…Swimming Saboteur

by on Sep.20, 2013, under General

Great find! An interesting historic document has been provided to us as an additional proof of the authentic story in our new book “History2”. During the research for Chapter V on Jochen Burnus’ frogmen mission against the pontoon bridges across river Elbe in April 1945, we were able to localize a photo showing him, standing in the river Elbe after he was captured by american troops. Not enough that we were lucky to find a matching and impressive photo (published on page 490) as an addition to the informations the veteran gave us in an interview, a copy of a newspaper from may 1945 surfaced. The photo of Jochen Burnus (visibly beaten after he was interrogated before) was made to be published in american newsreel but until today it was not known in which specific newspaper this photo was ever published…

With the support of one of our image sources / local archives of the WW2 battle area, a copy of the newspaper has been forwarded to us. And in fact: the photo which is published in our book on page 490 was published in the Official Weekly Newspaper of the 83rd “Thunderbolt” Infantry Division. The story was published on may 12th, 1945 in no. 3 issue of the “83rd Thunderbolt” on page 2 with the headline “…Swimming Saboteur”. Very intersting to read the caption below the photo: “This man from Mars, guarded by T/5 Serafino Ferrante of the 234th Engineers, is one of the six suicide swimmers who attempted to blow up the Truman Bridge.” The caption underlines how extraordinary and untypical the appearance of a captured “Kampfschwimmer” in his diving suit was in the eye of the enemy.

Further information on the pontoon bridge across the river Elbe can be found on the same page of the newspaper. It gives us today an insight view how important these pontoon bridges have been back then:
“83rd Engineers set new record – Members of Co. A., 308th Combat Engineers believe they established a record of some sort in their recent ferrying operations on the Elbe river. After putting the 329th Infantry across the river in an assault crossing, three platoons constructed two infantry support rafts and a treadmay raft. These were in operation within an hour after the first wave through the dense smoke screen prepared by Division Arty and hit the eastern shore of the Elbe. In the 16 hours that followed, over 1.000 vehicles of all types were ferried across the swift current of the Elbe to the bridgehead, even before the first bridge was completed. After that, the ferries were used to relieve congestion resulting from the one-way traffic on the bridge and were reserved for potential emergencies. The intensive stream crossing exercises conducted on the Mass river in Holland paid rich dividends in this historic river crossing operation.”

A few days ago we forwarded a printed copy of the newspaper from 1945 to veteran Jochen Burnus, who was very surprised to see himself inside. Next to a copy of our book “History2”, which he received from Ralf Ehlers in june, the newspaper of the “83rd Thunderbolt” became another piece of memory and his personal history – alomst 70 years after the photo was taken at the river Elbe…


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