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  • How could this happen?

    I was shown this and it is a mind-blower -





    Now, the first question that came to my mind was "how could they have surrendered like that?" but there are some simple answers to that; (1) A rotten commander (2) the men were exhausted and confused (3) herd mentality plus the above.

    Or, whatever, that is not the question that I want to make central to this Thread.

    The Question I have is; How could the German Commander have known that he could succeed?

    He went in there basically alone, and took down all those tanks and men with just two tanks and his lonesome self. He survived the war, so he was not a loon or a kamikaze. How did he guess right? Intuition? Was there someone that tipped him off? Did he have the only fresh troops in a battle of attrition?
    Was he some kind of genius?

    I'd really like to know how the mind of a man like that works.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Phaing View Post
    I was shown this and it is a mind-blower -





    Now, the first question that came to my mind was "how could they have surrendered like that?" but there are some simple answers to that; (1) A rotten commander (2) the men were exhausted and confused (3) herd mentality plus the above.

    Or, whatever, that is not the question that I want to make central to this Thread.

    The Question I have is; How could the German Commander have known that he could succeed?

    He went in there basically alone, and took down all those tanks and men with just two tanks and his lonesome self. He survived the war, so he was not a loon or a kamikaze. How did he guess right? Intuition? Was there someone that tipped him off? Did he have the only fresh troops in a battle of attrition?
    Was he some kind of genius?

    I'd really like to know how the mind of a man like that works.
    Bachmann was a very experienced soldier, having been in combat since France in 1940 and commanded tank- and StuG battalions since 1943. He had done proper reconnaissance prior to his attack and had a clear and sound plan and two good tanks with crews capable of following said plan.

    Opposing him was a US tank battalion that had only arrived in theater in November 1944, seeing its first combat in December 1944. The battalion had a rough time on January 16th, being caught flat-footed in open ground and loosing 12 tanks (out of a nominal stregth of 45 IIRC). Then, the next day, the battalion is again going into combat. The US forces - possibly also the tanks of the 43rd Tank Battalion? - stopped a German tank attack but later on, the tank battalion entered the village and lost contact with its infantry support in heavy fog. So now we have an inexperienced tank battalion, having suffered the loss of 25% of its strength the day before, being lost in fog - perhaps not quite knowing the terrain and were they actually were, having lost their infantry support, being in heavy combat and now being attacked by a small group of experienced soldiers with good leadership, who knows the area and have a sound plan. It seems the the US tank battalion fought as well as they could for several hours in this difficult position, the commander being wounded and incapacitated in the proces, Eventually, several attempts by their own side to come to their aid had failed and they had no more to give.

    It seems to me that the German commander - Erwin Bachmann - got all the credit for the defeat of the 43rd. The reality seems to be that he was instrumental in bringing on their defeat, perhaps striking the final blow. But as we have seen in other situations, German awards were granted fast, hero-worship was the order of the day and posterity tends to learn the history of these particular events based on the citations for those awards. That is not to say that Bachmann did not deserve his award, but it does tend to make the recipient look like a demi-good and his opponents like nincompoops.

    Bachmann seems to have been a capable officer, doing his job well with the tools at hand and leading his little group from the front, so he had full situational awareness. But I don't really see any more than that. It is not different from, say, British WWI tank commanders who lead their tanks on foot, armed with a stick and revolver. AFAIK, that did not earn them Victoria Crosses, but they were occasionally succesfull.

    So Herlisheim is not a unique event in warfare, nor is it unique for WWII.


    Comment


    • #3
      This is allegedly the wording of a report written by Bachmann after the event. It suggests to me, that Bachmann arrived late to the scene, delivered the final blow, taking the surrender of the US troops and covering himself in glory.
      I rode ahead in the sidecar of Sauerwein’s motorcyle.At the entrance to Herlisheim,i encountered with two Panther of the 3.company,Unterscharführer Mühlbradt was with them.I learned that American tanks were in the town.I wanted to scout myself.The two panthers were give to covering fire and follow.

      I rode with the motorcycle to a junction in the road,stopped,and directed the Panzers to secure one road each.I went ahead on foot along the road on the right to scout further.After some 50m,as I reached a bend in the road,a Sherman opened fire.I ran back to the motorcycle,picked up a panzerfaust,and reached a house from whose window i could see the main street,which i ran diagonally.I spottedtwo Shermans on the street.I knocked out one from a distance of 30 m with my panzerfaust.Then i ran back to my covering Panthers,deciding on a plan of action.

      I quickly briefed the two Panzer commanders:Panzer 2 was continue to cover the road on the right pulling ahead to the bend and opening fire when Panzer 1 started out.Panzer 1(Mühlbradt),with me,was to drive up to road on the left,turret at 3 o’clock,and immediately open fire when the junction was reached amd the gunner had a field of fire on the crossing road.Everything went according to plan.The two Panzer crews cooperated in first-rate fashion.Panzer 2 opened fire while Panzer 1 raced into the junction and knocked out the first Sherman.More US tanks were knocked out and a white flag appeared.

      I stopped the fire and walked forwad.An American Officer offered to surrender.I requested that his men put down their weapons in front of me.When sixty Americans had put down their weapons,twents German soldiers who had been in US captivity were added.I asked the Americans if they were crews of knocked out tanks.The Us officer explained that they were the crews of the tanks which had not been knocked out and pointed on a farm to left of the road where four Shermans sat,their guns facing the road.He said the other tanks were a little further down.That was suprise for us.We had to keep calm.I demanded speedy action.I had the American tank drivers step forwad and ordered them to drive the Shermans to Offendorf,accompanied by one of the rearmed German soldiers.I felt beter when the tank column set off.I advised to Abteilung in Offendorf of the approaching captured Shermans and requested more of our own Panzer to come to Herlisheim and pick up another forty-eight prisoners.The total was:twelve captured Sherman tanks and sixty prisoners.I deployed my own two Panthers forwad to the edge of Herlisheim.Thus,my two Panthers archived nine kills.After reinforcements had arrived,i was ordered back to Abteilung command post at Offendorf.
      https://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=27047
      Last edited by cbo; 12 Jan 20, 06:24.

      Comment


      • #4
        A bit on the operational context- this bridgehead was called the "Gambstein Cancer" and Patch ordered CCB of 12.AD in to destroy it in the aftermath of Operation Nordwind.

        The German bridgehead was defended by some 3,300 troops of 553. Volksgrenadier division. It was supplied by rhine ferries.

        But VI Corps made a serious error- they thought the bridgehead had weak resistance, in the form of 500-800 disorganized infantry. In reality the area was designated one of the sites for the German "Sylvester" attacks, aimed at taking advantage of the strategic situation. So not only was the german defenses much stronger than VI Corps thought, but the rebuilt 10.SS "F" Panzer division was in fact moved in to perform a breakout operation.

        The 12.AD was a green unit, and attacked the bridgehead ill-prepared and surprised by what it encountered. The whole armored division was then thrown into the fight.
        Zhitomir-Berdichev, West of Kiev: 24 Dec 1943-31 Jan 1944
        Stalin's Favorite: The Combat History of the 2nd Guards Tank Army
        Barbarossa Derailed I & II
        Battle of Kalinin October 1941

        Comment


        • #5
          Thanks for the replies!

          Originally posted by cbo View Post
          Bachmann was a very experienced soldier, having been in combat since France in 1940 and commanded tank- and StuG battalions since 1943. He had done proper reconnaissance prior to his attack and had a clear and sound plan and two good tanks with crews capable of following said plan.

          .....

          Bachmann seems to have been a capable officer, doing his job well with the tools at hand and leading his little group from the front, so he had full situational awareness. But I don't really see any more than that. It is not different from, say, British WWI tank commanders who lead their tanks on foot, armed with a stick and revolver. AFAIK, that did not earn them Victoria Crosses, but they were occasionally succesfull.

          So Herlisheim is not a unique event in warfare, nor is it unique for WWII.
          That is a good job of answering my question, and I will look for more crazy-sounding events like this to see if that heolds true.

          Honestly, I thought that I would hear that he just got lucky, but that works much better.

          Comment


          • #6
            Barkmann had more than one lopsided fight he won during the war. The guy was very good and very calculating. Unlike Wittmann, Barkmann wouldn't just shoot up enemy vehicles to shoot up enemy vehicles. In the Ardennes on several occasions he let vehicles and enemy tanks go for follow-up vehicles to tackle so that he could make a operational objective rather than just up his kill score.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by cbo View Post
              Opposing him was a US tank battalion that had only arrived in theater in November 1944, seeing its first combat in December 1944. The battalion had a rough time on January 16th, being caught flat-footed in open ground and loosing 12 tanks (out of a nominal stregth of 45 IIRC). Then, the next day, the battalion is again going into combat. The US forces - possibly also the tanks of the 43rd Tank Battalion? - stopped a German tank attack but later on, the tank battalion entered the village and lost contact with its infantry support in heavy fog. So now we have an inexperienced tank battalion, having suffered the loss of 25% of its strength the day before

              article on the fighting, also Zalga, OP Nordwind has a narrative

              https://web.archive.org/web/20160120...m.com/dacc.asp


              The 43rd tank battalion was shot up by AT fire on Jan 16th- 12 tanks lost, 11 more were hit.

              Jan 17th: 4 more tanks lost. Remaining 29 tanks enter south of Herrlisheim with their inf support, the unit's communications report that the town is a "circus" with 2,000 enemies. They are getting attacked with RPG type weapons.

              Then the event in the OP happens - basically the men were in a lot of high pressure situations prior to the surrender.

              When the US retakes the town they find the wrecks of 28 Shermans.
              Last edited by Cult Icon; 13 Jan 20, 01:15.
              Zhitomir-Berdichev, West of Kiev: 24 Dec 1943-31 Jan 1944
              Stalin's Favorite: The Combat History of the 2nd Guards Tank Army
              Barbarossa Derailed I & II
              Battle of Kalinin October 1941

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Phaing View Post
                I was shown this and it is a mind-blower -





                Now, the first question that came to my mind was "how could they have surrendered like that?" but there are some simple answers to that; (1) A rotten commander (2) the men were exhausted and confused (3) herd mentality plus the above.

                Or, whatever, that is not the question that I want to make central to this Thread.

                The Question I have is; How could the German Commander have known that he could succeed?

                He went in there basically alone, and took down all those tanks and men with just two tanks and his lonesome self. He survived the war, so he was not a loon or a kamikaze. How did he guess right? Intuition? Was there someone that tipped him off? Did he have the only fresh troops in a battle of attrition?
                Was he some kind of genius?

                I'd really like to know how the mind of a man like that works.
                Where was the US infantry support? Why surrender?

                Dodgy commander is the single greatest factor.

                It should be noted that it wasn't just 2 Panthers in that battle since at least 4 Panthers were knocked out, and several more damaged, despite the fact the US were attacking against superior numbers 16/17.1.45.
                How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic: http://grist.org/series/skeptics/
                Global Warming & Climate Change Myths: https://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

                Comment


                • #9
                  additional sources for context. 12.AD history (old fashioned):

                  https://digicom.bpl.lib.me.us/cgi/vi...ext=ww_reg_his

                  Monroe-Jones, Edward (2010) Crossing the Zorn: The January 1945 Battle at Herrlisheim as Told by the American and German Soldiers Who Fought It
                  Zhitomir-Berdichev, West of Kiev: 24 Dec 1943-31 Jan 1944
                  Stalin's Favorite: The Combat History of the 2nd Guards Tank Army
                  Barbarossa Derailed I & II
                  Battle of Kalinin October 1941

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                    Barkmann had more than one lopsided fight he won during the war. The guy was very good and very calculating. Unlike Wittmann, Barkmann wouldn't just shoot up enemy vehicles to shoot up enemy vehicles. In the Ardennes on several occasions he let vehicles and enemy tanks go for follow-up vehicles to tackle so that he could make a operational objective rather than just up his kill score.
                    This story is about Bachman not Barkman.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I figured it was a typo, but in any case...

                      This sort of mythic hero narrative is common in Germany during this period (late 19th to mid 20th century). The singular hero overcoming great odds. It applied to pilots, U-boat commanders, as well as combat officers and men. While other nations celebrated such victors, they didn't raise them to near mythical status.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                        While other nations celebrated such victors, they didn't raise them to near mythical status.
                        Or in the case of Gordie Henry who killed 4 panthers with 5 shots from his firefly in less than four minutes on June 9, 1944, ignored totally.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          pg. 132 from Monroe-Jones, Edward (2010) Crossing the Zorn: The January 1945 Battle at Herrlisheim as Told by the American and German Soldiers Who Fought It has a map. Naturally the map focuses on the experiences of his interview subjects.

                          Zhitomir-Berdichev, West of Kiev: 24 Dec 1943-31 Jan 1944
                          Stalin's Favorite: The Combat History of the 2nd Guards Tank Army
                          Barbarossa Derailed I & II
                          Battle of Kalinin October 1941

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Cult Icon View Post
                            additional sources for context. 12.AD history (old fashioned):

                            https://digicom.bpl.lib.me.us/cgi/vi...ext=ww_reg_his

                            Monroe-Jones, Edward (2010) Crossing the Zorn: The January 1945 Battle at Herrlisheim as Told by the American and German Soldiers Who Fought It
                            Thanks, but they glossed-over the event in question, didn't they? I guess that from their perspective, the battalion did disappear.

                            The map looks great, and I was not looking for reasons the Americans gave up. What holds my interest here is how this German Commander basically abandoned his own Battalion to follow a hunch.
                            There is context, but if he was not at his HQ listening to the radio, how could he have known about them? He was as much in the dark as any scout going out there alone would have been.

                            What I have learned is that Tankers all operate in roughly similar ways, face the same issues and have to endure the same hardhips and limitations. Something about how the Americans were behaving gave away a moment of weakness, and Bachman pounced on that moment.
                            Sieze the moment, right?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Situational awareness? That was probably it. Otherwise it is probably not worth digging in further if the officer is not available for interview. The map gives the sense that they weren't too far from each other- sight, sound, etc.

                              The personal report posted by CBO is possibly taken from Tiecke's book "Firestorm in the Last year of the war".
                              Zhitomir-Berdichev, West of Kiev: 24 Dec 1943-31 Jan 1944
                              Stalin's Favorite: The Combat History of the 2nd Guards Tank Army
                              Barbarossa Derailed I & II
                              Battle of Kalinin October 1941

                              Comment

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