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Gerd Hörner

Interview by Bradley R. Hubbard

It is a rare opportunity for a stateside American to interview a German veteran.  It is next to impossible to track down and talk with ones from the very unit you portray in reenacting.  When I finally did locate and contact a veteran of Grenadier Regiment 980, I tried to find out about as many of the “little things” often overlooked in the broader unit histories and after actions that are so important to us as living historians.  Many thanks to Herr Hörner for sharing his experiences!

Gerd Hörner served with 8./II.GR980 from 22. December 1944 to 5. February 1945.  He was born in 1926 and was drafted on 11. July 1944 at the age of 18.  Gerd completed training with Grenadier Ersatz Battalion 167 ( Herford ) in November of that year followed immediately by a stint of coastal guard duty in Fialtring on the west coast of Jütland.  By the time he reached GR980 the 272 Volksgrenadier Division was already embroiled in the bloody Hürtgen Forest battles around Schmidt and Kesternich.  Gerd would have surely had his baptism of fire not long after arriving at the front.  He was captured by the Americans on 5. February and speculates that his Soldbuch and Erkennungsmarke were shipped back to the USA as a souvenir.

Our interviews took place between 2002 and 2003 a little bit at a time over the course of a few months. It was conducted in German so the following is my reorganized and translated version of the original transcripts.

From what I understand [from various written works] there was a large problem with supply.
No.  Our supply train waited in the rear (23 Km East) along with the clerks and cooks.  Every night a horse-drawn wagon - or one fitted with skis when snowing – came with warm food.  Only once was the coffee frozen.

What sort of winter clothing did you have?  Overcoats, camouflage parkas?
Complete padded suits that were white on one side and camouflage on the other.  Very warm.

Any other winter garments?
In the 272 VGD we all had winter equipment.  The trousers were also lined and warm.  Only a few men had felt boots.

What sort of uniforms were you issued, were they new or worn previously?
Our uniform was the normal Wehrmacht uniform, new ones.

Did you see the short tunic at all, the one that looked like an American or English “Ike jacket”?
I only saw the ‘Ike Jacket’ style worn by some units.  

What type of boots did you wear, jackboots or lowboots with Gemaschen?
Knobelbecher (jackboots) with hobnails and heel irons on the soles.  They were very cold in the frost.  We liked your lowboots very much!!

Do you mean you liked American army boots?
When I was in Kesternich the first dead American I came across I saw his low-quarters with the attached gaiters and rubber soles.  They had no winter equipment just thin [his emphasis] field jackets.  It was a windbreaker with a zipper: very stylish but cold.

Which did you see more, the jackboots or the lowboots?
We had jackboots, but we also had lowboots.  The canvas Gemaschen were flimsy.

How did you carry your non-combat gear?  Did you have tornisters, rucksacks?
We had tornisters which were commonly called “Affe” with cow hair on the outside flap.  They stayed with the supply train.  We had a Sturmgepäck: Our breadbag, a blanket and shelter-quarter, mess kit, canteen, 60 rounds of anti-personnel ammo, an Iron Ration – a 200 gram can of pork and 200 grams of biscuits, hard as a rock, Toiletries (“Kulturbeutel”) with a hand towel and something to wash with.  We put our socks and Fusslappen in the gas mask canister and our writing implements in the gas sheet bag.  We had combat suspenders made of leather that relieved the weight of the belt.  We always carried the breadbag on us which is why the SS had a nickname for the Wehrmacht: “Die Brotbeutel”.



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