How to visualize a frogman’s pencil written diary from 1945?

by on Jul.09, 2016, under General

During the research on the history behind a Ref. 3646 / Type D “Kampfschwimmer” with engraved caseback, we were able to study the diary of the first owner of the watch. This diary survived the last days of the Second World War and the veteran kept it for decades, willed to share it with us and partially featured in chapter II of our book “History2”.

Thanks to the many detailed descriptions (e.g. the water temperature, current, weather conditions and explosive charges carried) which the frogman wrote down and the examination of historical maps of the 1940’s it was possible to analyze his diary entries precisely and visualize his memories to the readers of our book in an impressive way. The collected documents and additional information let this chapter become one of the unique stories behind a Ref. 3646 / Type D “Kampfschwimmer” watch.

History1_frontal_300x300Reading page 83 of “History1” reminds on a part of our research which did happened not often. The frogman wrote the following lines in his diary at the beginning of March 1945:

“The next morning we set off towards the east in a truck. With unbelievable power, the Russians have pushed thru as far as the [river] Oder in their last offensive. They even managed to build two bridgeheads at Fürstenberg [in November 1961 the city was renamed Eisenhüttenstadt]. Reconnaissance flights tell us that they are putting tremendous amounts of people and material into these bridgeheads”.

Reconnaissance flights? Having this information in mind, we started to search various archives for still existing aerial photographs – maybe the one which the frogmen mentioned in his diary still exists? After the war, some remaining photos were transferred to archives which stored these photos for bomb clearance works. Good luck on the hunt! Guess how easy this search would be? Where to start? To find a aerial photo from the same date, same area and even showing the target, not knowing if its existing at all? We found it – a needle in a haystack – the photo which was shown to the frogmen as their next target.

IMG_3659_600x600Dated to 1 March 1945, the photo taken by a reconnaissance flight shows one of the pontoon bridges built across the Oder by the Russian troops just shortly before – which became soon later the target for the “Keller Group” just as the frogman wrote it down in his diary. Read more on the diary and various historic documents which helped us to visualize this source of information during our research on a Ref. 3646 / Type D “Kampfschwimmer” watch here.

The coffee table shot shows page 110-111, chapter II of “History2” next to one of the few original photos of the “Keller Group” taken shortly before their missions at the eastern front (spot some Panerai gear in it). This photo is published on page 94 in the same chapter. The coffee table shot includes also a Ref. 3646 / Type D “Kampfschwimmer”, featured in chapter V of “History2” – the watch of frogman Siegfried Köneke, who was also a member of the “Keller Group”. Read more about this chapter here.

Our two “History” books can be ordered only in our bookstore.

Enjoy reading stories behind these watches!
[Ralf Ehlers & Volker Wiegmann]

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