Michael Wittmann (1914-1944)
The wreck of Wittman's Tiger 007 at Gaumesnil on the day following his death.
In the above map, the red ring indicates 500m range from the location of Tiger 007, which Wittmann was commanding on his last mission. Successive black rings mark the 1000m range, up to 4000m.
Typical maximum range in this country is around 2000m due to the distribution of orchards and the slight roll of the topography. Map is IGN 1613-West (1613-O) 1:25,000 with topographic data from 1973 and updates from 1993. Magnetic north at 1993 was three degrees to the left of grid north, but in 1939 it was ten degrees left of grid north at this location.
The above map shows the contours, higher ground being shown in darker red.
The road along which the Tigers were advancing travels over a slight crown in the ground of around 115m. To the left of the Tigers were slight ridges of 117.5m which would prevent them being observed from their left (west). To their right (east) they could be observed from the 100m contour but likely not observed from the 80m contour (last shade of red before the white). Orchards and treelines would prevent them being observed from all portions of the 100m contour.
Map shows the quadrants from which Wittmann's Tiger could be attacked.
The slight rise in the ground to the left (west) of Wittmann's Tiger means that an attacker would have to be on top of the rise and therefore at close range. To the right of Wittmann (east) the open ground would mean that any attacker would be unable to approach to close range without first being observed and destroyed by the fire of the Tigers. This produces quadrants (marked in black) where an attacker would have to be within the bounds of quadrant to the rear to be close enough to be within observation distance of the Tigers, but not closer than the bounds of the quadrant to the front in order to avoid being observed themselves. The dark quadrant on the left (west) is the set of farm buildings which could conceal a tank from the view of the Tigers.
17 pounder gun APCBC round
|100 m||147.8 mm|
|200 m||145.7 mm|
|300 m||143.5 mm|
|400 m||141.4 mm|
|500 m||139.3 mm|
|600 m||137.1 mm|
|700 m||135.0 mm|
|800 m||132.8 mm|
|900 m||130.7 mm|
|1000 m||128.6 mm|
|1100 m||126.4 mm|
|1200 m||124.3 mm|
|1300 m||122.1 mm|
|1400 m||120.0 mm|
|1500 m||117.9 mm|
|1600 m||115.7 mm|
|1700 m||113.6 mm|
|1800 m||111.4 mm|
|1900 m||109.3 mm|
|2000 m||107.2 mm|
|2100 m||105.0 mm|
|2200 m||102.9 mm|
|2300 m||100.7 mm|
|2400 m||98.6 mm|
|2500 m||96.5 mm|
|2600 m||94.3 mm|
|2700 m||92.2 mm|
|2800 m||90.0 mm|
|2900 m||87.9 mm|
|3000 m||85.8 mm|
|3100 m||83.6 mm|
|3200 m||81.5 mm|
|3300 m||79.3 mm|
|3400 m||77.2 mm|
|3500 m||75.1 mm|
|3600 m||72.9 mm|
|3700 m||70.8 mm|
|3800 m||68.6 mm|
|3900 m||66.5 mm|
|4000 m||64.4 mm|
This table was calculated from data points determined by experiments conducted by both armies during the World War II. The figures are for the APCBC round.
The maximum range that the British 17 pounder gun would be able to fire from in order to penetrate the frontal armor of the Tiger.
Note that 17 pounder would have to strike the 100mm frontal armor of the Tiger from thirty degrees either side of a direct right-angle in order to penetrate. Once the angle of the shot exceeds the sixty degree frontal arc the diagonal line through the flat armor of the Tiger means that the total thickness of the metal is greater. Shot striking at the full thirty degrees either side of the right angle would have to penetrate 115mm of armor, not 100mm. Shot striking in the fifteen degrees outside of the sixty degree frontal arc would not only have to penetrate 115mm of armor but would suffer an increased risk of ricochet. Shot striking outside of the combined sixty degree + fifteen degree arc would almost certainly ricochet.
The maximum range that the British 17 pounder gun would be able to fire from in order to penetrate the side armor of the Tiger.
In the above diagram, the same principle is applied to the 80mm side armor of the Tiger. The side armor being thinner, the 17 pounder gun may strike from an increased range and still penetrate.
The maximum range that the British 17 pounder gun would be able to fire from in order to penetrate the armor of the Tiger.
In the above diagram the combined arcs of the front armor, side armor and rear armor. Note that there is an arc where the shot is approaching the Tiger on the corner and not only is the angular thickness of the armor higher but the risk of ricochet is high. This creates a keyhole where the the fifteen degree quadrant of the frontal arc and the fifteen degree side arc join. Shooting at the Tiger when facing its front corner is least advantageous to the attacker.
In the above diagram, the maximum range that the British 17 pounder gun would be able to fire from in order to penetrate the armor of the Tiger over the starboard quarter. It is the frontal arc and the starboard side which face the positions available to the Allied Sherman tanks. The Tigers were shielded from fire to the left by the fact they were to the east of a slight rise in the ground. Unfortunately the buildings on the Caen-Falaise road immediatly to the left of the Tigers probably concealed dug-in Sherman tanks firing through loopholes in the wall at a range of only 100m.
Gaumesnil: Wittman's eastern horizon.
Wittmann's western flank.
Position of the debris field of Tiger 007 at Gaumesnil.
The above map and photographs show the exact position of the debris field of Tiger 007. The fields in this area are covered in shell fragments but only this position yields the components from a Panzer. The chateau is only a hundred meters from the position of the debris field of Tiger 007. Any tank concealed within the chateau walls would have been in a position to penetrate the armor of the Tiger.
In the above photographs, the impact of shell fragments from Allied artillery on the concrete pylon at Gaumesnil.
All of the concrete pylons visible in the photographs bear intensive scaring on their north sides alone. This indicates that the area received intensive shell fire, but not intensive bombing, mortaring, or aerial rocket fire. Every square meter of the fields in the photographs yielded large quantities of shell fragments.
Wittmann's view of the position of the St Aignan. The church tower at St Aignan is just visible above the tops of the tree belt to the right of the central power transmission pylon. Grid bearing is approximatly 36 degrees. Photograph circa 1999.
Gaumesnil on the N158 looking toward St Aignan bearing approximately 36 degrees grid. The wreck of Tiger 007 was located directly in the line of sight in front of the camera about half way to the power transmission pylon. This could well have been Wittman's last view. Photograph circa 1999.
View north toward Gaumesnil from the south circa 2000s. Construction of a farm machinery dealership took place on the right of the N158 in the field prior to the field in which the battle took place.
View south toward Gaumesnil from the north circa 2000s. The battleground, which lies just on the other side of the building visible mid right of frame. The new farm machinery dealership is the dark shape in the mist to our left of the white building mid right of frame.
Crew of Wittmann's Tiger on his last mission:
SS-Unterscharfuhrer Karl Wagner (gunnner)
SS-Sturmmann Rudi Hirschel (radio operator)
SS-Unterscharfuhrer Hein Reimers (driver)
The actions on the Caen-Falaise road in which Wittmann was killed are described in detail page 423 of Patrick Agte's Michael Wittmann and the Tiger Commanders of the Leibstandarte, published in English by JJ Fedorowicz and in German as Michael Wittmann erfolgreichster Panserkommandant in Zweiten Weltkrieg und die Tiger der Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler by Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft, Rosenheim.
An Allied fighter-bomber strafs German troops in the Falaise Gap
One of the Tigers which was attempting to retreat out of the encirclement at the Falaise Gap. Many Tigers suffered drivetrain failures during the retreat and most were abandoned on the banks of the river Seine because all the bridges had been destroyed. Most wrecked tanks were cleared from the battlefield in the year after the war. Contracts had already been awarded to French salvage companies before D-Day. The scrap metal was valuable because of the great shortage of raw materials on both sides of Europe. This Tiger was saved from the smelter because it had been pushed off the road down the lip of a steep bank. There was no engine powerful enough to pull it back up the bank and the woods behind it prevented it from being pulled downwards. There is stayed until the early Eighties when an attempt was made to remove it and scrap it. There was an outcry among the locals who refused to let the Tiger suffer this fate. The Tiger was pulled out and a place made for it next to the road. High resolution images and close-ups are on this page.
1975. This was the Tiger in its original position. The road is behind the camera, uphill to the right of frame.
The Tiger as it is today. Downhill is behind the camera. The bank where the Tiger rested for decades is to the left of frame.
After the bodies of Wittmann and the crew of Tiger 007 were unearthed from the battlefield in the mid Seventies, they were re-buried at the German military cemetery at La Cambe in Normandy. The grave is to your right close to the front of the cemetery as you enter the gates.
Grave circa 1999
Grave of Michael Wittmann and his crew at La Cambe cemetery, Normandie, France circa 2000s.
Prochorwka 1:100,000 wartime Wehrmacht map
1:50,000 Prochorowka wartime Wehrmacht map 1943
From Michael Wittman and the Tiger Commanders of the Leibstandarte by Patrick Atge, published by J.J. Fedorowicz 1996 ISBN 0-921991-4, the epilogue:
This document comprises the wartime experiences of the Tiger units of the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler and their sacrificial battles on all fronts. They achieved tremendous success, suffered bitter defeats at the hands of a superior foe and on 8 May 18945 experienced unconditional surrender.
In their ranks lived, commanded and fought the fearless, exemplary and most successful tank commander of the second World War, Michael Wittmann, whose person and outstanding achievements receive their due recognition in this book. The men of the 13th (Heavy) Company, 1st SS Panzer Regiment Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler and of the 501st SS Panzer Battalion were volunteers from the first to the last hour of the war. They all fought for the existence of the German Reich and to this cause committed all the strength of their youth, just as naturally as did almost a million of their comrades of the Waffen-SS from almost every European Nation.
They were forced to bury their ideals following the collapse of the Reich under crushing superiority and the end of all their hopes for a favourable outcome to the war. They, the elite of the front, once heroes, were now outcasts. The 501st SS Panzer Battalion did not give up, however. Following their release from captivity and internment they rebuilt their destroyed and partitioned by their "liberators" and in the years that followed they were committed volunteers in their work for their home, for family, people and Fatherland.
Many wounds have healed in the last fifty years, some of them only externally, for many never heal. The solidarity that developed back then in hours of bitter distress and under the greatest danger still exists today. This front-line comradeship is greater and stronger than any distress, than the intervening decades, than any such infamous slander. The men of the 501st, SS Panzer Battalion meet once a year. On those days the atmosphere is such as if they had never separated from each young lads of eighteen to twenty years. This getting along needs no explanation, the survivors know that they can always depend on their comrades. And that marked them for life. There is therefore no need to speak of this unique front-line comradeship, it requires no renewal, it is never lost.
The dead are always spoken of at all these reunions, they return and are present, as if they had not been killed on the battlefield. The survivors know that each of them could have fallen in their place and that their survival is no credit to them, but an unfathomable chance. Gratitude to their fallen comrades and their bond with them is an indelible component of the former soldiers, for - their honor is loyalty.
+ SEE ALSO
- The definitive works on the Tiger and Königstiger have been written by Thomas L. Jentz
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