A 15-year old with an 88mm Flak Gun, is not your average 15-year-old

A U.S Soldier of the 94th Infantry Division (“Patton’s Golden Nugget”) searches a pair of young Luftwaffe anti-aircraft gunners who surrendered in the leveled Rhineland city of Frankenthal, 23 March 1945– 75 years ago today. If you note, the GI is taking his job seriously, as he has crouched down to make sure he doesn’t miss anything.

Note the Soldier’s tanker boots and M1 Carbine with rifle grenade attachment. Source: National World War II Museum

With most uncrippled men in the Vaterland over the age of 18 sent to the front, the German air force at first recruited then voluntold so-called Luftwaffenhelfer as young as 14 and 15 years old to man anti-aircraft and searchlight batteries during air raids across the Reich from January 1943 onward, with duties doubling into search-and-rescue and fire fighting roles post-raid.

Flakhelfer

By late 1944, it was estimated that as many as a million such youths, both male and female, were serving in part-time auxiliary AAA roles, with some being as young as 11. The typical pay was about 50 pfennigs a day on days they worked.

On a personal note, my great uncle Gustav, then 15/16, met my great aunt Elfriede, then 13/14, while the two worked together as Flakhelfer in the Harz Mountains town of Wernigerode in 1944/45. They later emigrated to Canada together in the 1950s, and two of their sons went on to serve in the Canadian Forces– in West Germany.

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