Walter Koch (Fallschirmjäger)

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For other persons named Walter Koch see Walter Koch (disambiguation).
Walter Koch
A man wearing a military uniform with an Iron Cross displayed at his neck.
Walter Koch
Note that the Knight's Cross at his neck is a photomontage
Born (1910-09-10)10 September 1910
Bonn
Died 23 October 1943(1943-10-23) (aged 33)
Berlin
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch Balkenkreuz.svg Luftwaffe
Years of service 1929–1935 (Police)
1935–1943 (Luftwaffe)
Rank Oberstleutnant
Unit 1. Fallschirmjäger-Division
Commands held Fallschirmjäger-Sturm-Abteilung "Koch"
Battles/wars

World War II

Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Other work Police officer

Walter Koch (10 September 1910 – 23 October 1943) was a highly-decorated commander of the Fallschirmjäger during World War II who died in mysterious circumstances after openly criticising Adolf Hitler.[1] Koch, who was the recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for his actions during the Battle of Fort Eben-Emael in May 1940, had publicly denounced the Führer's infamous Commando Order, which ordered that all captured enemy commandos were to be executed. Shortly afterwards the Oberstleutnant and commander of Fallschirmjäger-Regiment 5 died in Berlin from injuries allegedly resulting from a motor vehicle collision.[1]

Early career[edit]

Walter Koch joined the Landespolizei as an officer in 3 April 1929. As a Leutnant he had served in the state police and a police battalion for special purposes (Polizeiabteilung z.b.V. Wecke). In 1935 the new commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe, Hermann Göring, transferred this police unit into the reformed Luftwaffe and renamed it the Regiment "General Göring".[2][3]

Airborne service[edit]

A wounded Major Walter Koch returning to Germany in June 1941 following his airborne troops successful operations during the Battle of Crete.

Koch was promoted to Hauptmann (Captain) on 20 April 1938. He was then tasked with training a special commando unit dubbed Koch Parachute Assault Battalion (Fallschirmjäger-Sturm-Abteilung "Koch") for operations in the west.

When Fall Gelb began in May 1940, his troops saw action during the opening phase of the Battle of France during assaults on the Belgian fortress Eben-Emael, the Maas river and Albert Canal bridges. Koch's commandos successfully captured Fort Eben-Emael and the bridges in Veldwezelt and Vroenhoeven. Only the bridge at Kanne, which was blown up by the Belgian defenders, was not taken by the German paratroopers. For these successful operations, Walter Koch along with ten other Wehrmacht officers received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes).[2]

By May 1941, Koch was promoted to Major and given the command of the re-designated I Battalion, 1st Parachute Assault Regiment (I./Fallschirmjäger-Sturm-Regiment 1) The battalion was part of the first attacking airborne waves during the Battle of Crete. Koch led the attack using 53 DFS 230 troop-carrying gliders. Their target was the village of Maleme on the western coast of Crete because its small coastal airfield and Hill 107 commanded the approaches to the island's capital. The German troops faced the New Zealanders of 5 Brigade's 22nd Battalion, with other battalions close behind, under the command of Brigadier Edward Puttick. Although Koch was wounded in the head in the battle for Hill 107 on the first day, his airborne troops quickly achieved their targets.[2]

Koch was promoted to Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel) on 20 April 1942. He and the 5th Parachute Regiment (Fallschirmjäger-Regiment 5) were transferred to Tunisia in mid November 1942.

Opposition to the Commando Order[edit]

In his regiment's first African engagement two weeks later, Koch's troops encountered the British 2nd Parachute Battalion under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel John Dutton Frost at Depienne Airfield 53 km southwest of Tunis. Frost had left a number of injured men under the protection of a single platoon behind at the airfield while he and his forces went on to other targets. On their discovery, the British paratroopers were quickly captured by Koch's troops and made prisoners of war (POW). The German commander then ordered his medics to treat the wounded. Before leaving, he ensured that the prisoners were given food and water, and even cigarettes, before handing them over to other Axis ground forces.

However Koch and the commander of the I Battalion, 5th Parachute Regiment Hauptmann Hans Jungwirth returned just in time to stop the machine gunning of the captured British soldiers. After a heated debate with another German officer about the Commando Order, Koch managed to obtain adequate treatment for the allies prisoners who were instead transferred to a POW camp.[2][4][Note 1]

Death[edit]

Shortly after stopping the killing of POWs in North Africa, Koch was wounded in the head. The highly-experienced combat leader was sent back to Germany to recover from his wounds; while there he was placed in the Führerreserve.[3] While convalescing he was involved in car accident, he died in a Berlin Hospital from these injuries in October 1943.[2] However many in his regiment believed that this was no accident and he had been most likely killed by the SS-Reichssicherheitshauptamt because of his outspoken criticism of the Commando Order.[1]

Awards[edit]

Reference in the Wehrmachtbericht[edit]

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
Monday, 9 June 1941 In den Kämpfen um Kreta zeichneten sich die unter Führung von Major Koch, Hauptmann Altmann und Oberleutnant Genz stehenden Fallschirmverbände durch Kühnheit und Heldenmut aus.[10] In the battles in Crete parachute units under the leadership of Major Koch, Hauptmann Altmann and Oberleutnant Genz distinguished themselves through boldness and heroic courage.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Hans Jungwirth was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 9 May 1945 as Major commander of Fallschirm-Aufklärungs-Abteilung 12.[5]
  2. ^ According to Scherzer as commander of Luftlande-Sturm-Abteilung "Koch".[9]

References[edit]

Citations
  1. ^ a b c Quarrie, Bruce (1983). German Airborne Troops 1939–45. Osprey Publishing. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-85045-480-2. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Kurowski 1995, p. 117.
  3. ^ a b Quarrie 2005, p. 13.
  4. ^ Quarrie 2005, pp. 11–12.
  5. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 247.
  6. ^ a b Thomas and Wegmann 1986, p. 139.
  7. ^ Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 240.
  8. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 264.
  9. ^ Scherzer 2007, p. 456.
  10. ^ Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, p. 555.
Bibliography
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 – Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtsteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6. 
  • Kurowski, Franz (1995). Knights of the Wehrmacht Knight's Cross Holders of the Fallschirmjäger. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military. ISBN 978-0-88740-749-9. 
  • Patzwall, Klaus D.; Scherzer, Veit (2001). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 – 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II [The German Cross 1941 – 1945 History and Recipients Volume 2] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-45-8. 
  • Quarrie, Bruce (2005). German Airborne Divisions: Mediterranean Theatre 1942–45. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-828-1. 
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2. 
  • Thomas, Franz; Wegmann, Günter (1986). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Deutschen Wehrmacht 1939–1945 Teil II: Fallschirmjäger [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the German Wehrmacht 1939–1945 Part II: Paratroopers] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-1461-8. 
  • Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, 1. September 1939 bis 31. Dezember 1941 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 1, 1 September 1939 to 31 December 1941] (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2. 

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
none
Commander of Luftlande-Sturm-Regiment 1
2 November 1939 – 31 August 1940
Succeeded by
Generalmajor Eugen Meindl