It started quietly enough. My pal, Ben ,and I were making a trade. Ben needed some “filler.” I don’t even recall what the rest of the trade was, and it doesn’t matter now.
As filler, Ben offered me a small, original German model assault gun. I accepted it, so we shook hands and moved on. I brought my new relic home, put it on a shelf and enjoyed it, but I didn’t give it much more thought. That is, until I moved into one of the most rewarding journeys of my collecting life.
First, here are some details about the assault gun: It is about 10 inches long, 7 inches wide, and 4 inches high. It’s made of steel and is painted grey with a German recognition flag on the top and Balkan crosses on the sides. Flip the flag up, and there is a small wooden compartment, possibly for cigarettes. The assault gun is surprisingly heavy, about 5 pounds.
Attached to the front is a small brass plaque that says:
An den Tag
der Wehrmacht 1943
Sturmgeschutz Abt 200
This loosely translates to: “In Remembrance of Army Day 1943, Assault Gun Battalion 200.”
ASSAULT GUN BATTALION 200
You might wonder why this piece became so important to me. Well, it began to take hold when I purchased a copy of Panzer Commander by Col. Hans von Luck. Von Luck was a Knight’s Cross recipient. He fought in Poland, France, Russian, Africa, Italy, and then again in France before surrendering in Germany and spending 5 years as a POW in the Soviet Union. He knew General Erwin Rommel from the French and African campaigns as well as being posted to Rommel’s command in France in early 1944.
In his book, von Luck talks about Major Alfred Becker. Becker was an industrialist in peacetime Germany and an artillery officer in both world wars. His job in WWII was to collect partially finished French tanks and parts and make them into usable weapons. Becker was a whiz at acquisition and conversion of captured military equipment into armored vehicles. He was heavily decorated and was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the War Mertit Cross.
Becker and his unit were heavily involved in the fighting in Normandy. Together with von Luck’s 125th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, they were among the first German units to counterattack the Allied invasion.
Later, Becker, Von Luck, and a Luftwaffe flak battery were able to stop Operation Goodwood, despite heavy losses. One detail von Luck mentioned in his book was that Becker commanded Assault Gun Battalion 200.
Von Luck’s mention of Assault Gun Battalion 200 struck a note with me, so I looked at my assault gun and realized it was attributed to that unit. Could it have belonged to Becker?
Although Becker died in 1981, Von Luck was still alive. In 1994, I wrote to him and included a photo of my assault gun. I asked von Luck if he knew anything about it.
Von Luck replied, “… there did not exist any small model, so that he (Becker) received (i.e., "was gifted") the model of which you sent a photo.”
Von Luck had been heavily involved in the 50th anniversary of D-Day, but despite his schedule, he wrote to me several times. He sent me two autographed photos, a detailed biography, and pictures from his own library. He also wrote a summary of Alfred Becker’s wartime service.
I was pleased that von Luck knew of my assault gun and confirmed that it belonged to Major Alfred Becker. But the assault gun is not the only “find” in its story.
I also found a connection with a Knight’s Cross recipient as well as the interesting saga of Major Alfred Becker’s wartime service. Great stuff!
I like to think Becker probably had the gun in his office or workplace. When Field Marshal Erwin Rommel personally reviewed Becker’s men shortly before D-Day, I like to think that maybe the Desert Fox himself enjoyed a cigarette from my … I mean Major Alfred Becker’s … small assault gun.
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