Michael Wittmann's Death

RichieRich

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I watched an interesting documentary about the death of Michael Wittmann. What surprised me, was the fact that although a few Fireflies engaged his Tiger, according to the documentary, his Tiger was knocked out by a Sherman with the short 75mm gun, which hit his tank in the flank. I was shocked by this verdict. Has anyone else heard of this, or is it still unclear as to what killed his Tiger, i.e......Firefly, 75mm gunned Sherman or a Tiffy?
 

Sempai

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Hm, my last information on that topic was/is that several troops/units claimed to have killed him. There was a Typhoon or Tempest, a Sherman tank and Sherman Firefly tank who claimed that. I would go with the Fighter-Bomber-Story. But that is only my assumption. Maybe there were new information found since the last time I busied myself with that topic.

Greetings
 

RichieRich

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Sempai, just how accurate were the unguided rockets from the Typhoons/Tempests? It would see that a direct hit on a tank would be a very small percentage, unlike today's guided missiles. I wonder if anything had been written about the subject, since the Western Allies have always been overly optimistic during the war.
 

Nemesis

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Sempai, just how accurate were the unguided rockets from the Typhoons/Tempests? It would see that a direct hit on a tank would be a very small percentage, unlike today's guided missiles. I wonder if anything had been written about the subject, since the Western Allies have always been overly optimistic during the war.
@RichieRich I have seen a lot of data that WW2 aircraft were notoriously inaccurate and got credit for a lot of kills that they did not actually get. For example, tanks fleeing Falaise would break down mechanically and then get strafed by planes. The planes would not damage the abandoned tank, but would get credit for the kill.

Here is a video on this (although I have seen better videos on this, but could not find them):

What killed the most tanks?
 

julianj

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Nemesis is right. IIRC Typhoons on a test, on a stationary tank in an open field scored around 4% hits. In real battle with moving evasive tanks, smoke, AA fire, it would be lower. Niklas Zetterling has examined the German records and thinks that Allied tac air in Normandy's effect on tanks was vastly exaggerated. It's in his book Normandy 1944 but I think a googling will bring up the online essay.

I also thought that the Wittman controversy was over and he was killed by a firefly gunner. I apologise for not providing references as I should, but it is late and I have had a long day.
 

julianj

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Hi Guys!

Instead of working, I am skiving. It's all your fault :). I found a fascinating discussion on the Dupuy site, which includes Zetterling himself. The general conclusion is that tac air from anybody on western or eastern front was much less effective than claimed. http://www.dupuyinstitute.org/ubb/Forum5/HTML/000010.html.

I can't recommend Normandy 1944 enough. It's one of my top go-to books for the German side of things. Zetterling translates from original German military reports so is very reliable, unlike others who repeat myths. I can't find the essay on air power online any more, maybe he removed it as it is a chapter in the book?
 

RichieRich

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Hey, thanks everyone for your two cents...…………………………… I always wondered about the final decision on Wittmann's demise. Firefly gunners swear they knocked him out, while fighter bombers say they hit a Tiger during the battle (was it Wittmann?). Very interesting, even decades after the fact.
 

Sempai

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Sempai, just how accurate were the unguided rockets from the Typhoons/Tempests? It would see that a direct hit on a tank would be a very small percentage, unlike today's guided missiles. I wonder if anything had been written about the subject, since the Western Allies have always been overly optimistic during the war.
@RichieRich: It is a long time since I occupied myself with that topic. My consideration was that Wittmann was a very experienced tank commander. I can´t believe he followed the "american movie way" of blasting from all barrels and drive just straight into a enemy column. Same counts for the encirclement by allied Shermans. Therefor he was too experienced to do with a single tank even if that tank was a Tiger. So a lucky shot of a fighter bomber is for me the most probably explanation of the given stories. And maybe it was even different from all that. I think somwhere was to read a ATG had killed his tank. A short look in the internet shows that even today it isn´t cleared who did the kill. And the percentage of an air tac kill may be very small but it is there. Further the Tiger was on top armored the weakest. What is another reason what "speaks" in this favour. Last but not least I´m not so interested in percentages and claims. Reality shows often enough that the percentages can be totally contrary - nevertheless things happens. And a claim is no evidence - it is only another story.

Greetings
 

Nemesis

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Did you guys ever play paintball? I used to play a fair bit when I was younger. My friends and I would debrief games after we played them. What happened constantly is that people on the other team would get hit by multiple players on our team. So people on our team would argue about "who killed the guy with the blue bandanna" because we all shot him. In paintball, the first hit is the "lethal" one, so it is even clearer than real war.

In terms of figuring things out, real war would be much worse. Many of the eye witnesses could be KIA/WIA. Engagement ranges are much, much higher. The survivors might be jockeying for medals. The fear factor comes into play. A tank could be penetrated six times, but it was second penetration that destroyed the tank. And what does it mean to be "destroyed?" There is also little or no forensic investigation done after the battle.

War is a shockingly confusing place. Even if we had a video of Whitmann's demise, I am betting it would still be unclear.

The truth is that we will never know for certain.
 

RichieRich

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Good point, Nemesis. I am not a Nazi, nor am I a warmonger. But as a young boy growing up in the late 60's, early 70's, WW2 wasn't as long ago as it is today. I distinctly remember kids in school talking about Tiger tanks, and they made it sound like it was alive, and demonic of sorts (this is where I began to become interested in German Arms). So of course, one day I watch Kellys Hero's, and sure enough the subject of the TIGER tank is brought up again, so naturally I had to find out all I could about this tank. Next thing I know, I became fascinated about WW2, and read everything I can get my hands on. To Sempai's point, I also read a book a long time ago and it did state that Wittmann, just as he did many times on the Eastern Front (as books describe), drove right at the advancing Allied Army when he was killed, neglecting tank tactics in the meantime. And also, at Villers Bocage, they made it sound like he alone attacked the British lead elements, but years later when I found a book on the subject, there were pictures of numerous Tigers (one of which was Wittmann's), and other German tanks knocked out in the city, so maybe as a whole, we want to keep the legend alive even though the truth is different from the lore. Certainly he was an outstanding tactician.
 

pkdiorama

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Hi all interesting subject but alot of wrong information that has been written and new findings have pretty well ruled out air strike taking out M.W Tiger 007 , also why do people still refer Wittmann vs Ekins ? shouldn't it be tank commander vs tank commander . Not taking away from Joe Ekins brilliant gunnery , he was the gunner in the tank not commander. Watched both documentaries Wittmann vs Ekins the death of a panzer ace & Battlefield mysteries who killed Michael Wittmann have to say the latter is who i would say is more accurate and the former too many mistakes as to where Tigers were positioned favoring the Yeomanry . And the fellow stating Sturmmann Bahld (radio operator in Tiger 009)looked to M.W Tiger and saw an anti tank shell from his right side hitting M.W Tank that means his right would be towards the Sherbrookes as he (Bahld) would be facing towards Cintheaux (as 009 Tiger was in front of 007) . As to who fired the shot that Kod M.W it had to be the Canadians Sherbrookes whether it was a Sherman or a mortar it could have been a Piat . As the building nearest 007 Tiger which no one has mentioned looks to be a double story structure ideal for a Piat hit on its rear deck as this building is only around 80 meters away so well within range and has the height . If a Typhoon had of hit the rear it would have demolished the rear deck and this is not the case from the photo showing 007 with turrant blown off and the tank has been pushed forward and tracks removed and the exhaust shields . Cheers Pete.108348652_zpsbhu01n0l.JPGwit-aerial1_zpsorjzz2d0.PNGCintheux_zpslzhjragc map.jpg
 

RichieRich

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Thanks pkdiorama! Really nice information with pics!
 

pkdiorama

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Thanks pkdiorama! Really nice information with pics!
Thanks RichieRich forgot to mention there was only 1 Firefly (A squadron) dealing with the Tigers the rest were 75mm Shermans , there were other Fireflies but on other side of Orchards in there own battle against around 20 Panzer4s & S.P panzers so they had there hands full and after Joe Ekins Firefly Finished with Kod Tigers on his side his tank went to assist where he took out a Panzer 4 before his tank was hit . As to M.W blazing off into battle well no he didn't have a chose B-17 bombers were on there way to flatten their position and when they saw them in distance heading towards them they had no chose but to advance into a perfectly set up ambush . As to Villers Bocage M.W did advance on the town by himself taking out large numbers of British transport vehicles & tanks he was challenged in centre of town by Firefly so headed back out of town where his Tiger was disabled by 6pdr anti tank gun . All the photos of Kod Tigers in town was from 1st company that attacked after M.W reported back to H.Q .(M.W was 2nd company) M.W took no part in the second attack , Hope that clears things ? a great book is written by Daniel Taylor on the subject with heaps of maps & pictures . Cheers Pete.
 

pkdiorama

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Wow great read Gunner thats a great tour still trying to find out what that building was across the RN 158 from the Chateau de Gaumesnil and farm house ? it looks to be fairly large 2 story building that is no longer there , i think there is a large shed there now. Cheers Pete.
 

Gunner

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Thanks pk.
I'm not sure what the building was really.
Just reviewing the thread gives me the fever to go back and do it again.
The first time everything is kind of a blur and would like to look at things closer the (maybe some day) next time.
 

pkdiorama

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Well got my grubby hands on a book with heaps of information on Operation Totalize No Holding Back , has the Canadian side of the story . Seems i was wrong assuming that there were Canadian Infantry in Gaumesnil with Sherbrookes tanks . The Infantry were to west of town covering the Tanks flank so no anti tank guns or Piats , it was tank on tank , also The Canadians had 8 tanks there 2 were Fireflies the other 6 normal 75mm so this makes for a Canadian thumbs up , they also had another 2 Fireflies further north . Cheers Pete.164541645716456
 
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