Wittmann against 900 tanks???

General WWII era German military discussion that doesn't fit someplace more specific.
sid guttridge
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Post by sid guttridge » Thu Mar 02, 2006 7:42 am

Hi M.H.,

Sorry, that was a general observation. It was not aimed at you or anyone in particular.

Cheers,

Sid.

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M.H.
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Post by M.H. » Thu Mar 02, 2006 7:51 am

:D Feel much better now! :wink:

Helmut Von Moltke

Post by Helmut Von Moltke » Fri Mar 03, 2006 1:26 am

Nibelung wrote:
sid guttridge wrote:The silly thing is, the performance of the Waffen-SS is often quite good enough not to require any exaggeration.
Point on! :D

best,
Miha
indeed. 8)

helmut

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Post by PaulJ » Fri Mar 03, 2006 8:32 am

michael kenny wrote:
PaulJ wrote:I suspect a trap is being laid!
Not specifically, although I confess to some scepticism about Salzburg's claim:
Salzburg wrote:It is now generally accepted that Wittmann's Tiger was destroyed by a rocket fired from the air, probably from an RAF Typhoon.
As one can tell from the link to my website in my signature block, 2 TAF in Normandy is my particular area of academic interest. At the risk of somewhat side-tracking this thread, the following is a summary of my bibliography of the accounts and various competing claims of Michael Wittmann's death:

1) the orginal accounts all describe massed Sherman fire as the cause, eg:
- James Lucas & James Barker, The Killing Ground (Batsford, 1978) “… a group of Sherman tanks ... opened fire upon him and at point blank range.” (p 110)
- John Keegan, Six Armies in Normandy (Jonathan Cape Ltd, 1982) “... a co-ordinated salvo fired by five Shermans...” (p 253)
- Carlo D’Este, Decision in Normandy (William Collins, 1983) repeats the story of five Shermans, citing Lucas & Barker (p 459)
- Max Hastings, Overlord (Michael Joseph, 1984) “… met his end in the thick of concentrated fire from a clutch of Canadian Shermans.” (p 299)

2) The single most influential work appears to have been Les Taylor “Michael Wittmann’s Last Battle” After the Battle magazine (Number 48, 1985, pp 46-53), which credited the 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry Shermans, and in particular the gunnery of Tpr Eakins

3) The Typhoon theory appears to have originated with a local French civilian, and may have been first published by Hubert Meyer, the erstwhile ops officer of 12th SS Pz Div, who apparently published an article in Der Freiwillige, the Waffen-SS veterans magazine, sometime around the mid-80s (? anyone?), advancing the Typhoon theory

4) Patrick Agte, Michael Wittmann and the Tiger Commanders of the Leibstandarte (J J Fedorowicz, 1996) mentions the Typhoon theory (p 430), but accepts the 1 NY claim (pp 424-430)

5) Michael Reynolds, Steel Inferno (Dell, 1997) lists all the competing theories and claims and concludes “the only thing therefore which can be said with any certainty is that Wittmann did not survive.” (pp 304-5)

6) Ken Tout, A Fine Night For Tanks (Sutton Publ, 1998) mentions both Canadians and 1 NY as well as Typhoons but notes “neither Germans nor Allies seem to have been aware of ground support aircraft operating until somewhat later in the day.” (p 131)

7) The most recent work is Brian Reid's No Holding Back (Robin Brass, 2005), which includes an entire 20 page appendix "Who Killed Michael Wittmann" (pp 410-430) that carefully examines the issue. Based upon a study of the 2 TAF records which make no claim for tank kills in the area or to have even been operating Typhoons there, Reid concludes “Wittman and his crew almost assuredly did not fall victim to an attack from the air.” (p 429)

Based upon my own research in the archives, I would second Reid's conclusion that it was not likely to have been a Typhoon, which is inherently unlikely in any event, given the effectiveness of 1944 air-to-ground rockets (the claimed weapon) against tanks.

So ... that's both my take on the issue and my summary of the literature. If its "generally accepted" that it was a Typhoon then there must be some readily citeable references out there of which I am unaware.

Cheers,
Paul Johnston
Per Ardua ad Astra
http://tactical-airpower.tripod.com

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Re: Wittmann against 900 tanks???

Post by redcoat » Sat Mar 11, 2006 4:45 pm

M.H. wrote::shock:

Here I've read it again...It seems author Christopher Wilbeck describes in his book "Sledgehammers: Strengths and Flaws of Tiger Tank Battalions in World War II" how Michael Wittmann's last stand was against 900 enemy tanks (according to a reader review).

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/097176 ... e&n=283155

"...Continuing the story, Wilbeck describes how Wittman was later killed in another attack on the Caen-Falaise road in which he unknowingly charged into battle against some 900 Allied tanks with only some 50 on his side (only 8 of which were Tiger tanks). Wittmann's Tiger was most likely flanked by a Sherman Firefly which fired the fatal round."


Has someone read this book? What is your opinion? :shock:
The accepted theory is now not 900 Allied tanks against 50 German tanks in Wittmanns last stand, but 4 Shermans against 8 Tigers.

Here's a well know post by James Blackwell on the subject,

" There are a lot of conflicting and spurious accounts re Wittmann's death on Aug. 8 1944 - (just under 2 months after his famous action at Villers-Bocage) - from surrounded by 5 Canadian Shermans, to Polish Shermans, artillery/naval strike, Typhoon hit etc., etc.

But contrary to the oft quoted Typhoon strike, the latest and the ONLY one that can seemingly be substantiated with facts is, that he WAS taken out with 2 shots to his right rear flank by a single Sherman Firefly belonging to Sgt. Gordon (gunner; Trooper Joe Ekins), from 3.Plt., A.Sqn., 33.Arm. Bgd., 1.Northamptonshire Yeomanry. He and the other Tigers with him were caught totally unawares, not realizing the British had taken up a flanking position so close by, thinking the Poles ahead were their only concern.

This Firefly was hidden in a tree line with a troop of standard 75mm Shermans to Wittmann's starboard side, N.East of Gaumesnil as he moved north in command Tiger "007" (ex Heinz Von Westerhagen's, whom he had succeeded as Bttn.CO on July 10 when the former suffered complications to an earlier head wound, hence allowing Wittmann to inherit his Tiger).

Wittmann's was the last vehicle in the advance, through an open field parallel to the N158, toward the 1.Polish Arm.Div. reported to be ahead at Aignan de Cramesnil.

He did so along with 6 other Tigers, 5 of which were initially KO'd and 1 abandonned in this unexpected ambush, with the last KO'd a little later (source: "TIC 2"; p.259 text, p.290 pic., + Agte; pp.423-433 text {p.425 in particular}, p.477 pic, + pp.182-183 "Panzers in Normandy - Then & Now {a little dated and still claiming 5 Shermans and only 4 Tigers}, + p.46-53 "After the Battle" mag no. 48 - "Michael Wittmann's Last Battle" - which even has transcripts of British I/C and radio traffic describing the incidents).

The only minor glitch is that the British claim less kills than Tigers found, but in the heat of battle no one would really be keeping meticulous score).

The Agte book describes the action concisely even down to recollections from Hans Höflinger who witnessed the hits into the side wall around the fuel tank area that initially lifted and displaced the turret onto the hull top, and began a fire, before ammo cooking off sent it skyward to its final resting place behind the vehicle. The penetrations and subsequent explosions instantly killed the crew (Agte p.425 & 429). The vehicle was obviously still moving when hit and the explosions have broken both tracks while it continued rolling off them till slewing to a halt some 20 metres further on.

The Germans for a long time refused to believe he had been killed and listed him as "MIA" for morale purposes though most officers in s.SS.Pz.Abt.101 new he had been killed. His roadside grave, were he was buried by local civilians in a communal pit, was found in 1983 based on research being done for "Panzers in Normandy - Then & Now". The research by the author led to the German War Graves Commission searching the area with metal detectors, finding the bodies and relocating his and his crew's remains to La Cambe War Cemetary where they still lie today.

Why the 'Typhoon' or 'surrounded by Shermans' (Polish or canadian) myths still persist when so much evidence now 'proves' it was a lone Firefly, is a real mystery? The Germans apparently began it as a propaganda exercise (after first listing him as MIA for a very long time), so as to

refuse admitting to the troops and public that the famed 'invincible' Tiger Ace was beaten by another tank, and made his end sound more martyr-like by implying him going down to the dreaded 'Jabo'.

Apart from everything else stacked against it, the Typhoon account suffers even further, if not fatally, due to no sorties being recorded as having flown in that area on that day from all accounts.

The engine deck damage reported by a French farmer, of questionable reliabilty anyway, could easily, and most likely, have resulted from the fuel tanks going up and the subsequent ammo explosions following the 17pdr penetration.

As for the Poles and Canadians, while both very close by, they were beaten to it by (the Squadron's 2IC), Captain (later Lord) Boardman's ambush from the treeline.

On pp.425-430 of Agte's book the story is presented fairly conclusively. Wittmann at first wasn't going to go along on the attack but at the last minute changed his mind as he felt the platoon leader Heurich was too inexperienced - this being only his first action. Apparently Wittmann was uneasy about the probe, but put this aside out of a sense of duty to to do the right thing and keep an eye on Heurich.

Advancing in the group of 6 other Tigers with Wittmann (ie. 7 total*), was Dollinger, Blase (314), Iriohn, Kisters (312?), Rolf Von Westernhagen (334?) and Hans Höflinger (who was in the other command Tiger possibly 008, or 009 - though 009 should have been Dollinger's so not sure of his mount on this attack.).

Tiger "314" - Blase's, is mentioned as the only other KO'd Tiger apart from "007" that can be ID'd from the pics. * This is the odd bit, for some reason the list above doesn't include Heurich's who is known to have had his own Tiger and be leading the advance as per the account below, so obviously there were either 8 vehicles or one too many is listed here? So curious to know if anyone has another/the correct composition of the Tigers used?

On p.425 Agte states:

"Hans Höflinger now describes the subsequent course of the attack from his experience: 'Then we drove off, Michel (sic) right of the road and I left, four others with Michel and the brother of Heinz Von Westernhagen with me. Approximately 800 meters to Michel's right there was a small wood which struck us as suspicious and which was to prove fateful to us. Unfortunately, we couldn't keep the wood under observation on account of our mission. We drove about one to one-and-a half kilometres, and then I received another radio message from Michel which only confirmed my suspicions about the wood. We began taking heavy fire from anti-tank guns and once again Michel called, but didn't complete the message. When I looked out to the left I saw that Michel's tank wasn't moving. I called him by radio but received no answer. Then my tank received a frightful blow and I had to order my crew to get out as it had already begun to burn fiercely. My crew and I dashed toward the rear and got through. I stopped to look around and to my dismay discovered that five of our tanks had been knocked out. The turret of Michel's tank was displaced to the right and tilted down somewhat. None of his crew had got out. I climbed into Von Westernhagen's tank and, together with Heurich, whose Tiger was undamaged, tried to get to Michel's tank. We could not get through. Dr. Rabe also tried it, but in vain...I can state the exact time of the incident; it was 1255 hours, near the Falaise-Caen road in the vicinity of Cintheaux."

Agte then follows up on p.425 with the British account of the incident:

"...At 1240 hours Captain Boardman gave Sergeant Gordon's tank the order to fire. The Tigers were seven-hundred meters distant. The Firefly's gunner was Trooper Joe Ekins, who hit the

rearmost Tiger of the three Tigers in his sight with two shots. The Tigers had failed to spot the well-camouflaged Shermans, and it was only after the first shots had been fired and a Tiger knocked out that Wittmann transmitted the message referred to by SS-Hauptscharfuhrer Höflinger: 'Move! Attention! Attention! Anti-tank guns to the right! - Back up!...'."

On p.425 "Höflinger described how, after it was hit, the turret of Wittmann's Tiger was displaced to the right and tilted forward. That was its condition immediately after the tank was knocked out. Furthermore it is absolutely certain that the turret was blown off shortly afterward by the force of the exploding ammunition - possibly accelerated by burning fuel in the fighting compartment - and thrown several meters away from the tank. This is confirmed by the only existing photo of 007, taken by a French civilian soon after the engagement. The Tiger therefore began to burn immediately after it was hit, which by then caused the ammunition in the turret to explode. Only the tremendous force produced by the exploding armour-piercing and high-explosive shells could have torn the turret, which weighed tonnes, from the hull and then tossed it meters through air. The crew must have been killed or incapacitated when the tank was hit. The subsequent explosion then extinguished any doubts as to the fate of the five men inside 007."

Hans Dollinger the battalion signals officer, and SS-Sturmmann Alfred Bahlo his Radio Op, also recount their experiences as the lead vehicle in the attack along a similar vein to Höflinger...and say on p.429 as they make their way back from their burning Tiger with the fatally wounded Obschf. Schott "...On the way we passed the knocked out panzer of Hauptsturmführer Wittmann; the turret was blown off."

Dr. Rabe also witnessed the hit and described it in a letter to Wittmann's wife to tell her the real story: "When the attack got rolling, I drove forward several hundred meters and covered the last stretch on foot. There was quite a lot of heavy anti-tank and artillery fire. I wanted to get to Michel's (sic) tank. When I got to within about 250 to 300 meters I saw flames suddenly shoot from the tank and the turret fly off and fall to the ground. The tank then burned out completely. I still tried to reach it, but I couldn't cross the open field as the Tommy fired at solitary me with their anti-tank guns. It is unlikely Michel got out before the hit, as I would have seen him. None of the remaining crew members came back either."

Agte sums up with the following:

After evaluating all available documents on the German and English sides and interviewing the handful of survivors of this action..., one can only assume that the tank that was hit at 1247 hours, was 007. SS-Hauptsturmführer Dr.Rabe's account and the English war diary both mention that this was the only Tiger that blew up after being hit. The eight minute time discrepancy compared to that given in Höflinger's account is of little significance as the source of the error appears to be completely genuine and time discrepancies can never be ruled out. As well, Höflinger's account was written several weeks after the events in question; it is also thoroughly possible that the error in time might lie in he English war diary."

As to Gordon's Firefly, there is still some debate as to its markings and even vehicle type. Ken Jones sated in a post on the old Missing Links' Allied D/G in April last year, that there is even speculation that it may have been a Hybrid IC not a VC (M4A4) as is commonly thought. His info comes from conversations with a researcher delving into the history of this unit's Shermans.

Gordon's was apparently callsign; Red & White outline "12". The source for confusion with regard to it being a Polish Firefly in a few sources may well be the use of Russian names on the hull sides by A Squadron of the 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry (B Sqn. used American names, and C had Northamptonshire county place names). The two schools of thought for Gordon's Firefly are "Velikye Luki" (as per the Dragon Kit), or possibly "Vladimir"? The rear of the turret bustle had an open white triangle with a small "3" in front of it. Hull markings appear to be a red square with white border and white "173" inside carried on the RHS transmission housing and LHS upper hull

rear, plus an upside down light green triangle sitting point to point over a black one all surrounded with a white outline located on the LHS transmission housing and on the RHS upper hull rear.

As an interesting bit of trivia, I believe this was Gordon's last action as he was wounded in return fire when one of three rounds from another Tiger struck his half opened hatch which slammed it shut striking him on the head - he climbed out dazed and was then further wounded.

From post-war interviews Tom Boardman and Joe Ekins recount they obviously had no idea that it was Wittmann and Tigers from s.SS.Pz.Abt.101 they had just encountered. Lord Boardman later stated "Had I known who was commanding those Tiger tanks, and his record, I should have been even more concerned than I was - if possible. It was bad enough to know that we only had four tanks in the Squadron with guns capable of pentrating a Tiger's armour and that I had only one of those in my section of the battlefield." (p.50 "ATB" Mag No.48)

Anyway apologies for the excessive length, but hope this is of some help to finally put this to one to sleep and has been of some interest.

Anyone even remotely interested in Wittmann and/or LAH in general should dig deep if at all possible and get a copy of Agte's huge album as it really is the bible on all things 1.SS.Pz.Div., or pick up the recently released After the Battle title on "Villers-Bocage: Through the Lens" by Danny Taylor which minutely details his earlier exploits. "


"1. The numbers involved...If we both agree that on that day, in that engagement 1.N.Y "did" make 3 (maybe 4) "confirmed" Tiger kills (as Höflinger's is known to be KO'd on the other side of the road too), and 2 (possibly 3?) got away, and that one 2.Kp. Tiger was found 1500m NE further forward of Wittmann's - as per p.425 Agte ie. - "either knocked out or abandonned due southwest of Gramesnil, on the road from La Jalouise to Cramesnil near reference Point 117", AND..., there were only 8 Tigers max available, then the obviuos question remains - is there really any Tiger left that could then be Wittmann's "007" that could have been the Typhoon's "only" victim in the group not accounted for as summarized above and detailed in the reports by the Brits??

The sequence of their destruction from both the British and German sides, also implies that Wittmann's Tiger was the second of the three "confirmeds" to be KO'd as it was noted to be the the only one hit to actually explode, to wit;

"At 1240 hours Captain Boardman gave Sergeant Gordon's tank the order to fire. The Tigers were seven-hundred meters distant. The Firefly's gunner was Trooper Joe Ekins, who hit the rearmost of the three Tigers in his sight with two shots. The Tigers had failed to spot the well-camouflaged Shermans, it was only after the shots had been fired and a Tiger knocked out that Wittmann transmitted the message referred to by SS-Hauptscharfuhrer Höflinger; "Move! Attention! Attention! Anti-tank guns to the right! - Back up!...". " (again p.425 Agte)

This one (ie. most likely "Wittmann's Tiger") reacted to the first Tiger being hit and stopped with the two 17pdr shots, by veering off to the right and returning fire with several shots back in the direction of the Shermans - quoting from Agte p.425 - "The Sherman (Firefly) changed its position somewhat to evade the Tiger's fire; one shell struck the turret hatch cover however, and wounded Sergeant Gordon in the head. He climbed out and Lieutenant James, his platoon commander, took over his tank and went back into position. At 1247 hours his gunner Ekins hit the second Tiger, which exploded in a ball of fire immediately after being hit. The foremost of the three Tigers was fired on by the other Shermans and was likely hit in a drive sprocket, for it began to spin in a circle. Ekins hit it with two shots at 1252 hours and the Tiger began to burn."

The fourth one - Hans Hoflinger's was KO'd on the other side of the road but its still uncertain as to who actually got it.

Agte's conclusion - "The three knocked out Tigers, about whose fate there are concrete details on the enemy side, were probably all accounted for by Trooper Ekins."

The forth - Höflinger's on the other side of the N158 is the only one unclaimed.

The fifth as previously mentioned was the lead one further on near Cranmesnil which was either KO'd or abandonned.

2. The damage...My other major worry is that if a 60lb High Explosive? warhead of a 'Tiffy' rocket has indeed struck the engine deck of "007" leaving 'a large hole spreading all the way to the turret pit' as you quote, it would thus indicate the direction of flight would have been from behind the Tiger (ie. from the direction of the German lines) so;

a)you'd think the grenadiers and anyone else under its flight path would have noticed it flying over them and

b)the impact would have thus been from back to front. Now, not intimately knowing the effect of these rockets myself but 'assuming' a 60lb warhead would be capable of a fair amount of damage, I still have great trouble believing it could hit the deck and cause such a pentetration to armour plate, YET at the same time leave the thin sheet metal turret bin only inches away totally unmarked or holed in anyway?? As this is the condition it is seen in even after the secondary ammo explosion has flipped the turret into the air and landed it on the grass months later when photgraphed by M.Varin.

A 17pdr AP round on the other hand could quite possibly inflict a gaping penetration yet produce no shrapnel or massive explosion in the process that would frag or mark surrounding paper-thin sheet metal. So I'd say even if we do agree there is a downward penetration on the deck based on solely M.Varin's account, the validty of which you are confident, I'm afraid my money would still have to be on an AP round and not an HE warhead doing it. And if as Jon says there is indeed a slight 20-30m hill that this treelined orchard the Brits were in nearly a km away allowing them to fire down onto the billiard table-flat plain that the Tigers were on then the 17pdr hit seems all the more logical.

3. You asked how could the initial displacement of the turret have occurred as it did? We KNOW from the eyewitness accounts it WAS initially displaced onto the deck and most souces state (regardless of where either either of us personally feel the hit came from - rocket or 17pdr), that it was the impact of this "ordnance" to the fuel tanks which produced the sheet of flame "explosion" which was remarked upon by both sides. The enormous shock wave of this blast in a sealed box such as a buttoned up tank would surely be quite capable of lifting the 20 odd ton turret (which only sat on the turret race by its own weight and wasn't locked down in any way) up slightly for a brief moment as a result and hence this displacement - the direction it went as it settled would have nothing to do with the angle it was hit from, but merely where the blast directed it as it was lifted.

OK - thats about as far as I think I can go to support the 17pdr hit evidence-wise - if its not enough, well we'll just have to good-naturedly agree to disagree on this point I'd say.

Now your feeling that "007" was a Mid is also of great interest as sadly the angle its snapped at procludes ascertaining it easily from the photo. So we go to written refs firstly...

I guess with your reference to p.255 of "TIC 2" though you aren't referring to the arrival date of 15th-27th of August 1943, as while yes it states "27 new Tigers arrive, including two command tanks", and they could indeed be Mids at this point, but these two at least are definitely still Earlies ("S04" and S05") as per the pics seen in Reggio (on p.102 in Restayn's "Tiger I on the Eastern Front"/p.138 Agtes's Wittmann (Eng. Ed.).

We know from photos that all three "007, "008", and "009" were zimmerited and from Tom Jentz's Osprey New Vanguard No.5, zimmerit didn't begin on Mids until September 1943, therefore these initial command tanks received can't be any of the ones used in Normandy. So the second arrival date of 9th-c.11th? of Jan 1944 of 2 command tanks is I guess what you mean. This is as you say inside the Mid with zimmerit window.

From the 2 shots (on p.284 of "TIC 2" and p.305 Agte's Eng. Wittmann), "009" though is definitely a late with steel wheels, so thus it must between "007" and "008" that are the Mids - correct?

Sadly the shot of "008" with its blown barrel is taken from front-on and its wheels and tow shackle styles are hidden (the latter by the crew), so it can't be confirmed photographically either way from this shot.

BUT...(and I love doing this as you can no doubt tell )from the only known shot of "007" I'm troubled by the drive sprocket still being visible when looking down its length...on a Mid with the outer row of wheels fitted this shouldn't be possible! This row and the front outer wheel in particular should sit outside it (eg. see p.275 for a shot of "331" which illustrates this), yet no outer wheels can be seen at all (on the LHS anyway)! It is obviously "possible" that they weren't fitted - a'la transport mode, but it would be v.unusual for them ALL to be missing once the battle tracks are on, as every other shot of Mids in this period with SS.101 shows them all on with not even the front one removed as per some EF Tiger units eg. s.Pz.Abt.502 etc. So thats one strike.

Another problem is that from Fgst. No.250635 to 250875 in Feb. 1944 a rear travel lock was carried on Mids in this production range, yet "007" doesn't appear to have it which is very odd if we believe its from the January delivery date? Again this could have been removed by the crews for some odd reason but unlikely as the two base plates off which it hinges were welded on so they should still be visble even if the arms are unbolted and taken off.

The big "BUT" though...and sorry to do this to you, as its the real killer for your Mid theory for "007", is that if we look closely at the lower LHS of the rear plate under the left exhaust stack, we see the small horizontal oval cover for the blow torch port for allowing cold weather starts - intro date...drumroll...February 1944 from Fgst. 250823 on - ie. ON THE LATES (which only began with 250822)! So again I'm afraid all the evidence screams Late not Mid for "007"!

"008" may still be an option for a Mid but without any other shots its toss-a-coin time on it. You'd "assume" it would have arrived with the 2 others in the same batch so I'd personally call heads that it is a Late too...

So the obvious question is what happened to these earlier 4 "command" tanks and when did the 2 (or 3) Lates arrive that are "007", "009" and possibly "008"? Not sure on the earlier one's fate (KO'd or long term repair as no reorts of a transfer to another unit appears to be mentioned anywhere but by Normandy no Earlies seem to be around in 101 any more only Mids & Lates). But as to the arrival of these "3 Late command tanks" it must have to be in the 20th of April 1944 batch of 25 Lates delivered that they turn up (but they sadly go unremarked on by Schneider on p.255 of "TIC 2" if he in fact knows).

Now I'm honestly not trying to be difficult but I also don't know if I can agree either that "007" (or "008" or "009" for that matter) are in plain yellow - they all appear to me at least to be in a light mottled (possibly dusty as it was high summer) 3 colour camo - "007" especially - note the turret bin with the dark colour under the "7" which is pristine white even this long after the battle.

So on all we've got so far (as per the game Cludeo) my position I'm afraid is still;

"A Firefly from the slight hill to the North East that KO'd a Late 3 colour Tiger of Hauptsturmführer Michael Wittmann on August 8 1944 at 1247 hours at Cintheuax near Gaumesnil:-)

To me the Typhoon raid if it indeed occurred based on M.Varin's testimony with the rocket embedded in the ground nearby happened at some point in time therafter.

Anyway as usual this is really great stuff and has been quite enjoyable playing amateur detective - hopefully by us shaking it to bits like this like a dog with a bone, we have perhaps got a clearer understanding of what actually happened, or at the very least will let everyone make a much more informed choice as to what they believe 'may have happened'. "

James Blackwell
if in doubt, PANIC !!!!

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Post by michael kenny » Sat Mar 11, 2006 5:02 pm

James's post is quite old now and Brian Reid's latest book 'No Holding Back. Totalize, August 1944' has compelling information on the Canadian claim for some of the Tigers knocked out that day. 2 new photos have also come to light. One is another view of '314' and another that it most likely '008'.

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Post by michael kenny » Sun Mar 12, 2006 11:22 am

Taylor Collector wrote:If it really was four Shermans against 8 tigers the Americans would have been slaughtered. I would bet that there was allied artillery involved and probably a few more tanks.

TS Allen
No Americans involved anywhere this day. Certainlt there were more than 4 Allied tanks involved but the plain fact is at least 5 Tigers were caught out and paid the price. I Firefly got 3 Tigers so you can say 3:1 in the Tigers favour.

Helmut Von Moltke

Re: Wittmann against 900 tanks???

Post by Helmut Von Moltke » Mon Mar 13, 2006 1:06 am

redcoat wrote:
M.H. wrote::shock:

Here I've read it again...It seems author Christopher Wilbeck describes in his book "Sledgehammers: Strengths and Flaws of Tiger Tank Battalions in World War II" how Michael Wittmann's last stand was against 900 enemy tanks (according to a reader review).

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/097176 ... e&n=283155

"...Continuing the story, Wilbeck describes how Wittman was later killed in another attack on the Caen-Falaise road in which he unknowingly charged into battle against some 900 Allied tanks with only some 50 on his side (only 8 of which were Tiger tanks). Wittmann's Tiger was most likely flanked by a Sherman Firefly which fired the fatal round."


Has someone read this book? What is your opinion? :shock:
The accepted theory is now not 900 Allied tanks against 50 German tanks in Wittmanns last stand, but 4 Shermans against 8 Tigers.

Here's a well know post by James Blackwell on the subject,

" There are a lot of conflicting and spurious accounts re Wittmann's death on Aug. 8 1944 - (just under 2 months after his famous action at Villers-Bocage) - from surrounded by 5 Canadian Shermans, to Polish Shermans, artillery/naval strike, Typhoon hit etc., etc.

But contrary to the oft quoted Typhoon strike, the latest and the ONLY one that can seemingly be substantiated with facts is, that he WAS taken out with 2 shots to his right rear flank by a single Sherman Firefly belonging to Sgt. Gordon (gunner; Trooper Joe Ekins), from 3.Plt., A.Sqn., 33.Arm. Bgd., 1.Northamptonshire Yeomanry. He and the other Tigers with him were caught totally unawares, not realizing the British had taken up a flanking position so close by, thinking the Poles ahead were their only concern.

This Firefly was hidden in a tree line with a troop of standard 75mm Shermans to Wittmann's starboard side, N.East of Gaumesnil as he moved north in command Tiger "007" (ex Heinz Von Westerhagen's, whom he had succeeded as Bttn.CO on July 10 when the former suffered complications to an earlier head wound, hence allowing Wittmann to inherit his Tiger).

Wittmann's was the last vehicle in the advance, through an open field parallel to the N158, toward the 1.Polish Arm.Div. reported to be ahead at Aignan de Cramesnil.

He did so along with 6 other Tigers, 5 of which were initially KO'd and 1 abandonned in this unexpected ambush, with the last KO'd a little later (source: "TIC 2"; p.259 text, p.290 pic., + Agte; pp.423-433 text {p.425 in particular}, p.477 pic, + pp.182-183 "Panzers in Normandy - Then & Now {a little dated and still claiming 5 Shermans and only 4 Tigers}, + p.46-53 "After the Battle" mag no. 48 - "Michael Wittmann's Last Battle" - which even has transcripts of British I/C and radio traffic describing the incidents).

The only minor glitch is that the British claim less kills than Tigers found, but in the heat of battle no one would really be keeping meticulous score).

The Agte book describes the action concisely even down to recollections from Hans Höflinger who witnessed the hits into the side wall around the fuel tank area that initially lifted and displaced the turret onto the hull top, and began a fire, before ammo cooking off sent it skyward to its final resting place behind the vehicle. The penetrations and subsequent explosions instantly killed the crew (Agte p.425 & 429). The vehicle was obviously still moving when hit and the explosions have broken both tracks while it continued rolling off them till slewing to a halt some 20 metres further on.

The Germans for a long time refused to believe he had been killed and listed him as "MIA" for morale purposes though most officers in s.SS.Pz.Abt.101 new he had been killed. His roadside grave, were he was buried by local civilians in a communal pit, was found in 1983 based on research being done for "Panzers in Normandy - Then & Now". The research by the author led to the German War Graves Commission searching the area with metal detectors, finding the bodies and relocating his and his crew's remains to La Cambe War Cemetary where they still lie today.

Why the 'Typhoon' or 'surrounded by Shermans' (Polish or canadian) myths still persist when so much evidence now 'proves' it was a lone Firefly, is a real mystery? The Germans apparently began it as a propaganda exercise (after first listing him as MIA for a very long time), so as to

refuse admitting to the troops and public that the famed 'invincible' Tiger Ace was beaten by another tank, and made his end sound more martyr-like by implying him going down to the dreaded 'Jabo'.

Apart from everything else stacked against it, the Typhoon account suffers even further, if not fatally, due to no sorties being recorded as having flown in that area on that day from all accounts.

The engine deck damage reported by a French farmer, of questionable reliabilty anyway, could easily, and most likely, have resulted from the fuel tanks going up and the subsequent ammo explosions following the 17pdr penetration.

As for the Poles and Canadians, while both very close by, they were beaten to it by (the Squadron's 2IC), Captain (later Lord) Boardman's ambush from the treeline.

On pp.425-430 of Agte's book the story is presented fairly conclusively. Wittmann at first wasn't going to go along on the attack but at the last minute changed his mind as he felt the platoon leader Heurich was too inexperienced - this being only his first action. Apparently Wittmann was uneasy about the probe, but put this aside out of a sense of duty to to do the right thing and keep an eye on Heurich.

Advancing in the group of 6 other Tigers with Wittmann (ie. 7 total*), was Dollinger, Blase (314), Iriohn, Kisters (312?), Rolf Von Westernhagen (334?) and Hans Höflinger (who was in the other command Tiger possibly 008, or 009 - though 009 should have been Dollinger's so not sure of his mount on this attack.).

Tiger "314" - Blase's, is mentioned as the only other KO'd Tiger apart from "007" that can be ID'd from the pics. * This is the odd bit, for some reason the list above doesn't include Heurich's who is known to have had his own Tiger and be leading the advance as per the account below, so obviously there were either 8 vehicles or one too many is listed here? So curious to know if anyone has another/the correct composition of the Tigers used?

On p.425 Agte states:

"Hans Höflinger now describes the subsequent course of the attack from his experience: 'Then we drove off, Michel (sic) right of the road and I left, four others with Michel and the brother of Heinz Von Westernhagen with me. Approximately 800 meters to Michel's right there was a small wood which struck us as suspicious and which was to prove fateful to us. Unfortunately, we couldn't keep the wood under observation on account of our mission. We drove about one to one-and-a half kilometres, and then I received another radio message from Michel which only confirmed my suspicions about the wood. We began taking heavy fire from anti-tank guns and once again Michel called, but didn't complete the message. When I looked out to the left I saw that Michel's tank wasn't moving. I called him by radio but received no answer. Then my tank received a frightful blow and I had to order my crew to get out as it had already begun to burn fiercely. My crew and I dashed toward the rear and got through. I stopped to look around and to my dismay discovered that five of our tanks had been knocked out. The turret of Michel's tank was displaced to the right and tilted down somewhat. None of his crew had got out. I climbed into Von Westernhagen's tank and, together with Heurich, whose Tiger was undamaged, tried to get to Michel's tank. We could not get through. Dr. Rabe also tried it, but in vain...I can state the exact time of the incident; it was 1255 hours, near the Falaise-Caen road in the vicinity of Cintheaux."

Agte then follows up on p.425 with the British account of the incident:

"...At 1240 hours Captain Boardman gave Sergeant Gordon's tank the order to fire. The Tigers were seven-hundred meters distant. The Firefly's gunner was Trooper Joe Ekins, who hit the

rearmost Tiger of the three Tigers in his sight with two shots. The Tigers had failed to spot the well-camouflaged Shermans, and it was only after the first shots had been fired and a Tiger knocked out that Wittmann transmitted the message referred to by SS-Hauptscharfuhrer Höflinger: 'Move! Attention! Attention! Anti-tank guns to the right! - Back up!...'."

On p.425 "Höflinger described how, after it was hit, the turret of Wittmann's Tiger was displaced to the right and tilted forward. That was its condition immediately after the tank was knocked out. Furthermore it is absolutely certain that the turret was blown off shortly afterward by the force of the exploding ammunition - possibly accelerated by burning fuel in the fighting compartment - and thrown several meters away from the tank. This is confirmed by the only existing photo of 007, taken by a French civilian soon after the engagement. The Tiger therefore began to burn immediately after it was hit, which by then caused the ammunition in the turret to explode. Only the tremendous force produced by the exploding armour-piercing and high-explosive shells could have torn the turret, which weighed tonnes, from the hull and then tossed it meters through air. The crew must have been killed or incapacitated when the tank was hit. The subsequent explosion then extinguished any doubts as to the fate of the five men inside 007."

Hans Dollinger the battalion signals officer, and SS-Sturmmann Alfred Bahlo his Radio Op, also recount their experiences as the lead vehicle in the attack along a similar vein to Höflinger...and say on p.429 as they make their way back from their burning Tiger with the fatally wounded Obschf. Schott "...On the way we passed the knocked out panzer of Hauptsturmführer Wittmann; the turret was blown off."

Dr. Rabe also witnessed the hit and described it in a letter to Wittmann's wife to tell her the real story: "When the attack got rolling, I drove forward several hundred meters and covered the last stretch on foot. There was quite a lot of heavy anti-tank and artillery fire. I wanted to get to Michel's (sic) tank. When I got to within about 250 to 300 meters I saw flames suddenly shoot from the tank and the turret fly off and fall to the ground. The tank then burned out completely. I still tried to reach it, but I couldn't cross the open field as the Tommy fired at solitary me with their anti-tank guns. It is unlikely Michel got out before the hit, as I would have seen him. None of the remaining crew members came back either."

Agte sums up with the following:

After evaluating all available documents on the German and English sides and interviewing the handful of survivors of this action..., one can only assume that the tank that was hit at 1247 hours, was 007. SS-Hauptsturmführer Dr.Rabe's account and the English war diary both mention that this was the only Tiger that blew up after being hit. The eight minute time discrepancy compared to that given in Höflinger's account is of little significance as the source of the error appears to be completely genuine and time discrepancies can never be ruled out. As well, Höflinger's account was written several weeks after the events in question; it is also thoroughly possible that the error in time might lie in he English war diary."

As to Gordon's Firefly, there is still some debate as to its markings and even vehicle type. Ken Jones sated in a post on the old Missing Links' Allied D/G in April last year, that there is even speculation that it may have been a Hybrid IC not a VC (M4A4) as is commonly thought. His info comes from conversations with a researcher delving into the history of this unit's Shermans.

Gordon's was apparently callsign; Red & White outline "12". The source for confusion with regard to it being a Polish Firefly in a few sources may well be the use of Russian names on the hull sides by A Squadron of the 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry (B Sqn. used American names, and C had Northamptonshire county place names). The two schools of thought for Gordon's Firefly are "Velikye Luki" (as per the Dragon Kit), or possibly "Vladimir"? The rear of the turret bustle had an open white triangle with a small "3" in front of it. Hull markings appear to be a red square with white border and white "173" inside carried on the RHS transmission housing and LHS upper hull

rear, plus an upside down light green triangle sitting point to point over a black one all surrounded with a white outline located on the LHS transmission housing and on the RHS upper hull rear.

As an interesting bit of trivia, I believe this was Gordon's last action as he was wounded in return fire when one of three rounds from another Tiger struck his half opened hatch which slammed it shut striking him on the head - he climbed out dazed and was then further wounded.

From post-war interviews Tom Boardman and Joe Ekins recount they obviously had no idea that it was Wittmann and Tigers from s.SS.Pz.Abt.101 they had just encountered. Lord Boardman later stated "Had I known who was commanding those Tiger tanks, and his record, I should have been even more concerned than I was - if possible. It was bad enough to know that we only had four tanks in the Squadron with guns capable of pentrating a Tiger's armour and that I had only one of those in my section of the battlefield." (p.50 "ATB" Mag No.48)

Anyway apologies for the excessive length, but hope this is of some help to finally put this to one to sleep and has been of some interest.

Anyone even remotely interested in Wittmann and/or LAH in general should dig deep if at all possible and get a copy of Agte's huge album as it really is the bible on all things 1.SS.Pz.Div., or pick up the recently released After the Battle title on "Villers-Bocage: Through the Lens" by Danny Taylor which minutely details his earlier exploits. "


"1. The numbers involved...If we both agree that on that day, in that engagement 1.N.Y "did" make 3 (maybe 4) "confirmed" Tiger kills (as Höflinger's is known to be KO'd on the other side of the road too), and 2 (possibly 3?) got away, and that one 2.Kp. Tiger was found 1500m NE further forward of Wittmann's - as per p.425 Agte ie. - "either knocked out or abandonned due southwest of Gramesnil, on the road from La Jalouise to Cramesnil near reference Point 117", AND..., there were only 8 Tigers max available, then the obviuos question remains - is there really any Tiger left that could then be Wittmann's "007" that could have been the Typhoon's "only" victim in the group not accounted for as summarized above and detailed in the reports by the Brits??

The sequence of their destruction from both the British and German sides, also implies that Wittmann's Tiger was the second of the three "confirmeds" to be KO'd as it was noted to be the the only one hit to actually explode, to wit;

"At 1240 hours Captain Boardman gave Sergeant Gordon's tank the order to fire. The Tigers were seven-hundred meters distant. The Firefly's gunner was Trooper Joe Ekins, who hit the rearmost of the three Tigers in his sight with two shots. The Tigers had failed to spot the well-camouflaged Shermans, it was only after the shots had been fired and a Tiger knocked out that Wittmann transmitted the message referred to by SS-Hauptscharfuhrer Höflinger; "Move! Attention! Attention! Anti-tank guns to the right! - Back up!...". " (again p.425 Agte)

This one (ie. most likely "Wittmann's Tiger") reacted to the first Tiger being hit and stopped with the two 17pdr shots, by veering off to the right and returning fire with several shots back in the direction of the Shermans - quoting from Agte p.425 - "The Sherman (Firefly) changed its position somewhat to evade the Tiger's fire; one shell struck the turret hatch cover however, and wounded Sergeant Gordon in the head. He climbed out and Lieutenant James, his platoon commander, took over his tank and went back into position. At 1247 hours his gunner Ekins hit the second Tiger, which exploded in a ball of fire immediately after being hit. The foremost of the three Tigers was fired on by the other Shermans and was likely hit in a drive sprocket, for it began to spin in a circle. Ekins hit it with two shots at 1252 hours and the Tiger began to burn."

The fourth one - Hans Hoflinger's was KO'd on the other side of the road but its still uncertain as to who actually got it.

Agte's conclusion - "The three knocked out Tigers, about whose fate there are concrete details on the enemy side, were probably all accounted for by Trooper Ekins."

The forth - Höflinger's on the other side of the N158 is the only one unclaimed.

The fifth as previously mentioned was the lead one further on near Cranmesnil which was either KO'd or abandonned.

2. The damage...My other major worry is that if a 60lb High Explosive? warhead of a 'Tiffy' rocket has indeed struck the engine deck of "007" leaving 'a large hole spreading all the way to the turret pit' as you quote, it would thus indicate the direction of flight would have been from behind the Tiger (ie. from the direction of the German lines) so;

a)you'd think the grenadiers and anyone else under its flight path would have noticed it flying over them and

b)the impact would have thus been from back to front. Now, not intimately knowing the effect of these rockets myself but 'assuming' a 60lb warhead would be capable of a fair amount of damage, I still have great trouble believing it could hit the deck and cause such a pentetration to armour plate, YET at the same time leave the thin sheet metal turret bin only inches away totally unmarked or holed in anyway?? As this is the condition it is seen in even after the secondary ammo explosion has flipped the turret into the air and landed it on the grass months later when photgraphed by M.Varin.

A 17pdr AP round on the other hand could quite possibly inflict a gaping penetration yet produce no shrapnel or massive explosion in the process that would frag or mark surrounding paper-thin sheet metal. So I'd say even if we do agree there is a downward penetration on the deck based on solely M.Varin's account, the validty of which you are confident, I'm afraid my money would still have to be on an AP round and not an HE warhead doing it. And if as Jon says there is indeed a slight 20-30m hill that this treelined orchard the Brits were in nearly a km away allowing them to fire down onto the billiard table-flat plain that the Tigers were on then the 17pdr hit seems all the more logical.

3. You asked how could the initial displacement of the turret have occurred as it did? We KNOW from the eyewitness accounts it WAS initially displaced onto the deck and most souces state (regardless of where either either of us personally feel the hit came from - rocket or 17pdr), that it was the impact of this "ordnance" to the fuel tanks which produced the sheet of flame "explosion" which was remarked upon by both sides. The enormous shock wave of this blast in a sealed box such as a buttoned up tank would surely be quite capable of lifting the 20 odd ton turret (which only sat on the turret race by its own weight and wasn't locked down in any way) up slightly for a brief moment as a result and hence this displacement - the direction it went as it settled would have nothing to do with the angle it was hit from, but merely where the blast directed it as it was lifted.

OK - thats about as far as I think I can go to support the 17pdr hit evidence-wise - if its not enough, well we'll just have to good-naturedly agree to disagree on this point I'd say.

Now your feeling that "007" was a Mid is also of great interest as sadly the angle its snapped at procludes ascertaining it easily from the photo. So we go to written refs firstly...

I guess with your reference to p.255 of "TIC 2" though you aren't referring to the arrival date of 15th-27th of August 1943, as while yes it states "27 new Tigers arrive, including two command tanks", and they could indeed be Mids at this point, but these two at least are definitely still Earlies ("S04" and S05") as per the pics seen in Reggio (on p.102 in Restayn's "Tiger I on the Eastern Front"/p.138 Agtes's Wittmann (Eng. Ed.).

We know from photos that all three "007, "008", and "009" were zimmerited and from Tom Jentz's Osprey New Vanguard No.5, zimmerit didn't begin on Mids until September 1943, therefore these initial command tanks received can't be any of the ones used in Normandy. So the second arrival date of 9th-c.11th? of Jan 1944 of 2 command tanks is I guess what you mean. This is as you say inside the Mid with zimmerit window.

From the 2 shots (on p.284 of "TIC 2" and p.305 Agte's Eng. Wittmann), "009" though is definitely a late with steel wheels, so thus it must between "007" and "008" that are the Mids - correct?

Sadly the shot of "008" with its blown barrel is taken from front-on and its wheels and tow shackle styles are hidden (the latter by the crew), so it can't be confirmed photographically either way from this shot.

BUT...(and I love doing this as you can no doubt tell )from the only known shot of "007" I'm troubled by the drive sprocket still being visible when looking down its length...on a Mid with the outer row of wheels fitted this shouldn't be possible! This row and the front outer wheel in particular should sit outside it (eg. see p.275 for a shot of "331" which illustrates this), yet no outer wheels can be seen at all (on the LHS anyway)! It is obviously "possible" that they weren't fitted - a'la transport mode, but it would be v.unusual for them ALL to be missing once the battle tracks are on, as every other shot of Mids in this period with SS.101 shows them all on with not even the front one removed as per some EF Tiger units eg. s.Pz.Abt.502 etc. So thats one strike.

Another problem is that from Fgst. No.250635 to 250875 in Feb. 1944 a rear travel lock was carried on Mids in this production range, yet "007" doesn't appear to have it which is very odd if we believe its from the January delivery date? Again this could have been removed by the crews for some odd reason but unlikely as the two base plates off which it hinges were welded on so they should still be visble even if the arms are unbolted and taken off.

The big "BUT" though...and sorry to do this to you, as its the real killer for your Mid theory for "007", is that if we look closely at the lower LHS of the rear plate under the left exhaust stack, we see the small horizontal oval cover for the blow torch port for allowing cold weather starts - intro date...drumroll...February 1944 from Fgst. 250823 on - ie. ON THE LATES (which only began with 250822)! So again I'm afraid all the evidence screams Late not Mid for "007"!

"008" may still be an option for a Mid but without any other shots its toss-a-coin time on it. You'd "assume" it would have arrived with the 2 others in the same batch so I'd personally call heads that it is a Late too...

So the obvious question is what happened to these earlier 4 "command" tanks and when did the 2 (or 3) Lates arrive that are "007", "009" and possibly "008"? Not sure on the earlier one's fate (KO'd or long term repair as no reorts of a transfer to another unit appears to be mentioned anywhere but by Normandy no Earlies seem to be around in 101 any more only Mids & Lates). But as to the arrival of these "3 Late command tanks" it must have to be in the 20th of April 1944 batch of 25 Lates delivered that they turn up (but they sadly go unremarked on by Schneider on p.255 of "TIC 2" if he in fact knows).

Now I'm honestly not trying to be difficult but I also don't know if I can agree either that "007" (or "008" or "009" for that matter) are in plain yellow - they all appear to me at least to be in a light mottled (possibly dusty as it was high summer) 3 colour camo - "007" especially - note the turret bin with the dark colour under the "7" which is pristine white even this long after the battle.

So on all we've got so far (as per the game Cludeo) my position I'm afraid is still;

"A Firefly from the slight hill to the North East that KO'd a Late 3 colour Tiger of Hauptsturmführer Michael Wittmann on August 8 1944 at 1247 hours at Cintheuax near Gaumesnil:-)

To me the Typhoon raid if it indeed occurred based on M.Varin's testimony with the rocket embedded in the ground nearby happened at some point in time therafter.

Anyway as usual this is really great stuff and has been quite enjoyable playing amateur detective - hopefully by us shaking it to bits like this like a dog with a bone, we have perhaps got a clearer understanding of what actually happened, or at the very least will let everyone make a much more informed choice as to what they believe 'may have happened'. "

James Blackwell
anyway, nice info.

cheers. :D

helmut

PaulJ
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Post by PaulJ » Mon Mar 13, 2006 9:24 pm

Taylor Collector wrote:If it really was four Shermans against 8 tigers the Americans would have been slaughtered. I would bet that there was allied artillery involved and probably a few more tanks.
As michael kenny pointed out, no Americans at all -- British and Canadians.

More specifically, it was about three squadrons (ie, companies) of armour a total of about forty tanks, not all of which could see the targets and not all of which engaged. Of that number maybe a halfdozen to ten were Fireflies. This was versus about a dozen German AFVs, seven of which were Tigers.

See the OUTSTANDING map below, from Brian Reid's No Holding Back

Image

Note that Wittman charged into what we would today call a Kill Zone, with armour killing guns on three sides. Those who would deify his tactical genius might want to consider that.

Cheers,
Paul Johnston
Per Ardua ad Astra
http://tactical-airpower.tripod.com

sid guttridge
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Post by sid guttridge » Mon Mar 13, 2006 10:58 pm

Hi Guys,

This thread rather reminds me of a well known remark about Hitler in 1945. Once he had moved entire divisions across the map of Europe continent, but by then he was reduce to ordering about individual tanks.

Has so much "big picture" military history now been written that we have been reduced to the point of plotting the movements of tanks of named individuals? Would it really matter if Witmann and Dollinger had swapped tanks, or whether Witmann was killed by a Typhoon or a land mine? Are we becoming over obsessed with the particular fates of the Richtofens, Rudels and Witmanns of this world at the expense of substantive military history?

That said, this story seems to have been very capably investigated and the map is a model of clarity, so I have enjoyed learning these details almost despite my scepticism!

Cheers,

Sid.

Helmut Von Moltke

Post by Helmut Von Moltke » Tue Mar 14, 2006 12:59 am

sid guttridge wrote:Hi Guys,

This thread rather reminds me of a well known remark about Hitler in 1945. Once he had moved entire divisions across the map of Europe continent, but by then he was reduce to ordering about individual tanks.

Has so much "big picture" military history now been written that we have been reduced to the point of plotting the movements of tanks of named individuals? Would it really matter if Witmann and Dollinger had swapped tanks, or whether Witmann was killed by a Typhoon or a land mine? Are we becoming over obsessed with the particular fates of the Richtofens, Rudels and Witmanns of this world at the expense of substantive military history?

That said, this story seems to have been very capably investigated and the map is a model of clarity, so I have enjoyed learning these details almost despite my scepticism!

Cheers,

Sid.
heh heh, ordering around individual tanks. Who did Hitler make this remark to? :D

helmut

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Post by PaulJ » Tue Mar 14, 2006 7:38 pm

Sid,

Sid, Sid, Sid, Sid.
sid guttridge wrote:Has so much "big picture" military history now been written that we have been reduced to the point of plotting the movements of tanks of named individuals? ... Are we becoming over obsessed at the expense of substantive military history?
What "substantive" military history are we doing here in this forum?

Me, I try to rationalize my participation in this forum as "warm ups". When I sit down in my study and fire up the computer, I usually check in here. After I've "warmed up" on this, hopefully, I get on to something a bit more substantively productive. Or at least, that's how I try and rationalize Feldgrau time to my wife, who is under no illusions about this forum being a bunch of overgrown boys comparing trading cards, or whatever.

Radley-Walters, who as a young major was the OC of A Sqn the SFR (in the posistion in GAMESNIL to the West of the Tigers, who may or may not have been the ones who fired the fatal shot), and subsequently went on to serve in the post-war Canadian Army, retiring as a Brigadier General, always maintained that it didn't matter who, exactly, had killed Wittmann. Indeed, that it didn't even matter so much that Wittmann was killed at all. What mattered, "Rad" always maintained, was that the counter-attack -- the Germans only chance to seriously disrupt the advance -- was defeated.

What else might this little drama tell us? Well, as I suggested in my previous post, its only one case study, but it might perhaps say something about the tactical brilliance of the SS panzer commanders, or at least throw some of the wilder claims into perspective.

Cheers,
Paul Johnston
Per Ardua ad Astra
http://tactical-airpower.tripod.com

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