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Michael Wittman - Villers Bocage
Old 09-24-2012, 10:53 PM   #1
wolfslair44
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Default Michael Wittman - Villers Bocage

Hi All,

I tried searching, because I am sure someone has asked or started a discussion on this before, but could not find anything.

I am trying to determine what tank Michael Wittman was in when he led the assault at Villers Bocage on June 13, 1944. Has there been a 'definitive' answer on this? I know his initial tank had mechanical issues and a debate began if he was in 222 or 231, or possibly another.

I am in the process of commissioning a painting of this event and would like the 'proper' tank number on Wittman's tank. Any help is appreciated.

Best,
Scott
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Old 09-25-2012, 06:59 AM   #2
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The shattered turret of Wittmann's Tiger, Nr. 007. The turret has been completely torn away from the hull, and ruptured by an internal explosion. Wittmann's Tiger has been 'claimed' by a number of Allied units, although it has also been argued that it had been destroyed by airborne forces. The photograph was taken by a French civilian.


Read more: http://www.panzerace.net/english/pz_...#ixzz27ThRdyCt


Hans




Red 222", Tiger of Uscha. Sowa, used by Ostuf. Michael Wittmann, 2. Kompanie, (schwere) SS-PzAbt 101, LSSAH during his famous battle against the A-Squadron, 4th County of London Yeomanry at Villers-Bocage, Normandy, June 13, 1944
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Last edited by heyst56; 09-25-2012 at 07:08 AM.
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Old 09-25-2012, 08:14 AM   #3
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The below is what I remember (as my reference material is a bit far away from where I am right now) and based on several visits to the area....

The latest I've seen on this is that Wittman's original Tiger with which he left for the front, numbered 205 (it was photographed coming out of Morgny-en-Vexin on 07 June 1944), suffered a catastrophic engine failure en route to Normandy (and was never repaired, therefore never participating in the Normandy campaign). On June 12 1944, Wittman was at Point 213 (or rather, close to it) with his Schwimmwagen, with six of his company's 14 Tigers in the area (the others having broken down en route). It is my understanding that he ultimately used Kurt Sowa's tank (numbered 222), sending the latter to alert nearby units, to launch his recon/attack on advance units of 7th Armored on Point 213 and in Villers Bocage.

That tank was put out of action later that day. There are two conflicting versions of it, based on the fact that the one man who definitely shot at Wittman's tank and hit it twice gave two accounts: according to Sgt. Pat Dyas, whose Cromwell unsuccessfully engaged Wittman, he either fired at its rear as Wittman continued into town or at its front when Wittman was returning back to Point 213, after his encounter with B Squadron at the western end of town. Dyas' accounts are conflicting: he stated that Wittman's turret turned 180 degrees to knock out his Cromwell, and also that Wittman's Tiger destroyed his tank as it was leaving town.

This is important, because if Dyas engaged Wittman when the latter was still going further into the town, it would support the view that Wittman's Tiger (in fact, Sowa's 222) was disabled during its encounter at the western edge of town (it may have been hit by a Firefly commanded by Sgt. Brian Lockwood) and abandoned in town, to be subsequently destroyed by Lt. Cotton, who used blankets and gasoline to destroy it to prevent its repair and future use. This view is generally supported by German claims that five of the 1st Company's tanks were destroyed in VB later that day (and since there are six known to have been knocked out there, the sixth would be Wittman's mount).

Another view is that Dyas engaged Wittman when he was leaving VB, in which case 222 was disabled as it was coming back up the N175 towards Point 213 by the 6-pounder AT gun at the very back of the destroyed column. Since there is no picture showing a disabled/destroyed Tiger there, it would stand to reason that the Tiger would have been towed and repaired shortly after the Germans regained control of the area.

In any event, photography taken of Wittman after the incident make it rather plain that, with his Tiger disabled and with British elements between him and his unit, he and his crew walked/ran some 6km north to Orbois, to report to Panzer Lehr HQS what had just happened. From there, he went by car to 1st SS Panzerkorps HQS not far from Verson, where pictures were taken of him by a KB drinking a glass of champagne... The reason this is of some import is that it debunks claims that Wittman returned to Point 213 and was involved in finishing off the engagement there, as well as taking part in subsequent combat involving Moebius' First Company. Contemporary KB reporting makes it clear he was only involved in the initial engagement.

He was in Tiger 007 when he was KIA on 08 August 1944, almost certainly when his tank was hit by a flank shot fired at about 800 meters range by Sherman Firefly in position in the Les Jardinets area. This is another matter that has been rather established in recent years: there is no evidence that his tank was hit by a Typhoon. In fact, his was one of four Tigers hit and destroyed in a short period of time, in a charge against an enemy force without prior recon...

It is my vague recollection that Kurt Sowa went on to command another Tiger, a Tiger II this time, during the Battle of the Ardennes, were his unit (the 501st SS Heavy Tank Battalion) was attached to Kampfgruppe Peiper. Also numbered 222, it was put out of action next to the bridge at Stavelot on 17 December 1944.

I'd be grateful for any corrections/comments on the above.


Quote:
Originally Posted by wolfslair44 View Post
Hi All,

I tried searching, because I am sure someone has asked or started a discussion on this before, but could not find anything.

I am trying to determine what tank Michael Wittman was in when he led the assault at Villers Bocage on June 13, 1944. Has there been a 'definitive' answer on this? I know his initial tank had mechanical issues and a debate began if he was in 222 or 231, or possibly another.

I am in the process of commissioning a painting of this event and would like the 'proper' tank number on Wittman's tank. Any help is appreciated.

Best,
Scott
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Old 09-25-2012, 08:31 AM   #4
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Thanks gents. I guess unless another photograph surfaces we are left to continue the debate, but it sounds like 222 is still believed to be the tank he used in the infamous engagement. I welcome others thoughts too.
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Old 09-25-2012, 11:02 AM   #5
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Wittmann´s TIGER was stopped by a shot (of Dyas) in the track, when leaving VB. Fotos show the tank facing north-east (direction hill 213), with back to the town-center. No numbers are visible on the fotos.
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Old 09-25-2012, 12:37 PM   #6
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This brings up a good question: if you look at where Dyas' tank was when it was hit and destroyed, there is no LOS to where Wittman abandoned his tank in VB. That suggests either that Dyas damaged it on its way into town (and that Wittman abandoned it a few minutes later, after destroying Dyas' tank and engaging B Squadron, indicating damage to his Tiger eventually incapacitated it) or that Lockwood's Firefly damaged it when he fired at it upon entering town from the Caumont road. Dyas, for his part, in his two contradictory recountings of the matter, stated his shots had no effect on the Tiger (for that matter, Lockwood claimed at least one hit).

The photo of Wittman's tank in VB shows burn damage around the turret, which would have burned off the zimmerit and/or obscured completely any numbering. Some of the best pictures of the 101st SS Heavy Tank Battalion's Tigers were taken in and just outside Morgny-en-Vexin on the way to the front on 7 June, and sometime in late May during exercises somewhere around Beauvais, and I believe most artists' renditions are based on study of those pictures.

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Originally Posted by Gran Sasso View Post
Wittmann´s TIGER was stopped by a shot (of Dyas) in the track, when leaving VB. Fotos show the tank facing north-east (direction hill 213), with back to the town-center. No numbers are visible on the fotos.
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Old 09-25-2012, 12:48 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gran Sasso View Post
Wittmann´s TIGER was stopped by a shot (of Dyas) in the track, when leaving VB. Fotos show the tank facing north-east (direction hill 213), with back to the town-center. No numbers are visible on the fotos.
Gran Sasso - Which tank do you put him in then during the battle?
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Old 09-25-2012, 01:15 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolfslair44 View Post
Gran Sasso - Which tank do you put him in then during the battle?
That one (link just for the foto, not the writings):

http://www.panzerace.net/english/pz_vil.asp?page=3

Last edited by Gran Sasso; 09-25-2012 at 01:28 PM.
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Old 09-25-2012, 02:38 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gran Sasso View Post
That one (link just for the foto, not the writings):

http://www.panzerace.net/english/pz_vil.asp?page=3
Geez. Are there any photos or logs/notes that survived of repairs to the vehicles after the battle that match the damage sustained to identify Wittman's tank (consistent with the photo provided by Gran Sasso)?

Last edited by wolfslair44; 09-25-2012 at 02:46 PM.
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Old 09-25-2012, 11:04 PM   #10
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In the book "Michael Wittman and the Tiger Commanders of the Leibstandarte" (by Patrick Agte) the after action reports given by various members of Wittman's 2nd Company indicate that the tank he used during the action in VB was number 222. As stated before this tiger was commanded by Uscha. Kurt Sowa. The tank that Wittman initially jumped into, that had engine problems, was number 234.

I highly recommend this book, very vivid first hand accounts of the Leibstandarte panzers in action.

Last edited by SPECTRE9MM; 09-25-2012 at 11:21 PM.
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Old 09-26-2012, 08:56 AM   #11
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I am unaware of any.

The tank almost universally believed to be Wittman's was torched by Lt. Cotton later that day. Cotton did so deliberately to prevent the tank from being recovered by the Germans, as burning it would have made it impossible to repair. Ensuring an enemy tank had either burned out or exploded was common practice, as the inside would have been subjected to extreme heat (fusing of components, to include the engine/transmission in this case) and the armor compromised (due to the heat's effect on the metallurgy). Anything else could, theoretically, be repaired... This is, as an aside, well explained in one of the appendicies in Ian Daglish's book on Operation Goodwood

To obtain an excellent review of this engagement, suggest reading "Villers Bocage - Normandie 1944" by Henri Marie. It's bilingual (in French and English - although the English translation is a bit wonky at times) and contains just about every picture taken of the 101st SS Heavy Tank Battalion's tanks prior to and during this timeframe, as well as excellent maps, period photography immediately after the engagement, "then-and-now" comparisons, and the like. You will find there several pictures of the burned out Tiger believed to be the one Wittman used that day. He also notes that local witnesses recall that at least one burned out Tiger was subsequently towed out of town and positioned as a decoy to attract Allied fighter-bombers.

Mr. Marie built the large diorama of the town of VB during the war, which one can see in the town's Hotel de Ville (town hall). While the center of town was almost totally destroyed by both the RAF and by combat in early August during Op Bluecoat, the SE corner of town - where two Tigers of the 1st Company were knocked out later that day by a 6-pounder AT gun - hasn't changed much. The roads into and out of town, while widened, are in the same general locations. The area around the market square, where Wittman's Tiger was abandoned and later burned, has changed considerably as it was totally redesigned when the town was rebuilt.

It is still possible to walk around the town and the Hill 213 location to revisit this engagement and obtain an on-the-ground impression, which helps in analysing the various accounts of the engagement. I was fortunate enough to do this in the mid-1990s, prior to the construction of the new highway, but even with it in place, it's still a very recognizable area to visit/study, as I've been there a few times since...

Quote:
Originally Posted by wolfslair44 View Post
Geez. Are there any photos or logs/notes that survived of repairs to the vehicles after the battle that match the damage sustained to identify Wittman's tank (consistent with the photo provided by Gran Sasso)?
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Old 09-26-2012, 10:09 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by tracman View Post
I am unaware of any.

The tank almost universally believed to be Wittman's was torched by Lt. Cotton later that day. Cotton did so deliberately to prevent the tank from being recovered by the Germans, as burning it would have made it impossible to repair. Ensuring an enemy tank had either burned out or exploded was common practice, as the inside would have been subjected to extreme heat (fusing of components, to include the engine/transmission in this case) and the armor compromised (due to the heat's effect on the metallurgy). Anything else could, theoretically, be repaired... This is, as an aside, well explained in one of the appendicies in Ian Daglish's book on Operation Goodwood

To obtain an excellent review of this engagement, suggest reading "Villers Bocage - Normandie 1944" by Henri Marie. It's bilingual (in French and English - although the English translation is a bit wonky at times) and contains just about every picture taken of the 101st SS Heavy Tank Battalion's tanks prior to and during this timeframe, as well as excellent maps, period photography immediately after the engagement, "then-and-now" comparisons, and the like. You will find there several pictures of the burned out Tiger believed to be the one Wittman used that day. He also notes that local witnesses recall that at least one burned out Tiger was subsequently towed out of town and positioned as a decoy to attract Allied fighter-bombers.

Mr. Marie built the large diorama of the town of VB during the war, which one can see in the town's Hotel de Ville (town hall). While the center of town was almost totally destroyed by both the RAF and by combat in early August during Op Bluecoat, the SE corner of town - where two Tigers of the 1st Company were knocked out later that day by a 6-pounder AT gun - hasn't changed much. The roads into and out of town, while widened, are in the same general locations. The area around the market square, where Wittman's Tiger was abandoned and later burned, has changed considerably as it was totally redesigned when the town was rebuilt.

It is still possible to walk around the town and the Hill 213 location to revisit this engagement and obtain an on-the-ground impression, which helps in analysing the various accounts of the engagement. I was fortunate enough to do this in the mid-1990s, prior to the construction of the new highway, but even with it in place, it's still a very recognizable area to visit/study, as I've been there a few times since...
Very solid info and sounds like great experiences!
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Old 10-08-2012, 01:08 AM   #13
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"He was in Tiger 007 when he was KIA on 08 August 1944, almost certainly when his tank was hit by a flank shot fired at about 800 meters range by Sherman Firefly in position in the Les Jardinets area."

Sorry to bring this up, but the Tiger he was taken out at in, was from 243m, flank shot from a Canadian Unit. It was proven that the long 800-900m shot, down hill was next to impossible to do, as Wittmans Tiger was out of sight of the British unit. This was all done with survey and photos of the know Tiger locations and Allied unit locations.

Anthony
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Old 10-08-2012, 04:39 AM   #14
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I'd be very grateful for your references on this. I am aware that two separate units have claimed credit for the destruction of Wittmann's tank: the 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry, and the Canadian Sherbrooke Fusiliers. My understanding is that the logbook entries of the former for that day notes its location in Les Jardinets and that a Sherman Firefly, with Joe Ekins as its gunner, was credited with knocking out four Tigers advancing perpendicular to his position. I was not aware that the Canadian Sherbrooke Fusiliers daily log specifically mentioned its destruction of a Tiger tank that day.

The position where Ekins' tank was purportedly located is still visible today: the woodline from which he supposedly fired from in the Les Jardinets area has changed little over the years, and it offers very clear views over the open fields over which Wittmann charged. I'd be very curious for surveys and other geographical data that claim this is impossible, because having been there and seen with my own eyes the very clear view that Ekins ostensibly had, I'd have to conclude then that I was at the wrong place - and that publications that identify this as the location from which the shots were fired are wrong as well....

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"He was in Tiger 007 when he was KIA on 08 August 1944, almost certainly when his tank was hit by a flank shot fired at about 800 meters range by Sherman Firefly in position in the Les Jardinets area."

Sorry to bring this up, but the Tiger he was taken out at in, was from 243m, flank shot from a Canadian Unit. It was proven that the long 800-900m shot, down hill was next to impossible to do, as Wittmans Tiger was out of sight of the British unit. This was all done with survey and photos of the know Tiger locations and Allied unit locations.

Anthony
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Old 10-08-2012, 12:54 PM   #15
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There were two historians who(Norm Christie & Janne Drouleete (sp) , with a lot of research with the french historian a Wittman expert who has completed lots of research on this battle, air photos, survey teams, located the positions of all units British, Canadian & German that engaged in the action. Ekins engaged the 4 Tigers that were seen from his point shooting down hill no futher than 800m, and the Sherbrooks engaged the 5th with a flank shot at 243m, which was found out to have been Wittman's ride.

This was done with History Channel for the battlefield Mysteries series a few years ago. With interveiws from veterans, makes for a good watch .

Check it out on youtube.

Anthony
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