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Fallschirmjäger-Lehrkompanie
Italien - Sommer 1943

General der Fallschirmtruppe

Hermann Bernhard 'Papa' Ramcke

Hermann Bernhard Ramcke was born in 1889, and known by his middle name, Bernhard. Joining the Navy, Ramcke fought on the Western Front in WWI as a Marine Infantryman, and was awarded the Iron Cross First and Second Classes. In 1918 he was awarded the Imperial Prussian Service Cross and promoted to Leutnant. He ended WKI as an Oberleutnant and remained in the Reichswehr.

Promoted to Oberstleutnant in 1937, Ramcke transferred to the 7th Flieger Division, joined the Fallschirmtruppe and was awarded the parachute badge in 1940 at the young age of 51.

At 1800 on May 21st, 1940, the second day of Fall Merkur (Operation Mercury), the epic Crete invasion, Ramcke and 500 Fallschirmjäger dropped east of Maleme airfield. He took command of the Luftlande-Sturmregiment after General Meindl was seriously wounded.

After the invasion of Crete, Ramcke was promoted to Generalmajor and awarded the Ritterkreuz. In early Summer 1942, Ramcke received orders to form a Parachute Brigade for Africa, known as Fallschirm-Brigade Ramcke.

Fallschirm-Brigade Ramcke arrived at the El Alamein line just prior to the British offensive of October 1942, which successfully broke the Axis line. Forced to retreat on foot, due to the lack of transport, Ramcke's men intercepted and captured a British truck column to drive back to German-held territory. As far as the German command was concerned, the Fallschirm-Brigade Ramcke was destroyed at the El Alamein line, so it was quite a surprise when Ramcke reported the arrival of his unit to Rommel at the next line.

Returning to Germany before the surrender in Africa, he was given command of 2. Fallschirmjägerdivision, being raised in Brittany, France from remnants of his Brigade and eastern front veterans. In November 1942, he became the 145th recipient of the Oakleaves to the Ritterkreuz.

With the Allied invasion of Sicily and the Italian surrender to the Allies, 2. Fallschirmjägerdivision restored order in Rome. During its stay in Italy, the division conducted three airborne operations. On September 9th, II/FJR6 parachuted onto Monte Rotondo northeast of Rome to capture the Italian general staff. On September 12th, I/FJR7 landed in gliders on Gran Sasso to rescue Mussolini. On September 17th, III/FJR7 parachuted onto the island of Elba to capture the Italian garrison stationed there.

2. Fallschirmjägerdivision was transferred to Zhitomir, Russia in November 1943, and suffered heavy casualties. In June 1944, 2. Fallschirmjägerdivision transferred to Brittany, taking heavy casualties in transit, while its Fallschirmjäger-regiment 6 had been in action in Normandy, taking heavy casualties in the Cotentin Peninsula.

In early September, 1944, Ramcke took command of Festung Brest, facing 3 US Armoured Divisions and the French Resistance units. His troops managed to evacuate 40,000 civilians before Festung Brest was completely surrounded. Fighting continued until September 19th, when American forces reached Ramcke's command bunker. General der Fallschirmtruppe Ramcke surrendered Festung Brest on September 19th, the same day he was awarded the Swords (99th Recipient) & Diamonds (20th recipient) to the Ritterkreuz.

As a prisoner of war, Ramcke's only wish in captivity was that his men were fairly treated. On his release, Ramcke returned to Germany and passed away in 1968 in Kappeln. He remains one of the most beloved leaders to his men, who knew him as 'Papa'.

 

Hermann Ramcke

Joining us as a guest for the event is Berhard Ramcke's son, Hermann Ramcke. The oldest of eight Ramcke children, Hermann immigrated to the United States in 1957.

He and his wife have spent 46 years together. They have two sons, Hermann Bernhard 'Bernie' and Carsten, along with three grandchildren. They now share their time between Michigan and Florida.

We are honored to have him as our guest for the event.

Hermann Ramcke at the Kretatag, May 2002, addressing a group of Fallschirmjäger veterans at the Ramcke family gravesite in Schleswig, northern Germany.