MICHAEL WITTMANN

Born on the 22nd April 1914 in the village of Vogelthal near Operpfalz in the high Palatinat. He was the son of a local farmer Johan Wittman.
On the 1st Feb 1934 he joined the Reichsarbeitdienst -RAD (the German labour corps) and served until July of that year. He enlisted in the German Army's 19th Infantry Regiment on the 30th October 1934 as a private where he served for two years. He left the service on the 30th sept 1936 as a Junior NCO-Unteroffizier. Shortly after he joined No.1 Sturm of the 92nd Standarte of the elite LSSAH. In late 37 he received driver training on a Sd Kfz222 (4 wheeled armoured car) followed by a Sd Kfz232 (6 wheeled heavy armoured car) where he proved to be an excellent driver. He then joined the 17th Company (the Panzer Scout Company of the LSSAH) In the summer 38, his unit was reduced to platoon size. In Sept 1939 now SS-Unterscharfuhrer he commanded a Sd Kfz 232 of the reconnaissance elements of LSSAH during the Polish campaign. In Oct 1939 he joined the 5th Panzerpakompanie (the LSSAH Depot company) based at Lichterfelde, Berlin where he trained as an assault gun driver. February 1940 Wittmann was transferred to the newly formed SS-Sturm-Batterie of the LSSAH which were outfitted with Sturmgeschutz III A's.

 

His Career in the Tiger

 

In early Spring 1943 he left his Panzer III platoon & joined a Tiger company. He started his fighting career during Operation Zitadelle. The LSSAH was located in the Southern section of the bulge. On his first day of action he destroyed 2 anti-tank guns & thirteen T-34's whilst saving Helmut Wendorff's platoon which ran into trouble. On July 7th & 8th he destroyed two T-34's, two Su-122's & three 60/70's. July 12th saw him eliminate a further eight tanks, two A/T guns & a gun battery. When the operation finished on the 17th July his Tiger total stood at 30 tanks & 28 guns.

 On the 29th July his company formed part of the new 101st SS Schwere-Panzer Abeitlungen attatched to the LSSAH. In August the division was transferred to Italy for refitting. In October the Divsion returned to Russia  to repel the Soviet Summer offensive, he also changed his Tiger previously numbered 1331 for Tiger S21. On the 13th of that month he destroyed 20 T-34's & 23 guns. He carried on his success into December.

On the 13th January 1944 he was awarded the Knight's Cross for his outstanding service after destroying 19 T-34's & three super heavy tanks. His total now stood at 88 tanks & SP's. On the 16th Jan his gunner SS Rottenfuhrer Bobby Woll also received the Knight's Cross unheard of for an enlisted man.
On the 20th January 20th Wittmann was promoted to the rank of SS-Obersturmfuhrer & ten days later he was awarded the Oakleaves to the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross & was presented them by Hitler personally on the 2nd Feb 1944 at the "Wolfs Lair". He had the 88 white victory rings painted on his Tiger for the occassion. Between 29th Feb - 2nd March he was transferred to Mons in Belgium during which he was placed in command of in command of the 2nd company 101st battalion & on the 1st March he married Hildegarde Burmester.
 la valentia (Wounded badge). 

He was now a national hero after German propoganda & visited the Henschel plant. He rejoined the 101st in May & was stationed in Lisieux in Normandy. At this time his gunner Bobby Woll was given his own Tiger command. Wittman transferred to a late edition Tiger number 205 & during the invasion moved towards the Normandy coast. Wittmans 2nd company was reduced to just 6 tanks after repeated Allied air attacks.. On June the 13th they reached the Bayeuax area near the village of Villers-Bocage........

Villers-Bocage to the End

At 0800 hrs 13th June 1944 the 4th County of London Yeomanry made their way up a sunken road outside the village. In the woods like the predator from which his Panzer got it's name Wittman waited . He struck just as the British Cromwells reached a range of 100meters. Quickly he destroyed the lead & tail vehicles before blowing up the rest of the once proud column. Minutes later 25 cromwells & firefly tanks along with 28 other vehicles lay as a burning pile of scrap. By now he had been joined by two other Tigers & a single panzer IVH from Panzer Lehr & moved into the village causing more carnage before his tank was disabled by an anti-tank round which blew his right track. He abandoned his tank & on foot made his way back to the HQ of Panzer Lehr. He was promoted again recieving the Swords to his Knights Cross.
On the evening of the 8th August 1944 he met his death. There is some debate as to how he met his end. One report states he destroyed a number of Canadian Sherman Firefly's before being surrounded by the remaining 8 & being shot to pieces, however after seeing the photo of his turret accross it is more likely he fell victim to a rocket firing Hawker Typhoon.
Germany would mourn it's favourite son. He was buried along with his crew in a communual grave in the hamlet of Gaumesnil.

 


Foto 1:    Michael Wittman

Foto 2:    Wittman after of another award

Foto 3:    With the famous Tiger

Foto 4:    The Crew;  Wittmann, Bobby Woll (gunner),

                Henreich Reimers(driver), Rudi Hirschel(radioman), Gunther

                Weber(loader)

Foto 5:    Wittman with the Stug III A

Foto 6:    Wittman discuss the next ofensive

Foto 7:    Wittman and the turref of the Tiger 007, the last photo


Bibliography:  German Ace's

Thanks to The Tiger Tank for make possible this article

RTV / Modelismo Militar


Back to References page