File No.: Case File # 18
Title: "Saving Von Blücher"
Subject:  WW2 Greek Battlefield Legend
Investigation made at: Heraklion & Maleme, Crete, Greece
GPS Location: 35
° 19' 42.14" N 25° 10' 52.31" E
Period Covered: 21 MAY 1941
Date: 04 SEP 2013
Case Classification: Possible battlefield myth; description of the dramatic death of three German brothers on the same day on Greek battlefield of World War Two
Status of Case: Case Closed
Introduction: The Von Blücher brothers were three German brothers, who served as paratroopers (Fallschirmjäger) in the Nazi Luftwaffe and were killed in action within hours of the same day on 21MAY1941 during the Nazi invasion of Crete.

The dreadful account of three brothers, fighting on the same battlefield and all three killed in action on the same day, came to the attention of this agency. Apparently the German counterpart of the much wider known tragic death of three brothers in the American Nyland family during the same war, we conducted a modest investigation into the subject.
The tragic death of the three Von Blücher brothers on the same day reads like the German version of the American Nyland brothers, paratroopers as well, whose story formed the base for the blockbuster Hollywood production "Saving Private Ryan".
These three German brothers were:

Wolfgang Henner Peter Lebrecht
Graf von Blücher
DOB 31JAN1917 in Altengottern, Mühlhausen
KIA 21MAY1941 near Heraklion

Leberecht Wilhelm Konstantin Wolf Axel
Graf von Blücher
DOB 13APR1922 in Fincken
KIA 21MAY1941 near Heraklion

Hans-Joachim Gebhard Leberecht
Graf von Blücher
DOB 23OCT1923 in Fincken
KIA 21MAY1941 near Heraklion

The Brothers von Blücher were noblemen, all bearing the title of “Graf”; count.
Their ancestor was the famous German-Prussian Generalfeldmarschall Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, the hero of the battle of Waterloo on 18JUN1815.
The first be killed in action on this warm 21st day of May 1941 was youngster Hans-Joachim Graf von Blücher, during his attempt to resupply his brother, Oberleutnant Wolfgang Graf von Blücher, with ammunition.
Wolfgang had earned the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross for bravery during the German airborne assault on the Belgian fortress at Eben-Emaël in May a year earlier (see also our Case File 14).

Oberleutnant Wolfgang von Blücher’s platoon was surrounded by members of the British Black Watch. The 17-year-old Hans-Joachim, who had arrived early morning with the second assault wave of paratroopers on Crete during his first active deployment, had commandeered a horse, which he attempted to ride through British lines. The talented equestrian almost reached his brother's position, and in fact was shot before his brother's very eyes.

Account of the action which killed the Von Blücher brothers
" The platoon of Lieutenant Count Wolfgang von Blücher began its final stand on May 21, a drama which became a rich source of myth. For the rest of Walther’s battalion, relieving their comrades in the midst of the Black Watch was more than just a point of honour. But the Scottish infantry was well dug in with unrestricted fields of fire.
In their small bowl in this rocky landscape south of the airfield, Blücher’s platoon had tried to scrape trenches with helmets and fingers to escape the fire of Vickers machine guns, the odd mortar bomb and even a few shells from a Bofors firing from its sand-bagged position beside the end of the runway. Blücher and many of his men were wounded. The platoon, soon down to less than half its effective strength, ran out of field dressings and became very short of ammunition.
At that point, according to the story, a horseman was seen galloping towards them with ammunition boxes tied to his saddle. This spectacle caused amazement at first in Scottish ranks, then attracted their fire. But the rider and the horse were hit only as they reached the besieged platoon.
As the ammunition was passed rapidly around, the lieutenant asked how the ride was. He learned that the horseman was his 19-year-old brother, Leberecht, and that he was dead. Next Morning, Wolfgang, the eldest of the three brothers, was killed along with the survivors of his platoon. The youngest brother, Hans-Joachim, was also killed, but his body was never found.
* The most curious part of this story is that for many years poor families who lived in a shanty-village near the site, tending a few goats, claimed to have seen the ghost of a horse and rider, but they thought the ghost was that of a British officer. "

Source: “Crete, The Battle and the Resistance”, Anthony Beevor, ISBN: 978-0-7195-6831-2.

The twenty-four year-old platoon commander Wolfgang and his men of Fallschirmjägerregiment 1, who had arrived with the first assault wave and desperately surrounded, finally ran out of ammunition. The rest of the platoon was overrun by British armored vehicles and killed toward noon that day.
Wolfgang’s younger brother, the 19-year-old Leberecht Graf von Blücher, had also arrived with the second assault wave. He was reported killed in action on the same day but his remains were never recovered.

Obituary for the Von Blücher brothers serving in the same Fallschirmjägerregiment No. 1
and killed in action on the same day 21MAY1941

Four weeks later the mother, Gertrud von Nordheim (widowed Gräfin von Blücher), who had lost her husband in 1924, was informed that three of her four sons were killed on the same day in the Battle of Crete. Her fourth son, Adolf Graf von Blücher, was released from duty and left the German Kriegsmarine, to take care of the agricultural firm at home. Adolf also died in 1944 from a gunshot wound while hunting deer.
In 1974, Wolfgang and Hans-Joachim were reunited in a single grave at the German War Cemetery on Hill 107 behind the airfield at Maleme, Crete, which was newly inaugurated on 6OCT1974.

The brother’s sister Gertrud Freifrau von Ketelhodt and hundreds of guests from Germany attended. Because Leberecht’s body was never retrieved or identified, his name is on a plaque of honor (in German: "Ehrentafel") for the unknown fallen close to the grave of his brothers.

German Cemetery on Hill 107 near Maleme, Crete
In September 2013 we have visited the German cemetery on Hill 107 and found the dual grave of Wolfgang and Hans-Joachim von Blücher as well as Leberecht van Blücher's name on the wall of the missing.

(Click on the thumbnails to enlarge)

We also visited the general area where the Black Watch had been deployed on 20MAY1941, just south of the Heraklion airfield.
We criss-crossed several paved roads and dirt tracks in the hills but found no location which fit the description of a shanty village. We were therefore not able to further investigate the ghostly sightings of a horseman.

(Click to enlarge)

The story of the three German brothers who died on the same day is a grim reminder of the senselessness of wars; no matter on whose side the brothers fought. We bring the Nyland brothers in mind again.
The story of dead warriors who keep haunting the battlefield is not unique either.
We recently acquired the book "Mysterie 14/18; World War Two Unexplained" by Dutch author Richard Heijster (ISBN: 90 209 3801 0) containing numerous accounts of unexplained events on former Great War battlefields.
American historian Mark Bando described similar post-combat encounters with deceased paratroopers in his book "Avenging Eagles; Forbidden tales of the 101st Airborne Division in World War 2" (ISBN: 0-9779117-0-5). Although these tales may be categorized as battlefield myths, on this website we will refrain from investigating the paranormal aspect of combat.

We went out of our way on the island of Crete, documenting the combat scene of this battlefield myth.
We also located other sites and artifacts of the 1941 Nazi invasion of the peaceful Greek island of Crete.

(Click on the thumbnails to enlarge)

Nazi objective: Maleme airfield in use by Royal Air Force in 1941.

Outdoor museum near Hill 107:
frame of a Nazi DFS 230 assault glider and
corrugated steel parts of Nazi Ju 52 troop carrier planes.

Historical museum in Heraklion: Nazi parachute harness on display
with manufacture date of after the 1941 invasion; and a K98 rifle.

Museum in Askifou with a large variety
of Nazi and Commonwealth equipment.
Note Fallschirmjäger helmets and
weapon drop container in background.
Posing with curator Andreas Hatzidakis.

Now & Then:
Nazi air assault monument, dedicated in 1941.
Deteriorated and on private property today.

Nazi objective: Bridge across the Tavronitis river near Maleme.
Today, this bridge still bears the scars of battle.
Of course, we processed the damage in a properly forensic manner.


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