|The following is an account from "Crete
Eyewitnessed". It tells of the evacuation of General Meindl
after he was wounded.
|Depressing rumours were circulating about huge
losses by our paratroops and it was even said that operation
"Merkur" might have to be abandoned.
|As I knew the frequency and code of the Maleme
paratroop group I sat down at the JU radio receiver as soon as it became
dark and wrote down the radio messages coming in from Maleme.
There was repeated mention that ammunition was running out and then came
the following message: "Severely wounded General Meindl must
be moved to mainland at earliest opportunity." Koenitz and I
were of one mind: "We'll get him out!".
|We immediately asked our Wing Commander Wilke
for permission to fly before dawn. His reply was: "Permission
from me not given, but if you start on this without being specially
tasked then I was unable to stop you". This was all we
needed. We had our aircraft loaded with ammunition crates and
started with a new flight mechanic while it was still dark.
|While approaching the Bay of Rodopos peninsula
Koenitz put the aircraft to a steep climb of 250 metres but nothing
stirred when we came over the airfield. We saw he German flag
markers at its eastern edge. "We'll land behind the airfield
near the shore to the West of Tavronitis". We had to glide in
from the East over the British positions with all that explosive freight
of ours. Koenitz made a masterly landing on the narrow beach
steeply sloping to the sea, even though the beach was strewn with
stones, some of them as much as 20cm in diameter. This was an
outstanding piece of work. As soon as we had switched off the
engines, two paratroops came running up: "Have you
ammunition?" - "Two and a half tone of it" - we
replied. This was greeted with shouts of delight. More
paratroops came running up and unloaded our splendid JU. I had
myself taken to the first aid post. It was as hot as hell.
The casualties were lying under trees. The badly wounded General
Meindl had a grazed heart and a shot through the arm.
||A JU52 similar to
the one Meindl is evacuated in.
|He opened his eyes for a moment in a
semi-delirious state, recognized me and whispered: "Things, my dear
fellow, look pretty bad, there's snow, much snow". Eight of
the badly wounded were taken on stretchers to the beach. Some
paratroops had cleared away the larger stones from the
"runway" but even so the aircraft did not reach the required
speed; finally Koenitz simply pulled the kite up sharply - it pancaked
but still had enough speed to lift itself off - but only just.
|After a long banking turn we set course for
Athens. We flew low over the sea till Koenitz rose to 500 metres
at the southern tip of the Peloponnese. I put out the aerial and
switched on the transmitter to report to Athens our e.t.a. and whom we
had on board. When we had touched down in Phaleron I saw a number
of ambulances coming towards us: - We had made it.