France Fights On (English Translation) - Thread III - The lost files

Exotic interludes
With the summer of 1941 now too far advanced, Hitler finally had to decide to push Barbarossa back for a year. And so here is the Wehrmacht forced to wait until the following spring for its next decisive offensive, which will win the war! During this transitional period, the Brandenburg will try to reconstitute its forces while exercising its talents in secondary operations from which Berlin nevertheless hoped for great things.
The Iraq affair and the mirages of the Orient
Operation Ostmond, i.e. the German intervention for the benefit of the Rashid Ali regime, very indecisive and strictly disastrous for those who contributed to it, is paradoxically the best known of all the actions of the z.b.V. 800 – basically for the exotic mess impression it leaves. However, it was not the first time that Brandenburg had landed in Islamic land – even if, among the many subjects that did not fascinate the Nazi hierarchy, we can undoubtedly rank the Arab-Muslim world. Indeed, an exception that confirms the rule, the Abwehr was very interested in the vast allied colonial empires ranging from Morocco to India, in an attempt to set up destabilization enterprises there.
One country, in particular, had long been in the crosshairs of the men of Canaris, although it was not strictly speaking part of the British Empire: Afghanistan, as much for its warlike tradition as for its proven sympathy towards Germany (notably that of King Mohammed Zaher Shah). In addition, the Kingdom was bordering India, which was far more strategic. In 1939, an Afghan diplomatic mission had already visited Berlin to discuss the problems caused by the leprosy that was ravaging the country. In 1941, the Reich decided to send a scientific expedition, led by Herr Doktor Manfred Oberdörffer (a specialist in tropical diseases), assisted by Herr Doktor Fred Hermann Brandt (a famous entomologist and botanist). Of course, these medical luminaries were to be taken over by the Abwehr... Thus began Operation Tiger – a generic code name that would eventually be found in just about every anti-British operation in the region, and which eventually even by designating the Indian formation of the Wehrmacht!
On May 22, 1941, doctors Oberdörffer and Brandt therefore entered the Brandenburg-sur-Havel camp to receive accelerated training of the “Brandenburg” type before going to Afghanistan via the USSR, which the postponement of Barbarossa owed considerably facilitate ! While their official goal was of course to study Lazarus disease, their real objective was to contact Mirza Ali Khan, self-proclaimed leader of Waziristan in exile, in order to convince him – and the Pashtuns of the region with him – to resume the fight. against the British occupier *. And to respect local custom, the Germans did not come empty-handed: they brought two tons of “medical equipment”, which turned out to be in reality small arms, ammunition and even a 2 cm Flak cannon!
Once in Kabul, the two men joined Oberleutnant Dietrich Wiezel – a veteran Brandenburger from the Benelux, who had arrived as a scout in April and had transformed the German legation into a real center of operations. The latter made them leave the capital on July 15 with an escort to the Indian border. Oberdörffer and Brandt then penetrated about thirty kilometers inside the Raj, engaging in insignificant acts of sabotage, the most notable of which was the destruction of an English radio relay. But Mirza Ali Khan, the Fakir of Ipi (his native village) could not be found… And during this time, one of Wiezel's government contacts in Kabul had spilled the beans to King Zaher Shah. The latter, unwilling to poison already strained neighborhood relations with Bombay (the outbreak, at the same time, of the Iran affair, showed that the teeth of the British lion were long and solid), then launched his army in pursuit of the two Germans! The group fell into an ambush, its guides having probably been bribed – Oberdörffer was killed and Brandt, wounded, was repatriated to Germany… where he continued his career in Brandenburg!


Exotic... the fakir of Ippi whom the Brandenburgers will not be able to meet in Afghanistan:

However, this disappointment did not discourage Oberleutnant Wiezel. Continuing to play on the ambiguity of a kingdom which refused to support the Axis, but also to break its relations with it, the Brandenburger continued his actions of subversion, even crossing the border with the USSR in May 1942 to try to raise Uzbekistan! Having received the reinforcement of some Indian volunteers recruited among the Allied prisoners of war engaged in the Tiger Legion and then trained at Gut Quenzsee, he then regularly attacked the Allied lines of communication in the region until September 1943, when the deterioration of the situation compelled him to join the Heimat.

* Between 1936 and 1939, following the "interference" of the British colonial justice in a case of kidnapping and forced marriage internal to his clan, Ali Khan had raised the whole province, forcing Bombay to send 60,000 men to restore the 'order. In 1941, the situation had barely calmed down…
The Iraq affair was obviously of a completely different magnitude. Many things have been written about the “Lune d’Orient Plan” and it would be pointless to claim to summarize them in a few lines. Let us simply specify that, in the mad hope of seeing the Arab population rise up against the Franco-British occupier, the Reich embarked on an operation intended to destabilize the very unpopular regime of the regent Abdelilah ben Ali el-Hashemi, culminating on April 1 1941 with the coup d'etat of the colonels of the “Golden Square” – one of the greatest successes of Ambassador Fritz Grobba, posted in the region.
From then on, and even prior to the triggering of this coup that Germany had favored well in advance, the question arose of the effective support that Berlin was going to be able to provide to the new government led by Rachid Ali al-Gillani. With no doubt the certainty that this "campaign of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs" could lead to nothing, but also with the hope of regaining the favor of Hitler (who remained obsessed with the idea of a diversion which would ensure that not stagger Barbarossa again), so Canaris ordered the Brandenburg to make a purely sacrificial gesture – but just as Göring ordered the Luftwaffe and Mussolini the Regia Aeronautica.
Lune d’Orient was already off to a bad start – but once inadvertently blown on March 5, following the capture of four Brandenburgers in transit in Lebanon, it could only fail. Two companies of light infantry, a company of paratroopers and a company of Brandenburgers (mainly Germans from Palestine) were thus thrown onto the plateau of the oasis of Deir Hassem, like pure lost children. The Brandenburgers then had the task of framing – with increasing difficulty – the demotivated, under-equipped and notoriously unreliable forces of the four divisions of the Iraqi army, thrown into a pre-determined fight against the Franco-French reaction force. dispatched to restore order and lift the siege of Habbaniyah. The Deutsches Orient Korps supposed to take them up would of course remain a complete chimera*.
While striving to keep their allies in line, the Germans chained exploits without a future. Capture of a river convoy on the Tigris, fierce resistance in the outskirts of Kut with a troop of Bedouins, “armored” counter-attack in Fallujah (with some Italian CV-33 armored cars and tankettes, bought before the war by Iraq ) sowing temporary trouble in the British ranks… But each stroke of brilliance was followed by much heavier failures. Despite their attempts to flee to Turkey, less than twenty of the Brandenburgers sacrificed in Iraq would see their country again before the end of the war.
Let us conclude the pan-Arab whims of the Abwehr with a less significant episode, but all the same a little more glorious: Operation Salaam. The latter consisted of the infiltration into Cairo of two agents, Johannes Eppler ** and Gerd Sandstede, to gather intelligence on troops in transit to Italy and Greece. Eppler and Sandstede landed on April 29, 1942 at the port of Yanby (south of Medina, in Saudi territory), escorted by a dozen men, including some Brandenburgers commanded by the famous Hauptmann-Count Lázló Ede Almásy of Zsadány and Törökszentmiklós. Almásy, a former pilot of the Austro-Hungarian aviation, was also a renowned automobile raid pilot and a great familiar with the desert, having been part of an archaeological expedition that sought the lost White City of Zerzura ***! This adventurous profile, to say the least, was the ideal cover for this caravan made up of three Ford C11 ADFs and three Ford CMP F8s (but armed with MG 15s). the Sonder Kommando Almasy. The latter quickly gave up getting lost in the desert in search of forgotten cities, and instead went up along the coast of the Red Sea to Palestine, to cross the Sinai before finally reaching Egypt thanks to a network previously established supply depots! Despite a week-long delay due to a detour due to stagnant water, the group was finally due to reach Suez on May 23.
The caravan then turned around, leaving the two agents to set up a network in Egypt that we will not hesitate to describe as exotic. Its members included belly dancer Hekmat Fahmi (a darling of many British officers attending the Kit-Kat Club), various members of the government administration in Cairo, and several Egyptian army officers undeterred by their anti-British activities after the war. operation Ramses Mummy. The network will however be dismantled on October 1, 1942, all of its members being arrested and imprisoned. Epple and Sandstede will prefer to talk to avoid the firing squad. As for Count Almásy, who had meanwhile returned to Germany, he received the Iron Cross 1st class for his brilliant expedition.


The Almasy column before its departure:


Count Almasy, finding his bearings in the desert with a compass:

* This formation would have been (theoretically) composed of Sonderverbands 287 (Arab volunteers) and 288 (a regiment commanded by the Oberst Menton and composed of various personnel: Germans from Palestine, deserters from the French colonial army, former legionnaires, GebirgsJaegers from the 1. GJ, Brandenburgers and even some sailors familiar with the region). Of course, neither of these two formations – whose means of transport to Iraq remained to be specified anyway – was operational in April 1941… Despite a vague plan by Deutsche-Arabische Lehr Abteilung supposed, , to attack the Middle East through the Caucasus once the USSR was swept away, the two units were dispersed in July 1941. They formed the core of the 101. Leichte-InfanterieDivision, part of which was then reassigned to the Brandenburg regiment to make up for the losses of the summer of 1943.
** From an Egyptian father, he was a great lover of the epic of Laurence of Arabia.
*** His life later inspired the film The English Patient.
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Hit Fighting France: yes, but how?
But back to closer shores. Among the succession of annoyances which will persist in accumulating in the Mediterranean for the Axis between 1940 and 1943, there is a major one, more irritating than the others: France, defeated, crushed even at home, but which nevertheless persists again and again taunting the Nazi regime over the sea. On the express instruction of Admiral Canaris – who was increasingly worried about the influence that the Sicherheitsdienst SS was gaining at his expense, notably following the fiasco of Baghdad – the Brandenburgers received the order in October 1941 to unite all their commandos from East Africa, South West Africa and Palestine into a single ad-hoc company, the 13. Tropen-Kompanie. This one is in the wake sent to Catania, in Sicily. For the Abwehr, it seems obvious that the desert and the long desolate shores of Africa lend themselves admirably to the tricks and the little war of the Brandenburgers. With the help of a few light vessels, or even submersibles, it should therefore be possible to maintain a form of insecurity on the coasts of the AFN at little cost, maintaining the “diversion” dear to the Führer, while demoralizing these damned French…
After a short period of training and information, the 1. HalßKompanie of Oberleutnant Friedrich von Kœnen – a son of a settler from South West Africa – is finally ready. However, it is not she who takes action. On November 31, 1941, due to the lack of the initially planned Dornier 24 seaplane (which was shot down during a reconnaissance by French fighters on patrol!), a group of seven men taken from the strength of the 5. Kompanie and under the orders from Leutnant Joseph Kiefer embarked from Genoa in U-331 bound for Chenoua Bay, to blow up the Algiers-Blida-Oran line – this was Operation Hai. The latter takes place according to plan… until the commando, on its way to the re-embarkation point, is captured by the French. These, understanding by examining the equipment of the commandos what their target was - there is not much else to aim for in the sector ... - have plenty of time to spot and then defuse the charges. Indeed, these were scheduled to jump after 12 hours, when the group was supposed to have already left Algeria. Worse, no doubt: this failure puts the security services on alert, which will then multiply air or land patrols on the coast as well as static guards on the installations deemed the most strategic.
Informed, the new 13. Tropen-Kompanie prefers to postpone its projects in Algeria. However, the Brandenburg hasn't given up on hitting France - it's just made more cautious by circumstances.
The 1. HalßKompanie (Kœnen) therefore decides for the moment to target less risky sectors than Algeria – if only with regard to the means of accessing them. Indeed, the Brandenburgers are not spies: they are supposed to return to the base once their task is completed. And in view of the difficulties of the Kriegsmarine in the Mediterranean, which will only get worse, and the limited confidence that the Germans have in the Regia Marina, Oberleutnant von Kœnen finally decides to favor the land route to maritime integration.
However, to act in this way, one can hardly pass through Morocco. Indeed, the French protectorate is bordered to the north and south by two Spanish colonies – and while Spain is a little less friendly than before, it remains as understanding as ever. The Brandenburgers can therefore try to take advantage of the vast desert expanses to infiltrate from the Spanish Sahara. The French forces cannot be everywhere… But you still have to have the means to match your ambitions! More or less complex projects are set up, involving a landing in Laâyoune (in Western Sahara), after a possible stopover in the Canary Islands. Equipped with three or four capture vehicles – including an armored SAV-41 captured in Greece! – the Brandenburgers are supposed to go north to carry out a daring raid on the arsenal of Agadir. The operation was finally postponed and then canceled, both to take account of the extreme Spanish reservations and the execrable state of the local infrastructure – not to mention the risks. Eventually, von Kœnen's teams would have to content themselves with patrolling the desert at night on their capture vehicles, along the southern border or from Tangier * Morocco, which seemed more affordable than Algeria, turns out to be a mirage…
However, in January 1942, the Brandenburgers present in Western Sahara were relieved by their colleagues in the Sonderkommando Winner (or Arabische Sicherungs-Verband z.b.V.). This unit mounted on dromedaries is led by Leutnant Franz Wimmer-Lamquet – an Arabist officer raised in East Africa, survivor of the Iraq affair – and forms a commando well suited to the environment, as it is essentially composed of Mauritanian and Tuareg volunteers, supervised by former legionnaires of German origin. Its two squadrons of camels will carry out numerous intelligence raids, and even some attacks on isolated French installations, even on convoys circulating between Morocco and the AEF. Then, faced with the ineffectiveness of their mosquito bites, they disguised themselves in French uniforms to massacre civilians in order to stir up the more or less constantly simmering revolt against the colonizer… Wimmer-Lamquet was finally repatriated with his Germans in March 1943 , when Spain finally decides to move away from the Axis – but its camel riders will continue their own fight against the French for a long time.


Von Koenen, the looter of Africa:
More productive is the action of Konrad von Leipzig and his 2. HalßKompanie. Also born in South West Africa, Leipzig is a career officer. He should have been demobilized after a very serious injury received in Albania, which cost him a leg. However, refusing to be sidelined, the man has become one of the most charismatic executives of the 13. Tropen-Kompanie. He quickly understands that the AFN is too closely watched to do anything useful there – on the other hand, he plans to use the great void of the former Italian colony in Libya, which is very poorly supervised and shared rather vaguely between France and United Kingdom. Leipzig therefore proposes to target the French, then the English and to disturb the peace reigning in Egypt, by carrying out raids as far as the Nile through the desert. A particularly ambitious project… But Leipzig is cheeky, and does not hesitate to ask for the assistance of the Italians. It brings together around twenty men who all speak French, English or Arabic and disembarks them discreetly from an Italian submarine on January 22, 1942 south-east of Misrata, almost at the junction of the Allied occupation zones. – which are supposed to be guarded only by third-rate units. Going back to Tripoli in two stolen vehicles and in French uniforms, they are however hung around Al-Khums by a squadron on dromedaries – because if the garrisons present in the cities are indeed mediocre, the camel riders who patrol the desert expanses are not. no way!


Von Leipzig, the maimed who did not want to give up:


Brandenburger in the desert on a DIY Steyr 1500. OTL, they went to the Nile!

The commando then withdrew towards the coast, where it was recovered on the 29th. And Konrad von Leipzig indicated in his report that “Any action on the Libyan coast seems doomed to failure without committing large military resources, impossible to provide in the absence of a port or naval transport greater than what a submarine can offer. Despite the existence of many potential targets, our resources are still too weak to be able to act in this area. »
The veteran is not discouraged – after all, his group still wandered seven days in Allied territory without being destroyed! And from the beginning of November 1942 – when the war in the East was in full swing – he directed his action towards Sicily, on the verge of falling into the hands of the Allies. This island with steep coasts and relatively poorly controlled becomes one of the favorite playgrounds of the Brandenburgers, who benefit from the complicity of fascist sympathizers. Leipzig creates a commando unit on Sturmboots, called Küstenjäger-Abteilung (battalion of coastal hunters), which harasses the Allied rear lines from Reggio di Calabria, and multiplies the blows against depots or patrols close to the coast. The most important operation - led by Kœnen in person, returned from Morocco and in American uniform - was the destruction of an ammunition depot south of Messina, on November 15, 1942. The US Army in turn suffered the blows of the Brandenburg dagger “with the red scorpion” … and the commando withdrew without loss, re-embarking as planned after several nights of marching to the rendezvous point.
However, in the Italy of 1942, not all contacts are necessarily reliable: a group intended to sabotage a railway work north of Taormina after an insertion in gliders was thus captured on November 25, 1942 by a British patrol arriving on the scene just after landing, and "completely by chance"... But on the 27th, it was the turn of the Brandenburgers to take prisoner British commandos disembarked from a submarine, on information - then from a second, two days later deceived by messages sent by the Germans using the captured radio station!
But these meritorious efforts further and further away from France would not change the fate of arms: at the end of December 1942, Italy rocked and the Axis definitively lost control of the Mediterranean, which put an end to the activities of the Brandenburgers on this theatre.
Thus, it is more than doubtful that Germany participated in any way in the attack on Customs in Oran. And even if, according to certain historians, it is doing too much honor to the NEF to attribute to it all the paternity of this affair, the fact remains that no archive has revealed to date the slightest clue in this sense. In truth, the latter are even formal: on January 7, 1943, the last Brandenburgers left the region for good **.
Admittedly, an Arabische Fallschirmjäger-Einheit of about twenty men commanded by the Hauptmann Wolf was well constituted on February 5, 1943 - but these Arab volunteers will remain in Germany, serving little more than guard of honor to the Grand Mufti before to be absorbed by the 5. Kompanie… and to go and fight far from the Mediterranean, on a front where Brandenburg would find itself facing its Destiny.


Paratroopers of the Arabisches FJE for the review:

* Kœnen will for a time consider making contact with veterans of the Rif War, but vigorous Spanish opposition will kill this project in the bud.
** Konrad von Leipzig would finally commit suicide on January 5, 1945 – not because of the German defeat, but because of unbearable pain from his amputated leg (phantom limb syndrome).
The Eastern Front – the grinder
Apart from operations around the Mediterranean, the winter of 1941-1942 was a waiting period for Brandenburg. Taught by the Pyrrhic victory of Merkur, he did not participate in the Limnos disaster and even less in the defense of the Peloponnese alongside the Italians. The Reich buys time for Barbarossa – and the regiment, certain of its future triumph, does the same. The losses in the Balkans have only just been reabsorbed anyway... so wasting more men is out of the question. The unit nevertheless took advantage of this delay to expand in order to align in the spring of 1942 four companies per battalion – this was not the case in 1941 – although at the cost of integrating a few recruits who were unexpected, to say the least. downright dubious from the racial point of view (crucial, as we know, for the recruitment of the Wehrmacht).
These include Ukrainians from the OUN of Stepan Bandera, the largest of which would form the Nachtigall and Roland battalions. Officially created on March 19, 1941 – while their comrades were preparing to invade the USSR – these two formations finally had plenty of time to receive Brandenburg training at the Neuhammer camp, under the orders of Oberleutnant Herzner, the one who took tunnels even before war was declared. The Ukrainians were under the authority of two leaders – as is often the case with troops of foreign origin. The political leader was their compatriot Roman Shukhevych – who himself had as his “adviser” a well-known pan-Slavic academic, Theodor Oberländer. As for the operational leader, it was Major Yevhen Pobiguschiy, a former veteran of the Polish army in Galicia who had rallied to the Germans. And in fact, the recruits received almost more political education than military practice – Richard Yary, Stepan Bandera's deputy, personally saw to it. On the other hand, the equipment turned out to be more fanciful: Czechoslovakian uniforms, Austrian helmets and armbands Im Dienst der deutschen Wehrmacht (the same as for the future Hiwis!).
If we add to the 400 Ukrainians the 35 Georgians of the Tamara battalion as well as the fifty or so Estonian volunteers in exile from the Erna reconnaissance group (Erna luuregrupp – in-depth reconnaissance in Estonian), and it will be understood that Brandenburg thus had a pool of potential volunteers as original as they are varied...
The purpose of these lines is obviously not to describe in detail the uncertain future of these small "foreign" units, which will weigh very little on the Eastern Front - essentially for lack of a policy consistent with their objectives. . Let us therefore only remember that about twenty men joined the ranks of the Brandenburg – for the most part Galicians vaguely Volksdeutsches according to the Reich and quite enough German for the Abwehr.
On the morning of May 17, 1942, the regiment therefore lined up three four-company battalions for Barbarossa – it was more ready than ever for the fight that awaited it. The Brandenburgers are among the first to cross the border – and even a few hours before the “official” start of the conflict, of course. Divided into the three Heer Army Groups attacking the Soviet Union, they were dropped by air near their targets, or crossed the demarcation line on foot, disguised as NKVD guards. As usual, their objectives are essentially the waypoints and strategic sectors essential to the progress of the panzers but likely to be destroyed or at least defended by the Red Army. An immense task, the main chapters of which will be described.


Brandenburgers disguising themselves as Soviet soldiers:


Preparation for the assault - we spot the targets with models:
I. Battalion (Army Group South): disappointments and mistakes
In this sector considered less strategic than Belarus, the Heer deployed a limited number of troops. It must therefore rely on the army of its main ally on this front: Romania, whose geographical position and claims partly shape the start of the campaign. However, although part of the conflict, Romania will not launch its offensive until May 27 - as much for purposes of diversion as preparation. For ten days, the HG Süd will therefore have to progress with the sole help of the Hungarian army and the Slovaks, along an axis bordered by the Carpathians to the south and by the Prypiat marshes to the north. The Soviet defense is obviously facilitated: the main thrust can only target L'vov, the real lock of the sector. To facilitate progress towards it, Brandenburg has therefore put the means. Under the orders of Major Friedrich-Wilheim Heinz, the entire I. Battalion (except the paratrooper section of the 4. Kompanie, stationed in Suwalski) is regrouped in Zakopane. Men have long trained in the Tatra Mountains. Their breakdown is as follows:

1. Kompanie: Army Group reserve;
2. Kompanie and 4. Kompanie (excluding paras): XLIX. Gebirgs-ArmeeKorps (17. Armee);
3. Company: III. Panzer Corps (Panzer Group 1).

Benefiting from the momentum of the offensive – if not the surprise – as well as a certain caution from the Soviets (whose troops had withdrawn at the last moment 30 kilometers back), the Brandenburgers recorded their first successes during the Battle of borders. Under the orders of Oberleutnant Werner John, a section of the 3. Kompanie seized the bridges over the Bug located in the Oustylouh sector. The 2. Kompanie of Hauptmann Wolf-Justin Hartmann does the same with the railway structure on the San in Butsiv. But these border actions are only a few things that the Fallschirmjäger Zug of Leutnant Lükte will try to achieve three days later, a little further north and during Operation Bogdanov.
Parachuted 140 km behind the Russian lines by three Junkers 52 flying at night at 60 meters altitude, its 35 men attacked alone Bogdanov station and its two bridges located on the Lida-Maladechna line, which leads to Minsk. The Brandenburgers seize the works, eliminate the destruction charges and wait for the panzers… which do not come, blocked by the less effective defense of the Red Army in the sector. The commandos must replicate themselves in the forest, chased by the NKVD. They have 7 dead, 4 wounded and 13 missing – two thirds of the unit are out of action! The survivors will finally be cleared by the advance of the Heer on May 25...


FJ boarding toward Bogdanov !

During this time, the bulk of the 1st Battalion progresses at the head of the HG Süd, which advances rather sluggishly… The 2nd and 4th Kompanien open the way to the 3rd Gebirgs-Division. Closely followed by the Ukrainians Nachtigall and Roland – they are theoretically named – they finally enter L'vov on 30 May. The discovery of prisons emptied by the NKVD and especially of a forgotten mass grave in the Brygidki prison unleashed the fury of the Ukrainians. Reinforced by OUN militiamen from the woods, the latter then embarked on a veritable pogrom which would be the start of a multitude of sordid executions. In this sector, the Holocaust by bullets is not the work of Einsatzgruppe C alone… Furious at the lack of discipline of these men, Major Heinz will send a vehement report to his superiors… who will be much more shocked by the proclamation of Bandera Independence! Heinz would call for these "far too zealous" elements to be quickly removed - but he would only get his own subsequent ouster from the II. Battalion, whose command will later be assigned to Wilhelm Walther.


Nachtigall singing ...


The Rollands, in Czechoslovakian uniform, with a OUN placard.

The rest of the campaign takes place in scouting and assault missions. In Lutsk, the Brandenburgers cross the Styr in the lead, once again taking significant losses in a fight where they use very little of their assets. In Vinnitsa, the 2. Kompanie suffered a new bloodletting during the capture of the bridges over the South Bug. Attacking under Russian artillery shells, the commandos took the red trenches in hand-to-hand combat… On August 3, after 28 dead and 50 wounded, the formation was repatriated.