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MikeWhalen
05-24-2014, 05:16 PM
Now this is a great story that I would love to see put up on the big screen by a reputable film maker!!

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/05/12/world-war-ii-s-strangest-battle-when-americans-and-germans-fought-together.html

"World War II’s Strangest Battle: When Americans and Germans Fought Together
Days after Hitler’s suicide a group of American soldiers, French prisoners, and, yes, German soldiers defended an Austrian castle against an SS division—the only time Germans and Allies fought together in World War II. Andrew Roberts on a story so wild that it has to be made into a movie.
The most extraordinary things about Stephen Harding's The Last Battle, a truly incredible tale of World War II, are that it hasn’t been told before in English, and that it hasn’t already been made into a blockbuster Hollywood movie. Here are the basic facts: on 5 May 1945—five days after Hitler’s suicide—three Sherman tanks from the 23rd Tank Battalion of the U.S. 12th Armored Division under the command of Capt. John C. ‘Jack’ Lee Jr., liberated an Austrian castle called Schloss Itter in the Tyrol, a special prison that housed various French VIPs, including the ex-prime ministers Paul Reynaud and Eduard Daladier and former commanders-in-chief Generals Maxime Weygand and Paul Gamelin, amongst several others. Yet when the units of the veteran 17th Waffen-SS Panzer Grenadier Division arrived to recapture the castle and execute the prisoners, Lee’s beleaguered and outnumbered men were joined by anti-Nazi German soldiers of the Wehrmacht, as well as some of the extremely feisty wives and girlfriends of the (needless-to-say hitherto bickering) French VIPs, and together they fought off some of the best crack troops of the Third Reich. Steven Spielberg, how did you miss this story?



The battle for the fairytale, 13th century Castle Itter was the only time in WWII that American and German troops joined forces in combat, and it was also the only time in American history that U.S. troops defended a medieval castle against sustained attack by enemy forces. To make it even more film worthy, two of the women imprisoned at Schloss Itter—Augusta Bruchlen, who was the mistress of the labour leader Leon Jouhaux, and Madame Weygand, the wife General Maxime Weygand—were there because they chose to stand by their men. They, along with Paul Reynaud’s mistress Christiane Mabire, were incredibly strong, capable, and determined women made for portrayal on the silver screen.

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‘The Last Battle: When U.S. and German Soldiers Joined Forces in the Waning Hours of World War II in Europe’ By Stephen Harding. 256 pages. Da Capo. $25.99. ()
There are two primary heroes of this—as I must reiterate, entirely factual—story, both of them straight out of central casting. Jack Lee was the quintessential warrior: smart, aggressive, innovative—and, of course, a cigar-chewing, hard-drinking man who watched out for his troops and was willing to think way, way outside the box when the tactical situation demanded it, as it certainly did once the Waffen-SS started to assault the castle. The other was the much-decorated Wehrmacht officer Major Josef ‘Sepp’ Gangl, who died helping the Americans protect the VIPs. This is the first time that Gangl’s story has been told in English, though he is rightly honored in present-day Austria and Germany as a hero of the anti-Nazi resistance.

Harding, is a respected military affairs expert who has written seven books and long specialized in World War II, and his writing style carries immediacy as well as authority. “Just after 4am Jack Lee was jolted awake by the sudden banging of M1 Garands,” he writes of the SS’s initial assault on the castle, “the sharper crack of Kar-98s, and the mechanical chatter of a .30-caliber spitting out rounds in short, controlled bursts. Knowing instinctively that the rising crescendo of outgoing fire was coming from the gatehouse, Lee rolled off the bed, grabbed his helmet and M3, and ran from the room. As he reached the arched schlosshof gate leading from the terrace to the first courtyard, an MG-42 machine gun opened up from somewhere along the parallel ridgeway east of the castle, the weapon’s characteristic ripping sound clearly audible above the outgoing fire and its tracers looking like an unbroken red stream as they arced across the ravine and ricocheted off the castle’s lower walls.” Everything that Harding reports in this exciting but also historically accurate narrative is backed up with meticulous scholarship. This book proves that history can be new and nail-bitingly exciting all at once.

The French VIPs finally put aside their political differences and picked up weapons to join in the fight against the attacking SS troops.
Despite their personal enmities and long-held political grudges, when it came to a fight the French VIPs finally put aside their political differences and picked up weapons to join in the fight against the attacking SS troops. We get to know Reynaud, Daladier, and the rest as real people, not merely the political legends that they’ve morphed into over the intervening decades. Furthermore, Jean Borotra (a former tennis pro) and Francois de La Rocque, who were both members of Marshal Philippe Petain’s Vichy government and long regarded by many historians as simply pro-fascist German puppets, are presented in the book as they really were: complex men who supported the Allied cause in their own ways. In de La Rocque’s case, by running an effective pro-Allied resistance movement at the same time that he worked for Vichy. If they were merely pro-Fascist puppets, after all, they would not have wound up as Ehrenhäflinge—honor prisoners—of the Fuhrer.

While the book concentrates on the fight for Castle Itter, it also sets that battle in the wider strategic contexts of the Allied push into Germany and Austria in the final months of the war, and the Third Reich’s increasingly desperate preparations to respond to that advance. This book is thus a fascinating microcosm of a nation and society in collapse, with some Germans making their peace with the future, while others—such as the Waffen-SS unit attacking the castle—fighting to the bitter end. (Some of the fighting actually took place after the Doenitz government’s formal surrender.)

The book also takes pain to honor the lives of the “number prisoners” who worked at Castle Itter—faceless inmates from Dachau and other concentration camps whose stories have never before been told in this much detail. Whatever their political leanings or personal animosities toward each other, the French VIPs did what they could to help the so-called “number prisoners”—i.e. the ones stripped of their names—in any way they could.

One of the honored prisoners was Michel Clemenceau, the son of the Great War statesman Georges Clemenceau, who had become an outspoken critic of Marshal Petain and who was arrested by the Gestapo in May 1943. At Castle Itter he showed “unshakeable confidence” in rescue, and had clearly inherited the courage of his father, who’d been nicknamed “The Tiger.” During the attack, with ammunition running dangerously low—they got down to the last magazines of their MP-40s—their tanks destroyed, and the enemy advancing from the north, west and east, this septuagenarian kept blasting away. His father would have been proud of him.

The story has an ending that Hollywood would love too: just as the SS had settled into position to fire a panzerfaust at the front gate, “the sound of automatic weapons and tank guns behind them in the village signaled a radical change in the tactical situation.” Advancing American units and Austrian resistance fighters had arrived to relieve the castle. In keeping with the immense cool that he had shown throughout the siege, Lee feigned irritation as he went up to one of the rescuing tank commanders, looked him in the eye and said simply: “What kept you?” Part Where Eagles Dare, part Guns of Navarone, this story is as exciting as it is far-fetched, but unlike in those iconic war movies, every word of The Last Battle is true. "

Mike

alan
05-24-2014, 08:34 PM
I have to say some of the best films I have seen on WWII are from the German perspective - Downfall (about Hitlers final days in the bunker), Stalingrad (admittedly mega-grim) and one I just saw today called Lore which was a wonderful film about the children of high up Nazis on the run to try across 1945 Germany to reach their aunt in Hamburg. I couldnt recommend it highly enough. If you are not touched by that film you need to visit the Wizard of Oz to get a heart. They are all in German with English subtitles.

Bolgeris
05-24-2014, 08:43 PM
Yes .. Also this german film U-96 or Das Boot..

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Das_Boot

A beautiful film, poignant, and that makes you think.

Bolgeris
05-24-2014, 08:45 PM
Thank you, I absolutely did not know this episode of the war .:)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_for_Castle_Itter

Humanist
05-24-2014, 09:03 PM
Yes .. Also this german film U-96 or Das Boot..

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Das_Boot

A beautiful film, poignant, and that makes you think.

Das Boot may be my favorite film of all time. It is, as you say, a beautiful film.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkgtA30tZn8

Humanist
05-24-2014, 09:11 PM
Thank you, I absolutely did not know this episode of the war .:)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_for_Castle_Itter

Thank you for the link. Interestingly, it was not only men of the Heer who fought alongside the allies against the 17th SS during the battle. The allies were joined by SS Hauptsturmführer Kurt-Siegfried Schrader. Talk about strange bedfellows.

But, yeah Mike, this certainly has the makings of an entertaining film.

Bolgeris
05-24-2014, 10:15 PM
Amazing ..
Think about how strange the world is... more and more varied than we believe ..

Siegfried Schrader was, however, among the SS fighters.
But him has not shot the prisoners of the Castle.

Siegfried Schrader began his career in the Waffen-SS as a signaler in 1937 at Berlin-Adlershof in the Nachrichtensturmbann ..
Schrader gained notoriety for his role in saving the lives of a number of prominent French government and military officials towards the end of the war who were being held prisoner in a castle near Wörgl in the Tyrol area of Austria.
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=38&t=162716

A good history.. Should be a good film ..

Bolgeris
05-24-2014, 10:22 PM
Other wonderful german-french film..
The Ogre... terrible..
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ogre_(1996_film)

alan
05-24-2014, 11:16 PM
Talking of WWII I stumbled across this guide to Britain for American soldiers coming over to Britain during WWII.

http://www.hardscrabblefarm.com/ww2/britain.htm

Mehrdad
05-24-2014, 11:31 PM
Hollywood should look into this and make a movie out of it. The regular German army and the SS were usually at odds with each other, I mean Valkyrie was a good example of this division.

lgmayka
05-25-2014, 05:26 AM
Talking of WWII I stumbled across this guide to Britain for American soldiers coming over to Britain during WWII.

http://www.hardscrabblefarm.com/ww2/britain.htm
Very interestng, and brings back memories of my father's stories about his years in England in the Army Air Corps during World War II. One sentence in it, though, is naively well-meaning but shockingly insulting (or utterly stupid):
---
You will soon find yourself among a kindly, quiet, hardworking people who have been living under a strain such as few people in the world have ever known.
---

America has not been invaded by a foreign power since the War of 1812 (by the English!). England has not been invaded since 1704, and has not been truly and fully occupied by foreigners since the 11th century. Neither country has recently experienced, or can even fully understand, the horror of autocratic totalitarian occupation and attempted genocide.

The advice to GIs was well-intentioned, I'm sure, but completely oblivious to the real torture suffered across much of the Continent during that period.

alan
05-25-2014, 12:43 PM
I completely understand what you are saying that the ultimate impact on the UK was not comparable to what was going on in eastern Europe. However, its not a misery competition and it was still a shocking situation for the UK which was experiencing a lot of bombing and facing being starved out -something totally unknown before and as you noted England hadnt really experienced a massive destruction by a foreign force for 1000 years. I think the point was not so much that the UK had it as bad as the east of Europe but more that the US forces were coming to a country that was badly bombed and on an emergency footing to fend off starvation and had developed a particular mindset that might seem alien. The death toll was not nearly on an eastern European scale but the destruction of homes was extraordinary with a million homes destroyed in London and places like Hull, Clydebank, Coventry, Plymouth etc almost totally destroyed. To give an example of the sort of damage done, in one night of bombing half of Belfast's homes were destroyed or damaged beyond use. Only shelters, sending children out of the cities to the countryside, deliberate movement of population out of cities, ad hoc fleeing into the countryside, the RAF and a bit of inventive (radar network and spitfires) and organisational genius prevented a large proportion of the UK population dying in a very short space of time.


Very interestng, and brings back memories of my father's stories about his years in England in the Army Air Corps during World War II. One sentence in it, though, is naively well-meaning but shockingly insulting (or utterly stupid):
---
You will soon find yourself among a kindly, quiet, hardworking people who have been living under a strain such as few people in the world have ever known.
---

America has not been invaded by a foreign power since the War of 1812 (by the English!). England has not been invaded since 1704, and has not been truly and fully occupied by foreigners since the 11th century. Neither country has recently experienced, or can even fully understand, the horror of autocratic totalitarian occupation and attempted genocide.

The advice to GIs was well-intentioned, I'm sure, but completely oblivious to the real torture suffered across much of the Continent during that period.

alan
05-25-2014, 12:47 PM
Another amusing SS report is on the maddening attitude of British POWs held by the Germans. However it has to be recognised that they benefited from German racial ideas that saw the British as akin to Germans and Hitler's orders to treat them well. Again, the Slavs had a very different experience as POWs and were on the sharp end of Nazi racial ideology.

http://www.arcre.com/archive/mi9/mi9apxb

lgmayka
05-25-2014, 03:59 PM
Again, the Slavs had a very different experience as POWs and were on the sharp end of Nazi racial ideology.
Ironically, perhaps the best-treated Slavic prisoners were those who had enlisted in the British Royal Air Force. The famous Great Escape from Stalag Luft III (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalag_Luft_III_escape#The_.22Great_Escape.22) included 6 Poles, although they were murdered ("executed") along with most of the escapees (contrary to the Geneva Convention). Wikipedia lists the nationalities of those murdered:
Nationalities of the 50 executed prisoners
21 British
6 Polish
6 Canadian
5 Australian
3 South African
2 New Zealanders
2 Norwegian
1 Belgian
1 Czechoslovak
1 Frenchman
1 Greek
1 Lithuanian

Contrary to the movie portrayal, no Americans actually participated in the Great Escape, because they had already been moved to another compound. In the movie, actor Charles Bronson (whose parents' original surnames were Bunchinski and Valinsky (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Bronson#Early_life_and_World_War_II_servic e)) plays Polish POW "Danny" Valinski. (One of the escapees was Stanisław "Danny" Król (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Allied_airmen_from_the_Great_Escape).)

MikeWhalen
05-25-2014, 04:43 PM
This was a fascinating read, thanks

Mike


Another amusing SS report is on the maddening attitude of British POWs held by the Germans. However it has to be recognised that they benefited from German racial ideas that saw the British as akin to Germans and Hitler's orders to treat them well. Again, the Slavs had a very different experience as POWs and were on the sharp end of Nazi racial ideology.

http://www.arcre.com/archive/mi9/mi9apxb

MikeWhalen
05-25-2014, 04:49 PM
where I am from, having this movie in the guy-film library is essential...I and all my buddies have a copy
...I am old enough to remember when it was first released and it got alot of attention and positive reviews in North America, despite it being a German PoV film, (which was very unusual to be seen in NA back in the day)

gritty, realistic showing some real bravery without the dopey over the top heroics you started to see in too many Hollywood films...In fact, its been a while since I have watched this, so I think I'll watch it tonight on the home theatre

Mike


Yes .. Also this german film U-96 or Das Boot..

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Das_Boot

A beautiful film, poignant, and that makes you think.

alan
05-25-2014, 05:11 PM
You probably are well aware of this but a film about the Warsaw Uprising put together from historic footage has just been released.

http://warsawrising-thefilm.com/
https://uk.news.yahoo.com/video/warsaw-uprising-comes-life-big-084536975.html

Also I notice today that they are prosecuting some Ukrainian hiding out in the US who was involved in atrocities including the Warsaw uprising.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2636496/Germanys-highest-criminal-court-rules-right-prosecute-95-year-old-man-accused-notorious-Nazi-commander.html

Ironically, perhaps the best-treated Slavic prisoners were those who had enlisted in the British Royal Air Force. The famous Great Escape from Stalag Luft III (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalag_Luft_III_escape#The_.22Great_Escape.22) included 6 Poles, although they were murdered ("executed") along with most of the escapees (contrary to the Geneva Convention). Wikipedia lists the nationalities of those murdered:
Nationalities of the 50 executed prisoners
21 British
6 Polish
6 Canadian
5 Australian
3 South African
2 New Zealanders
2 Norwegian
1 Belgian
1 Czechoslovak
1 Frenchman
1 Greek
1 Lithuanian

Contrary to the movie portrayal, no Americans actually participated in the Great Escape, because they had already been moved to another compound.