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The Knight's Cross for a Panzer Driver
Not much was said during the war about Panzer drivers.They steered their vehicles dutifully as ordered by Panzer commanders.However,they,too,took a deciding role in the courseof combat as proven by the actions of Unterscharfuhrer Hans Thaler.He was awarded the Knight's Cross for his understanding courage.
Three medium Panzers of 6.Pz.Kp./2."DR" rolled across the steppe,moved up a hill,and were suddenly suprised by by fifteen Soviet tanks.Within a few minutes,the Panzer driven by Hans Thaler knocked out threeT-34s.
Then something roared against its skin of steel and shook the Panzer.The heavy hit destroyed the steering mechanism and ripped off the gear box.The commander contemplated the situation and shouted into his throat microphone:"We've had it"
But Hans Thaler had not had it.With a few pieces of wire,and using all his strength,he made the Panzer maneuverable again and got it going.In less than one half hour this Panzer succeeded in knocking out seven more enemy tanks.This success was solely due to the courageous and delibrate actions of Hans Thaler.
He,however,remained quiet and modest,and wore his award on behalf of all the Panzer drivers who silently did their duty.He died a soldier's death on 7 April 1945 during the fighting for Vienna,as a Panzer Commander.