Category Archives: Austin

Texas Military Forces Museum Event – Over There: 1918

(See my other Texas Military Forces Museum related posts) – The living history group at the Texas Military Forces Museum conducts reenactments several times each year. On both 20n & 21 November they will present a World War I battle reenactment.

The living history detachment operates under the auspices of the Texas Military Forces Museum. The members are all military history enthusiasts and volunteers with the Museum.

The 36th Infantry Division, which is what the Texas National Guard was federalized as in WWI, saw action in France. The Museum contains many artifacts from the WWI period. The reenactment brings to life some of the history of the war.

Texas Military Forces Museum Event – WWII Reenactment

(See my other Texas Military Forces Museum related posts) – The living history group at the Texas Military Forces Museum conducts a reenactment each year near Veterans Day. This year ‘G Company” will be presenting “Close Assault: 1944” the weekend of November 6–7, 2021.

G Company is part of the official living history detachment of the Texas National Guard. It operates under the auspices of the Texas Military Forces Museum. The members are all military history enthusiasts and volunteers with the Museum.

The 36th Infantry Division which is what the Texas National Guard was federalized as in WWII saw action in Europe. The Museum contains many artifacts from the WWII period. The reenactment brings to life some of the history from the war.

Further Information

  1. Book – From Texas to Rome: Fighting World War II and the Italian Campaign with the 36th Infantry Division

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If you have an interest in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Resources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 560 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other sources with information on the World War II era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

What it was like to be a Vietnam grunt

The Texas Military Forces Museum Foundation hosts a talk this coming Saturday evening. Foundation Board member John Eli will speak on his experiences in US Army Delta Company of the 27th Infantry Regiment. This is a great opportunity to learn a little about our military history and to support the Museum.

The talk will be held at the Museum from 5:30 – 8:00pm on Saturday 18 September. It is free for Foundation members and only $5 for non-members. To join the Foundation go to https://www.tmfhf.org. Directions for visiting the museum can be found here.

A valid, unexpired form of identification with a picture must be presented to enter the post.

USA, Texas, Austin – Illuminate Coffee Bar

(See my other Food related posts) – Not too many weeks ago (late May) Central Texas was subject to severe storm that left many without power. That included us. Desperate for coffee on the morning of Saturday May 29 we set out looking for a location that had power.

We found the Illuminate Coffee Bar at 12129 RR 620, suite 102 in Austin. It had just what we were looking for – good coffee and a quiet place to sit, read, and wait for the power to be restored to our home. It had several tables available in their serving area. We found one with available AC power to charge our devices while we savored the coffee. In addition to coffee, they had breakfast items and sandwiches. You can check out their full menu.

Whether you are suffering from a power outage or just in search for a good cup of coffee I can recommend Illuminati!

Texas Military Forces Museum – Hands On History 2021

{see my other TMFM related posts) – As restrictions are being relaxed following COVID-19 the Texas Military Forces Museum is once again able to host events. The first was the living history presentation of the Vietnam War on Memorial Day. The next event will be the annual Hands On History night.

While the museum is located on Camp Mabry, it is open to the public. A valid, unexpired form of identification with a picture must be presented to enter the post. Admission to the Museum is free. Those wanting early access at this event will pay $5. That would put you early in line to access the vehicles and talk to the living history crew. Here are detailed directions on how to get to the museum. 

Hands On History 2019

As the name implies many of the exhibits that normally can only be viewed will be available to touch. There will also be a contingent of the living history group on hand to show off their kit and answer questions. I had the opportunity to attend the last Hands On History night in 2019. I really enjoyed the evening. 

Hands On History 2019

If you are interested in history this is a unique opportunity to get closer to it.

Living Military History Memorial Day 2021

The Texas Military forces Museum will be open this Memorial Day weekend. The Living History unit will present Vietnam War reenactments on both Saturday and Sunday. Admission to the performance and the museum is free. Enter Camp Mabry through the 35th Street entrance (see Directions page for more details). A photo ID is required of all guests entering the Camp.

The Museum contains 45,000 sq. ft. of exhibits inside, and dozens of armored vehicles, artillery pieces, and aircraft on the grounds.

TMFM – Soviet DShKm 38/46 Heavy Machine Gun

This is a Soviet DShKm 38/46 Heavy Machine Gun. This particular gun is the infantry model. The wheels and armor plated shield identify it as such. The weapon (DK) was first produced in 1930 and had a 30 round drum magazine. An upgrade in 1938 allow for a belt feed mechanism. It received the DShK 38 designation because of this improvement. It was the standard heavy machine gun used by Soviet troops during WWII. The weapon serves in both infantry support and in anti-aircraft roles.

The DShK 38 was modernized in 1946 and redesigned the DShKm 38/46. The gun shown above is in the “Cold War to Global War on Terror” Gallery at the Texas Military Forces Museum in Austin, TX. Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces used various models of the DShK during the Cold War. Many parties in the Middle East have them and they are still in use.

The DShKm fires a 12.7mm x 108mm cartridge and has a maximum range of 2000 yards. The unit with wheels and shield weighs 346 pounds. It is capable of firing up to 600 rounds per minute [1]. it is roughly equivalent to the US M2 .50 caliber Browning machine gun.

Per TMFM signage for this exhibit – “This particular weapon was captured during the Persian Gulf War (1991) by the 149th Aviation Battalion of the 49th Armored Division, Texas National Guard.

REFERENCES

1 – Signage for the DShKm at the Texas Military Forces Museum


If you are interested in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Resources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 520 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other sources with information on the World War II-era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

TMFM – German Maschinengewer 08

The German Maschinengewer 08 or MG 08 was used by the German military in both World War I and World War II. It was considered a Heavy Machinegun. It was phased out of operation in 1942 by front line troops. Many were sold to the Chinese and they eventually produced their own models known as the Type 24 Heavy Machine Gun.

It is named the Maschinengewer 08 because it was adopted in 1908. It is a water cooled weapon with a firing rate of 450 rounds per minute. This was not a light weapon. It weighed in at 142 pounds – The tripod was 84 pounds and the gut itself 58 pounds. The effective range was 2,200 yards (2000 meters). The MG 08 required a crew of 4.

The MG 08 was ultimately used by more that 25 companies. More than 225, 000 of all variants were built over its service life.

This particular unit is on display in the Main Hall of the Texas Military Forces Museum in Austin, TX.


If you are interested in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Resources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 510 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other sources with information on the World War II-era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

A Central Texas Connection to the “Desert Fox”

Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-J16362,_Erwin_Rommel

On November 15, 1891, Johannes Erwin Eugen Rommel was born in Heidenheim, Germany. He was the third of the five Rommel children. His family did not have a history of military tradition. His father had served as an artillery officer, though. Young Rommel chose to follow a military career joining the Army at 18. He received his commission as a Lieutenant in January of 1912. He served Germany in both the First and Second World Wars. He served with distinction in both wars. He received wounds in both conflicts.

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was one of Germany’s most popular generals during World War II. He was often referred to as “the People’s Marshal” by his fellow Germans. He became one of Germany’s most successful and popular generals. He is most well known for his command of the Afrika Corps that fought the Allies in North Africa.

The propaganda efforts of both the Allies and Germans made Rommel into an icon. He has been the subject of many works of fiction and non-fiction since the war. He is still celebrated in Germany. The Field Marshal Rommel Barracks in Augustdorf is named in his honor. It is today’s largest Army base in Germany.

Rommel in WWI

In World War I, Rommel fought in France, Romania, and Italy. He displayed outstanding leadership and ingenuity. He earned the Iron Cross, Second Class for service in France. Later in Rumania, his actions resulted in the Pour le Mérite for his actions on the Italian Front. By the time WWI had ended, he had reached the rank of Hauptmann (Captain).

The Interwar Years

There were riots and civil disturbances in Germany between the wars. Rommel was active with the Army in response to these disturbances. Generally, he succeeded without the use of violence.

These experiences strengthen his belief in the need for a strong, unified Germany. He later became an instructor at the Dresden Infantry School. In 1934 while at Dresden, he wrote a manual on infantry training. In 1935 Rommel joined the faculty at the War Academy at Potsdam. In 1937 he published the book “Infanterie greift an” (Infantry Attacks). The book described his wartime experiences and included his insightful analysis.

Among the many who read the book was Adolf Hitler. Rommel continued to advance in the ranks. By 1938 he had reached the rank of full Colonel. He became commandant of the Theresian Military Academy shortly afterward. He was seconded to command the Führerbegleibatallion at the request of Hitler in late 1938. This was a special battalion that traveled with Hitler. It provided security whenever he traveled outside of Germany. In August of 1939, Rommel was promoted again to Generalmajor.

Rommel in WWII

On September 1, 1939, Rommel and the Führerbegleibatallion were guarding Hitler. They were with the Führer’s field headquarters during the invasion of Poland. Rommel became commander of the 7th Panzer Division in February 1940. This gave him an opportunity to show his combat leadership skills.

On May 10, 1940, the Phoney War ended. The German Army began its invasion of the rest of Western Europe. Rommel’s 7th Panzers along with elements of the 5th Panzer reached the River Muse in only three days. Soon much of Europe was under German control.

By February 1941 Rommel had moved to North Africa and took command of the Axis troops there. The Italian Army was struggling in Libya. Rommel’s force arrived to strengthen the North African front.

He was very successful at first against the British forces. He earned the nickname of “Desert Fox” for his achievements. His success came to an end in October of 1942. That was when the Africa Corps was decisively defeated in the second battle of El-Alamein. The Germans fell back to Tunis. Orders arrived in March of 1943 for Rommel to return home. The efforts Rommel had against the British made him viewed as a liberator by much of the Arab world.

Hitler named Rommel General Inspector of the Western Defenses in November 1943. This put him in command of both the 7th and 15th armies. His area of responsibility stretched over a 20-kilometer strip of coast. He directed the installation of countless mines and tank traps along the beach. He issued similar orders for defensive measures behind the coast. These were to discourage and disrupt Allied landing attempts. Fortunately, these defensive measures were far from finished on D-Day.

The Plot

On July 20, 1944, Hitler was the target of a nearly successful assassination attempt. Several high ranking German officers had planned the assassination. They believed that the elimination of Hitler was the only way to save Germany. It is unclear from the evidence if Rommel played a role in the plot. There is clear evidence that he had written to Hitler on July 15. The letter pleads with Hitler to end hostilities with the Allies.

Rommel was returning from a visit to the headquarters of the I SS Panzer Corps two days later. RAF fighters attacked his staff car leaving him hospitalized. He had severe head injuries which some thought would prove to be fatal.

Hitler went on a mad pursuit of those involved in the assassination attempt. A German Court of Military Honour found Rommel guilty of conspiracy. Officers visited him at his home on October 14. Three choices were presented to him. He could go to Berlin and defend himself to Hitler. He could do nothing which would mean his admission of guilt. He could choose suicide. Any choice but suicide would have meant punishment for his staff and family. If he chose suicide he would be treated as a hero of Germany and his family would receive a pension.

Whether or not he was guilty, Rommel made the honorable choice to take the offered cyanide capsule. This saved his family and staff. Germany mourned his passing with a state funeral. Rommel’s tomb can be visited in Herrlingen, Germany.

Herrlingen is a small village outside of Blaustein, which is a suburb to the west of Ulm. Herrlingen is about 55 miles (90 km) is East Southeast of Stuttgart.

The Connection to the 36th Infantry Division and the Texas Military Forces Museum

On August 15, 1944, the 6th US Army Group made an amphibious landing in southern France. The 36th Infantry Division was part of the 6th at that time. They encountered far less resistance than the Normandy landing had. The 36th took part in substantial combat as they moved north through France.

By May 8, 1945, VE Day, the 36th was based in Kitzbühel, Austria. The 141st Infantry Battalion was part of the 36th Division. From June 14 until July 9 it was stationed 156 mi (252km) northwest in Herrlingen, Germany. While there they came upon a remarkable find. This placard explains it best:

Rommel's hat 2020-03-20 at 9.30.40 AM

German Officer’s Peaked Cap (Schirmmutze) belonging to General Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Rommel was promoted to Field Marshal in June 1942 after his Afrika Corps captured the British fortress of Tobruk, Libya. This cap is a mix of Field Marshal and General Officer insignia, pieced together by Rommel’s staff because an actual Field Marshal’s cap was not immediately available in the North African desert.

The Headquarters Company if the 141st Infantry [Regiment] made its command post at Rommel’s house in Herrlingen, Germany, from June 14 to July 9, 1945. Private First Class George Atkins found the hat in the service quarters of Rommel’s house and took it as a war souvenir. On the inside of the hat in a plastic holder is a typed card with the words “Generalfeldmarschall Rommel – 39496”. This number was the Field Post address assigned to Rommel’s headquarters in North Africa. The Field Marshal’s son, Manfred Rommel, verified that this cap did indeed belong to his father.

IMG_3587

This cap can be found on display in the 36th Division in WWI & II gallery of the Texas Military forces Museum in Austin, TX. 

From the sands of North Africa to southern Germany comes a relic from WWII. A part of the legend of Germany’s Desert Fox can be found in Central Texas.

 

References

  1. Erwin Rommel
  2. Erwin Rommel
  3. Erwin Rommel Biography
  4. 8 Things You May Not Know About Erwin Rommel
  5. Erwin Rommel

If you are interested in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Sources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 360 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and other sources with information on the World War II-era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

A Piece of the Cold War in Austin

IMG_1783

When WWII ended in Europe in May of 1945, Easter Europe, including part of Germany, was occupied by Soviet forces. Germany was divided into four occupation zones at the Potsdam Conference in the late summer of 1945. Each zone was under the control of one of the Allied powers: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union. With Berlin being well within the Soviet zone, it too was divided into four sectors. 

The Soviet Union worked to create communist governments in those countries they had occupied. In their zone in Eastern Germany, they worked with German socialists to create the German Democratic Republic (GDR). In addition to the GDR, they set up similar governments in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania. Along with Albania, these countries and the Soviet Union formed the Warsaw Pact to oppose NATO. These two became the opposing sides during the Cold War. The other three Allies joined their western zones into the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949. 

The oppressive GDR drove many Germans to escape into the West. It is estimated that as many as 3.5 million East Germans (20% of the East German population) had fled to the west by 1961. The GDR began closing the border at midnight on August 31, 1961. The border was manned by troop, roads were torn up, and barbed wire was installed (156 km or 97 miles) around the three western sectors of Berlin. The first concrete segments of a wall were erected on August 17. In addition, chain link fences, minefields, and other obstacles were put in place along the border between East and West German. 

For the GDR the wall solved some economic problems that stemmed from two German currencies and an active Black Market for western goods. It also stopped the flow of people to the west, particularly many of the more educated East Germans. This enabled the GDR government to assert tighter control over its citizens. On the downside the wall became a public relations problem. It was a symbol of the Communist East and border guards shooting those trying to escape did little to enhance this point of view. It is thought that nearly 200 people were killed trying to escape over the wall. 

The final Berlin Wall was some 140 km (87 miles) in length. The initial wall was repeatedly improved over the years. The  “fourth generation” wall was the most sophisticated and was completed in 1980. This version of the wall was constructed of 45,000 reinforced concrete panels, each 3.6 m (12 ft) high and 1.2 m (3.9 ft) wide. In the fall of 1989 there was growing unrest in East Berlin. The GDR government finally announced on November 9, 1989, that they would begin allowing citizens to visit the West. Demolition of the Berlin Wall officially began on June 13, 1990, and it was completed in November of that year. Removal of the wall opened up Germany for reunification, which was completed on October 3, 1990. 

In the aftermath of WWII, six new National Guard divisions were created. One of those was the 49th Armored Division and it was assigned to the Texas National Guard. It officially came into being on February 27, 1947, and was nicknamed the “Lone Star Division”. The 49th initially was equipped with WWII vintage equipment, but over the years as the Regular Army received updated armor, the 49th was updated with newer “hand-me-down” equipment. In 1961 when East Germany began building the Berlin Wall the 49th was one of the National Guard Divisions President Kennedy ordered to be mobilized. 

The members of the 49th were called to active duty on October 15, 1961. It moved to Fort Polk, Louisiana to train in preparation for deployment to Germany. The unit spent nearly a year in preparation and was eventually designated as a division in the Strategic Army Corps (STRAC). STRAC was created as a flexible strike force capable of worldwide deployment on short notice. Fortunately, the tension created by the construction of the Berlin Wall had diminished by the late summer of 1962 and the 49th was demobilized in August of that year. 

When the Berlin Wall came down in 1990 a section of it was presented to the Texas National Guard in recognition for their readiness for deployment to Germany. The segment of the wall is on display in the Texas Military Forces Museum in Austin, TX. It can be found in the Cold War/War on Terror room in the West Gallery. The plaque reads:

Dedicated to the soldiers of the Texas Army National Guard whose service during the Cold War helped bring the Berlin Wall down