Wittmann, Villers Bocage and his kill claims.

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Michael Kenny
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Wittmann, Villers Bocage and his kill claims.

Post by Michael Kenny » 31 Mar 2009 23:51

Michael Wittmann is credited with 138 kills up to his death in August 1944. In Agte's book on Wittmann you read that he left Russia for Normandy with 114 or 117 kills to his name. Over half this total seems to have been racked up in the period 7th January to 29th January. It is said his kill total was:
56 on 7/1/44 (page 213)
66 on 9/1/44 (page 181)
88 on 13/1/44 (page 213)
114-117 29/1/44 (page 185)
On page 241 Agte recounts:
"He (Wittmann) did not return to the 13th Company in Russia after recieving the Oak Leaves from Hitler in the Wolfsschanze Fuhrer Headquarters on 2nd Febuary 1944"
Thus we can say his total was 117 kills before his arrival in Normandy.
Wittmanns award citation for Villers Bocage is dated 13/6/44. This is the date of the Villers battle and can only include the kill claims from Villers itself.
On page 328 you can read where the award citation states:
"With todays action Wittmann has destroyed 138 enemy tanks"

The Villers action is very well documented and thus we have a very good record of the number of tanks Wittmann could have knocked out.
In his own words Wittmann says:
"I first knocked out two tanks from the right of the column, then one from the left, then turned about to the left and and attacked the armoured troop carrier Battalion in the middle of the Regiment. I drove toward the rear half of the column on the same road, knocking out every tank that came toward me"

So then that is 3 tanks initialy and then the rest were behind the halftracks and carriers on the road into Villers. Fortunately we know with absolute precision the number of these tanks and their positions. In fact we have photographs of all but one of them. They total 8 tanks. Comprising:
4 RHQ Cromwells.
2 Staurt Recce tanks.
I Sherman OP tank
I Cromwell OP tank
If we add this to Wittmann's account about the 3 tanks he says he engaged at the head of the carriers this gives a total of 11 tanks. That is to say the maximum number of kills he could possibly claim is 11 tanks. As he was supported by the fire of 2 other Tigers it is not even certain he destroyed every one of these 11 tanks.
So if he left Russia with 117 kills and the Villers award says he now had 138 kills then it is clear he was awarded 21 kills for Villers.
This 21 kills must be the following:

"He succeded in knocking out 15 heavy enemy tanks in a very short time. An additional six tanks were hit and their crews forced to bail out"

This (from the award citation) is a total of 21 tanks.

What we can say is his kill total was inflated to twice reality. It seems that even when the German were left in possesion of the battlefield they still could not get the totals right

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Re: Wittmann, Villers Bocage and his kill claims.

Post by Michael Kenny » 13 Apr 2009 18:17

Looking further into the kill claims for Wittmann throws up more confusion.
If we go back to his Stug. service it says that on 21/11/41 he had 25 victims.
It also appears he was awarded 56 kills for the period July 1943-7/1/44
56 kills made up of:
30 tanks in the 5 days of Kursk
13 tanks 21/11/43
6 tanks 9/12/43
3 tanks and 1 SP 5/1/44
total 53 so 3 are adrift somewhere.
There seem to be no victims claimed November 1941 until July 1943.
Add in the 61 claimed January 8th to 29th 1944 and we get 142 (25+56+61=142)rather than the 117 commonly claimed.
It appears the Stug total is never added to his kill claim list, can anyone explain why?
Is there any method behind these confusing and conflicting kill claim totals?

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Re: Wittmann, Villers Bocage and his kill claims.

Post by Hardigan » 20 Aug 2013 21:32

Michael Kenny wrote:It appears the Stug total is never added to his kill claim list, can anyone explain why?
That's probably an indication that the StuG(in action in a StuG.Abt.) was not considered a Panzer , just like the JagdPanzer .

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Re: Wittmann, Villers Bocage and his kill claims.

Post by Michael Kenny » 21 Aug 2013 01:27

If that were so then he will appear in a 'Stug Ace' list. However I can find no mention of him in Kurowski's Stug. specific books.. Franz normally makes claims on the most flimsy of evidence but it seems he gave Wittmann a miss.
I have seen 'Tank Ace' list that include Stug Brigade claims so I very much doubt it was as simple as that. The evidence indicates Wittmann sprang into life as a fully formed 'legend' at Kursk and his history carefully rewritten to cover the fact he was an unkown.

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Re: Wittmann, Villers Bocage and his kill claims.

Post by Hardigan » 21 Aug 2013 18:11

If Wittmann is not listed in a StuG-Aces list then it doesn't mean he scored zero.I also don't see Meierdrees either who also was a StuG and Panzer Ace.
You can also find nonsense or missing outs in renowned books of course , for example that Knispel and Carius were the highest scoring Panzer Commmanders but with some research I know better now.

From what I have seen now is that they started all over again with new Panzerkills when they switched from StuG to Panzer or Panzer to JagdPanzer , a good example is Rondorf with new kill rings on the barrel of his Jagdtiger.

And it also doesn't mean if you saw StuG or JagdPanzer in a Tank Ace list that they were seen as Panzer in the German Army , these aren't official lists.

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Re: Wittmann, Villers Bocage and his kill claims.

Post by Hardigan » 22 Aug 2013 22:01

So if you count Wittmann's scores of Panzer and StuG together he would definitely be the highest scoring Ace in an overall list of Commander Aces of all kinds of Panzer.

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Re: Wittmann, Villers Bocage and his kill claims.

Post by Michael Kenny » 22 Aug 2013 22:34

Hardigan wrote:So if you count Wittmann's scores of Panzer and StuG together he would definitely be the highest scoring Ace in an overall list of Commander Aces of all kinds of Panzer.
I think these so called 'Ace/Kill Lists' are not worth the paper they are printed on.

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Re: Wittmann, Villers Bocage and his kill claims.

Post by Hardigan » 23 Aug 2013 21:54

You're on a history forum and people like to know who's on top of a list with a rough score just to have an indication , nobody will ever know the exact scores of course although we try. And I understand you rather would that those high scoring Aces were British !

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Re: Wittmann, Villers Bocage and his kill claims.

Post by Michael Kenny » 24 Aug 2013 03:56

Hardigan wrote:You're on a history forum and people like to know who's on top of a list with a rough score just to have an indication , nobody will ever know the exact scores of course although we try. And I understand you rather would that those high scoring Aces were British !
I would be mortified to find a UK tanker who aped Fey, Wittmann & Barkmann by submitting completely bogus kill claims in order to secure a medal.

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Marcus
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Re: Wittmann, Villers Bocage and his kill claims.

Post by Marcus » 24 Aug 2013 08:47

Check out the "High Scorers with Panzers and Paks" thread.

/Marcus

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Re: Wittmann, Villers Bocage and his kill claims.

Post by kerryboo » 24 Aug 2013 10:40

Hardigan,

Or maybe French!

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Re: Wittmann, Villers Bocage and his kill claims.

Post by kerryboo » 24 Aug 2013 10:52

My point is, the lists are only of use or interest if they are true and accurate, regardless of nation. Without doubt skill, cunning and bravery are the main inferences to be drawn from these lists, and if they are falsified, and can be shown to be falsified, they no longer have the same value to researchers and to those interested in the conflict, of whatever nationality.

Kerry.

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Hardigan
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Re: Wittmann, Villers Bocage and his kill claims.

Post by Hardigan » 24 Aug 2013 18:37

How do you want to show if they are falsified , with British action reports which also can be falsified for good reason ? You never know.
When you have a list of veterans with their kill claims (regardless of nation) it's up to researchers to correct the few with false claims , unless you think they all had false claims.

I also brought back in my list the totals of Carius,Knispel,Egger and a few other ones but these were not cases of false claims except one maybe. And there are ones who even scored more ! But they need research.
These lists arn't facts but are 'indication lists' , they are most interesting for researchers and used in books. It's astonishing that I see everywhere 'Knispel the highest scoring Panzer Commander' while he's not ! With a little research you can see what his total is , the known lists are full of errors.

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Re: Wittmann, Villers Bocage and his kill claims.

Post by kerryboo » 24 Aug 2013 18:59

Hardigan,
Is it just my reading of your posts, or are you saying that only British people question the statistics, and British people are more likely to make exaggerated claims to make themselves feel superior in some way? Or perhaps the British rubbish all claims to make their claims appear superior? Twice you have very pointedly said British, has there been no input from the US or Canada or the Commonwealth or any of the other participating nations? I fully understand the need to take a balanced objective view of any historical statistics, but to reduce it to finger-pointing at one nation or another is not helpful.
I fully agree with you, it is ultimately the responsibility of any researcher to verify his, or her, sources. How do you suggest that such researchers derive their figures, by initially discounting all British claims and analyses, then taking a view on what remains?
I am happy to be told that I am mis-reading, but there does seem to be an amount of blinkered perspective displayed in your last couple of posts.I hope that I have just taken your repeated reference to the British out-of-context, and that the point you make is that ALL sources can be corrupted?

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Re: Wittmann, Villers Bocage and his kill claims.

Post by Michael Kenny » 24 Aug 2013 19:21

Hardigan wrote:How do you want to show if they are falsified , with British action reports which also can be falsified for good reason ? You never know.
When you have a list of veterans with their kill claims (regardless of nation) it's up to researchers to correct the few with false claims , unless you think they all had false claims.
It works like this. Everyone makes mistakes and overclaims-everyone.
You can find many British/US claims for Tigers tanks destroyed in the week June 6-13 when there were no Tiger tanks in Normandy. Everyone knows those claims are wrong. No book/article/Unit/ Allied fanboy or anyone wastes any time trying to say they are anything other than a mistake.
History has accepted the reality and made no effort to continue peddling the myth.


However German kill claims are made up into huge lists and bandied about under the completely false assertion they are 'confirmed kills'.
Reality has yet to fully penetrate the world of the 'ace list' compiler.


I have no interest in claiming my anything is better than your anything. I have yet to find any Allied tanker who displayed the completely selfish winner-takes-all attitude that drives the German ace system.

And......................I am Irish.

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