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Michael Wittmann's Experience and the Tiger Tank (Fall 2012)

            Michael Wittmann was born in April 22nd 1914 in Vogelthal, Palatinat, and he was found dead in 1944 and then his body was buried at De Le. He was just a son of a normal farmer. However, only in his 30 years life, Michael Wittmann became the most famous and successful tank commander during World War II.

            From Adolf Hitler's propaganda, Michael Wittmann joined Reichsarbeitidenst as a lot of other teenage boys on February 1st, 1934 for six months. After that, he joined Germany Army's 19th Infantry Regiment on October 30th, 1934, and served for two years. When he left the 19th Infantry Regiment, Michael Wittmann was a Junior Non-Commissioned Office-Unteroffizier. But Michael Wittmann did not finish his army life so early, later on April 5th, 1937; he joined LSSAH (Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler) as a private and received driver training and is marked as an excellent driver. In September of 1939, Michael Wittmann had his first formal battle experience in the Polish Campaign. In October 1939, he joined the 5th Panzer Company, which was a school about assault gun, such as the most famous gun German had in World War II, the 88mm, for later tankers. In the next year, he transferred to the assault gun battery of LSSAH as a StugIII Ausf A driver, and over there, Michael Wittmann met some other future elite tankers, such as Hannes Philpsen, Helmut Wendroff and Alfred Guether.

            In the late 1940, Michael Wittmann finally started his legendary tank career in the Balkans Battle. When he was in the Balkans battle, Michael Wittmann gained a lot of experience of a tank driver and a lot of confidence when they kept winning the battle, and Michael Wittmann fought over there until 1941.

            In June 1941, Wittmann was moved to the east battle line for the upcoming Barbarossa operation which started on June 22nd. After June 22nd, Barbarossa started, LSSAH was ordered to go to south Russia. During this time, Michael Wittmann received the Iron Cross Medal (second class) on July 12th, for his wonderful performance against USSR tanks. Also, Michael Wittmann received the Wound Badge for staying battle when he got hurt. On September 8th, he received Iron Cross Medal (first class) for destroying six USSR tanks in one battle. Since his continuing excellent performance, Michael Wittmann became an official tank trainer on September 5th.

            In 1942 fall, LSSAH was upgraded to a Panzer-Grenadier Division, and the 13th Kompanie has the chance to get the PZ VI Tiger, which was the death machine in that time period. Later that year, LSSAH was moved to Eastern Front. However, at the beginning, Wittmann did not receive the chance to be a driver of Tiger, his mission was protecting Tigers' sides and back and kill anything will stop them.

            In the spring 1943, Wittmann finally received the chance to be a Tiger commander and started his legendary tank career with this legendary tank, PZ VI Tiger. German started to develop Tiger after they realized that PZ III and PZ IV will no longer be able to again the massive amount of M4s and T-34s(USSR one, not the T34 heavy tank from the US). Under Hitler's order, factories started working on Tiger will the base of PZ IV and equipped with the most famous gun during World War II, 88mm Pak 43.

            Since tank was the new technology introduced in World War II, not a lot of countries had a lot of advantages on any kind area, but German was one of these countries had some great technology at the beginning. PZ VI Tiger is built based on PZ IV medium tank, but Tiger has the ability to equip the 88mm gun, which means it can penetrate every single type of tanks that Allies had, such as famous T-34, Churchill, KV1, KV2 and M4. Because tank is a metal wall full of high explosion items, such as shells and gasoline, when enemies can penetrate you every shot, there is no chance you can fight back and it's a one shot one kill, especially when you facing the death machine, Tiger, with vertical armor all around it. This is one huge reason that help Wittmann got his legend, the technology.

            Right after Wittmann had the chance to be in a Tiger, LSSAH was in the south side of Kursk for attacking on July 5th, 1943. At his first day of driving Tiger, Wittmann destroyed two tank destroyers and 13 T-34s, amazing performance for a single tank. On July 7th and 8th, Wittmann destroyed two T-34s, two su-122 SPGS, and three T-60, T70. His legend did not stop, on July 12th, Wittmann destroyed eight USSR tanks and another three tank destroyers. During this attack, Wittmann destroyed 30 tanks and 28 SPGs/Tank destroyers.

            On January 13th, 1944, Michael Wittmann received the Knight's Cross medal for destroyed 88 enemy tanks/SPGs/tank destroyers. Seven days later, Wittmann received the telegram from someone influenced him so much, Adolf Hitler, saying "In thankful appreciation of your heroic actions in the battle for the future of our people, I award you as the 380th soldier of the German Wehrmacht, the Oakleaves to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. Adolf Hitler." 

            This was the big moment for Wittmann, because he was a total NAZI, and the telegram from Hitler is a approve for him to being a "excellent German", and this telegram would gave him extra encouragement to keep being a great German. Wittmann was not the only one got influenced by Adolf Hitler so much, millions of German was influenced by Adolf Hitler too, because of his excellent speech skills and powerful propaganda method. Such as the great speech Hitler had about German are the fox, and Jews are the rabbit, there is nothing wrong to hunt a rabbit by fox, because it is all nature, to remove the guiltiness for killing Jews, start wars, and encouragement for people to join the army to be part of the powerful fox.

            Adolf Hitler used Wittmann as a war hero in that time period to show Germans that they are so powerful and they are undefeatable. This is a great way to make sure people still have confidence about their countries. This method used a lot around the world. For example, Stalin used painting, post to show the iron army of the USSR, and the power of the communist. Also, Stalin used these art works to present the basic idea of communist to people. For Hitler, his used book as one of his many powerful method to make sure his idea is marked into people's mind. His book, Mein Kampf, was the most popular book in Germany to make sure people are clear about his idea, and they should follow their stronger leader Hitler and do anything they can for their fatherland.

            During the D-day invasion, Wittmann was part of the LSSAH was defending the Allies, but they did not last long with Allie's air attack. When Wittmann arrived near Villiers-Bocage, Wittmann's unit destroyed the whole 4th County of London Yeomanry Regiment at the Hill No.213.

            Wittmann and his company were waiting at the road that British were passing through near Bocage. They shot the first tank and last tank of the whole team to make sure these British tanks could not run away and caused a lot of troubles/chaos for them. Later Wittmann just used to powerful 88mm to easily kill every target that was in front of him. In five minutes, Wittmann destroyed 28 enemy's vehicle and 25 tanks. Finally, when Wittmann and his remain company arrived at Tilly-sur-seulles, and got hit by a six pound gun at the track. Wittmann and his group have to move out the Tiger as fast as they can, since there is no way for they to fix it. However, after this great battle, allies were afraid of Tigers as they never did before, they even would call for air support when they thought they saw Tigers around, and the allies had to slow to their pace to defend any possible remaining Tigers.

            This was the greatest battle of Wittmann's career. When his company was out numbered at they are defending Allies from air and land, his unit still destroyed the whole team enemies with the powerful Tigers. But during this D-Day invasion, we already can see German are lacking of competitiveness with allies about air forces and outnumbered by allies production ability. One reason I believed that D-Day was successes is, the support from the air, since the German air force was not as great as allies. Also the weakness of Tiger also showed in this battle, because the great power of Tiger and the weigh it has, the track of Tigers and Panther (PZ V medium tank) was so complex that when they got hit at the track, there is almost no way to fix it in short amount of time, then the power Tiger will just turn into a huge aim target for enemies. This is the reason for Wittmann and his unit had to move out the Tiger when they got hit at the track. As a result, Wittmann be the hero of German again, and he received Swords for his Knight Cross with Oak Leafs on June 25th, 1944, and Adolf Hitler gave him the honor in person. However, when Wittmann return to the frontline of Normandy at July 6th, and in August 8th, Wittmann and his new Tiger was killed in the battle near Gaumesnil. The legend ended.

            Another huge result of this the Bocage battle is, allies realized there was almost no way to fight Tigers group on ground, and they have to come out new tanks that can gain victories for them when they were facing Tigers. 

            This is why that British was producing more and more Sherman Firefly, because the 17 pound gun was few guns will damage Tigers. Also, for the USSR, they chose JS-1, JS-2, and more T-34s to facing slow, but powerful Tigers. And for the U.S. the medium tanks M26 was the one be chosen to fight Tigers. 

            German also realized that only Tiger will not be able to provide them 100% win anymore, they tried to produce better tanks. Tiger II was the result of it. When Hitler realized Tigers were not good enough anymore, it was too late to change the fact that German was losing, and since German was wasting so many resource about building concentration camps, they did not have enough resources to produce more Tiger II, which had better gun and track system based on Tiger, or the SturmTiger, a moving 380mm gun. These were the mistakes that Hitler and his team made, that trust Tiger was good enough for battles, did not take them back to do future upgrade, and wasted resources on concentration camp. If they did not make these wrong decisions, the outcome of World War II might be different. At least there was no way for D-Day invasion to success if German had Tiger II, JagdTiger or SturmTiger at position.

            If Hitler did not make wrong decisions in later World War II, if D-Day invasion failed, if the British did not have the Radar in Battle of Britain... They are so many ways history could be changed, but these people, these new technologies, these decisions they made, these war legends made the day we are having today.

  1. Eric Peytavin &Thierry Guilbert (n.d.). Michael Wittmann. Retrieved December 9, 2012, from http://www.achtungpanzer.com/gen3.htm
  2. Wikipedia.(2012, Nov., 8). Michael Wittmann. Retrieved December 9, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Wittmann
  3. WarGamer.(n.d.) Hauptsturmführer Michael Wittmann. Retrieved December 9, 2012, from http://hosted.wargamer.com/Panzer/wittmann.htm
  4. Achtungpanzer.(n.d.) Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger Ausf. E Sd. Kfz. 181. Retrieved December 9, 2012, from http://www.achtungpanzer.com/panzerkampfwagen-vi-tiger-ausf-e-sd-kfz-181.htm
  5. Rick D. Joshua(n.d.) The Story of Michael Wittmann. Retrieved December 8, 2012, from http://www.panzerace.net/english/pz_bio.asp
  6. Battle of Normandy Tours.(n.d.) Michael Wittmann and the Tank Battle of Villaers-Bocage. Retrieved December 9, 2012, from http://www.battleofnormandytours.com/villers-bocage.html
  7. The Armor Site!(n.d.) The life and Times of Germany's Tiger Tanks: PzKpfw.VI TIGER I. Retrieved December 8, 2012, from  http://www.fprado.com/armorsite/tiger1.htm