Johannes Schäberle

Johannes Schäberle, nicknamed Hans, was born on 29 November 1920 in Öschelbrunn, Kreis Böblingen. Hans lived with his family in Öschelbrunn.

In 1942 Hans was called up for army service. Hans arrived at his trainings unit, Schützen-Ersatz-Bataillon (motorized) 86, in february 1942. This trainings unit was stationed at Ludwigsburg, Germany. This was about 60 Km. from his house (by road). On 9 February he received his Soldbuch from this unit. On the 19th he received his uniform and basic equipment. This was noted in his Soldbuch on page 6 and 7 and they glued an extra inlay in it. Hans was trained as motorized infantry. I don't know what his exact job was.

In middle 1942 Hans was send to a combat unit. This was to be the 3rd Kompanie of Schützen-Regiment (motorized) 86. This Regiment was part of the 10.Panzer-Division. This Division was currently based in Amiens, France, to be refitted after hard battles on the easternfront.

On 5 July Hans's Regiment was changed from Schützen-Regiment (mot) 86 into Panzergrenadier-Regiment 86. A few days later Hans received a new rifle.

In August 1942 the Allied forces landed at the port city Dieppe in France with a large force. Hans's Division was alerted and send to the area but before they could launch a proper attack the Allied forces made a retreat. After the Dieppe invasion was over Hans's Division stayed in France as occupation force.

In early November 1942 the Allied forces landed on multiple area's in Northern Africa.
This came as a suprise to German high command. They suspected that the Allied forces could land in Southern France as well. Therefore on 9 November 1942 Hans's Division was moved to Southern (Vichy) France. In 2-3 days of quick marches the Division arrived in the area of Beaune. Shortly thereafter the Division moved to Lyon and from there to Marseilles. The Allied landings endangered the Deutschen-Afrikakorps of Rommel. Hitler ordered to bring new forces into Tunisia to counter this threat.

Around these days Hans received a card written by Lotte Bürble (?) on 11 November 1942.
Translated she writes:

"Dear Hans,
Your Card was send to me. I am currently in the farmerschool at Lorch, in a BDM course.
I like it alot. Helmut comes on leave in December till the 15th.
I greet you warmly
Lotte Bürble"

On the front of the card you can see the monastery of Lorch, in which a Nazi farmer school was housed since 1934. BDM is short for Bund Deutscher mädel, the female equivalent of the Hitler Jugend.

After a few days in the Marseilles area Hans's Division was relieved by an Infantery Division that arrived by rail. Hans's Division was ordered to go to Italy. Due to logistical problems it took several weeks for the Division to arrive in the Naples area in Italy. The Division was to move to Tunisia in Northern Africa. But this move was hindered by logistical problems as well. Mostly due to the fact that the Allied forces ruled the sky. Many ships got bombed and sunk. Even unloading at the ports in Africa was hard as Allied bombers arrived daily to bomb everything they saw. Unloading a large vessel could take up to 2-3 days. German high command ordered that equipment and vehicles were to be transported by sea while the, more valuable, soldiers had to be flown into Africa.

Every day about 30 to 40 transport planes flew from Italy to Africa to bring the troops. Large airplanes would transfer light equipment and guns. According to Hans's Soldbuch, Hans set foot on African soil on 3 December 1942. The Allied forces had moved though the Atlas mountains and were at Faïd. They tried to split the Axis forces in half by driving from Faïd towards the sea. The Allied forces also tried to reach Tunis. Hans's Division moved in to counter these Allied threats. Various battles commenced.

In January 1943 Hans was promoted to Oberpanzergrenadier (private second class) by his Kompanie. Hans's Kompanie was part of Kampfgruppe Reimann around this time, deployed at the Oued Medjerda - Goubellat area. Their target was Grich el Oued and Hill 156. On the 6th Hans wrote a letter to his sister, Gertrud Schäberle. Translated Hans wrote:

"Africa, on 6 January 1943
Dear Gertrud!
I have received your letter,
i was very pleased. In general
in Africa we wait on the mail
every day, and mostly in vain.
When one is a few thousend miles
from home he always want to
receive a message from home.
What do you ever do on Sunday?
Is Lisa still there, greet her
for me. I have read about
Maria Schäberle, it is unheard,
havn't you found anyone else?
So stupid are the girls. I will
now close this letter and greet
you dearly, your brother Hans"

On 23 Januari 1943 Hans's unit did a periodic mandatory security check and wrote this on page 15 of his Soldbuch. It was signed by his Kompanieführer, an Hauptmann.

The Germans made plans to counter-attack the Allied forces at the Kasserine pass area.
On 12 February 1943 Hans was promoted to Gefreiter (private first class). A few days later, on the 19th, the German assault on the Kasserine pass started. The attack was mostly against the II US-army Corps. This was the first large land battle between US and German forces. The US forces deployed here were green and inexperienced. The Germans made large gains and were able to capture large quantities of equipment and make many prisoners. The German attack lasted several days, before being halted.

Units of the 10. Panzer-Division

On 25 February 1943 Hans's Bataillon (I.Bataillon) together with Artillerie-Bataillon 190 formed Kampfgruppe Haut. The commander was Hans's Bataillon leader: Hauptmann Haut.
This Kampfgruppe was placed under Kampfgruppe Lang. Other units under Kampfgruppe Lang were:

* schwere Panzer-Abteilung 501 (Kdr. Major Lüders, consisting of about 20 Tigers)
* one Panzer-gruppe of Panzer-Regiment 7 (10.Pz.Div.) Incl. Pz.Pioniere (Fhr. Hauptmann Burgk)
* mot. Reconnaissance forces (Pz.Spähwagen) of the 10.Pz.Div.
* sufficient Flak (Flakdivision Tunis, 20.Fla.Div. ?)
* Infanterie-Regiment 47 (Kdr. Oberstlt. Busse) reinforced by Art.Rgt. 27

Kampfgruppe Lang was to attack towards Béja.
The attack started on 26 February at 05:00 hours, although Infanterie-Regiment 47 had not yet arrived. Due to the harse terrain the attack progressed slowly. Narrow passages prevented units to fully deploy and use their full firepower. The German units made contact with the Allied forces all along the mountain ridges east of Sidi Nsir. Due to carfully camouflaged Allied mines the first tank of the German attack colum was inmobilized and blocked the road. Artillery and mortar fire errupted and prevented the Panzer-Pioniere to clear the mines.

Due to direct Allied MG fire the Germans were unable to get the inmobilized tank going. The soldiers trying were wiped out. The commander of the Kampfgruppe, Oberst Lang, went to reconniter the area himself. He saw the well positioned Allies and understood that continueing the attack here would not be possible without heavy losses. Oberst Lang gave the order to Hans's Bataillon to detruck and proceed on foot making a detour to the south around the mountain range running from norteast (609) toward the southeast, to break through to the road Sidi Nsir - Ksar Mezouar, and taking protective cover to the SW, to roll up the enemy front in direction towards Sidi Nsir.

Allied planes appeared in the sky but the German anti-aircraft units were able hold them off. In the coming days some brave pilots dared to come close but many paid for this with their life.

By about evening, Hans's Bataillon had not only fought its way through to the Sidi Nsir - Ksar Mezouar road and thereby interrupted communications to and from Béja, but they also had wheeled toward north with the mass of their troops and were now rolling up the front of the British forces. Some of these were making a stand in Arab huts. During dusk and while rain began to fall, the enemy forces were wiped out and the area moped up in severe close combat action; the Bataillon went through all this "in excellent manner", according to Oberst Lang in an interview with Americans interrogators after the war.

During the attack several hundred prisoners were taken. At one spot, in a small area, about 25 artillerie pieces, antitank guns, and self-propelled mounts were captured.

The train station of Sidi Nsir, most likely soldiers of Hans's Bataillon

Captured wounded British soldiers are helped by German soldiers in Sidi Nsir, most likely soldiers of Hans's Bataillon

German soldiers getting ready at Sidi Nsir, most likely soldiers of Hans's Bataillon

Next day, around 03:00 hour, the attack continued with Panzerspähwagen (armoured recon.vehicles) on front. But rather quickly the Panzerspähwagen boged down in an Allied minefield. The clearing of the minefield took some time. After this was done the attack continued, but now in full daylight. The leading vehicles reached Ksar Mezouan. But the attack bogged down in another minefield. Allied artillery fire errupted. It wasn't possible to go around it this time. The vehicles in the back of the attack-colum went back into cover and the leading vehicles/tanks stayed on their spot in the hail of fire. For hours thousends grenades of differend calibers fell down into the area. miraculously no tank received a direct hit. Just minor shrapnell damage.

In order to hold the territory which had been gained, Hans's Bataillon, the only infantery force within the Kampfgruppe and making the main effort was stationed in the front and at either side of the road. Its subsequint objective consisted in taking the pass road east of the Dj.Zebla (716).
Oberst Lang requested German HQ that Infanterie-Regiment 47 be brought up and assigned to his command for any further action; this request was granted during the night from 27th to the 28th.
But by the 28th in the morning Infanterie-Regiment 47 had not yet arrived; it was, therefore, necessary for Oberst Lang to drop any plans for further attack on Béja during the day.

Hans's Bataillon under the circumspect and energetic command of its very experienced commander, Hauptmann Haut, pushed forward slowly but steadily across open, rocky terrain below commanding enemy positions arranged like tiers, and finally occupied the road east of the Dj.Zebla and the first hills during a smart fighting engagement, taking prisoners all along.

After Infanterie-Regiment 47 finally arrived, its II.Bataillon received orders to continue the main attack towards Béja. Its I.Bataillon was ordered to exploid the gains made by II.Batailon. The actions for Infanterie-Regiment 47 were to start in the evening of the 28th. After some time Kampfgruppe Lang's HQ didn't received any progress reports from II./I.R.47. Officer-search-groups were send to search for it. These search groups found the area that the II./I.R.47 had to reach un-occupied by either the enemy or the II.Bataillon. The Kampfgruppe couldn't do more then wait for a sign from II./I.R.47.
The next day it came... II./I.R.47 had lost its way! Due to this the plans to capture Béja in time failed. The Kampfgruppe did not reach it later on.

On 5 March 1943 Hans had send a Feldpost letter back to his family in Germany.
In the letter he tells his family about the heavy fighting. Hans had lost allot of comrades in the previous week. His Kompanieführer (company leader) was killed and his replacement Kompanieführer was wounded the next day. Hans's Zugführer (platoon leader) was wounded and his Gruppenführer (squad leader) killed by a headshot. Hans writes that his unit became small due to all the losses. He was assigned as Bataillon messager on the 2nd of March. I do not know how long Hans did this job.
Hans writes that his buddy Gefreiter Albert Lusch was killed with a headshot on February 28th.

After some time the Kampfgruppe was dissolved and the units went back to their parent unit/Division.
Hans continued fighting with his Bataillon.

On 22 March 1943 Kampfgruppe Lang was formed again. It was ordered to help defend the Maknassy Pass. On the 23th Oberst lang arrived at the pass with his aide, Hauptmann Reichert. They arrived in the middle of an enemy attack. Hopping around in the hail of fire they arrived at the German unit defending the pass. This was Begleit-Kompanie "Rommel". This unit had barely 80 men left under command of Major Medikus. In the meantime the commanders of I./Panzergrenadier-Bataillon 86 (Hauptmann Haut) and I./Panzergrenadier-Bataillon 69 (Major Buschhausen) arrived in the area.

I./69 was given the order to proceed without delay, take the pass and the territory south thereof up to the Dj. bou Dousou and to defend it. I./86 (Hans's Bataillon) was to hold the ground north thereof up to the Wadi el Leben. Since speed was of the utmost importance, each individual unit of these Bataillons was to be thrown into the fight as soon as it had arrived. By the end of the day, 5 enemy attacks had been repelled succesfully.

The Kampfgruppe defended the Maknassy Pass in heavy battle for about 16 days.
During these days the Kampfgruppe received additional units. These were:

* schwere Panzer-Abteilung 501 under command of Major Lüders
* schwere Panzer-Abteilung 502 under Major Seidensticker
* an "Africa" Bataillon
* an "Tunis" Bataillon
* some FLAK and Artillery
* one Batterie of 17cm cannons that was able to shoot 27km far

Hans's Bataillon fought at hill 322 east of Maknassy and had fought its way through to a favorable defensive position on the Dj. Dribica and Naemie.

The southern part of the Africa front wasn't able to hold on, the Mareth line was lost, and fought its way back to Sfax and later Enfidaville. Therefore on 7 April 1943 Kampfgruppe Lang received the order to retreat out of the Mezzouna-Maknassy line and fall back. A day before, on the 6th, Hans was awarded the Italian Afrika-campaign medal. This was noted in Hans's Soldbuch on page 21.

The German front became smaller and smaller. Outnumbered by the Allied forces they tried to hold on.
In May 1943 the German front was crumbling. On 7th May the capital Tunis and Bizerte were lost to the Allied forces. What was left of the German forces fell back on the little parts of land that they had left, where they were captured group by group.

The pay-clerk noted in Hans's Soldbuch that he received his last pay on 1 May 1943.
Hans was captured on 12 May 1943. On 26 July 1943, while in captive, Hans turned in 2420 French Franc's. The certificate for this was lost due to fire. An Feldwebel (sergeant) and Obergefreiter (Corporal) of Hans's old Regiment signed in Hans's Soldbuch as witnesses to this.

While in captivity, Hans was able to send and receive some letters to and from his family. 2 of them are shown here below. A few more letters excist but i wasn't able to buy them from the seller of the other documents. He wanted to keep them. What happend to Hans after the war is unknown to me.