These diabolical devices were mostly constructed of wood, with a lid and a box, containing a spring loaded detonator and a small block of explosives. These were designed to blow-off the victim’s foot above the ankle, thus putting him out of the war as surely as if he’d been killed. The Germans were following the doctrine of Clausewitz, who wrote :”It is better to wound than to kill your enemy.”
These diabolical gadgets were made of wood for the purpose of defeating mine detectors, however, in the field just behind Utah Beach, where this specimen had been hastily buried, the grass had died at the spot where each mine had been buried, making it easy to avoid stepping on them. It also made recovery and deactivation easy. Some German mines were equipped with anti-tampering devices, making it deadly to handle them. However Pfc Donald E. Zahn of H/506th PIR, dug this one out and de-activated it himself, which he says was no big deal. He sent it home as a souvenir and the webmaster asked a local ordnance collector to add an inert block of wood, to simulate the explosive charge (the photo below gives you an idea of how large it was), and to replace the triggering mechanism. A foot pressing down on the lid caused a blocking pin to move, allowing the spring-loaded firing pin to strike the charge.
The above little excerpt is from a website I have been visiting for 20 years. Mark Bando’s website dedicated to the history of the 101st Airborne Division in WW2. Mark has apparently spent most of his life collecting items and getting to know the vets of the 101st and cataloging the information in his books and the website. There are some amazing items on his site. Things brought back from the vets themselves and given to him or sold to him. Below is another example of the kind of things you can see on the website.
Volksgrenadier Camouflage Garments The 2005 photo at upper left, shows former 501st medic Bill France holding a water pattern German camouflaged jacket. Bill removed this from a wounded German in the Bois Jacques forest NE of Bastogne, in January of 1945. He pulled the garment off a wounded prisoner, who was lying on a stretcher on a jeep, awaiting evacuation. Bill put the garment on and wore it with his red cross brassard on the arm and surmounted by his GI steel pot. Less than 24 hours later, an officer ordered Bill to remove the jacket. So he mailed it home and put it in a trunk until it joined the webmaster’s collection at Snowbird of 2005. As the garment has never been laundered since leaving combat it is still heavily soiled, bloodstained and greasy, all remnants from its time in the Battle of the Bulge.
This hooded jacket has a shiny grey lining and is non-reversible.
Go spend a few hours looking over his website and enjoy it.