Heaton-Lewis Books

Autographed books on history

  American Air Heroes of World  War II                    in the ETO Series                                        

This will be the first in a new series of interview books  similar to our previous  German Aces Speak books, but focusing upon pilots of the United States Army Air Force who fought against the Luftwaffe, in their own words as they discussed the war and their careers in often explicit detail.

Brig. Gen. Robin Olds was a West Point graduate, boxer, American football player and a natural born fighter. His career saw him become an official ace in WW II and an "unofficial" ace in Vietnam. His tenacity, ingenuity and loyalty to his men endeared them to him. He carried that legacy into his position as commandant of the US Air Force Academy.
Col. Francis S. Gabreski was an ace in WW II and Korea, and he ended up as a POW along with his commanding officer in the 56th Fighter Group, Col.  Hub Zemke.
One of the many letters from Col. Gabreski during the lengthy interview process.
Gen. Benjamin O. Davis was the son of the first black Army general, and he was the first black commanding officer of the segregated Tuskegee Airmen.
Gen. James Doolittle is one of the best known airmen in world history, and he was a very inspirational man, and a monumental American.

Anne had the great privilege of being their photographer, and she collected all of the signatures from the living Doolittle Raiders in 2002, posted below.
Col. Donald Blakeslee commanded the 4th Fighter Group, was an outstanding ace and an even better combat leader. He participated in the first shuttle mission from the UK to the USSR in 1944.
Urban L. "Ben" Drew was another lucky fighter pilot, and he scored two Me-262 kills in the same mission. This was witnessed by German ace Georg-Peter Eder, whose testimony after the war led to Drew receiving the Air Force Cross. Both men became great friends.
Col. Walker "Bud" Mahurin was another 56th Fighter Group ace, shot down in both WW II and Korea, where he was a POW in the second conflict, evading capture in Germany.
General Curtis Lemay was a legend in both the Pacific and Europe, and he became influential in the post WW II era on many levels.
Col. Robert S. Johnson, 56th Fighter Group scored 26 victories, tying with Major Richard Bong of the Pacific Theater in reaching Eddie Rickenbacker's WW I score.
One of the many letters from Bob Johnson during the long interview process.
Col. Edward R. "Buddy" Haydon of the 357th Fighter Group was not an ace, but he made history when he forced Luftwaffe 258 victory ace Major Walter Nowotny into the ground when he bounced his Me-262 over Achmer on Nov. 8, 1944.

The event was witnessed by Lt. Gen. Adolf Galland and Major Georg-Peter Eder, both interviewed. See our book
The Me-262 Stormbird for specifics. Haydon was later a POW after being shot down in a ground attack mission in January 1945.
One of the many letters supporting the continued over the many years with Haydon. He and his wife Nelda were amazingly wonderful people.
                Hitler's Inner Circle
This book will contain the interviews and perspectives of those in Germany who knew or worked with Hitler and his chief lieutenants from 1932-1945

Hitler greets Field Marshal Erich von Manstein in the Crimea in 1942. Hans Baur  (second from right) was Hitler's personal pilot and was one of those interviewed for the book.

Adolf Hitler and his personal pilot Lt. Gen. Hans Baur, photo signed for Colin during an interview

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.

Traudl Junge was Adolf Hitler's last personal secretary, and was able escape the bunker. Her interviews were very revealing, and cross corroboration of many events was quite possible.

       Our Future Books in Progress
        The U-boat Commanders Speak

This book will also be in the same format as The German Aces Speak series, and will be the full, detailed interviews with the following U-boat skippers and crewmen:
Admiral Otto Kretschmer,
Knight's Cross, Oak Leaves, Swords
Admiral Erich Topp, Knight's Cross, Oak Leaves, Swords
Captain Peter Erich Cremer,
Knight's Cross 
Captain Reinhard Hardegen,  Knight's Cross, Oak Leaves

Interview Video with Reinhard Hardegen


Hans-Rudolf Rosing
Friedrich Guggenberger
Hans Goebbeler, crew chief on U-505 when she was captured off the coast of West Africa in July 1944, shortly after Thilo Bode transferred to command his own ship.

Thilo Bode

Thilo and crew after their surrender of U-858

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
Contributed article

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."

An interesting 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 si.cantwell@starnewsonline.co


Links to video interviews and footage 

Otto Kretschmer Happy Time


Otto Kretschmer Qualities of a U-Boat Commander


Otto Kretschmer war patrol footage


Erich Topp


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




Laser Scan Reveals Fate of U-Boat Sunk Near Outer Banks Coast

The July 15, 1942, sinking of submarine U-576 off Cape Hatteras resulted in the deaths of all 45 crew members were all younger than 30 (Courtesy of Ed Caram/NOAA)

By Meilan Solly smithsonian.com

December 31, 2018

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.

Letters from U-Boat Commanders Otto Kretschmer, Erich Topp, Thilo Bode

                The SS Officers Speak
Officers of the Waffen SS Interviewed

(This page undergoing major updates)

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.

Oberfuehrer 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.

After the war, Priess was convicted of war crimes for his involvement in the Malmedy Massacre, and was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. He was released from the Landsberg Prison in 1954.

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.

He served as a battalion commander in 3rd SS Totenkopf Infantry Regiment during the Operation Barbarossa, invasion of the Soviet Union.

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.

The Swords were awarded for his actions in the Ardennes, Hungary and Austria on 6 May 1945, the last awarded, and very late due to Hitler's death.

In 1945 he was handed over by the US Army to the French during investigations into his division's war crimes at Tulle and Oradour-sur-Glane, but was released in 1951.

Obersturmbannfuehrer Franz Hack (3 February 1915 – 9 June 1997) served in the Waffen SS during World War II who was awarded the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and the Close Combat Clasp in Gold.

Hack was born in Mannheim, Germany on 3 February 1915. Upon joining the SS he was issued the service number 227129, his first command was the 1st Company, "Germania" Regiment in 1938.

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 LipsustrasseWith 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.

Dr. Gerhard Klopfer held flag rank in both the SA (Gruppenfuehrer) and SS (honorary Oberfuehrer). He was a lawyer, and represented Martin Bormann at the Jan. 20, 1942 Wannsee Conference, ordered by Hitler, directed by Himmler and chaired by SS Obergruppenfuehrer Reinhard Heydrich.

Klopfer was the last survivor of the Conference, and despite being captured at the end of the war, and placed on trial at Nuremberg, the tribunal somehow dropped the charges against him for lack of evidence that he actively participated or had any direct involvement with the Holocaust.
              The Panzer Aces Speak
Otto Carius (27 May 1922 – 24 January 2015) , had 150 enemy tanks and vehicles destroyed, with another 50 claimed and/or damaged, earning the Wound Badge in Gold, Knight's Cross and Oak Leaves.

World War II broke out. Carius enlisted in the army and first served in the infantry, before volunteering for the Panzer branch, and graduated the officers' school.

In 1943, Carius transferred to the 502nd Heavy Panzer Battalion, where he  met and served with his lifelong friend Albert Kerscher, who would also receive the Oak Leaves with him.

Equipped with the new Tiger tanks, he was assigned as a tank commander to the 2nd Company of 502nd Tank Battalion. That summer, the 2nd Company was deployed to the Russian Leningrad Front and took part in several operations in that area.

During that time, 502nd Tank Battalion was ordered to reinforce the front along with 11th SS Freiwillige Panzergrenadier Division "Nordland" at Narva Bridgehead. During one of his engagements, Carius destroyed four Soviet SU-85s and successfully withdrew without losses.

In June of 1944, the company was transferred to Dunaburg (Daugavpils in Latvia) to defend the city from a concentrated Russian offensive. In the July of 1944, Russians outflanked the German defensive lines via the motorways west of Minsk and Borissov to Witebsk. By using tanks in vast numbers, the Soviets intended to divide the Germans and then take Riga. Since Riga is situated at the mouth of Dvina River, Dunaburg was an important strategic point for both Germans and Russians.

On 22 July of 1944, 1st Lieutenant Otto Carius with his company of eight (early and mid production) Tigers advanced towards village of Malinovka (aka Malinava, northern suburb of Dunaburg) in order to halt the Russian advance. 1st Lieutenant Otto Carius and Staff Sergeant Albert Kerscher (one of the most decorated commanders of sPzAbt 502) took a Kubelwagen in order to check if the village was already occupied by Russians.

They discovered that village of Malinovka was already occupied by the enemy. Carius recognized that the Russian tanks in the village were only advance troops waiting for the main force to arrive. He decided to recapture the village before the arrival of reinforcements. Carius returned to his company for briefing and explained his plan to take the village.

He decided to attack the village using only two tanks because there was only one road leading to the village and rushing all of his Tigers would be dangerous. Keeping six Tigers in reserve, Carius and Kerscher moved towards the village quickly and quietly, surprise was Carius' objective to destroy the enemy tanks.

Seeing that there was a large force of parked tanks in in a compound near the center, Carius called in for an air strike. The overall commander, General Hyazinth von Strachwitz managed to radio a naval strike via Kriegsmarine headquarters, and for the first, last and only time during the war German naval guns were fired directly onto a point target with fire direction control provided by a ground commander.

Within twenty minutes Carius and Kerscher knocked out 17 tanks including the new JS-1 and 2.  Carius and Kerscher later became commanders in a Jagdtiger company of the 512th Heavy Antitank Battalion at the beginning of 1945, again servingtogether.

On 8 March 1945, 2nd Company was directed to the front line near Siegburg, where it took part in the defense of the River Rhine. He surrendered to the United States Army on 7 May 1945 and was released on 21 May 1945. After the war, Carius set up a pharmacy which he named "Tiger Apotheke."
Otto Carius and his Tiger I crew in Russia, 1943
Oberst (later a General) Hans–Ulrich Freiherr von Luck und Witten (15 July 1911 – 1 August 1997),  served with the 7th Panzer Division and 21st Panzer Division. Luck is the author of his highly acclaimed book Panzer Commander.

His service saw him on the Eastern Front, North Africa, and the Western Front during the Normandy invasion and subsequent Operation Market-Garden.
He earned the Knight's Cross, German Cross in Gold and Close Combat Badge in Bronze.

Captured by the Soviets he was kept in a gulag in Georgia and released in 1950.
Paul Egger  (23 November 1916-12 July 2007) earned the Knights Cross as the seventh highest scoring tank commander with 113 kills, mainly serving with SS Panzer Abteilung 502. He received Knights Cross 28 April 1945. 

Paul Egger was born in Mautern , Austria
and after finishing high school in June 1935 he worked as a clerk until joining the Luftwaffe in late 1938. Egger was already a Glider Pilot and was trained as a bomber Pilot joining Kampfgeschwader 51, Flying the JU 87 Stuka.

Paul Egger took part in the invasion of Poland. he was then transferred to Jagdeschwader 27 becoming a fighter Pilot flying the Messerschmitt BF 109 taking part in the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain, flying a total of 112 missions and was shot down three times while scoring two kills.

In his last mission he was shot down over the English Channel and had severe head wounds which stopped him from flying and he was eventually transferred to staff duties. Egger was bored with desk work and he volunteered for the Waffen SS in May 1941 and was trained as anti tank gunner. After training he was assigned to the Motorcycle Battalion of the Das Reich division and transferred later to the 8th Company SS Panzer Regiment 2.

 As a tank commander he soon showed skill as a commander during the battle of Kiev, where he destroyed 28 tanks, 14 anti tank guns, 8 artillery batteries and 40 various Russian vehicles. In February 1943 during the third battle of Kharkov he recorded his 65th tank victory but his company was all but wiped out apart form his tank and one other.

Egger transferred to the 102 SS Heavy Panzer battalion commanding a Tiger I tank in October 1943. After the D- Day landings. His battalion was deployed to Normandy where he destroyed 14 allied tanks and 4 anti tank guns. His commander recommended him for the Knight's Cross for this action, but he received the German Cross in Gold instead.

Egger's battalion was almost completely destroyed during the fighting and in September 1944 was reformed in Sennelager, Germany and renamed the 502 SS Heavy Panzer Battalion. In 1945 Egger was promoted to Untersturmfuehrer. The 502 SS Heavy Panzer Battalion was sent to the Eastern Front and fought around Stettin. Egger destroyed another 19 tanks during the fighting.

In April 1945 Egger was promoted to Obersturmfuehrer took over command of the 1st Company. Egger recieved his long overdue Knight's Cross from Gruppenfuehrer Felix Steiner, then commander of the XI SS Panzer Army.  On the 3 May 1945, Paul Egger became the seventh top panzer ace of the war recording his 113 kills.

Paul Egger escaped from Berlin and surrendered to the American forces at the River Elbe after being shot in the left arm. He became a prisoner of war for 30 months and was released in November 1947. After the war Egger stayed in civilian life and became a sports reporter.
Left to right: Fey, Egger and a crewman near Prokohrovka during Kursk in July, 1943
Ernst Barkmann (25 August 1919 – 27 June 2009)was born in Kisdorf in Holstein  the son of a local farmer. In 1935, Barkmann finished school and started to be involved in family business along with his father.

On April 1st of 1936, Ernst Barkmann joined SS-Standarte Germania as a volunteer and after three months of training joined the III Battalion of the Standarte at Radolfszell.

Barkmann took part in Polish Campaign of 1939 serving with 9th Kompanie of SS-Standarte Germania as a machine gunner and was wounded there.

In Autumn of 1941, Barkmann was seriously wounded during fighting near Dnieprpetrowsk (Operation Barbarossa) and received the Iron Cross (Second Class).

In late 1941, Barkmann was transferred to Holland as an instructor of European SS-Volunteers but in early 1942, he volunteered for service with division's Panzer Regiment.

Ernst Barkmann returned to the Eastern Front in winter of 1942 and was transferred to 2nd Kompanie of 2nd Panzer Regiment of 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich. Barkmann's unit was equipped with Panzer III (50mm gun) tanks which were outclassed by Soviet T-34 and other. In early 1943, 2nd Panzer Regiment took part in the Battle for Kharkov, where Barkmann won the Iron Cross (First Class). In mid 1943, Barkmann was transferred to 4th Kompanie which was equipped with Panther V tanks.

In late 1943, Ernst Barkmann was promoted to the rank of Unterscharfuhrer. In early 1944, the entire division was transferred to Bordeaux area in southern France for rest and refitting. Following the D-Day (June 6 of 1944), 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich was ordered to move northwards and was committed to battle.

In early July of 1944, Das Reich was moved to Saint Lo to halt the advance of the US Army's 9th and 30th Infantry Divisions and the 3rd Armored Division. On July 8th, Barkmann's company was a spearhead of Regiment's attack on the advancing American units. On this day, Ernst Barkmann knocked out his first Allied Sherman tank near St.Lo.

On July 12th, he destroyed two more Shermans while disabling the third one. During that engagement Barkmann moved his camouflaged Panther to ambush position and awaited for more Allied armor, knocking out three Shermans. After that Ernst Barkmann's tank was hit by an anti-tank gun which caused a fire. He decided to abandon his burning Panther and along with his crew he quickly put out the fire. After that engagement his Panther ended up in the workshop for repairs.

After a day of rest, in morning of July 14th, Barkmann was ordered to recover four Panthers that had been cut off behind enemy lines. He succeeded in his task and added three more Shermans to his score. On the same day at noon, Ernst Barkmann was ordered by the Regimental Commander Obersturmbannfuehrer Tychsen to recover wounded German soldiers from their American captors.

Once again he succeeded and in the evening his own Panther was returned to him from the workshop. On July 26th, Barkmann's Panther suffered from engine problems (a chronic condition for this model)  and was sent back to a field workshop. When mechanics were working on it, the field workshop was attacked by Allied fighter-bombers and Barkmann's Panther was hit in the engine compartment.

By the dawn of July 27th, his Panther was repaired but his crew was cut off from the rest of the company and were on their way to rejoin it. On his way back, near the village of Le Lorey, Barkmann was stopped by the retreating German infantrymen who reported that Americans were closing in. Ernst Barkmann decided to send two of his men to verify that report.

They soon returned with news of American column made up of some 15 M-4 Shermans and other vehicles approaching. Barkmann moved his tank up to the crossroad where he positioned his Panther in the surrounding oak trees, commanding the approach while awaiting the enemy. When the American column approached, Ernst Barkmann opened fire, knocking out two leading tanks and then a tanker truck.

Two Shermans tried to go around burning wreckage that blocked the road and one of them was knocked out followed by the other one.In the response, Americans retreated and called up the tactical fighter support and Barkmann's Panther was damaged and some of the crew members were wounded. Using the element of surprise, two Shermans attacked the "wounded" Panther fell to the deception and also knocked out.

Barkmann and his crew repaired their Panther and knocked out single Sherman while leaving. His driver managed to relocate their damaged Panther to the safety of nearby village of Neufbourg. During that brave engagement often called "Barkmann's Corner", Ernst Barkmann destroyed approximately nine Sherman tanks and many other various vehicles.

On July 28th, Barkmann reached Coutances and joined his company. During two day period, he destroyed fifteen Shermans and other vehicles. On 30 July 30 the Americans had surrounded Granville but Barkmann towing a damaged Panther was able to break out. In order to destroy their disabled Panther their crew decided to set it on fire and soon by mistake both Panthers caught fire.

Both crews were forced to make their way to the German lines seven kilometers away on foot. Barkmann reached Avranches on 5 August and was congratulated by his comrades who heard about his exploits. For his bravery and skills Ernst Barkmann was recommended for Knight's Cross and was accepted on 27 August and it was awarded on 5 September.

Oberscharfuehrer Barkmann continued his successful career and took part in the Ardennes Offensive in December of 1944, where on 25 December he was again seriously wounded. During the Ardennes Offensive, Barkmann's Panther drove into the group of American tanks from the 2nd Armored Division. Quickly combat begun and outnumbered Barkmann managed to knock out several Sherman tanks.

One Sherman rammed Barkmann's Panther but didn't cause much damage although both tanks were stuck together and Panther's engine stalled. After few minutes, Barkmann's mechanic managed to restart the engine and Panther retreated with blocked turret. Even with the damage, Barkmann knocked out a Sherman that was pursuing him and retreated to safety although his Panther was beyond repair.

In March of 1945, Barkmann was once again fighting with Soviets in the area of town of Stuhlweissenburg, where he knocked out four T-34s and brought the total score of the Das Reich Division for the war so far to 3000 enemy tanks destroyed. At the time Das Reich was exhausted by non-stop fighting and lack of replacement tanks. Barkmann's unit alone had only nine fully operational vehicles from which three were soon lost to Josef Stalin tanks.

The remaining six Panthers were ordered to link up with the remnants of the Panzer Regiment of the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler commanded by Standartenfuehrer Jochen Peiper. By April of 1945, Barkmann saw action south of Vienna during the fighting in Austria. There his Panther was hit by a mistake by friendly soldiers and Barkmann along with his crew members was wounded. Later on his Panther was disabled in a huge bomb crater and was destroyed by its crew. Ernst Barkmann was able to reach British zone of operation where he was taken into captivity.

During his very successful career, Ernst Barkmann earned Knight's Cross for his bravery and skills along with the Panzer Assault Badge for 25 and 50 engagements with the enemy. He survived the war and lived in Kisdorf, Germany, where he was the long-time fire-chief and also mayor.
Willi "Wilhelm" Fey (25 September 1918 – 29 April 2002) was a Standartenjunker in the Waffen-SS during World War II. He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 29 April, 1945 one of the last awarded.

He scored over tank kills during the war, mainly as a Tiger commander with Paul Egger. He was wounded several times earning the Wound Badge in Gold.

Following the war, he served in the Bundeswehr becoming a paratrooper and wrote books on armored warfare.

Will Fey post war, when he retired from the West German Army and at a rather advanced age became a paratrooper!
Tank destroyer ace Heinz Reverchon , was awarded the Knight's Cross 16 September 1942 when he was 21 years old. He was a young reconnaissance officer and tank destroyer commander in 1./Kradschützen-Bataillon 43 of the 13. Panzer-Division, often doing his work in the Sturmgeshuetz and Jagdpanzer.
Oberfeldwebel Albert Kerscher (29 March 1916 – 12 June 2011), Tiger and Jagdtiger ace with the Knight's Cross and Oak Leaves

Albert Kerscher's Defense of Neuhäuser Forest by David Pentland. Under hopeless conditions, Albert Kerscher and his comrades of the 511 Heavy Tank Battalion scored his 100th kill on April 21 1945, holding off the Red Army which was smashing the East Prussia.
Captain Albert Ernst, was involved in the Battle of Vitebsk, in which his Nashorn "Buffalo" took down 19 Soviet tanks, as well as a ground attack fighter. He also took out a JS-2 at 4,800 meters. Following the battle, he was nicknamed the "Tiger of Vitebsk" and received the Knight's Cross.

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 after his surrender in May 1945 Later, he was transferred to the 512th Heavy Tank Destroyer Battalion and was stationed in the Ruhr pocket as a Jagdtiger commander.

He was tasked with the job of covering the withdrawal of the German forces following the failed assault on the Remagen bridgehead.

He then fell back to Iserlohn, where eventually he surrendered Hemer, then Iserlohn to American forces, despite disgust from local civilians. He refused to leave his men when offered his freedom, and forced the American Lieutenant Colonel Bob Kriz, to take him into custody with his men. He remained good friends with Kriz long after the war.

Below is the actual video of him surrendering his company to American forces:


Albert Ernst with his tank destroyer crew on the Eastern Front, 1944.

Fey, Eggar and Glagow with the Tiger I in Ukraine 1943
Tiger I of the 1st Waffen SS Panzerdivision "Leibstandarte" in Russia, 1943
Wolfgang Koltermann (28 March 1917 – 21 December 1994) was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

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




Elefant Restoration





Tiger I History





Panther History





Battle Tanks




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 Pacific Aces Speak

Greg Boyington signing prints and books at his home in Fresno, CA in 1986

Col. (then Major) Gregory Boyington, the enigmatic and controversial leader of VMF-214, best known as the Black Sheep. Following his release from Japanese captivity he was awarded the Navy Cross and Medal of Honor.

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.



           The Devil Came in Winter

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.

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