Heroes: the Army
"...The area around Linnich was strongly defended during the bloody battles in November and December 1944. He remained with the 10th SS Panzer Div. until the war ended in 1945..."
James R. Harris
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. K., 407th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: Sgt., Silver Star Medal
- Birth Year: 1923
- Entered Service: Acme, WV
General Heinz Harmel
Generalmajor der Waffen SS
by Jim Harris, 407-K
Heinz Harmel was born June 29, 1906 in Metz, Lorraine, son of a military doctor. In 1926 he joined the volunteer corps "Rossbach." Here he discovered his ability to inspire others, therefore he became a member of the "Reichwehr", the name of the German Army from 1919-1934. His goal of becoming an officer found limited opportunities at that time. He was classified as "qualified for sergeant" and was discharged into reserve status. Harmel studied agriculture but left in 1932 and became active in the Volunteer Work Service and was in leadership training. The German Army was restricted by the treaty ending WWI.
When Hitler came into power things changed rapidly. Harmel changed to the "SSVerfugungstruppe", which was the predecessor of the Waffen-SS, because the Nazis offered him higher pay and quicker promotion. Harmel rose through the ranks to Generalmajor der Waffen SS. He saw action during the campaign against France, where he earned decorations for valor in the field. Harmel received the Iron Cross 1 and 2 as well as the Combat Infantry Badge. The French soon quit and that part of the war was over.
The war shifted to the east where Harmel served as commanding officer SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer (lieutenant Colonel) of the 3rd SSPanzergrenadier Regiment "Deutchland" on the Russian front. He led the men of his command with boldness and was awarded the Ritterkreuz (Knight's Cross) on March 31,1943. Harmel was promoted to SS-Standart-enfuhre (Colonel) while still commanding the same unit, and was recognized for his skill in the campaign against Russia and awarded the Knight's Cross with Oak leaves on Sept. 7,1943. Harmel was also wounded in the Russian Campaign.
On April 27, 1944 Harmel was promoted to General major and was given command of the 10th SS-Panzardivision "Frundsberg." Heinz Harmel took over, at age 37, and was warmly accepted by the young men in the 10th SS as one of their own. He belonged to them since he had moved up through the ranks and understood therefore as no other how to assess the concerns and needs of the little men. Harmel lead the 10th SS with brave exploits until the bitter end of the war. At the age of 37 Heinz Harmel became the youngest man to ever become a General major and lead a Waffen SS-Division. In the military of England, Germany, and most military units in Europe the officers were selected from the aristocracy. It was unusual to have someone like Harmel become a General.
General Harmel was transferred to the Western Front following the Allied invasion along with the "Frundsberg" Division, that was the 10th SS Panzer Division. General Harmel etched his name in history with his stubborn defensive action during the Battle of Arnheim which resulted in the failure of the British airborne assault. We know this from the book "A Bridge Too Far." Generalmajor Harmel was recognized for his leadership and awarded the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords on Dec. 15, 1944.
We are quite familiar with the next assignment for General Harmel; the 10th SS was moved up to defend against the 9th Army of the U.S. which included the 102nd Inf. Div., the Ozarks. The area around Linnich was strongly defended during the bloody battles in November and December 1944. He remained with the 10th SS Panzer Div. until the war ended in 1945.
When the war ended Harmel became a POW. He was sent to England and as he told me in Linnich, "I was the guest of the King of England for two years." A nice way of saying he was a POW. When I asked where he had learned to speak such good English his reply was that he had nothing else to do for those two years so he learned English. When all of the records showed that Gen. Harmel was truly a Waffen SS combat soldier and had not been involved in any war crimes, he was released and sent back to Germany.
Harmel and his wife settled in Krefeld where he worked as a sales representative. He was highly regarded by everyone who knew his war record and became quite successful. He was a respected citizen and was naturally interested in veterans associations. He attended reunions of the 10th SS which were held in Linnich where he helped organize the Hubertuskreuz society.
Harmel, Father Thomic of the St. Martinus church in Linnich, and Hans Kramp, a former member of the 8th SS Kay division of the waffen-SS worked together to organize the Hubertuskreuz-Treffen which meets annually in October. This is a reunion of former soldiers from both sides during the war to create friends from former enemies.
It was at one of these Hubertuskreuz reunions where I met and became friends with Harmel. We would talk freely about the war and there I learned a bit about the 10th SS and we would exchange mail. At the banquets held in Linnich Harmel always wanted me to sit next to him and Maxine to sit with Harmel's wife. She could also speak English. One day she asked Maxine to look around the fairly crowded room. Maxine did so and Mrs. Harmel's comment was "Well, do you see horns on anyone? They are all alike."
Harmel was a good friend of our Gen. Bill Douglas also, and visited the U.S. a few times. On one visit Bill Douglas asked Harmel if he would like to see The Grand Old Opry? Harmel's reply was that he did not care too much about opera, but he did like our country-western music. On another visit to the U.S. he called my home and was surprised to be answered in German. I was working that day but Hildegard from Welz was visiting and answered the phone.
Every time I met Harmel he was quite friendly. After a few visits I finally decided to ask the question we all wanted to ask. "Heinze, I would like to ask you a personal question if I may." He agreed and so I asked "You must have known when we were fighting around Linnich that the war was lost. Why did you continue to fight?" His reply was that "Yes, I knew the war was lost, but you must realize the situation I was in. I believed Germany was fighting for a just cause, and believed Hitler was a good leader. I joined the SS and as an officer I made a pledge to fight for my country and its leader, Hitler, until the very end, even with my life if necessary. As the war progressed I began to realize that Germany could not win, and also began to believe that even Hitler could be wrong. However, I am a man of my word and I had taken the oath to fight and I could only do my best as a member of the Waffen-SS." The Waffen-SS pledge is "Loyalty Is My Honor.
All officers of the SS were required to take the loyalty oath. Raising their right hand and their left hand placed on their officers sword the oath went as follows. "I swear to thee, Adolph Hitler as Fuhrer and chancellor of the German Reich, my Loyalty and Bravery. I vow to thee and the superiors whom those shall appoint, obedience until death, so help me God."
When Harmel retired he received the normal pension for his employment as a sales representative and also a pension from the German government for his military service. His military pension was that of a full colonel, but not that of a general. There was ruling about that made by the German government.
Harmel died September 2, 2000 in Krefeld.
What did Harmel have to say about the battle around Linnich with the Ozarks? He regarded the 102nd as a good division, and we did not discuss this very much. It is interesting to see the new monument stone near the Hubertuskreuz which still stands in the field. If you look at that larger stone bearing the insignias of all units fighting the battle in 1944, you will see the insignias of the 10th SS and the 102nd right next to each other near the center.
----- Jim Harris
(Editor's note: Attempts were made throughout the text of the following story to place full names to the men listed in the story. For the most part, this is an educated guess and some names may very well be mistaken in their identy. The names were all taken from the division history book: With The 102d Infantry Division Through Germany, edited by Major Allen H. Mick. Using the text as a guide, associations with specific units were the basis for the name identifications. We are not attempting in any to rewrite the story. Any corrections are gladly welcomed.)
12 January 2005.
A photo of Co. A., 2nd Platoon, 407th Regiment, 102nd Division. This image is on a page that is dedicated to Mr. Edward Marchelitis, Sr., by his daughter Carol. Most of the men in the photo taken on December 20, 1943 are identified on the back of the image.
To view the photo of Co. A., 2nd Platoon, 407th Regiment as well as other photos of Edward Marchelitis, click on the image above.
The family of Mr. Marchelitis is seeking information on his platoon.
A special Thank You is extended to the daughter of Edward Marchelitis, Sr., Carol Marchelitis Heppner.
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The above story, "Generla Heinz Harmel - Generalmajor der Waffen SS", by Jim Harris, Co. K., 407th., was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 54, No. 1, Oct/Dec. 2001, pp. 5-7.
The story is re-printed here on World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words with the kind permission of the 102d Infantry Division Association, Ms. Hope Emerich, Historian. Our sincerest THANKS for the 102d Infantry Division Association allowing us to share some of their stories.
We would also like to extend our sincere THANKS to Mr. Edward L. Souder, former historian of Co. F., 405th Regiment. His collection of stories of the "Kitchen Histories Project" series entitled, Those Damn Doggies in F, were responsible for bringing the stories of the men of the 102nd Division to the forefront.
Original Story submitted on 28 October 2003.
Story added to website on 27 November 2003.
September 5, 2002.
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