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!
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 (
) 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
battles around Schmidt and Kesternich.
Gerd would have surely had his
baptism of fire not long after arriving at
He was captured by the Americans on
5. February and speculates that his Soldbuch
and Erkennungsmarke were shipped back to the
as a souvenir.
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
what I understand [from various written
works] there was a large problem with
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.
sort of winter clothing did you have?
Overcoats, camouflage parkas?
Complete padded suits that were white on one
side and camouflage on the other.
other winter garments?
In the 272 VGD we all had winter equipment.
The trousers were also lined and
a few men had felt boots.
sort of uniforms were you issued, were they
new or worn previously?
Our uniform was the normal Wehrmacht
uniform, new ones.
you see the short tunic at all, the one that
looked like an American or English “Ike
I only saw the ‘Ike Jacket’ style worn
by some units.
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!!
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
They had no winter equipment just thin
[his emphasis] field jackets.
It was a windbreaker with a zipper:
very stylish but cold.
did you see more, the jackboots or the
We had jackboots, but we also had lowboots.
The canvas Gemaschen were flimsy.
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
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
always carried the breadbag on us which is
why the SS had a nickname for the Wehrmacht: