XIII-B was a large POW camp for officers. OFLAG XIII-B
first occupants were Serbian
officers. In January 1945, after the Battle of the Bulge, the camp was hastily
split into two compounds. One for Serbian officers and the other for the
The camp was established
inside Camp Hammelburg. The accommodation for the POWs was in solid stone
buildings. There were an estimated 3,000 Serbians and 1,500
Americans. There was another large camp called STALAG
XIII-C. It housed NCOs and enlisted men. It consisted of three compounds, one for
British and Commonwealth soldiers, one for American soldiers and one for
Soviet soldiers. The camp was established near Camp Hammelburg, at the
road leading to the Military Training area. The POWs were housed in wooden barracks.
numbers are estimated with about 10,000
men, a large number of them worked in so called Working Parties in
Army continued their westward advance toward Germany in the winter of
1944, the POW camp OFLAG
64 in Shubin
was evacuated on 21 January 1945. In the cold winter, 1,290 American POWs
were marched into the German Reich, their destination Camp Hammelburg. Among
them was John K. Waters, husband of Beatrice Patton - General Patton’s
Goode, was the Senior American Officer of the camp.
He wrote a list
of men in camp for the International Red Cross, which helped U.S.
Intelligence to keep track
where the officers were. Traveling 340 miles - mostly by foot -
seven weeks, the men finally arrived by train at Camp Hammelburg on 9
POWs from Shubin arrived at OFLAG XIII-B, the number of Americans in the camp
increased to over 1,500. The conditions in the camp were miserable for the prisoners.
Abraham J. Baum (photo taken in 1948)
the evening of 26 March 1945, Task Force Baum waited behind a hill in the
bridgehead east of the Main and south of Aschaffenburg. Two companies of
tanks and infantry tried to punch a hole in the German frontline at Schweinheim. The attack was scheduled for 30 minutes, but they encountered heavy resistance and lost two tanks. It took
hours until Baum's task force could move out in the early morning hours
and finally break through the German
lines. The task force made good
time along the Reichsstraße 26 through the
Spessart Forest. They passed
through the town of Lohr and later
destroyed German trains. Baum didn´t know, that
the area was the assembly area for a German
08:00 hours , the column
Gemünde (Main). The German troops were
surprised by the arrival of the Americans. The town was bombed a day
before and had no telephone comunication, so no warnings were received.
no warning, a company of German combat engineers gave heavy resistance. A
bridge was blown and Task
Force Baum lost three tanks and a platoon of infantry, which was
captured by the Germans.
Force Baum ran in heavy resistance at Gemünden
Task Force Baum pulled out and had to find an
alternative route to bypass the town. Captain Baum radioed for air
support. They went north along the Sinn River and found another bridge at Burgsinn. They picked some Germans to guide
them towards Hammelburg. Afterwards they liberated some 200 Russian POWs. About
14:00 hours, they reached again
the Reichsstrasse, leading towards Hammelburg. The task force was now over
six hours behind schedule. Between Gräfendorf
und Weickersgrübern the column was detected by a German spotter
plane. The pilot reported the strength and position of Task Force
Baum, which enabled the Germans to organize countermeasures.
tank on Reichsstrasse 27 - moving towards Hammelburg
Hammelburg, Task Force Baum ran into a German ambush. The German
had directed HETZER tankdestoyers to Hammelburg,
where they awaited the
American tanks. In
the battle that followed in the Saale Valley, Captain Baum lost four
three Jeeps. Under fire cover of the Sherman
tanks, the rest of the task force went on to reach Camp Hammelburg on the hill.
By 16:00 hours, Task Force Baum
arrived at the hill and stopped at a distance to the camp. Some of the German guards
put up resistance. The
Serbian compound received fire from the Americans, because the Serbian
officers, in their grey
uniforms, were mistaken as Germans. LtCol Waters and three men, including
a German officer, volunteered to exit the camp, to notify the Americans of
the mistake. While approaching the American column, a German soldier shot
Waters in the abdomen, because he thought they would surrender the camp.
Waters was taken back into the camp
hospital and treated for his wounds by
a Serbian doctor.
tank crash the fence of OFLAG XIII-B (14th US Armd Div)
loosing 30 % of men and vehicles, Task Force Baum had reached its destination. The liberated POWs came
cheering out of the camp and greeted their liberators. Captain Baum quickly
realized that the camp contained far more than 300 men, as planned for. He discussed the situation with Colonel
Goode and told him that he could not take all the prisoners back. The
others could make their own choice to walk back, or to stay until the
final liberation would come.
a long rest, Task Force Baum left the
camp at 20:00 hours. Meanwhile the Germans had encircled the
area. Task Force Baum to
the southwest, and after a few kilometers ran into a German roadblock.
they moved to the north, to discover another German roadblock. The
only way left now was a route to the west.
Baum didn’t realize that the area they were passing through was a German
Hessdorf, they reached the Reichsstrasse and turned to the north, hoping to
reach the 4th US Armored Division again. In the next village - Hoellrich,
Task Force Baum ran into an German ambush. The first tank was hit by a
the Germans moved the disabled tank into a garden and
used it against the other following American tanks. Three other American Sherman
tanks were destroyed.
rest of the Task Force Baum regrouped again, after pulling back to a
clearing near Hill 427 in the
early morning hours. Captain Baum didn't know that on top of this hill
was an German observer post, which had reported Baum's moves the whole
of the halftracks were abandoned, to have enough fuel for the remaining
With just enough fuel to make it back to the American
lines, Captain Baum waited for daylight to travel with visibility.
Captain Baum spoke with Colonel Goode, that the way back
would be a fight,
and too many of the POWs would be killed.
Goode realized the situation and told his men that they would be unable to reach
the American lines on their own. He advised
them that most of the walking
wounded should head back to camp. Colonel Goode himself decided
not to slow the task force and so began the march back under a flag of
427 - Reussenberg
gave the order to move out shortly after dawn on 28 March 1945. Just
as the column started out, it immediately
received fire from all
directions. During the night, the Germans
had moved more troops into the
Hammelburg area while the task force was resting.
In the morning,
Hauptmann Walter Eggemann resumed command of the counter attack.
About 09:00 hours, they opened
fire with tank destroyers and mortars on first sign of mobilization by
the Americans. Knowing there was no way to
escape, Captain Baum ordered every man for himself. The fight lasted
minutes before the survivors, who hadn’t escaped into the woods, were
lined up as fresh POWs.
Baum escaped but was soon captured by the Germans. He was shot
in the leg after trying to continue fighting. He joined LtCol Waters
in the Camp hospital. There they waited after the camp
was liberated by the 14th US Armored
Division on 5 April 1945 - just 10 days after the failed
liberation by Task Force Baum. Ironically, the failed mission and the
injury made sure that John K. Waters was liberated sooner. Otherwise he would have been
marched off to another camp further into Germany with the rest of the
being back to the 4th US Armored Division, Captain Baum
received the Distinguished Service Cross on 10 April 1945.
The mission was a total
failure. Of the 314 officers and men, 26
were killed during the raid. Only a few made it back to the American lines,
the rest was taken prisoners by the Germans. The force's 57 vehicles
were all destroyed or captured by the
Germans. General Patton
stated later that he didn't know for sure, that his son-in-law
was in Camp Hammelburg. He said that his goals were to liberated
American POWs and to bluff the Germans about the Third Army's direction
of attack. In
his own war memories General Patton stated later: "I
can say this, that throughout the campaign in Europe I know of no error
I made except that of failing to send a combat command to take
© Copyright Peter Domes - Date of
last change: 2012-07-07