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German Balkenkreuz

Biography - Wilhelm "Willy" Wagner

by Terry Kelley, with contributions from Willy

Portrait of Wilhelm 'Willy' Wagner
This is a great portrait of Willy.
Portrait of Wilhelm 'Willy' Wagner Portrait of Wilhelm 'Willy' Wagner today (2012)
This is Willy today (2012).

Here is Willy in a photo with his mother in Nuremberg, Germany. He is wearing the Frundsberg cuff title on his left sleeve.

In the background, on the wall, is a white marking that shows how many stories a building is and whether it has a shelter or not. This way if it was bombed out rescuers would know to dig there or not.

Wilhelm 'Willy' Wagner with his mother in Nuremberg
Willy's family Willy's family
Here is Willy and a friend of his at Grafenwoehr, Germany where they trained on the Panther. This is most likely March/April 1944. Willy is on the left and his friend who was later convicted of stealing mail and all of them had to witness him being shot. Wilhelm 'Willy' Wagner with his friend at Grafenwoehr, Germany
Wilhelm 'Willy' Wagner in Normandy on July 20, 1944

Willy remembers this picture very well as it was in Normandy on July 20th, 1944.

Later he had to pull guard duty, which required the helmet, great coat and complete dress. Also he could not sit down, eat or drink while on duty.

Unfortunately for Willy one of his friends had just received a package from home of sausages and wurst. They came and offered him the food, so he began eating. Just then the officer of the day yelled guard! Willy's mouth was full and could not respond, when he did respond the officer accused him of sleeping on duty.

Willy tried to get out of it but couldn't tell him what he was really doing or it would get his friend in trouble too. So Willy had to do SonderKommando: He had to fill up two jerry cans with water and take it down the hill all day long back and forth with two guys escorting him with MP-40s. Willy says it hurt like hell, but he knew his two friends wouldn't shoot him.

Wilhelm Wagner, 18, of the 10th SS Panzer Division, in combat dress. Willy was a Panther tank driver and senior mechanic. He had the Panzerwart im Gold and the Iron Cross 2nd Class as his tank destroyed more than 10 enemy tanks. Wilhelm 'Willy' Wagner in his combat uniform
Wilhelm 'Willy' Wagner with his friends. He has 'X' above him. Wilhelm Wagner's, of the 10th SS Panzer Division, friends. Willy has the X above him. They are in Normandy or Malais-de-Camp, France.
Here is Willy with his girlfriend in Nuremberg. Horst (Willy's brother, pictured below) had sent Willy a Great Coat and Officers cap from the front. Willy went to his basic training in Erlangen some 15 to 20 km away from his house in 1943. Willy had stashed a bicycle at the train station near his Kaserne and when he had a chance he would throw the great coat over the fence at night, bicycle to his girlfriends house and shack up with her for the night. He said he was always late getting back to jump the fence, so he would put on the greatcoat and the officers cap and walk through the front gate. The guard would salute him and he would salute back. Willy always said he was always more afraid of being shot by his own than the enemy. Willy's girlfriend
Willy's brother Horst Wagner Willy's brother Unterscharfuehrer Horst Wagner was in the 5th SS Panzer Division and fought exclusively on the Eastern Front. He was a Waffenmeister or Weapons Master, but only know a little about him.
Willy's father, Fahnenjunker Joseph "Sepp" Wagner posing at the bottom of the trench (center) most likely in Russia after the Russian's defeat (World War I). He is at the Artillery Observation Post (2 3bayr beobachtung). Willy's father in World War I (center)
Willy's father in World War II (left) Willy's father, Oberst Joseph "Sepp" Wagner, is on the left. The man on the right took Willy to Debiche (?), Poland for StuG III training.
Here's Willy with his father Hauptmann Sepp Wagner where Willy was training to use the StuG III. At this time his unit wasn't designated a Panzer division, but it did become one in April 1943. Willy's father, Sepp Wagner
Captured Shermans used by Frundsberg Division in January 1945

Willy was not in this action during Operation Nordwind in Alsace on January 17, 1945, but these are captured Shermans with the Frundsberg Division.

Willy's experience during this Operation was when they were ferrying his Panther across the Rhine the engine caught fire and all he could think about is this is how he was going to go. Fortunately for him they put the engine fire out and much to their surprise it started when they got to the west bank of the Rhine.

On January 18, 1945, his birthday, he had just repaired his Panther and were taking a test ride when he saw a sign "Kampfgruppe Wagner." He asked if they could check to see if the commander was his father. So they went in that direction and sure enough his father came out of a house and said BiBi (childhood nickname when he was young). He asked where his mother was and she was only 2km away with relatives as their house had been firebombed and it no longer had a roof. His father was building defenses with a pioneer battalion at the time. What Luck they all had.

Willy as a POW.

On May 8th 1945, the last of the Frundsberg Panzers were destroyed between Most and Teplice, Czechoslovakia so they would not fall into Russian hands. As they marched West, they were captured by Czech resistance. Since there were still Waffen SS soldiers' resisting in this unknown town, they were told in a few hours they would be used as human shields. Fortunately a Soviet tank Brigade arrived and the commander wanted to speak to them. He immediately saw Willy and asked him to trade for his leather submarine jacket. Willy said why not and was given a German brown SA jacket, which he threw away quickly. The commander told his group they would be allowed to go home and wrote an order out for them. Then he told them, don't go out tonight as it was the 9th and they were celebrating the defeat of Germany. They left the next day and every time they were stopped, they let them go to Germany. This commander must have been a very high ranking officer to allow this.

When they got to Germany an American jeep stopped and as Willy said "a fat Sergeant" told them they were captives now and in three days, they would be going home. Well that did not happen. The American's soon ridded themselves of the Germans and gave them to the French and then the English for a short time. After 3 years he was finally released by the French, who gave him a certificate of work and would be paid by any bank. This did not happen either, as the banker just laughed at him. He finally made it back to Nuremberg and found out where they were living. When his father met him at the door, he did not even recognize him as he was so skinny.

Willy as a POW
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