Rochus Misch was an interesting interview, one of over 100 conducted with people who knew Hitler. His close contact for several years as a bodyguard and chief communications operator for Hitler provided exceptional details and observations.
After Hitler's suicide, he and others interviewed who did not escape like Gerda Christian and Traudl Junge served many years in the Soviet gulags. Misch was help long term with Hans Baur, Wilhelm mohnke and others.
Due to his close association with Hitler, Misch spent much of his time in solitary confinement and underwent years of brutal torture to extract the "whereabouts" of Hitler, as the Soviets did not believe he was dead.
The Stuka Pilots Speak
These were some of the greatest Stuka dive bomber and tank buster pilots of the war, with some serving in StG-2 "Immelmann" with the greatest Stuka pilot of them all, Oberst Hans-Ulrich Rudel. Kuhlmey also flew missions escorted by Hans-Joachim Marseille and JG-27 in North Africa with StG-3, and he mentions this experience in our book, The Star of Africa.
Hauptmann Gerhard Studemann Major Franz Kieslich
Knight's Cross, Oak Leaves Knight's Cross, Oak Leaves
Generalmajor Kurt Kuhlmey Hauptmann Kurt Plenzat
Knight's Cross Knight's Cross, Oak Leaves
Hauptmann Alexander Glaser
Knight's Cross, Oak Leaves
Interview Video with Reinhard Hardegen
aboard the USS Pillsbury off the Delaware coast
The SS Byron
T. Benson sinking off Cape Hatteras, NC following the attack by Erich Topp
and U-552 on April 7, 1942.
Author describes U-Boat menace from German perspective
By Colin D. Heaton
Published: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 at 1:47 p.m.
The coast of North Carolina was as much a battleground during World War II as any other region on earth. Seventy Allied ships of all types went down because of U-Boat attacks off the coasts of North and South Carolina beginning in 1941. The operations off North Carolina were as dangerous to the Germans as they were to the Americans, according to several submarine commanders interviewed over the years. Examples are below.
Peter Erich Cremer commanded U-333, earning the Knight's Cross. He personally considered the waters off the North Carolina Coast the most dangerous to work in. The target rich environment was alluring, yet the very shallow waters, tidal variances and strong currents also created a danger for the U-Boats.
One of Cremer's kills was the un-escorted British freighter Clan Skene, which was hit by two torpedoes at 09:05 a.m. May 10, 1942, and sank 300 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras. The U-Boat had already been badly damaged by depth charges three days earlier and was limping back to France. Cremer wrote in his report: "that the sinking of this ship was like .. a balm after these terrible depth charges."
According to Cremer: "The shallow waters and strong current made escape difficult. Every victory was an invitation to be sunk right afterward." Nine crew members from the Clan Skene were lost. The ship's captain and 72 survivors were picked up by USS McKean (APD 5) and taken at San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Oak Leaves recipient Georg Lassen of U-160 sank the City of New York off of Hatteras at 7:36 p.m. March 29, 1942, attacking in 20-foot seas, with great loss of life in foul weather. When interviewed, he stated: "I could not believe how many ships were around. We never had enough torpedoes."
Reinhard Hardegen commanded U-123 and sank 22 ships, earning the Oak Leaves to his Knight's Cross. After successfully entering deep into New York Harbor to gather intelligence, he then worked offshore near Cape Hatteras in early 1942. "The waters and currents at Hatteras were so strong we needed the planesmen always on the bow and stern. You could not leave them unattended. ... The Gulf Stream was the reason. The waters were so shallow, we often attacked on the surface to escape faster. There was little room for diving and maneuvering."
engagement for Hardegen was a rare daylight attack when he encountered the
American tanker SS Liebre 17 miles east of Cape Lookout at 7:18 a.m.
April 2, 1942. His first torpedo missed as the ship zigzagged, starting a
35-minute running battle. Hardegan, fully surfaced, started shelling with the
105mm deck gun. The order to abandon ship came 15 minutes later as the
generator, radio room, and aft were hit creating fires.
The result was damage to the ship, and of the 34 crew, there were 9 dead and 25 survivors. Seven men drowned after hitting the water. The British motor torpedo boat HMS MTB-332 soon arrived after receiving the SOS before the radio died, forcing the Hardegen to abandon the attack and crash dive. The U.S. Coast Guard assisted in towing the ship to port for repairs.
Erich Topp was credited with 30 ships, earning the Oak Leaves and Swords, who stated: "We had a briefing before Drum Beat, all commanders. We had hydrographic surveys, many from merchantmen before the war. The North and South Carolina coasts were perfect for interdiction from the refineries in the Gulf region to and from New York. Our job was to intercept them going north, before they turned west and joined convoys. Night attacks were preferable, and surface attacks were also preferred, allowing us to use greater surface speed and chase them down, often intersecting their course where we could lay in ambush."
The term Graveyard of the Atlantic seems most appropriate.
Colin D. Heaton is a Southport resident. He did his undergraduate work at the University of North Carolina Wilmington before earning his advanced degrees elsewhere. The StarNews welcomes and will consider publishing articles contributed by readers. They should be 400 words or less and accompanied by a good-quality photograph.
Contact Community News Editor http://www.starnewsonline.com/section/topic22 Si Cantwell at 343-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Links to video interviews and footage
Otto Kretschmer Happy Time
Otto Kretschmer Qualities of a U-Boat Commander
Otto Kretschmer war patrol footage
Peter Erich Cremer
Reinhard Hardegen wartime
Reinhard Herdegen interview
Wolf at Sea Part 3
Wolf at Sea Part 4 Kretschmer Capture
Klaus Christoph Marloh U-Boats
The longest continuous battle of World War II went on for nearly six years, but its legacy is often overshadowed by better-known clashes in the European and Pacific Theatres. Nevertheless, the Battle of the Atlantic ranks amongst naval history’s “largest and most complex” campaigns: As Michael E. Ruane writes for The Washington Post, an estimated 90 ships, including four German U-boats, sank off of the North Carolina coast between January and July 1942.
One of these doomed submarines—U-576, piloted by 29-year-old captain-lieutenant Hans-Dieter Heinicke—was rediscovered in 2014 some 72 years after its July 15, 1942, sinking. It remained unexplored until 2016, when researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began work on the wreck. Now, Ruane reports in a separate article for The Washington Post, these scientists have finally revealed the results of an advanced laser scan completed during the 2016 probe, offering what senior NOAA archaeologist Joe Hoyt describes as “the clearest picture I’ve seen of any U-boat on the seabed.”
The survey also offers key clues regarding U-576’s final moments. As Ruane explains, the vessel appears to be fully intact, suggesting it wasn’t the victim of an uncontrolled sinking. Instead, the evidence points to mechanical issues that may have prevented the sub from resurfacing after it submerged in hopes of evading an Allied attack.
Scientists participating in the initial deep sea dive in 2016 noticed that all of the sub’s exit hatches were closed—a fact Hoyt says immediately made evident that all of U-576’s 45-man crew remained trapped inside, Ruane noted in a 2016 report for The Washington Post.
“[N]o matter the exact circumstances of their demise, it had to just be horrifying,”Hoyt says. CNN’s Brad Lendon writes that U-576 rests around 30 miles off of Cape Hatteras, just 240 yards away from its final target, merchant freighter Bluefields. According to a NOAA factsheet, the cargo ship was one of 19 vessels in the KS-520 convoy, which was being escorted across the Atlantic by five Allied ships when U-576 opened fire.
At the time of this fateful meeting, U-576 was actually headed back to Germany. As NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary portal details, the sub, then on its fifth patrol of the war, had sustained severe damage to its main ballast tank; on July 13, Heinicke radioed headquarters to announce his vessel’s imminent return. But when Heinicke saw the KS-520 convoy, he couldn’t resist launching an attack—likely because his four prior patrols had only nabbed three ships: British armed merchant Empire Spring, U.S. steam merchant Pipestone County and Norwegian steam merchant Taborfjell.
The Monitor National Marine Sanctuary notes that Heinecke ordered his crew to fire four torpedoes at the group of ships around 4:15 p.m. Three reached steam merchant Chilore and motor tanker J.A. Mowinckel, inflicting damaging but failing to fully sink the ships, while the last struck Bluefields, causing it to sink within minutes.
Meanwhile, a string of retaliatory depth charges fired by the crew of a Coast Guard cutter had dangerously damaged U-576. Upon surfacing in the middle of the convoy—a decision Ruane describes as “inexplicable”—the sub took fire from a merchant ship and two U.S. Navy Kingfisher aircraft.
Soon after, the U-boat and all of its crew vanished from sight, left to drift to a watery grave at the bottom of the Atlantic.
Obergruppenfuehrer Wilhelm Bittrich became famous due to his portrayal by actor Maximilian Schell in the film A Bridge Too Far.
Bittrich was awarded the Oak Leaves and Swords, yet was a staunch openly vocal opponent of Heinrich Himmler and his policies. Bittrich's data was limited in quantity, but heavy on quality due to the limitations of international post from 1977-1979, when he died.
Brigadefuehrer Heinz Harmel commanded the 10th SS Panzer Division "Frundsberg" during World War II. Harmel was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords.
Brigadefuehrer Leon Degrelle was a Belgian international lawyer who enlisted in the German Army as a private, became a Gebirgsjaeger (Mountain Commando) then was transferred to the Waffen SS, and later placed in command of the 28th der SS Regiment (later a Division)"Wallonien".
He rose from private to the rank of brigadier general in three years, earning every German medal for combat bravery up to the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross, and the Close Combat Badge in Gold.
He performed one of the most remarkable feats in the history of defensive military operations at Cherkassy from Jan-Feb 1944 against greater Soviet numbers.
Brigadeführer Theodor Wisch was a commander of the SS Division "Leibstandarte" (LSSAH) and a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords.
He assumed command of the LSSAH in April 1943. He was seriously wounded in combat on the Western Front by a naval artillery barrage in the Falaise Pocket on 20 August 1944, and replaced as division commander by SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke.
Gruppenfuehrer Hermann Priess commanded the3rd SS Panzer Division "Totenkopf" following the death of Theodor Eicke in February 1943. On 30 October 1944 he was appointed commander of the I SS Panzerkorps and led it during the Battle of the Bulge.
He earned both Iron Crosses as well as the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords.
Hauptstuermfuehrer Walter Girg (1919-July 25, 2010) he joined the Waffen SS at the beginning of the
Second World war serving with 2nd Waffen SS Division "Das Reich" in the Balkans
with Fritz Klingenberg and the invasion of Russia.
By 1944 he was a platoon leader in 1 company, 502nd SS
Jager Battalion Mitte in the deep reconnaissance role with Adrian von Foelkersam in Hungary and Romania.
In the Carpathian Mountains in September 1944,
he led his men behind Russian lines where he was wounded and his team compromised.
Facing imminent capture, he called an artillery strike down on his own position, creating confusion allowing his remaining men to escape back to German lines.
He received the
Knights Cross in 1944 for the mission, which provided a great deal of
intelligence. In March 1945, he was encircled by the Soviets at Kolberg, before being evacuated by sea. He was awarded the Oak
Leaves to his Knights Cross on 1st April 1945.
Standartenfuehrer Johannes-Rudolf Muehlenkamp served as a reconnaissance officer in 2nd Waffen SS Panzer Division "Das Reich", and later commanded 5th Waffen SS Division "Wiking" during the 1944 Warsaw General Uprising. He served directly under Obergruppenfuehrer Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski during this period.
Muehlenkamp was responsible for convincing his superior to adhere to the Geneva Convention, ensuring that all uniformed military personnel captured were sent to proper military POW camps, despite Heinrich Himmler's direct order to the contrary.
Zelewski agreed, and one of the results was saving the life of Richard Cosby, the father of TV personality and journalist Rita Cosby. Read her book about her father, Quiet Hero.
Oberfuehrer Otto Baum Oak Leaves and Swords (15 November 1911 – 18 June 1998) was a was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords.
Baum was born on 15 November 1911 in Hechingen-Stetten, a son of a merchant. From 1930 to 1932, he studied two semesters of agriculture at the University of Hohenheim.
After recovering from severe wounds in 1943, he was promoted to regimental commander, and eventually reached the rank of SS-Oberführer . He took command of the 2nd SS Division "Das Reich" in July 1944, and saw action in the Falaise Pocket.
Standartenführer Max Hansen was a commander in the 1st SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment, also commander of the famous Kampfgruppe Hansen (reinforced 2nd Battalion of SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 1 LSSAH).
Hansen earned both Iron Crosses, the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, Close Combat Clasp in Gold, General Assault Badge, Infantry Assault Badge in Bronze, German Cross in Gold, Eastern Front Medal, Wounded Badge in Gold.
Obersturbannfuehrer Günther-Eberhardt Wisliceny Wiscliceny was posted in 1938 to the "Der Führer" Regiment, seeing his first action as a company commander in the Balkans in spring 1941.
He spent 1941 to 1943 on the Eastern Front and 1944 in France, fighting in all the battles of the senior SS divisions, and being wounded four times.
He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for leadership of a battalion during the battles for the Kursk salient in July 1943. He received the Oak Leaves on 27 December 1944, at the Normandy invasion front.
He ended the war as the commander of the 10th Waffen SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment "Westland", 5th SS Panzer Division "Wiking". Hack died in Hamburg, Germany in June 1997.
Sturmbannfuehrer Karl Auer was highly decorated with the Wound Badge in Gold Infantry Assault Badge in Silver, Tank Destruction Badge for Individual Combatants, Iron Cross 2nd and 1st Class, Close Combat Clasp in Gold (1 October 1943), Silver (1 November 1944), Gold (22 March 1945), Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 31 October 1944 as SS-Hauptsturmführer of the I./SS-Polizei-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 8
Obersturmbannfuehrer Paul Albert Kausch was another original SS member, serving as an artillery officer with "Totenkopf", "Wiking" and fought from 1939-1945.
In July 1944, Kausch was assigned the defense of a sector in a swamp at the Lipsustrasse. With only a small number of men numbering less than 80, he held the sector throughout the night, defeating a battalion sized Soviet attack that had broken through the lines and advanced to his own command post.
Armed with hand grenades and an StG-44 assault rifle, he fought them off and then called down artillery fire on his own position.
This action allowed for his remaining men to fall backa nd prepare hasty defensive positions, until they were relieved.
For this amazing action Kausch was decorated with the Knight's Cross on 23 August 1944.
In April 1945, Kausch participated in the final large-scale counterattacks eastward from Strausberg that at first had considerable success, but the unit was overwhelmed and forced into a fighting retreat to Berlin. As a result, Kausch joined Steiner and Mohnke and his men participated in the last battles of Berlin, and Kausch was awarded Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross on 23 April 1945.
On 28 April 1945, Kausch was severely wounded for the third time and on 1 May 1945, he was captured by the Russians, he remained a prisoner until 16 January 1956, and died in October 2001. He was the last German POW to be formally released after the war.
Obergruppenfuehrer Karl Wolff started his career as one of the earliest members of the National Socialist Party and Allgemeine SS from the 1930s.
Wolff served on Himmler's staff along with Obergruppenfuehrer Reinhard Heydrich throughout the war as his "left hand man" until Heydrich's death in 1942.
Wolff's interview was one of the best regarding the inner workings of the upper echelons of the SS, to include his close relationship with all of the higher authorities within Nazi Germany proper.
Obertsurmbannfuehrer Hanns-Heinrich Lohmann In June 1941 he was given command of the new Regiment "Westland", 5th Waffen SS Panzer Division "Wiking" under Felix Steiner.
In the spring of 1942 Lohmann caught Malaria, then returned to duty in October 1942 and given command of the 1st Battalion, SS Panzergrenadier Regiment "Nordland", still in the "Wiking" Division which was fighting in the Caucasus.
He then served on the Leningrad Front where he was wounded and promoted, then later reassigned to the 1st SS "Leibstandarte"
At the end of October 1944, he was posted to the III SS Panzerkorps and given command of the 49th SS Panzergrenadier Regiment "De Ruyter" part of the 23rd SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division "Nederland", which was in the Kurland region.
He received the German Cross in Gold, Knight's Cross, Oak Leaves
Obersturmbannfuehrer Max Wuensche has a long and entertaining career, but his ruthless nature was not always appreciated by his men, but did bring him to the attention of Adolf Hitler, for whom he served as adjutant for a period of time.
Wuensche was one of the few SS men interviewed who really felt no remorse at what had happened during the war, and he felt that "Hitler should have been supported more to accomplish our greater goal for Germany."
While not a murderer in the classic genocidal sense, he did support the belief that taking prisoners was not always in the best interest of the mission, and he was not hesitant to turn a blind eye to atrocities.
Standartenfuehrer Max Shaefer served in the 5th Waffen SS Panzer Division "Wiking" under the command of Felix Steiner, and served with distinction earning the Oak Leaves.
Brigadefuehrer Otto Kumm was an infantry legend who openly fought against what he called "Himmler's ridiculous assertions", and along with Bittrich and Muehlenkamp openly defied what they perceived to be illegal orders.
Kumm was the last living recipient of the Knight's Cross, Oak Leaves and Swords from the Waffen SS.
Obersturmfuehrer Fritz Langanke of 2nd SS Panzer Division "Das Reich' earned the Knight's Cross as a reconnaissance officer
Sturmbannfuehrer Kurt Wahl received both Iron Crosses, German Cross in Gold and the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves with the 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division "Götz von Berlichingen"
He was awarded the Knight's Cross while serving as the Adjutant of the 38th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment in August 1944 and received the award of the Oak Leaves in February 1945, while in command of the 17th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion
Brigadefuehrer Wilhelm Mohnke was one of the original Waffen SS members, and fought from 1939 until the fall of Berlin commanding Kampfgruppe Mohnke protecting the Reichchancellery and Reichstag.
His ultimate position was senior commander of Hitler's bodyguard in the bunker. Before this his entire career was service in the 1st LSSAH, where we received both Iron Crosses, Wound Badge in Gold, German Cross in Gold and the Knight's Cross.
He was accused of murdering French prisoners in 1940, and participating in the Malmedy Massacre, and other possible crimes on the Eastern Front, but there was never enough evidence to charge him.
Following the war, he served in the Bundeswehr becoming a paratrooper and wrote books on armored warfare.
Following this, he was transferred to the Jagdpanthers of the 129th Tank Destroyer Battalion. He fought at Olita, where his vehicle was disabled and he had to fight off wave after wave of attacking Russian infantry with small arms. He was shot in the head defending his vehicle, and they were forced to retreat.
Ernst was transferred to Germany to treat his wounds, where he received the Honor Roll Clasp and Wound Badge in Gold. Although he was not supposed to continue fighting, he was called to Berlin to join Special-Purpose Unit Skorenzy, where he used his knowledge of English and French to masquerade as a US "Captain" commanding the 405th Armor. He there met Otto Skorenzy (who talked at length about the possible V3). He participated in Operation Griffin.
Albert Ernst with his tank destroyer crew on the Eastern Front, 1944.
Video documentary on the career, success and demise of "The Black Baron", Waffen SS Tiger I commander and holder of the Knight's Cross, Oak Leaves and Swords Michel Wittman
Tiger I and other tanks at Bovington
Tiger II Restoration
Tiger I History
See the video on tank destroyers at the link below:
See the posted video links below for more action and historical info on
the missions of the German tank commanders
Tank Heroes I
Tank Heroes II
Baltic Tanks Battles WW II
The series will continue with the fighter aces of the Pacific Theater in WW II, including the "Angel of Death" Saburo Sakai, and Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, Joseph Foss, Marion Carl, Rex Barber, among many others. The men featured were great personal friends of the late historian, author and pilot Jeffrey L. Ethell, with whom Colin collaborated, and we miss him very much. Saburo's edited interview was published many years ago in an abridged form. These interviews will be the full length versions.
Lt. Saburo Sakai Cdr. Alexander Vraciu
Maj. Gen. Joseph Foss Maj. Gen. Marion Carl
Medal of Honor Navy Cross
Captain David McCampbell Lt. Col. John Bolt
Medal of Honor Navy Cross
Col. Greg Boyington Col. Rex T. Barber
Medal of Honor Navy Cross (although Army)
Greg Boyington signing prints and books at his home in Fresno, CA in 1986
Oberst Karl-Heinz Becker Oberst Rudolf Witzig Obslt. Erich Pietzonka
All recipients of the Knight's Cross, Oak Leaves
Obslt. Kurt Sroschke Oberst Reinhard Egger Gen. F.A. von der Heydte
All above were recipients of the Knight's Cross, Oak Leaves
The Fallschirmjaeger Badge
General Heinz Trettner Generalmajor Walter Gericke
Knight's Cross, Oak Leaves Knight's Cross, Oak Leaves
As a departure from our pure military history, we have been working on a historical novel, dealing with events from the 1920s in the former Soviet Union. We have nearly completed our manuscript detailing the exploits of a Siberian tiger and its three year rampage, based upon actual events. We will keep our progress updated, but it should be a good one.