This blog entry has been inspired by a tweet by Roger Moorhouse (@Roger_Moorhouse). Today is the birthday of the infamous Josef Dietrich.
“Dietrich was no army commander and should never have been made one” – Hermann Göring to Leon Goldensohn, May 24, 1946
“Ordinarily he would make a fair sergeant-major, a better sergeant and a first-class corporal” – Paul Hausser
A lot has been written on the infamous SS-General, so I will not bother to write something about him here. For everyone interested in the person of Dietrich I recommend reading “HITLER’S GLADIATOR” by Charles Messenger and “SS-Oberst-Gruppenführer und Generaloberst der Waffen-SS Joseph (Sepp) Dietrich.” by William T. Allbritton und Samuel W. Mitcham Jr in Hitlers militärische Elite. Vom Kriegsbeginn bis zum Weltkriegsende. Band 2, Primus Verlag, Darmstadt 1998.
WW1 Panzer Assault Badge.
Down below you will find high-resolution images showing Sepp Dietrichs WW1 military files as stored by the state archive in Munich. The files are quite interesting as they show that Dietrich never served in the 1st Regiment of Uhlans (which we would often claim after WW1) and they hold nothing on the Iron Cross 1st Class which he wore after WW1. That does not mean he did not get the award, he might have received it as late as the 1920s, but it’s certainly worth mentioning. Messenger claims that Dietrich was wounded at the Somme (by shrapnel), but there are no details in the files concerning that wound. He spent three months in Hospital in 1915 and another two in 1915. These spells of hospitalization probably relate to the shrapnel wounds Dietrich received at the front (right upper leg and face). There is no mention to the wound to the face, of which Dietrich claimed that it was inflicted by the lance of a british Lancer, so I suppose he made this story up when he told people about the wound in his face. The only other hospitalization I can find is for “inflammation of the middle ear” in 1914. In his book “Hitlers Gladiator” Messenger also states that he could find no proof that Dietrich had fought on the Italian front and to have been awarded the Austrian Medal of Bravery. His service records clearly note that Dietrich served in Italy from the end of November 1917 to February 1918, although they indeed make no mention of the Austrian medal of bravery.
1911 October-November: conscripted into the Bavarian 4th Field Artillery Regiment. Invalided out after only 1 month of service (after a fall from a horse)
1911-14: worked as bakers errand boy
1914: enlisted in Bavarian 7th Field Artillery Regiment.Transfered to 6th Bavarian Reserve Artillery Regiment,Bavarian 6th Reserve Division (same Division as Hitler) in October. Fought at 1st Ypres.
1915:attended Bavarian artillery School at Sonthofen,NCO training.Returned to Bavarian 7th Artillery Regiment,Bavarian 1st Division fighting at the Somme.
November 1916: transferred to Infantrie-Geschütz-Batterie 10 ,2.Sturmbataillion.Part of 3rd Army.Served in Champagne 1917. Awarded EKII November 1917 while in Italy.
February 1918: joined 13. Bayerische Sturmpanzer-Kampfwagen-Abteilung as a gunner (using captured British Mk IV tanks). Training near Berlin from April 1918 (the gunners arrived in Berlin in April, the rest of the crews in January).
May 1918: his tank detachment deployed to 7th Army,Chemin des Dames sector.
June 1918: saw action in tank attack near Rheims. July 1918:offensive near Soissons: Oct 1918:in tank battle near Cambrai.
In November 1918 he seems to be back with the 7th Bavarian Artillery regiment again.