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German armor night-fighting unit used against Russians

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  • German armor night-fighting unit used against Russians

    This is from the book "Accidental Journey," by Mark Lynton, who was a tanker with the Third Royal Tank Regiment of the Eleventh Armored Division.

    "We moved from Neumuentser to Bad Segeberg that same day - an idyllic little resort town by a lake and surrounded by immense pine forests...some of our divisional patrols reached both Luebeck and Flensburg without encountering any resistance, and Eleventh Armored had effectively cut Germany in two. west of the dividing line, on the British side, the German forces were dissolving in a relatively orderly fashion; neither side made any attempt to fight, and the Germans, sometimes in large formations, at times in small groups, all of them frequently still armed, were trudging off in various directions, most of them presumably heading for home...O)n our second night in Segeberg, the first in a while on which we all had baths, a change of socks and underwear, and a concomitant attitude, one of the tank sentries reported a German officer outside, who was insisting on seeing someone who spoke German. That was how it all began.

    Hauptmann Geiger was a short, swathy, twinkle-eyed man, about my age, massively self-assured and no wonder. A Knight's Cross was not unusual onm a Panzer captain, but the 'hand-to-hand combat clasp' in gold was. (Hitler invented the weirdest nomenclature for decorations.) This particular bauble meant that Geiger had fought hand-to-hand at least twenty-five times, which, for a tank person, is either heoric or careless. He was wearing a full German tank uniform, a rather stunning ensemble based, I always suspected, on some road company performance of Lehar (a composer who could fairly be called a Hungarian Gilbert & Sullivan), which Hitler may have seen as a young man. Jet-black all over (tankmen were frequently confused with Waffen SS, which upset both parties) with a profusion of scarlet and silver pipings, black half-calf boots ending in some nifty black plus fours (rather like a golfer in the morning), and a liberal sprinkling of death head insignas (another SS-related gimmick that made for misunderstandings), the overall impression was faintly ludicrous, but German tank crews were nothing to laugh at.

    Geiger had informed me that his unit had had us under surveillance for the past few days and gave me a totally accurate report of our itinerary to prove it...his commanding officer had come to the conclusion that we would be the people he would surrender to, provided we observed his conditions. these simply were, that the unit - with all the men and equipment - should be handed over directly to a British team of technicians and scientists, and go with them to England, rather than be detained in any local prisoner's cage.

    Geiger went on to explain that his was one of two tank units that had been in operation on the Russian front using equipment so secret and so effective that it represented another era in tank warfare. Their sister unit had been wiped out, but not before destroying whatever the gadget was (which clearly had limits to its effectiveness; otherwise how come?)...Geiger assured me that our scientists would be simply ecstatic at the sight of whatever they had...So I joined Geiger in his Kuebelwagen (the military forerunner of the Volkswagen and almost as good as a jeep), and we drove for about twenty minutes out of Segeberg and along various forest paths till challenged by first one sentry, and fifty yards beyond, another, and yet another; the kind of security you associate with guarding the Coca Cola formula! We ended up in the depths of the forest, in the middle of a tank leaguer, all of them Tigers, Panthers, and Jagdtigers (A Jagdtiger, like a Jagdpanther, did not have a rotating turret, but carried an extra-heavy gun mounted on a fixed platform and was principally used to destroy other tanks) - about as scary a sight as I had seen since Normandy. everything and everybody looked alarmingly competent, tough and neat, and if anyone was playing at soldiering around here, I was the only one. The officer commanding the whole lot, a Count Dohna-Strelitz, littered with decorations just like Geiger, was impeccably courteous but managed to convey the evident disparity in our ranks, experience, and social backgrounds did not warrant idle conversation. It took five minutes to establish 'ground rules,' and another five for the entire unit to be on its way, and out we came again from the woods, Geiger and I leading the convoy in his Kuebelwagen, and a 88-mm gun of the first Tiger literally ten feet behind us, the closest I have ever been to a moving Tiger. Do not let them tell you any different - it was scary.

    There must have been about twenty of these monsters and perhaps thirty half-tracks and trucks, and the whole lot came thundering into Segeberg to the bafflement and apprehension of the locals, who had very much an 'enough already' attitude as far as the war was concerned. To their evident relief, this did not turn out to be some last ditch counteroffensive; instead all the Tigers, Panthers, and trucks formed up in a leaguer on the local football field, tightly guarded by their own crews, and we, in turn, had a guard ring around them - real Chinese box fashion.

    ...Geiger and Count Dohna, evidently convinced of our zeal and our discretion, promised us a tiny preview that night, just a glimpse, rather like throwing a single fish to a seal.

    It was a moonless night, and I was once again heading out into the countryside. Geiger was at the wheel and Teddy and I were in the back of that Kuebelwagen. First he drove at a speed which dimmed-out headlights allowed, then he switched them off and really hit the accelerator. It was so dark a night that we could barely see him in the front seat, and while he had not given the impression of being nuts, I guess you do not have to be Japanese to go kamikaze. Before we could think of some way of saving ourselves, Geiger just as abruptly slowed down, stopped, and suggested that Teddy take the wheel and watch the road through a particular portion of the windscreen. Teddy did, said, 'well, I'll be damned' and proceeded to go even faster than Geiger.

    Then it was my turn, and there it was: if you looked through a rectangular area in the windscreen, maybe six-inches-by-four, the entire road ahead was clearly visible in a pale greenish light for perhaps fifty yards or more. That was it - the 'black searchlight,' as some garbled press reports called it many years later. Geiger told us that every tank and vehicle in his unit was fitted with it, that the tank beam was considerably longer and had enabled them to mount numerous successful night attacks against Russian armor. I have no idea how it worked, and I doubt whether they knew; the fact was that, if you threw a switch, you got that beam, which was totally invisible unless you looked through the screen.

    So we drove right back to the mess and called our masters then and there, told them all about it and expressed the conviction that if they showed no interest the Yanks would, which was one sure way to get some reaction out of them. Needless to add, the Americans got it in the end, but at least we tried.

    By the morning the place was swarming with eggheads and security wallahs, one peering and poking about and the other making us swear all kinds of blood oaths that we had not seen what we had seen, and by mid-day everybody was gone...I never saw any of them again nor heard anything about the gadget , until sometime in the 1960s, when there were press reports about night-fighting equipment of extraordinary efficacy, which British and American tanks had been using in Korea, and of which prototype was a German World War II development."

  • #2
    I loved that one as well, good show there.

    I see you have been busy from your return here on the site, very good!!

    Cheers, that is somewhat what I was looking for on the other "night fighting" thread you have going.



    • #3
      The reason the Germans did not use any night fighting equipment on the Western Front was because they knew the Allies had their own system ready to be used. Nobody wanted to use it first because they knew the other side could reply in kind. The British had hundreds of sets in store on the continent.
      There was no such '20 tank Unit' or any Jagdtigers/Tigers fitted with these sights as the tank had to be modified and these modifications were only done on a Panther.
      The Allies did not need a German system to copy because they had their own sets.


      • #4
        m kenny

        But did the Germans know this at the time, or only after the war was over?

        Cheers, I never heard of this one for the Allies.



        • #5
          Great story non the less, thanks for putting it up.


          • #6
            After returning to Kamenz, we received new uniforms, because the stench of dead was in them even after cleaning. After a few days, I was sent to a unit where I received training in Tigers. The new Royal Tigers were a beauty to handle. Pure luxury: a relatively comfortable seat, a steering wheel, hydraulic gear, a dream come true. That dream was short-lived, thank God, because I had brought with me a beautiful case of yellow jaundice. Instead of going to the East front, I went into the hospital for the next six weeks. After the hospital came four weeks recuperative leave and back to Kamenz. Off to Naumburg-an-der-Saale, where we picked up two brand new Royal Tigers. These beauties had a few goodies built in, and on. A night-vision gizmo, no less; a far cry of what they are nowadays, but you actually could see orange blobs and distinguish what they were, larger objects or smaller ones, standing still or moving. All very primitive, but the other side had nothing even remotely like it.

            Towards the end of April 1945, our two Royal Tigers were detached from a n outfit called Kampfgruppe Simmel (Big name, few tanks, and children as infantry) and sent to help an infantry unit that expected to be hit by T-34s the next morning in the fog. So we went there. No kidding: we had our ammo racks full with 88 extra-long and our gas tanks were also full; that was very extraordinary in the last weeks of the war. We went into position and could hear some Russian voices, clanking, smell gas and the stink of makhorka, the Russian smoke. The Ivan did not care about us, they could hear only two vehicle engines and so they went on their merry way. Until the proverbial doodoo hit the fan. In less then three minutes my tank and the other knocked out 28 Soviet T-34s only because we had those blessed night sight gizmos. Pandemonium on the other side, heavy machine gun fire from us and our infantry and the Ivan vamoosed, leaving merrily burning tanks behind. That was the last time I could smile happily, because shortly thereafter I was captured before blowing up our tank; I don’t know what happened to the other Royal Tiger.


            • #7
              This account of night fighting Tiger II's was originaly posted on Feldgrau by a man claiming to be a ww2 veteran. He was eventualy exposed as a fraud and the account about night fighting equipment on a TII is complete invention.

              It is unfortunate that it is repeated here because this same 'veteran' claims there were T34-85's present at Kursk. An article was published in 'World War II' magazine (July/August 06, page 60/61) about the early introduction of T34/85's at Kursk. The author concludes that 'significant numbers' of both KV85's and T34/85's were available in July 1943.
              The authors name, a Murray Balascak! and he used the bogus veteran's account to 'prove' a wid theory he had.

              This is an early 2001 plea for help from Murray:

              Last year I discovered a significant error made by a large group of
              historians regarding the introduction date of the T34/85 tank during WWII
              (The Great Patriotic War). Letters
              were written to some of the more famous authors to illustrate the mistakes
              but non of them agreed that they had made any error. It was not very long
              before all of them declined to respond to my increasingly difficult
              questions. After that, I contacted an American journal on the subject and
              was invited by their editor to rewrite the letters in article form and
              submit it for publication. The article which wound up being critical of
              Mr. Steven Zaloga was written and submitted to my peers (not really my
              peers since I am not faculty) for review. One of my reviewers was a
              Professor of Engineering (PhD Mechanical Engineering) , another was a
              Professor of the History of Science (PhD History), and the last was a
              Professor of History (PhD History). The reviewers agreed to my points but
              the journal declined to publish the article because their referee did not
              approve. The referee was Steven Zaloga.

              Since then another nine PhD level advisors have helped me with the article.
              One advisor, who is a published historian, has pointed out that Mr.
              Zaloga's revision appears to be pro-fascist. The revised introduction date
              places the introduction date in early 1944 instead of late '42/early '43.
              This means that Soviet tank designs lagged behind German ones for most of
              the war. This agrees with Hitler's statement that the Slavic people were
              racially inferior. These 'inferior' beings could not possibly design
              better weapons. The fascist undertone is obvious now that she has
              explained it to me but I would never have figured it out for myself. The
              revisions 'correct' Marshall Zhukov and Sir Basil Liddell Hart without the
              least concern for their reputations. Unfortunately it is the revisions
              that need 'correcting'. They are based on an incorrect choice for the
              KV-85 prototype. When the correct prototype is chosen it is obvious that
              the T34/85 was at Kursk just as Marshall Zhukov had implied in his memoirs.
              This makes Slavic people just as smart, if not smarter than, the

              My advisors have now recommended that I now do two things:

              1. Contact a Soviet military historian with expertise in ground warfare
              during WWII. They would need to read English since I cannot read or write
              Can you think of anyone?

              2. Contact an English Language journal on the subject that is not English
              or American. Have you ever heard of such a journal?

              Thank you in advance for your assistance.

              Sincerely yours,
              Murray Balascak, SP (Slavic Person )
              Network Administrator
              Department of Computing Science
              Concordia University College of Alberta

              P.S. This matter is important to me. The publication of the article was
              to be my professional development (by special permission) activity for last
              summer. If it is not published before the end of this summer the failure
              to do so will be entered into my permanent record and could affect my career

              So we now have an article in a magazine that can be used by someone else with crackpot claims and a wannabe 'veteran' helps distort history.

              There were no night fighting Tiger II's and the story byJoscha (the fake veteran) is completely made up.


              • #8
                m kenny & everyone else - my apologies...I did not know of this. What I posted was something I had copied some time ago...a couple of years ago, and rediscovered last evening while cleaning out some files.


                • #9
                  Night fighting

                  Originally posted by TRDG View Post
                  But did the Germans know this at the time, or only after the war was over?

                  Cheers, I never heard of this one for the Allies.

                  I know the British experimented with infra-red equipment but as far as I know none was used in action. There are accounts of Panthers operating with Uhu halftracks destroying some British armnour towards the end of the war; I am currently researching this for an ASL article on the Germans and have various material in some books, including Spielberger's book on the Panther and a number of German sources. I have heard of apparent use on the eastern front but need to do some more work on this.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Charles Markuss View Post
                    There are accounts of Panthers operating with Uhu halftracks destroying some British armnour towards the end of the war.

                    Some reports tell of a last action of thus equipped I/R Panthers when they met a British armoured division. A British platoon equipped with Comet tanks was engaged in April 1945 (at night) by some solution B I/R Panthers. In a short, one-sided and fierce fire fight the entire platoon was annihilated."

                    First printed in the RYTON PUBLICATIONS 1995, PANTHER book and then reproduced almost verbatim in the CONCORD 1996, PANTHER book



                    "The Royal Armoured Corps official vehicle returns (June 1945) report the RAC lost a total of 26 Comets during WWII. By examining the published histories of the 7th and 11th Armoured Divisions, the 4th and 29th Armoured Brigades, and finally all the various Comet regiments you can find every vehicle accounted for.

                    Having read through that lot, the loss of 4 Comets in a single night action (or any other tank at this stage of the war) would have been worth a book on its own. The highest single loss of Comets at any point (in 1945) occurred (in April) to the 23rd Hussars when 2 Comets where hit in the engine compartment by A/T gunfire, around morning teatime.

                    Obviously I was prepared for the 'maybe they weren't Comets' argument, I have spent considerable time in the Bovington library examining the war diaries of:
                    7AD, 11AD, Grds AD, 8AB, 29AB, 33AB, 34TB, 8 Corps, 12 Corps, 30Corps and the 21st Army group as well as the Canadian, Czech and Polish AD's.
                    And nobody lost 4 tanks in a night encounter with German AFV's in April 1945 at a time when all losses are recorded. Its that simple.

                    Maps and everything would help but please stay with me. 12 and 8 Corps only hit the river EMS at the start of April having crossed the RHINE late March.

                    The reason the story specifies Comets is to make it believable, at this stage of the war the most frequent British tank being encountered by the few remaining German AFV's where Comets. And it has to be April because they (Brit tanks) were not in action before then.

                    The 11th Armoured division was an all Comet unit at this stage of the war, they were attached 8 Corps, it was the 11th and its Comet regiments that fought passed Minden, Fallingbostel and Padaborn all hot spots in the I/R story. It was the 11th who captured Kamphgruppe UHU at Bad Seeburg, near Lubeck.
                    As I've said no such loss is recorded in the 11th AD, the most likely British unit in this fabrication.

                    The 7th Armoured division in 12 Corps had peeled off west to take Hamburg. The closest they come is a unit of the 8th Hussars being bounced at night with panzerfausts and kids. 30 Corps and the Canadian Army are too far west to be involved.

                    Is that enough? You want more… The commanding officer of KG UHU, during integration in June 1945, said an order existed from Guderian that I/R was not to be deployed in the west. The officer did not know the reason for this but one reason put by the evaluation team is the likelihood the Germans knew about the British possessing I/R (which of course they did). Professor R V Jones confirms this in his 'Most Secret War' book. I thought I had explained before that the Panthers in KG Shultz (your red were definitely I/R capable Panthers from Fallingbostel that had been committed and lost in a day battle."


                    • #11
                      As the factual bullets fly, Charles waves a little white flag and shouts "I believe you, Kamerad!"

                      Thanks for the data.



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