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ID'ing German Soldiers from Pics They Took on Camera Captured by US Vet

Discussion in 'Those Who Served' started by MrMyke, Dec 10, 2019.

  1. MrMyke

    MrMyke New Member

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    A US vet took photos all the way through Europe, from DDay to the Elbe, from his Tank Destroyer. His album contains his own war photos from his own camera...and several shots of German soldiers. These are smiling, living Germans, taken on a different camera owned by one of those Germans, but which fell into the US vet's hands when he found the camera in their destroyed Panther tank.

    The US vet drove an M-10 and M-36 in Tank Destroyer Battalion 899. Fought from DDay (came ashore in 6th wave at Utah) to end of war in Europe. Operation Cobra, Hurtgen Forest, crossed Rhine on Ludendorff Bridge, liberated camps at Nordhausen, ended at Elbe River. His personal photo album is incredible. It is soon to go to a museum (side question: any one have ideas for which one I should direct it to to?)

    When I looked at it, I noticed some pics that were different. Turning a page, I saw smiling black-uniformed German soldiers standing near their Panther tank. Then, I saw a few more with same soldiers, in other battlefield and camp poses. They were clearly facially identifiable. Their tank bears clear numbering. They are healthy and happy in all shots.

    The vet explained he "found a camera" in a destroyed Panther, liked it, and shot the rest of the roll before adding it to all his others waiting to be developed when he got home. So half the resulting shots were by the German owner, who apparently died when his Panther was destroyed. (I have no death shots...the only pics like that are of the V-2 plant at Dora. Horrible. These shots will go to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.) The vet didn't have much else to say about the German's shots. I don't even know for sure if he is the one who got their tank.

    Now, he has passed. it is time to donate the album. Also, the family has given me permission to research the matter, if I can (and also donate all original photos to a worthy museum). I have found some 899th unit AARs, and, sure enough, the vet's Company A was involved in a Panther kill on July 11, 1944. The AAR gives the 6 digit map coordinates for that action.

    So, I have German soldier photos I want to try and ID with names to faces. I have the number of their German Panther tank. I have a date of the likely final event for their tank. I have the location, if I can figure out how to use the US map coordinates. I have clear pictures of faces. Is this enough to have a chance? Are German military records searchable online like some US records are? Can I get names of soldiers assigned to a given tank (or unit) at a given time in the German army? If I get to the names, did Germans take soldier photos for ID records? Or, even if possible, is this just a bad idea that wouldn't be well received on the German end? Do I have any real chance in the first place, based on what I have to go on??

    Any opinions and/or practical ideas are welcome!! I can't get over the idea that there could be surviving descendants or family some place that would like to have returned to them some of the last photos taken by their deceased family vet during the war.

    Finally, if this is not the correct forum section for this post, please redirect. Also, if anyone knows of any other forums or sites I might try for help, please offer! Thanks in advance.
     
  2. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

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    I've been meaning to join this forum to learn who dropped the 88 on my dad at the Chuinzi Pass. Might find some answers or direction there.

    Axis History Forum - Index page
     
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  3. chibobber

    chibobber Member

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    Most museums would take your donation.However they may sit and gather dust. The 1st Division Museum at Cantigny Park in Wheaton Illinois has a research library.They respect all donations.Just a thought.I'm sure others will have other suggestions.
     
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  4. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    I'll take the easy answer. In the ETO, the USA used the Modified British System. You can translate the coordinates by using this website: The "Coordinates Translator"

    On 11 July 1944, the 899th was in the vicinity of St. Jean de Daye according to the AAR on tankdestroyer.net. A simple Google search and comparison with the grid selections on echodelta.net leads to the French Lambert Zone 1 Grid. Based on the relative location of St. Jean de Daye, the grid square of the coordinates on that date is vT. In step #2 of the Coordinates Translator, enter the grid code followed by the 4 or 6 digit coordinate from the AAR. For example, the AAR states the coordinates of the German tank column as 454733. In the Coordinates Translator, enter vT454733 and click on "Convert". Scroll down to view the location on Google maps. Note the latitude and longitude coordinates are also provided. In converting other coordinates from the AAR, if you get a result that doesn't make sense, try changing the alpha grid code to one of the adjacent grids.
     
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  5. MrMyke

    MrMyke New Member

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    Thank you for the map coordination website link. That is exactly what I needed to apply the 6-digit map coords in that 899th AAR, that, yes, I too found at TankDestroyer.net...that site was full of excellent information. I have made a promising contact with an 899th researcher in the Netherlands who may have access to more detail. I understand the exchange on July 11 by the 899th with armor from the Panzer Lehr Division may have been covered in the book "Dying at St. Lo."

    If anyone has that book, I'd like to know if that is true, while I seek to get a copy myself.

    Meanwhile, I am continuing to try and find someone who knows more about searching German records, and what kind of detail I may be able to find there.

    And finally, of course I hope to post more info when I get the copies of the photos involved. This was just a set of prelim questions on whether the whole idea is nuts...or not. So far, it seems like it may be worth pursuing, though it continues to be a very, very long shot.

    Thanks to all for any further input.
     
  6. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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  7. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    If you haven't done so already, you should also try our sister forum ww2talk.com.
     
  8. MarChant

    MarChant New Member

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    You could try to pose your question at the German Veterans Association: Der Verein
    Don't know if they can help you, but maybe they can point you in the right direction.
     

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