Heydte, Friedrich August “The Baron” Freiherr von der, born 30-03-1907, to a noble family in Munich, Bavaria. His father, a Freiherr, baron, had enjoyed a successful career with the Bavarian Army, serving with distinction during World War I. His mother immigrated from France. The von der Heydtes were stout Roman Catholics, and Friedrich attended a Catholic school in Munich, achieving excellent grades. He was also a cousin of Claus von Stauffenberg
After completion of his schooling, Friedrich followed his father’s path and joined the Reichswehr. After an unsuccessful application to join the cavalry, Friedrich was posted to Infanterie-Regiment Nr.19 on 01-04-1925. He did not give up on his goal of joining the cavalry, and soon secured a posting as an officer cadet in Kavallerie-Regiment Nr.18. In 1927, von der Heydte was released from military service to attend Innsbruck University, studying Law and Economics. During this time, he became a private tutor to pay his university fees, as despite their noble status, his family was in dire financial troubles. He received a degree in Economics at Innsbruck University. In 1927, von der Heydte was awarded his degree in law at Graz University, and traveled to Berlin to continue his studies. Late in the year, he secured a posting to a diplomatic school in Vienna. During his college years, the young von der Heydte developed decidedly liberal views. This however did not hinder him from joining the NSDAP on 01-05-1933, obtaining membership number 2.134.193. He also entered the SA the same year .
By 1934, von der Heydte obtained Austrian citizenship while also maintaining German/Bavarian citizenship. During this period he received a stipend from the Carnegie Institute for Peace. In early 1935 he re-joined the Reichswehr, and was transferred to Kavallerie-Regiment Nr.15 in Paderborn and promoted to Lieutenant within the Wehrmacht. Von der Heydte here with General Hermann Bernard Ramcke again secured his temporary release from the military for study, and traveled to the Netherlands where he furthered his education at The Hague.
Late in 1935, von der Heydte’s company of the regiment was transformed from a cavalry unit to an anti-tank company belonging to Panzerabwehr-Abteilung 6 in Herford. After studying for over two years in The Hague, he returned to the military, where he attended a General Staff Officer’s course over the winter of 1938–39. In August 1939, he was recalled to his company in preparation for the planned invasion of Poland, Fall Weiß. During the spring offensive against France in 1940, von der Heydte served as an aide-de-camp, Ordonnanzoffizier, in the divisional HQ of the 246th Infantry Division under Generalleutnant Erich Denecke
. Denecke died age 77 on 07-03-1963 in Darmstadt In mid May 1940, von der Heydte was promoted Hauptmann and at the same time transferred to Luftwaffe and its parachute arm. Here he joined the 3rd Fallschirmjäger Regiment as one of its company commanders.
Von der Heydte, called “The Baron”, commanded the 1st battalion of the 3rd Fallschirmjäger Regiment during the Battle of Crete in May 1941. His battalion was the first to enter Canea, for which he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross. In July 1942 von der Heydte, now promoted Major, was sent from his posting in Russia to Libya as commander of the elite Fallschirm-Lehr Bataillon. This battalion was an integral part of Fallschirmjäger-Brigade Ramcke, that became famous for its daring escape from the German disaster at El Alamein in captured British trucks. In his memoirs he stated that he watched an Italian tank division be destroyed while the Germans withdrew after the Second Battle of El Alamein. von der Heydte kept his position as an officer in the “Ramcke” Brigade in North Africa until February 1943 when he and several other Fallschirmjäger-officers were transferred to France to form the nucleus of the newly raised 2nd Fallschirmjäger Division under command of Generalmajor Hermann Bernard Ramcke. Here, he was posted as “1a”, senior operations officer, in the divisional HQ.
After the fall of Sicily during the summer of 1943, the Germans grew more and more suspicious of an Italian defection to the Allies. To counter this event the 2nd Fallschirmjäger Division was August 6th transferred from France to Rome. Here, von der Heydte gained audience with Pope Pius XII. As a devout Catholic, von der Heydte had visited Rome before the war. Here he had also befriended the Pope’s “Throne Assistant”, the Theologian Bishop Alois Hudal , who would later become a key person in helping Nazi war criminals evade the courts of justice during the post-war war-crime trials. Hudal died 13-05-1963, age 77. On 08-09-1943 the Kingdom of Italy decided to break its alliance with Nazi-Germany and join the Allies. This caused the Germans to rapidly execute “Fall Achse” with the purpose of disarming and disbanding all units of the Royal Italian Army, Navy and Air force. The 2nd Fallschirmjäger Division was given orders to capture all key positions in Rome. By September 11th the whole of Rome was under German control. The day after, Von der Heydte was sent on a mission that required him to use an aircraft. The aircraft crashed on the island of Elba and von der Heydte suffered some severe injuries.
After his recovery, von der Heydte was given command of the newly formed 6th Fallschirmjäger Regiment of the 2nd Fallschirmjäger Division on 15-01-1944. The unit was formed from veteran paratroopers and Luftwaffe ground personnel in early 1944 at Köln-Wahn. The Regiment had an average age of 17½, with a combined strength of 3457 men as of May 19, and around 4500 men by 06-06-1944.
By the time of Operation Overlord, the 6th Fallschirmjäger Regiment had been detached as a third regiment to the newly reformed 91st Luftlande Infanterie Division and deployed in the Carentan area of the Cotentin Peninsula. The dispositions of its three battalions on June 6th 1944 were as follows: 1st battalion advancing towards Sainte-Marie-du-Mont to relieve the strongpoint W5 and reinforce the defense of Utah Beach; 2nd battalion advancing towards Sainte-Mère-Église and attempt to make contact with 795th Ost Battalion (Georgian); 3rd battalion remaining southwest of Carentan to provide flank security.
On D-Day, about 500 U.S. paratroopers dropped southwest of Carentan. Skirmishing between airborne troops of both sides went on throughout the night. The 1st battalion managed to reach Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, only 6 kilometers from strongpoint W5; but finding the town held by the 2nd Company nickname “Five-Oh-Deuce” or “The Deuce” of the101st Airborne Division, nickname “Screaming Eagles” under lieutenant colonel Robert Cole, the battalion dug in among the hedgerows outside the town. On June 7, after fighting a combined assault of US paratroopers and tanks most of the day, the battalion was destroyed in a fighting withdrawal towards Carentan. About 300 men surrendered. Only 25 reached Carentan. The 2nd battalion found Sainte-Mère-Église held by the 507th US Infantry Regiment, nickname “Raff’s Ruffians” under Colonel Edson Duncan Raff , fought until its ammunition ran low and withdrew towards St. Come-du-Mont. From the town’s church tower and artillery observation post. Edson Duncan died 11-03-2003 (aged 95) in Garnett, Kansa, Von der Heydte saw the vast Allied invasion armada 11 kilometers away. After heavy fighting on June 7, the 2nd and 3rd battalions were withdrawn into Carentan.
Von der Heydte was ordered by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel to defend Carentan to the last man, since it was the critical junction between Utah Beach and Omaha Beach. Starting around the night of June 10, US troops entered the outskirts of Carentan, and by morning of June 11 fierce fighting went from house to house. To illustrate the intensity: a U.S. battalion (3rd of 502nd PIR) had 700 men entering Carentan and after two days’ fighting only 132 men were left. By dusk on June 11, von der Heydte withdrew what remained of his men out of Carentan to avoid encirclement.
The commander of the 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division “Götz von Berlichingen” or “LMA” , SS Brigade Führer Otto Baum, was furious and wanted to arrest von der Heydte, only intervention from von der Heydte’s higher ranking brethren saved the situation. Baum died old age 86 on 18-06-1998 in Hechingen-Steffen.
A counter-attack on June 12 failed to retake the town. For their battle at Carentan, the German paratroopers earned the nickname “Lions of Carentan” from the U.S. paratroopers. Von der Heydte’s regiment was subsequently involved in the intense hedgerow fighting, also known as the battle of the Bocage, defending every inch of ground that was characteristic of the Normandy campaign.
On August 6, von der Heydte’s regiment participated in Operation Lüttich, the disastrous Mortain counterattack attempting to cut off the Allies’ advance at the Avranches bridgehead. The German Seventh Army was subsequently encircled at Falaise Pocket, the final and epic battle of the Normandy campaign. In September 1944 his regiment was involved in defending the German lines in North Brabant (The Netherlands) against the Allied Forces attacking in the Operation Market Garden.
The Allies have landed a massive airborne force behind our lines and reports have arrived telling grim stories of a strong British armoured attack south of Eindhoven. There can be only one objective: a crossing over the Rhine at Arnhem. I needn’t tell you that this would spell disaster for Germany!
All along the Belgian-Dutch border, German troops dig-in their heels and put an end to the Allied pursuit across France and Belgium. There, the canals and flooded fields of Holland will slow the Allied advance and give them time to organise a strong defence of Germany.
With the outbreak of Operation Market Garden, the German reaction is instant. The II. SS-Panzerkorps under SS Obergruppenführer Wilhelm Bittrich, happens to be ideally placed to resist the British paratroopers in Arnhem, while a wide assortment of ad-hoc battlegroups are organised to oppose the American paratroopers and the XXX Corps under Lieutenant General Brian Horrocks , along ‘Hell’s Highway’ (see About us). Horrocks died on 04-01-1985, at the old age of 89, in Chichester, West Sussex.
These battlegroups range in quality and motivation, including von der Heydte’s Fallschirmjäger, heavy tanks, training battalions, machine-gun companies, and fragments of SS formations. Strange formations, such as whole battalions of anti-aircraft guns and fortress machine-gun battalions have been called up to block the Allied assault.
Despite the motley appearance and equipment of these troops, they all have one goal in mind: to keep the Allies out of and away from their beloved Germany. The Führer himself has issued orders to hold until the last man and bullet are spent in defence of the Fatherland—nothing will make these men fight harder!
On 16-12-1944, during the Ardennes Offensive von der Heydte led his unit of 1200 men, Kampfgruppe von der Heydte in the last large-scale German airborne drop of the war, Operation Stößer. The unit was tasked with dropping at night onto a strategic road junction 11 kilometers north of Malmédy and to hold it for approximately twenty-four hours until relieved by the 12th SS Panzer Division , under Brigade Führer Hugo Kraas with the aim of hampering the flow of Allied reinforcements and supplies.
However, due to a combination of factors, including lack of reconnaissance of the drop zone and the Luftwaffe pilots’ lack of training in dropping paratroopers at night, the Fallschirmjäger were widely dispersed – some landing behind the German frontlines. Initially, only 125 men made it to the correct landing zone, with no heavy weapons. Eventually, 300 men were gathered from the surrounding woods, but without sufficient forces, the task of capturing the crossroads to delay the American re-enforcements was abandoned. In any case, the 12th SS Panzer Division was unable to defeat the Americans at Elsenborn Ridge, and so failed to relieve the Fallschirmjäger.
However, because of the dispersal of the drop, Fallschirmjäger were reported all over the Ardennes, and the Allies believed a division-sized jump had taken place. This caused much confusion and convinced them to allocate men to secure the rear instead of facing the main German thrust at the front.
Cut off, without supplies and hunted by forces including a regiment of the US 1st Infantry Division, nickname “The Big Red one” under Major General Clarence Ralph Huebner. Sixteen members of this division were awarded the Medal of Honor. The division lost 3.616 killed in action, 15.208 wounded in action, and 664 died of wounds. and a combat command of the U.S. 3rd Armoured Division, nickname “Spearhead” , under Major General Robert Walter Grow. The 3rd Armoured Division had 231 days of combat in World War II, with a total of 2.540 killed, 7.331 wounded, 95 missing, and 139 captured. Total battle and non-battle casualties came to 16.122. The 3rd Armoured Division lost more tanks in combat than any other U.S. division. Combat Command A lost more tanks than any other unit in the 3rd Armoured Division.
Von der Heydte who had no desire to go down with what was left of Hitler’s vaunted Thousand Year Empire. He was too much of a realist for that. He ordered his small gathered group of men, surrendered by the Americans, to break through Allied lines in twos and threes and reach the German front. Von der Heydte alone arrived in Monschau on the evening of December 21st, with a broken arm, his feet frozen, his lungs were on fire and he felt close to despair.The third house where he knocked was the house of the schoolteacher Mr. Bouschery where he got a bed and food.
On December 23, he had the teacher’s son Eugen send a surrender note to the Allies headquarter in hotel Hordhem. The surrender note was taken to Captain Goetcheus who was in charge. He whistled up a doctor and ambulance just as the Baron requested.Then in a jeep, followed by a truck with heavily armed MP’s the Captain sped up the hill and the Baron was borne out of the house, dressed in a borrowed nightgown and carefully shielding his face from the presented press photographers. He was asked what he thought of his fellow Bavarian Sepp Dietrich, head of the Sixth Panzer Army currently locked in a life and death struggle with the US Army. “Is he a great strategist” they wanted to know….The Baron curled his aristocratic upper lip “Dietrich is a cur” That naturally went the rounds of the Allied press the following day. The Baron was held as a prisoner of war in England until 12-07-1947. Von der Heydte was a cousin of Colonel Claus Schenk Count von Stauffenberg, who tried to kill Hitler with a bomb July 20th 1944, and he was loosely connected to the ring of officers who tried to organize the resistance against Hitler.
After his release as a POW, von der Heydte returned to his academic career. From 1947 to 1950, Von der Heydte developed his inaugural dissertation, entitled “Die Geburtsstunde des souveränen Staates”, The birth of the Sovereign State.” Parallel to his academic career , von der Heydte also continued with a post-war military career with the Bundeswehr at the rank of Colonel. In 1962, he was promoted to Brigadier General in the Reserves of the Bundeswehr, one of only two to receive that rank. In 1962 Friedrich von der Heydte met his opponent of Operation Market Garden, the General of the 101 AB Para’s Maxwell Davenport Taylor.
Death and burial ground of Heydte, Friedrich August “The Baron” Freiherr von der.
Friedrich August Freiherr von der Heydte died in Aham, Landshut, on 07-11-1994, age 87, after a long illness and is buried on the local cemetery of Aham, near Landshut, along the wall attached to the church. Kirk Bissat from Canada found the grave for me and sent kindly the photo’s