This interview 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.
which follows was conducted in the evening
of April 2, 1992 in a restaurant in
Stamford, Connecticut. Julius K.
("Karl") Anderssen was one of
those members of the Kriegsmarine who was
transferred to the Army in the final months
of the war. While he seemed to be a
rather reserved person, his manner
brightened considerably when he spoke of his
naval service, and he was willing to go to
great lengths to describe his experiences in
the Kriegsmarine. When it came
to his memories of life in the Infantry,
however, it was apparent that his feelings
were less than pleasant and his memories
less vivid. Nevertheless, he did
provide a few interesting tidbits as you
He was born
in Segeburg which is a small
community in the Northern regions of Germany
in 1917, and as a young man was a member of
the Marine Hitler Youth. This
organization, which was a Naval version of
the regular HJ, was obviously one of the
more enjoyable experiences of Julius's
youth. He described brief voyages on
the Baltic Sea in small sailing craft and
tours of German Warships. In 1938 he
volunteered for the German Navy - the Kriegsmarine.
became gunnery and he did a short stint
aboard the famous Scharnhorst before
being assigned to duty on destroyers and
other small vessels. While serving on
coastal craft during the winter of
1940-1941, he slipped on an icy gun mount
and fractured his skull. The resulting
problems left him unfit for sea duty, much
to his chagrin.
various shore tasks in Norway until the
summer of 1944 when we start the story in
his own words:
you get transferred out of Norway?
My commander didn't like me and had me
transferred. After I got land duty I
guess I got frustrated and got into some
trouble. I lost my Dienstgrad
(rank). I became "sand in the
boot" of my commander, so he got rid of
me. I was supposed to go to the Naval
base in Wilhelmshafen for reassignment, but
this actually pleased me because I wanted to
go to sea and the only way I could do it was
to get transferred to Germany.
At that time,
they were moving troops from Norway to
France. I was put on a ship with a
group of these soldiers. At first, I
was worried because I had to make the trip
by ship, but the trip made me very happy
because I did not suffer from my concussion
as I did before. I was sure I was
ready again for sea duty.
you disembark? How did you get back to
I arrived in Antwerp in June of 1944,
and almost as soon as I got off the boat, my
leave was cancelled. I was temporarily
put into a Marine-Flak Abteilung.
Then in August the front collapsed and
everyone ran for Germany. There was
about 4 or 5 of us sitting on the railing of
a bridge outside a town called Geel when we
hear this popping sound. Some
terrorist was shooting at us with a
revolver, we were quite far away for the
weapon, perhaps 200 meters. We didn't
jump to the ground right away or anything, I
guess we weren't too worried. Then a
bullet hits me right here (points to his
left side, about 6 inches below his armpit).
A lucky shot for him, bad luck for me.
Pech, we would say. But lucky
for me it was just a revolver bullet, if it
had been a rifle bullet it would have killed
me. Then a half dozen more terrorists
appeared, so my comrades picked me up and we
found a Luftwaffe medical convoy who took me
in and drove me to Germany where they put me
in a hospital near Hamburg. One night
in September the hospital was hit by a stray
bomb and fell in. That was worse than
getting shot, all the wounded had not been
moved and were yelling, it was terrible.
you transferred to the Army?
I don't remember exactly, maybe in
October or November of '44. They let
me out of the hospital and I went to a Genesenden
Abteilung where other wounded or sick
men were put together before going back to
sea. Then every one of us got the news
that we were going into the Heer, or
Army. I remember some of the men were
happy because they felt that by this time in
the war you would not stand a very good
chance of living if you stayed in the Navy
and went to sea. They figured the odds
were better on land. Not me, I would
have rather taken the risk and gone to sea.
have to turn in all your Navy uniforms and
We went to the Kammer and gave
back all our blue clothing. You see,
the Navy issued you blue stuff for sea and
dock work, and green stuff for land work.
I gave the guy at the counter all my blue
clothes, it was the same stuff they had
issued me the week before! They didn't
leave us with much, just a shirt, sweater,
socks, coat, green trousers, and certain
things that we were never supposed to be
without, like a belt, gasmask, and helmet.
We then went
to an army Kaserne in the Lüneburger
Heide, first by train, but then we marched
because a section of the track was bombed
At the Army Kammer
they issued us Army uniforms and equipment.
Outside was a truck from the Navy, and we
went out there and threw the rest of our
Navy stuff in the truck.
you a complete reissue? The Army gave
you an entire outfit? Even your helmet
(Laughing) I think so!
Germans are very efficient! But we
kept a few items. We kept our Navy
boots, socks, underwear, and so on.
These were the things the Navy didn't want
to give to someone else. This was good
for us because we had plenty of extras then,
and the Navy stuff was superior to the Army
boots. At Bremen the Navy gave us
boots with the Beschlag, the spikes
(hobnails) on the bottom. The Army
guys were getting shoes that leaked.
The Army soldiers were always trying to get
our boots because they were better. I
lost mine to a soldier in a wager.
But to answer
your question, everything else we tossed to
the guy in the back of the Navy truck.
Do you know how to tell a Navy truck?
By the license plate. Navy ones will
say "WM" for Wehrmacht Marine.
And Navy trucks are always cleaner and run
better than Army trucks. You know why?
Because Navy mechanics were educated to work
on battleships, which were much more
complicated than trucks!
your paperwork, like your Soldbuch.
Did the Army give you a new set of papers?
I don't remember. But yes, they
always had lots of papers, the Germans are
very fond of papers. Besides, wars are
actually fought with papers, not bullets, so
we had lots of papers.
Division did they put you in? What was
I don't remember the number, they never
used the number. If it were a ship,
I'd probably remember the name and the
number of guns it had too, but not the
number of some Army unit I was with for only
a few months. Besides, if they wanted
all the men in the unit together, the would
yell, "Schonheim's Group, come here!"
They would use the commander's name. I
was a number 1 man on a PAK (anti-tank gun).
This meant that I loaded the gun. The
Richtschütze (gun aimer) pointed the gun,
he was on the left of the gun behind the
bullet shield. I was on the right with
the firing trigger and shell slot (?).
I loaded and fired the gun when the aimer
gave the command Feuer. It was
common to put Navy men on the big guns
because we were experienced with Schießwesen
(gunnery?). Everybody in our crew
was Navy except the tractor driver who was
Army. Ours was the second gun.
The gun aimer had been on a U-Boat.
And I am not being to proud when I tell you
that the Navy gunners were always better
shots than the Army gunners. This was
good in the field because they would put the
better crews in positions which had the
farthest shots. If you were a bad
crew, they might put you in a position where
you were going to be shooting close-up, like
around the bend in a road. And this
was bad, because then you wouldn't always
have a chance to get away.
of anti-tank guns did your unit have, and
what did you use to tow them?
The guns were called PAKs which stood
for Panzerabwehrkanone. I don't
remember exactly their type, they shot a Granate
(shell) that was maybe 7 centimeters round,
it was a common gun (int. note: probably a
75mm PAK 40). We had tractors to pull
No, all track, like a light bulldozer
(Probably an RSO?). We spent a lot of
our time trying to hide them from the
American Air Force. We would always
try to have more than one position ready for
the gun. When the American tanks came,
you fired, then brought the tractors up when
the Amis (German slang for Americans)
fell back. Then you moved to the other
position so that you could surprise them
from another direction and so that they
could not get you with their artillery.
The American artillery was very very good.
barrages) would come quick, and they were
accurate and very heavy. We would ride
the tractor when the whole unit was moving,
but in combat it was safer to follow from
farther away. We were supposed to stay
close to the tractor, but the tractors were
good targets so we stayed as far from them
as possible in combat. They couldn't
leave you behind because they were so slow.
your training in the Army.
I don't remember much, it couldn't have
been very interesting. They showed us
how to work the PAK and how to dig holes and
hide, things like that. We got our
training right behind the front lines in Württemberg.
engaged in combat a number of times, do you
remember any of the battles?
It was a battle to just do your job, it
was MISERABLE. Cold and wet, hungry,
afraid. That's life in the Army -
ROTTEN. I was in a couple of fights,
that was my job. But you had to live
like an animal, not civilized like on a
ship. Our tractor was blown up, so we
couldn't move our gun. The Americans
came around our side so we ran away from the
gun and left it there. Then the
officers put us in an Alarmzug, or
emergency unit. We were supposed to be
infantry now. Our officer was a guy
who had already lost all his men, but he was
still hungry for battle. We would say
that he had a "sore throat", that
he just wanted a Ritterkreuz
(Knight's Cross) to rest on his neck.
What a bunch of crap, this was too much.
We were so tired, the first time they put us
out we decided to surrender, so we ran up
this little gully to get away from the
officer, then walked out and surrendered.
This was February of 1945, I think it was
towards the beginning of the month, I can't
remember. They took us back in a
truck, and our gun aimer was so tired he
fell off. The Americans left him
there. I don't know what happened to
him. I think his name was Hauser.
Unteroffizier Hauser. I came
back to Germany from France in 1946. I
moved to Newark in 1954 and to California in
Most of my
fighting was done in the Alsace-Lorraine
region, or as we called it Elsaß and
Lothringen. We were fighting
over a town called Bitche which we
finally lost. Ha ha. We finally
lost everything, including
parts of the Fatherland! By this time,
anyone with a brain knew the war was lost,
with the Russians rolling over our men on
the east and the other Allies on the west.
Fighting hard against the Western Allies did
not make much sense. Every day we held
up your people meant one more day the
Russians had to capture more German land in
the east. What we should have done was
run like crazy from West to East as soon as
it looked like the war was lost. But
you must understand that we had a very
strong sense of duty, and so we kept
the GIs treat you when you were captured?
OK, not bad. But we weren't
fighting. You see, if you were to try
and give up during or after a battle, then
you might get killed. They didn't know
we were there, we just walked out of the
woods with a towel on a stick. It was
different if you were fighting them.
One of them asked me in German if I had a
watch. When I said no, he went to the
next guy and asked him the same thing.
Very polite, ha ha. In fact, the only
thing that happened was when we got into
France, we were marching through this French
town when a civilian reached out and slapped
the hat off my head, so I lost my hat.
actually have a watch?
I don't remember. But I did have a
real nice one when I left Norway - It was a
Navy watch we used for timing the flight
time of shells or something. It was a
real nice watch but I lost it after I was
wounded in Holland.
in the Army did not compare with being in
My God, no! In the Army you live
like an animal. Digging into the dirt,
mud in your ears. Life on ship is not
always as clean as it should be, but not
like living in the field. If you are
at sea in a storm, you get wet and cold.
Then sometime the sun comes out and you dry
off and feel good. In the Army, you
sit in the mud and freezing water. The
next day the sun is out but you are still
wet and dirty. You stay filthy.
The Navy had
a different feeling to it, too. The
Navy was more businesslike, more geared to
technology. So I guess it had a more
modern outlook, more class. The
Luftwaffe had a similar feeling I think.
But the Army
was grim and crude. They seemed to me
to be all wrapped up in sacrifice, rather
than doing what made the most sense. I
don't know, it is hard to describe.
one time, we are all sitting in the cold and
filth, but then we get hot food and mail at
the same time. The Army guys are
sitting around with big smiles saying: Man,
isn't this great! What a laugh!
American Navy is supposed to have better
food than our Army. Was this true in
your German Military?
(Laughs) Compared to what you eat
here in the US, it was all bad.
I can't remember much except that it was
bad. And never enough, we were
hungry much of the time. One thing I
do remember was vitamin sausage. It
looked like a Leberswurst
(liverwurst) filled with a disgusting gray
paste. It was supposed to be full of
vitamins and good for you, but it was
disgusting. We also would get food
from the civilians, but they weren't much
better off than we were most of the time.
When I was in the Navy, we would get
packages from home. In the Army, I
didn't even get many letters, let alone
packages. If I remember though, some
of my letters did get to them, I just
did not get theirs.
did you hold in the Army?
Gefreiter. I was Maat in
the Navy which would have been a Sergeant in
the Army, but I was reduced in rank after I
had some problems in Norway. I was
frustrated at being left on land and I guess
I got a little wild. I was reduced to Matrosen,
then promoted in the Army to Gefreiter.
decorations did you have?
Verdienstkreuz mit Schwerten (war
merit cross with swords), Narvik arm plate, Verwundetenabzeichen
(wound badge), destroyer medal.
The only one I wore was the Verwundetenabzeichen
which they gave me in the hospital near
Hamburg. The others I lost when I was
brought out of Holland, which was OK because
the Army gave sailors a hard time over
wearing their Navy medals. It was in
the rules, but they thought it was actually
bad for morale and may give embarrassing
information to the enemy.
your best experience in the Army?
The first time I left port on the Scharnhorst.
I mean in
the Heer, on land.
There wasn't any good experiences, they
were all bad. If there were any good
ones, the bad ones block them out.
was your worst experience then?
When they put me in the Army, and I
realized that I wouldn't go to sea again.