German-Helmets.com  - The Online Reference Guide to World War II German Helmets 1933-1945

    Recollections of German Veterans :  Alfred Novotny - Großdeutschland Division

Photo: A wartime photograph of Fred Novotny.


Interviewed 6 June 2004:

Fred Novotny was drafted into the German Army (Heer) after first serving with the National Labor Service (Reichsarbeitsdienst-RAD).  He saw combat with RAD Battalion 365 during the famous British naval and commando raid at St. Nazaire, France in March 1942.  Fred recalls that his RAD unit was quickly mobilized into combat in response to the raid.  During this battle he was given an old World War I French rifle and what he remembers was a very oversized German helmet.  Fred wore a size 57cm helmet and he believes that he had been given a 61cm helmet by mistake.  Fred recalls that wearing the large helmet felt as though a large steel bucket had been placed on his head.  His overwhelming desire was to have two eye holes cut in the front of the helmet just so that he could see!

When questioned regarding the ability to camouflage steel helmets in the field, Fred recalls that few if any of the men in his company did so.  He remembers that the first time his unit (the elite Panzer-Grendadier Division Großdeutschland) were issued camouflage items came in 1944.  Fred recalls that standard factory produced splinter pattern helmet covers were issued to a large number of men at this time.  Prior to this date no helmet covers were apparently available to Fred's unit.  He also remembers that few helmet covers were manufactured in the field.

Regarding the issuing of helmets, Fred was trained at the famous Großdeutschland training base in Chemnitz, Germany.  He recalls that his senior NCO in charge of his overall group's basic training supervised the issuing of military uniforms including helmets.  During the first week of training, Fred and his training unit were taken to a large supply room within the barracks.  There supply clerks handed out the uniform items under the supervision of the senior NCO.  Fred recalls that the supply clerks took the time to measure each recruit's head using a flexible tape measure.  If the line was moving too slow, the senior NCO would simply make the line move quicker by deciding whether or not a given helmet actually fit or not.  In some cases Fred recalls that recruits were given helmets that were too small and uncomfortable.  Overall Fred recalls that as a recruit a person simply "did as they were told without argument."

During one episode of combat on the Eastern Front, Fred's helmet was hit by a large artillery fragment or shell that pass through the front of his helmet and spiraled around the inside.  When he took his helmet off, the entire rim (or flange) had been blown away.  The only thing that remained on his head was the crown of the helmet that he recalled looked like a cooking pot.  Fred received no injuries as a result of this damage despite the fact that his helmet was totally destroyed.

Fred ended his service time in 1945 when he was captured by Soviet forces.  He spent two and one half years in various Soviet labor camps before being released to his homeland.  Fred was awarded the Iron Cross Second Class, the Infantry Assault Badge, and the Wound Badge in Silver.  Fred ended his service time with the rank of Obergefreiter.

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Read Fred Novotny's Memoirs

by contacting Aberjona Press.

 

 

www.aberjonapress.com

 

 

 

 

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