Ernst Schmidt

Ernst Oswald Schmidt was born on 16 February 1922 in Ankern, part of the town Pollwitten in East-Prussia. Ernst's father was milkfarm owner Gustav Schmidt and his mother Frieda Hoffmann, both born in Pollwitten.
Ernst went to school from 1928 till Easter 1941.

Ernst was drafted into the army in early oktober 1941. His army time would start on the 3rd of Oktober at Infanterie-Ersatz-Regiment 217. This trainings regiment was stationed at Allenstein, Germany. Ernst was assigned to the 14th Company. This was the anti-tank company of the Regiment. On 19 Oktober 1941 Ernst was sworn in to the Führer. After about a half year of training as anti-tank soldier Ernst was promoted to Gefreiter (private first class) and send to a combat unit on the front. Ernst arrived at Panzerjäger-Abteilung 11 on 1 May 1942 and was assigned to the second company. This anti-tank unit was part of the 11. Infanterie-Division, situated on the north part of the easternfront in Russia. In the Wolchow area.

Ernst participated in the hard fighting of the Division on the easternfront. On 27 July 1942 Ernst became wounded. He was hit by shrapnell in his left lower arm. This was not written down on the hospital pages in the Soldbuch, so it is unknown to me if Ernst was hospitalized or remained at his unit. A few day later in early August 1942 Ernst was awarded the Verwundetenabzeichen in Schwarz for this combat wound. It was written in his Soldbuch on 10 August by his Abteilung. This would indicate that the wound was small and Ernst stayed with his unit. On 30 Oktober 1942 Ernst was granted a leave from 1 to 22 November 1942, he went to his hometown Pollwitten in Eastprussia. On 24 February 1943 Ernst's Kompanie-Chef, an Oberleutnant, did a mandatory security check of his Soldbuch and noted this on page 15 of Ernst's Soldbuch.

In March 1943, now south-east of Leningrad, Ernst became wounded again. On the 10th he was hit by shrapnell in his lower jaw. Again the hospital pages in his Soldbuch were not used. Against regulations Ernst was issued another Verwundetenabzeichen in Schwarz on 15 April. This was written by his unit in his Soldbuch on 20 April 1943, what would indicate that this was a light wound as well and that he had remained with his unit again. Ernst received the Eisernes-Kreuz II Klasse on 20 April, which was written in his Soldbuch on the 1st of May 1943.

Someone must have seen potential in Ernst as he was appointed as Officer-candidate on the first of June 1943. His job on the front was Geschutzführer (gun commander). A month later he was promoted to Fahnenjunker-Unteroffizier (Officer-cadet sergeant). Ernst had probably attended a fieldcourse for this in the mean time. Ernst was to be send back to Germany to become an officer.

Ernst was send to Panzerjäger-Ersatz-Abteilung 1, based in Allenstein, Germany. After a few days Ernst was granted a leave from 5 July till 22 July 1943, he went to his hometown in Pollwitten again. After a month at this training unit Ernst was send to an officer course from 6 August 1943 till 3 March 1944. During this course Ernst was promoted to Fahnenjunker-Feldwebel, Oberfahnrich and lastly Leutnant on 20 April 1944, retroactive from 1 March 1944. During this course Ernst received 2 leaves to Pollwitten, one in November 1943 and one in January 1944. After this course Ernst was granted a special 2 week leave to Pollwitten in March 1944. After returning from his leave, Ernst was send to Panzertruppen-Schule Bergen and Panzerjäger-Lehrgang Mielau to be trained on armoured anti-tank vehicles. Ernst was granted 2 leaves in May 1944 to Pollwitten. These would be his last leaves during the war.

Ernst was trained as Zugführer (platoonleader) for Sturmgeschütz or Panzerjäger IV tank units. Herafter, in June 1944, Ernst was send back to Panzertruppen Schule Bergen and assigned to the 4. Panzerjäger-Sturmgeschütz-Lehr-Kompanie. This company was part of Panzer-Lehr-Abteilung "Bergen". Based at the tank school in Bergen, Germany. According to documents found in his army-file at NARA Ernst was a Zugführer in this unit. According to Kriegsstärkenachweisung Nr. 101149, from 1944, a Panzerjäger-Sturmgeschütz-Lehr-Kompanie had an allowed strenght of 52 men, 47 NCO's and 3 officers. It concisted of a staff, 3 platoons equipped with Stug's, a vehicle repair group and a supply group. One of the three officers was the company commander. The other two the platoonleaders of 1st and 2nd platoon. Third platoon was commanded by a senior NCO.

Sturmgeschütz 412 from Ernst's unit at Panzertruppenschule Bergen.

Ernst stayed with this special demonstration and instructional unit for the remaining time of 1944 and into 1945. In June 1944 the unit did an equipment check and noted the army items that Ernst had in his possesion on a new inlay which they put in the Soldbuch. Pages 6b and 6c. On 1 September 1944 the Adjutant of Ernst's unit, a Leutnant, did a mandatory security check on Ernst and his Soldbuch and noted this on page 15 of Ernst's Soldbuch. On 7 September 1944 Ernst purchased a 7,65 Cal. Skoda pistol for himself at Feldzeug-Kommando XI.AK for 31,20 Reichsmark. On 22 January 1945 Ernst was issued another pistol together with a binoculairs and flashlight. But he later gave these items back.

In March 1945, with both the eastern and westernfront on German soil, every soldier was needed. Ernst's Panzer-Lehr-Abteilung Bergen was send to the front. On 27 March Ernst received his binoculairs and flashlight again, which was noted in his Soldbuch. At this time Panzer-Lehr-Abteilung Bergen had the following tanks: 2x Panzer IV, 19x Stug III, 1x Panzer III, 1x Panzer V, 4x Jagdpanzer 38 (Czech). It was planned to assign Panzer-Lehr-Abteilung Bergen to Panzer-Ausbildungsverband "Thüringen", but enroute Ernst's Abteilung was detrained in the area of Rotenburg/Bad Hersfeld. Ernst's Kompanie was detrained at Rotenburg (Fulda). The Individual company's of the Abteilung where not together anymore and got used by local HQ's. On 2 April 1945 Hitler gave the order to assign the Abteilung to Panzer-Ausbildungsverband "Franken", but if this order ever arrived and was succeeded remains a question.

In the mean time Ernst's company, with what was left of the Abteilung in the same area, was re-named to Panzer-Einheit Dralle under command of Oberleutnant Dralle. With this unit Ernst made a retreat through Nordhessen. While doing so they lost about half of their Panzer-vehicles due to the lack of fuel and blowing them up themselves. On 3. April the Sturmgeschütze of the unit formed a rear-guard and fired upon an American convoy of vehicles that advanced in the direction of Wanfried. On the early moring of 4. April Panzer-Enheit Dralle arrived in Küllstedt and quickly took up positions on the Western and Southern edges of the town. At this time, Ernst's unit formed the most outward unit of the 11.Army. Due to the American advance to Mühlhausen the connection to the 7.Army was cut-off. On the same day a German paratrooper unit arrived in Küllstedt and manned the positions together with Ernst's unit. In the early evening an American recon troop drove to the nearby town of Struth and got caught up in the concentrated fire of Ernst's unit and the paratroopers. The Americans made a retreat while leaving behind one destroyed Jeep.

South-east side of Struth. Copyright: G. Schäfer, Küllstedt.

The next day, on the 5th of April, Ernst's unit was incorparated in Panzer-Abteilung "Lambert" as third company. This unit was also known as Panzerjäger-Abteilung Lambert or Panzerjäger-Abteilung 44. Its 1st and 2nd company had 16 Jagdpanzer (t) "Hetzer" tanks. At this time Ernst's unit, Panzer-Einheit Dralle, had only 8 Stugs, 1 Pz.IV and 1 Pz. V "Panther" left.

The Panther tank from Panzer-Lehr-Abteilung Bergen (and later Panzer-Einheit Dralle) in Fallingbostel, 1945. Copyright: H. Herborn.

The German high command ordered an attack to be done on 7 April 1945. Under Kampfgruppe Worgitzki, Panzer-Abteilung Lambert and Heeres-Pionier-Brigade 688 were ordered to attack from Büttstedt in the direction of Struth (north-west of Mühlhausen in Thüringen) while other German units made attacks on towns in the area. Their first objective was to capture Struth. The American 65th Division was stationed in and around Struth.

Map of the battle at Struth on 7. April 1945. Copyright: "Die letzten Kriegstage im Eichsfeld" - Eduard Fritze.

On 6. April multiple German recon attacks where succesfull. In the late evening and night the German forces made ready for the attack. The German forces where able to get to their start-off points undetected. Due to the bad weather Allied planes did not fly in the area. In the early moring of 7. April 1945 the attack started. The first attacks started on 02:30 and 03:00 hours with small Infantry attacks against Struth. Already on 04:00 hour the Germans had conquered a portion of Struth. The 3.Bataillon of the American 261.Infantry-Regiment in Struth raised full alarm, the attack had them fully surprised. The Americans defended themselfs bravely. In the early morning only 16 American soldiers surrendered themselfs. With daylight coming the American defense stiffened. On 06:30 hour the main attack of Pionier-Brigade 688 started. Across open fields they charged the east-side of Struth. Only with the help of 2 German Hetzer tanks and many losses did the Bataillon reach Struth. While one of the Hetzer's stayed on the edge of the town, the second charged into the town center. It came as far as the American Bataillon HQ. The commander of this tank, Feldwebel Richard Krieg, tried to trow an explosive charge into the building but died. An American tankdestroyed quickly came and destroyed the Hetzer with 2 hits of its 90mm cannon. At this time, around 08:00 hour, the Germans had captured only 1/3 of Struth, but the attack had come to a standstill.

Destroyed Jagdpanzer 38 (t) "Hetzer" in Struth, shortly after the war in 1945.

In the meantime German tanks had been shooting at the American vehicles parked at the west-side of Struth. Between the (partly) burning and destroyed vehicles an American platoon made a stand against the Germans. Meanwhile American artillery pounded the Germans.

In the original plan, the main German tank-attack should commence when Struth was captured. While Struth was not captured it was decided to use the tanks to help capture Struth. With the Panther tank in the lead, followed by Stug's (most likely Ernst was with these) and infantry the Germans made an attack on the west-side towards the towns edge. In heavy American (artillery) fire the attack collapsed. Although the German tanks where able to destroy 3 American tanks south of Struth, the accompanying German infantry was torn apart in the open fields.

Around 09:00 hours the first American planes arrived and started to shoot at every German tank and vehicle in sight. Even the vehicle of the commander, Oberst Worgitzki, went up in flames. The planes destroyed the 4 anti-aircraft guns attached to the attacking forces. German FLAK was able to shoot down one American plane. The German attack had failed with heavy losses. While the German forces around Struth tried to retreat, the German Pioniers in Struth got surrouned. The order to retreat did not reach them in time. All of them got captured or killed.

2 photo's of the same destroyed Stug III with number 411. Due to this number mostlikly part of Ernst's unit. Copyright: J.L. Sumpter, USA.

Three remaining Stug's of Panzer-Einheit Dralle took off without orders. They where overloaded with wounded soldiers. On 11:00 hours they delivered the wounded soldiers to the dressing station in Küllstedt and went to Wachstedt where there was a fuel depot. herafter they went to Heuthen. Here they took cover when the American planes made a second attack run. When the sky was clear they went via Kreuzebra towards the Harz mountains and continued fighting.

Ernst became wounded during the fighting for Struth, he was hospitalized at Reserve-Lazarett Heiligenstadt on the same day. Most likley one of his tanks had dropped him off at the Küllstedt dressing station and was transported to Heiligenstadt later on the same day. All of the wounded from this dessing station and others around got transported to the hospitals in Heiligenstadt. The hospitalation was noted in Ernst's Soldbuch on the hospital pages. Almost a month later, on 10 May 1945, Ernst was awarded the Verwundetenabzeichen in Silber for his third combat wound. This was written in the Soldbuch by the hospital, therefore we can assume Ernst was made P.O.W. in the hospital. On some date Ernst was transferred to another hospital, Reserve-Lazarett Königstein. This hospital was located near Frankfurt am Main. Ernst stayed here atleast untill early 1946. It is unknown to me what happend to Ernst after that or if he was able to return to his hometown in East-Prussia, which was being incorparated into Poland.