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Fritz Klingenberg

SS-Hauptsturmführer Fritz Klingenberg at the time he gained fame as the man who captured Belgrade.

Fritz Klingenberg was born on 17 December 1912 in Roevershagen / Mecklenburg and was killed in action in April 1945.

Klingenberg was not a hearty drinker or talker and never boasted of his accomplishments. When later asked by students at Bad Tölz how he had captured the capital of a country, he simply said, ‘I was not too preoccupied at the time, and found something to do.’

Every man assigned to Klingenberg during the Belgrade operation received decorations for valor and promotions. Hossfelder was given a commission as a second lieutenant and attended the SS officers school at Bad Tölz, where he later became an instructor. Today he lives in Munich as a retired school teacher.

For his daring exploit, Klingenberg was awarded the Knight’s Cross, and he became a favorite of the SS inner circle. The ‘Old Man,’ as he came to be known, was periodically sent to Bad Tölz as an instructor on tactics and battlefield initiative. On March 15, 1944, he became the only Bad Tölz graduate to assume command of the school.

Klingenberg had served his entire career in the elite 2nd Waffen SS Panzer Division Das Reich, and the invasion of France had been his baptism of fire.
He was awarded the Iron Cross Second Class for heroism during that action. His platoon was pinned down by effective machine-gun fire when a Panzerkampfwagen Mark II light tank that had been supporting them struck a mine. The crew was trapped in the burning vehicle and raked by machine-gun fire. While his men rescued the tankers, Klingenberg raced across 100 meters of open ground, taking out the three-man French position with grenades. He did not receive so much as a scratch.

Klingenberg’s direction of artillery during a battle was unique and impressive. Once, during the French campaign, he even called deadly 88mm fire down on his own position to rout an enemy counterattack. That action allowed the entire German column to press forward, taking advantage of confusion among the French. During another engagement, he called Junkers Ju-87 Stuka dive bombers down on his position to stop the enemy from retreating, which resulted in the capture of 55 prisoners.

For that action, the acting battalion commander, Lt. Col. Hannes Eckhold, awarded the upstart captain the Iron Cross First Class. Klingenberg’s evaluations continued to reflect obstinacy mixed with courage and creativity. Because he always emerged unscathed from his many flirtations with death and court-martial, his men began to call him the ‘Magician.’Klingenberg also gained a reputation as a first-class scrounger. Whatever his men needed — ammunition, food, water, etc. — he managed to furnish. Klingenberg even held a school for scroungers, teaching men to steal essentials for survival. Soon after arriving in Yugoslavia, he was promoted to captain and given command of a motorcycle reconnaissance unit, which was responsible for gathering intelligence quickly and maintaining communications with rear units.

When Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, commenced, Das Reich was hurled into the fray. Klingenberg later distinguished himself at Kharkov, Minsk and Kursk, earning many honorable mentions in the dispatches of General Heinz Guderian. He was eventually awarded the Oak Leaves to his Knight’s Cross, presented in 1943. He became a personal favorite of Paul Hausser, commander of the II SS Panzer Corps until the Kursk-Orel operation.

Klingenberg was promoted to the rank of colonel on December 21, 1944. As Germany’s situation deteriorated on all fronts, he was ordered to take command of the 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division ‘Götz von Berlichingen’ on January 12, 1945, assuming the post nine days later. Attached to General Max Simon’s XIII SS Corps, the 17th was defending the West Wall southeast of Saarbrcken against Maj. Gen. Wade H. Haislip’s XV Corps of the U.S. Seventh Army.

The XIII SS Corps had its back to the Rhine, stubbornly defending the area between Neustadt and Landau. When resistance finally collapsed, Klingenberg was among the casualties — he had died leading his division in its last-ditch effort to stem the American tide.

 

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