Willi Kirschner began his career in the Wehrmacht like many other soldiers signing up for active duty on February 10th1940 (just shy of his 20thbirthday) reporting to Batterie 1 of 1. Art.Ers.Abt.33 in Posen as a Kanonier. On March 15th Willi was to receive the Westwall medal but was struck out for an unknown reason by his next unit – when this was done is unknown as on August 1st Willi was promoted to Oberkanonier by Art.Ers.Abt.33. Sometime between August and December 15th Willi was transferred to Schutzen Regiment 52 (mot 1st) which was part of the developing 18th Panzer Division.
Early 1941 would see the 18th Panzer division continue to build in Germany as part of Army Group C (11th Army) March would see Willi’s title change from Oberkanonier to Gefreiter (as part of 5. (schw) I.R. 52 , and in May the 18th Panzer Division would be moved to army group center on the Eastern front. On June 22nd the division rolled into Russia and with it Willi would receive his initial baptism by fire. By June 29th the Division had already advanced to Minsk, and followed the advance on Borissov crossing the Beressina but before the division could reach Smolensk Willi would end up in Rez.Laz. Bramberg with a case of Typhus.