00 o'clock the III./Inf.Rgt 738, supported by the "Graf Waldersee" Battery, moved out from the Plumentot area to counter-attack in the direction of Lion-sur-Mer. The attack broke through up to the church of Lion-sur-Mer and two cannons of the "Graf Waldersee" Battery reached the waterline...A strong English counter attack from the West and from behind forced the Kampfgruppe to retreat."
I will post some more later if anyone finds it useful, helpful or entertaining. Or if you send me money.
Interesting things about Merville:
In the book "Assault on the guns of Merville" by Alan Jefferson published in 1987 for instance one finds reference to a "Erinnerungsprotokoll über den Einsatz des Artl.Reg. 1716 in den ersten Tagen der Invasion im Juni 1944" prepared by the former CO of Art.Rgt. 1716, the former adjutant of the I./1716, the former adjutant of II./1716 and last but not least the CO of the self-propelled "Batterie Graf Waldersee"/10./1716, i.e. Rudolf Schaaf. Unfortunately there is little mentioning of Mr. Schaaf in the book because it mainly focusses on the combats of the 1./1716 located in Merville, but perhaps this "Erinnerungsprotokoll" may have been the source of Hubert Meyer, Max Hasting a.o. for their quotes about "Batterie Graf Waldersee" ex 10./1716.
The other subunits of the 21.Pz.Div. equipped with Gesch. Pz. s.F.H. 13 Lorraine were allocated to Kampgruppe von Oppeln (9./Pz.Artl.Rgt. 155 of III./Pz.Artl.Rgt. 155) which was to attack along the western side of the Orne toward Lion-sur-Mer and the fourth was with Kampfgruppe von Luck on the eastern side of the Orne (9. sIG/Pz.-Gren.-Regt 125).
Source: http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 0&t=169605