SOME OF THE PRISONERS HELD AT
SPECIAL CAMP 11

Photo courtesy of J.N. Houterman
 

This profile is based on a copy of Generalmajor Wahle’s microfilmed service record housed at the United States National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C. As the service record covered only the period from 1912-1942, supplemental sources (see below) were consulted for the remainder of Wahle’s military career

NAME: Generalmajor Carl Richard Heinrich Wahle

PW NO:          18872

RANK:            Generalmajor

CAPTURED:   Hyon-Ciply (Mons), Belgium

DATE:             4 September 1944

 

PERSONAL

DATE OF BIRTH:       7 February 1892

PLACE OF BIRTH:     Dresden/Sachsen

DATE OF DEATH:     23 February 1975

PLACE OF DEATH:   Prien/Chiemsee/Bayern

NATIONALITY:         German

RELIGION:                 Evangelical

OCCUPATION:          Regular Soldier

HEIGHT:

WEIGHT:

NEXT OF KIN:

 

Parents: Generalmajor a.D. Otto and Emma (née Lampe) Wahle. Generalmajor a.D. Wahle last commanded the 7th Royal Saxon Infantry Brigade No. 88 before retiring from the Army.

 

Wife: Married on 17 May 1940 in Bucharest, Romania.

 

Promotions:

Commands & Assignments:

Decorations & Awards:

Generalmajor Wahle’s World War I Combat Service Record:

Western Front, 1914-1918

Generalmajor Wahle and the Mons Pocket

First organized on 1 February 1944 under the command of Generalleutnant Otto Elfeldt, the 47th Infantry Division had served since its inception under the LXXXII Army Corps of the 15th Army in static defense positions on the French coast at Calais.[1] Following the Allied invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944, the 47th Infantry Division, along with the rest of the 15th Army, remained idle in the Pas de Calais region of France and on the Belgian coast. An elaborate Allied deception plan, codenamed Operation Fortitude, had led the Germans to believe the Allies would launch a second large-scale landing against the Pas de Calais. As a result, the infantry-heavy 15th Army did not immediately intervene against the Allied beachheads in Normandy. Although nine of the 15th Army’s divisions were ultimately transferred to Normandy between the end of June and the middle of August, the 47th Infantry Division continued to remain on the Channel coast.

While the fighting in Normandy raged on, Generalmajor Wahle received command of the 47th Infantry Division when Generalleutnant Elfeldt was delegated with the temporary leadership of the LXXXIV Army Corps on the invasion front.[2] Upon Generalmajor Wahle’s assumption of command, the division consisted of the following primary components: Infantry Regiments 103 (Oberstleutnant Roediger), 104 (Oberstleutnant Bartels) and 115 (Oberst Baumann), Artillery Regiment 147 (Oberst Luecken) and Fusilier Battalion 147 (Hauptmann Schuetz). Generalmajor Wahle later recalled the condition of his new command:

The Division was considered fit for employment in static warfare. The Infantry regiments consisted of 2 battalions each, and the Artillery regiment of 4 battalions each except for the IV. (heavy) battalion, which consisted of 2 batteries. At the middle of August ‘44 all units excepting the Artillery were at about 80 – 85% of their T/O strength. The Artillery was considerably weaker. The percentage of men unfit for fighting was high, consisting mostly of men suffering from frost-bite contracted in the battles in the East. Armament strength was up to requirements, but contained a lot of captured weapons. The complement of horse-drawn and motorized vehicles was completely insufficient.[3]

On 18 August 1944, the 47th Infantry Division finally received its marching orders. Passing to control of the LVIII Panzer Corps of the 5th Panzer Army, Generalmajor Wahle received instructions from Army Group B to concentrate his division at Clermont, north of Paris, to help establish a line on the Somme and, later, to defend the French capital.[4] With only a quarter of the 47th Infantry Division at its assembly area on August 25th, the mission of defending Paris became a moot point. That morning, General der Infanterie Dietrich von Choltitz, the Commanding General and Armed Forces Commander of Greater Paris, ignoring a direct order from Adolf Hitler to turn Paris “into a field of ruins,” formally surrendered the city to General Jacques Philippe Leclerc, the commander of the Free French 2nd Armored Division.

Following the Allied breakout from Normandy in late August 1944, the German Army began retreating from northern France in the face of a rapid Allied pursuit. Although Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model, the commander-in-chief of Army Group B, had hoped to stabilize the German front along the line of the Schelde estuary—Albert Canal—Meuse River, the pace of the Allied advance and the poor condition of his armies dictated otherwise. On 1 September 1944, after recognizing the proposed line could not be held, Generalfeldmarschall Model ordered the withdrawal of his mauled armies to the West Wall (“Siegfried Line”) on the German border.

Prior to Model’s decision, Generalmajor Wahle’s division had moved into the northern Paris suburbs and occupied the line Pierre-Fitte sur Seine—Dugny—northern edge of le Bourget airport—northern edge of Sevran on the Canal de l’Ourcq to prevent an Allied breakout from that quarter of the city. Attacked by General Leclerc’s Free French troops and outflanked on the left by armored spearheads of the U.S. 3rd Army commanded by Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr., the 47th Infantry Division abandoned northern Paris on August 28th and retreated toward the Oise River. After his front was pierced by an enemy tank attack near Rully on August 30th, Generalmajor Wahle withdrew his division to the northern bank of the Oise to establish a defense line from the river to the Compiegne Forest.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant General Courtney H. Hodges’ U.S. 1st Army had passed to the west of Paris and was racing full bore for the West Wall and its intended prize: the Rhine River. On 31 August 1944, Lieutenant General Omar N. Bradley, the commander of the U.S. 12th Army Group, spotted an opportunity and ordered General Hodges to shift his axis of advance north into Belgium to cut off a large portion of the German retreat before the troops could reach the Schelde—Albert—Meuse line. With his XIX Corps advancing on the left flank toward Tournai, General Hodges’ VII Corps moved on the right flank and hooked north to Mons as the blocking force while his V Corps pushed up the center to the Lille-Brussels highway at Leuze.[5] The convergence of the three American corps cut off a like number of German corps staffs and the battered remains of at least 20 divisions—including Generalmajor Wahle’s 47th Infantry Division—from contact with the headquarters of the 5th Panzer Army.[6] As the three American corps pushed on their objectives, the German forces were sandwiched between them into a large, fluid pocket around and south of Mons on the Franco-Belgian border.

Withdrawing to Noyon under heavy enemy air attack during which Oberstleutnant Roediger and Hauptmann Schuetz were both killed, Generalmajor Wahle’s division was briefly subordinated to SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS Wilhelm Bittrich’s II SS-Panzer Corps on 1 September 1944. Conferring at Fontaine, northeast of St. Quentin, Bittrich informed Wahle that his slow moving division would be of no use to the II SS-Panzer Corps and advised him to “save as many men as possible out of this pocket.” Generalmajor Wahle later recalled the poor state of his division and the chaotic conditions he experienced in the rapidly forming Mons Pocket:

Unavoidable marches by day found the troops exposed to the full effect of the enemy bombers. The losses were so critical that the 103rd Inf Regt, for instance, was disbanded and the remnants were attached to the other two Inf Regiments. The number and condition of the horses sank lower every day. Supplies began to fail to arrive. There was a complete lack of gasoline for the few vehicles available, of means of communication and of maps; the one [vehicle] belonging to the C.O. of the Division did not go beyond Noyon. Most of all news was missing concerning the disposition of the enemy, of the neighbours, and of the intentions of the own command.

Split into two march groups under Oberst Baumann and Oberstleutnant Bartels, the 47th Infantry Division reached the Belgian frontier on 3 September 1944. After deciding to break through the American lines between Maubeuge and Mons with the goal of reaching Maastricht on the German border, Generalmajor Wahle divided his division into three columns, with himself in command of the northern column, for the breakout that night. Stopped by an American blocking position at Havay, Wahle’s column, joined by part of the middle column, moved into Givry where they were promptly ambushed by a U.S. tank and withering machinegun fire. In the midst of the confused night action, Wahle and a small band of his men became separated from the divisional columns. On the morning of 4 September 1944, Generalmajor Wahle and his eight remaining companions, their location reported by Belgian partisans, were captured by American troops about 1 ½ kilometres south of the Hyon-Ciply railway station near Mons.      

By 5 September 1944, the U.S. 1st Army had completed the reduction of the Mons Pocket. During the action, at least 3,500 German troops had been killed and another 25,000 taken prisoner, including Generalmajor Carl Wahle.[7] The elimination of the pocket significantly lessened the number of German troops available for further defensive operations and cleared the way for the U.S. 1st Army to resume its eastward advance to the German border.

After the war, Generalmajor Wahle paid homage to the average German soldier and reflected on the events leading to the destruction of his division and the defeat of the German Army in France:

In the further development of the events on 28 August [the Allied advance to the east and west of Paris] this caused the 47th Inf Division to attempt the impossible: To start a race to the German frontier against the superior, modernized mobile Armor of the enemy without the protection of its own Luftwaffe. There could be no doubt as to the outcome of this right from the start.

How these events are to be judged within the framework of the overall picture of the war will be the job for those who write the history of this war. Long before the start of the small part of the war which is depicted here [in the account of the 47th Infantry Division], voluntary departure from certain operative and tactical principles had shaken the whole Wehrmacht and headed it towards a debacle which no amount of human bravery was able to avert. The German soldier fought for a lost cause. If he bravely stuck to his post under hopeless circumstances, then the future histories of the war will justly give him his due for it.

Biography of Generalmajor a.D. Carl Wahle possibly from a German veteran’s newsletter (note the Commander’s Cross 2nd Class of the Swedish Royal Order of Vasa worn at his throat)

Born on 7 February 1892, Generalmajor a.D. [außer Dienst = Retired] Carl Wahle lives in Prien/Chiemsee. The son of a general, he was born in Dresden and, after graduating from humanistic high school, he became a soldier in March 1912 when entered the Royal Saxon Rifle Regiment “Prince George” as a Fahnenjunker. As a platoon leader in his regiment, he was badly wounded on 30 August 1914 on the Aisne River. In January 1915, Leutnant Wahle returned to the field and served as a battalion adjutant, a company leader, a regimental adjutant (Oberleutnant) and, in the last year of the war, an ordnance officer in the General Command of the XII (1st Royal Saxon) Army Corps and then the 24th Infantry Division. In the 100,000-man army, he was on the staff of Reichswehr-Brigade 12 and, from 1922-1931, he served in the 10th (Saxon) Infantry Regiment based in Bautzen, including over three years as regimental adjutant in Dresden and four years as Chief of the 12th (Machinegun) Company. From 1931-1932, Wahle was in the Reich Defense Ministry (Military Intelligence and Foreign Intelligence Departments) and subsequently served as a battalion commander in Infantry Regiment 32 at Grimma. In 1935, he was detached to the Swedish Army and in 1938 became the military attaché at the German embassy in Bucharest (1 November 1938 promoted Oberst). In October 1940, he became commander of Infantry Regiment 267 and passed into leader reserve at the beginning of 1942. On 1 June 1942, he was appointed a Generalmajor and the Armed Forces Commandant of Hamburg. For his circumspection and drive during the heavy bombing attacks in the summer of 1943, he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the War Merit Cross with Swords. On 1 February 1944, he took command of the 214th Infantry Division followed a month later with command of the 719th Infantry Division and in August 1944 the 47th Infantry Division. At the beginning of September, he was captured by the Americans near Mons.


Supplemental Sources:

  • Collins, Larry & Lapierre, Dominique. Is Paris Burning? Simon & Schuster, New York, New York, 1965.
  • Hastings, Max. Overlord: D-Day, June 6, 1944. Simon and Schuster, New York, New York, 1984.
  • Keegan, John. Six Armies in Normandy: From D-Day to the Liberation of Paris. Penguin Books, Ltd., New York, New York, 1983 printing.
  • Keilig, Wolf. Die Generale des Heeres. Podzun-Pallas Verlag, Friedberg, Germany, 1983.
  • Mehner, Kurt. Die deutsche Wehrmacht 1939-1945: Führung und Truppe. Militair-Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall, Norderstedt, Germany, 1993.
  • Munoz, Antonio J. Göring’s Grenadiers: The Luftwaffe Field Divisions, 1942-1945. Axis Europa Books, Bayside, New York, 2002.
  • Pallud, Jean Paul. “The Battle of the Mons Pocket,” After the Battle, Number 115 (2002), pp. 2-33.
  • Pitt, Barrie (consultant editor). The Military History of World War II. Temple Press Aerospace, Twickenham, United Kingdom, 1986.
  • Wahle, Carl. “Northern France Campaign, 26 August – 4 Sept ‘44 (MS # B-176).” 

[1] As of 1 February1944, the commanding general of the LXXXII Army Corps was General der Infanterie Johann Sinnhuber while Generaloberst Hans von Salmuth served as commander-in-chief of the 15th Army. Generals Sinnhuber and von Salmuth continued to hold these posts until 1 September 1944 and 23 August 1944 when they were replaced by Generals der Infanterie Walter Hoernlein and Gustav-Adolf von Zangen respectively. 

[2] Following his capture by Polish troops in the Falaise Pocket on 20 August 1944, Generalleutnant Otto Elfeldt was transferred to Great Britain and ultimately imprisoned at Island Farm Special Camp No. 11.

[3] Wahle, Carl. “Northern France Campaign, 26 August – 4 Sept ‘44 (MS # B-176).” Written by Generalmajor Wahle for the U.S. Army Historical Division after World War II, this account chronicles the movements and actions of the 47th Infantry Division during the time period indicated. Without access to reference documents or proper maps, he wrote the account from memory supplemented by articles from the British Daily Mail newspaper while being held as a prisoner of war at Island Farm Special Camp No. 11. All quotations by Generalmajor Wahle are cited from this document.

[4] SS-Oberst-Gruppenführer und Panzer Generaloberst der Waffen-SS Josef “Sepp” Dietrich commanded the 5th Panzer Army from 9 August 1944-9 September 1944.

[5] The corps commanders of the U.S. 1st Army were Major General Charles H. Corlett (XIX Corps), Major General J. Lawton “Lightning Joe” Collins (VII Corps) and Major General Leonard T. Gerow (V Corps).

[6] The three corps staffs in the Mons Pocket were the LXXIV Army Corps (General der Infanterie Erich Straube), the LVIII Panzer Corps (General der Panzertruppe Walter Krüger) and the II SS-Panzer Corps (SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS Wilhelm Bittrich). The primary German units in the Mons Pocket were remnants of the following divisions: the 47th, 49th, 271st, 275th, 344th, 348th and 352nd Infantry Divisions; the 3rd and 6th Fallschirmjäger [Parachute]-Divisions; the 18th Field Division (Luftwaffe); Battle Group “von Aulock,” a mixed unit originally formed for the defense of Paris; and Battle Groups “Hohenstaufen” and “Frundsberg,” the combat-worthy remains of the 9th and 10th SS-Panzer Divisions respectively. Stragglers and displaced troops from other divisions as well as rear area support personnel were incorporated into these units.   

[7] Three German generals were captured in the Mons Pocket: Generalmajor Hubertus von Aulock, the leader of a battle group; Luftwaffe Generalleutnant Rüdiger von Heyking, the commander of the 6th Fallschirmjäger-Division; and Generalmajor Wahle. Although the Germans suffered extremely heavy losses in the Mons Pocket, at least 40,000 troops, including all three of the corps staffs, managed to escape capture by slipping through the porous American front. Bittrich’s Battle Groups “Hohenstaufen” (SS-Obersturmbannführer Walter Harzer) and “Frundsberg” (SS-Oberführer Heinz Harmel) were among the more significant divisional elements to escape ahead of the American advance. Worthy of mention, Generalleutnant Joachim von Tresckow, the commander of the 18th Field Division (Luftwaffe), broke out of the Mons Pocket with 300 of his men on 3 September 1944. After traveling 260 kilometers on foot, the general and his band reached the German lines on the 18th of September. On the day after his return, Generalleutnant von Tresckow received the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross in recognition of his outstanding leadership of the division.

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