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Battle of Schloss Itter


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#1 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 01 August 2008 - 04:58 AM

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FRENCH LEADERS FREED



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Reynaud

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Gamelin

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Daladier

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Sorotra


Even as the lastcylinder of the German war machine burned out, the Division was tracking down big-name Nazis and rescuing prominent Allied leaders. In one forceful stroke of liberation an attached tank crew of the 12th Armored Division and four infantrymen of the 142nd Infantry released from German captivity much of the-glory-that-had-been-France in the personages of two former prime ministers, a former chief of staff, a leading general, a tennis star, and a labor leader.Posted Image

Itter Castle

The French were rescued when a task force, commanded by Captain John Lee, climbed the mountain to Itter in a midnight ride past parked hostile German vehicles, and reached the twelfth century Alpine castle of Itter. There the German commandant offered the castle in surrender, freeing the notables.
But all around the castle at the time were other German troops, retreating before the American advance. When they learned what had happened during the night and how insignificant was the American force, they attacked strongly in the morning, attempting to retake the castle and kill their former prisoners. An "88" firing from a railroad tunnel below, knocked out the lone American tank and blasted gaping holes in the old stone building.

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German "88" firing from below, blasted holes in the rear of the tower.

Captain Lee organized his meager force for defense. The German major who had surrendered the castle likewise placed his men to ward off the fanatical, attacking storm troopers. Even the French leaders took part. Daladier was reported to have returned to the castle arsenal for ammunition more than once. The "Bounding Basque," Jean Borota, famed tennis player of former years, slipped out in peasant disguise, ambled down the road to contact men of the 142nd's 2nd Battalion, already on the way to help. The castle being well-sited on a high knoll, the few defenders were able to withstand at a minimum loss the repeated SS assaults. At the height of the action, while yet wondering if assistance would come, the German major was killed by a sniper's bullet.

At 1500 in the afternoon, long after the defenders had run out of ammunition, Lt. Colonel Marvin J. Coyle's 2nd Battalion of the 142nd drove through the SS ranks and opened the road to the castle, this time for good. Those liberated included: Eduoard Daladier and Paul Reynaud, former prime ministers; General Maurice Gamelin, former commander of the French Army; General Maxime Weygand, commander of the French Army at the time of the German defeat, and his wife; Mme. Alfred Cailliau, sister of General Charles de Gaulle, and her husband; Michel Clemenceau, son of the French statesman; Jean Borotra, tennis star; Leon Jouhaux, secretary of the Confederation General du Travail; and several secretaries.



French Leaders Freed

US and German soldiers along with French prisoners against SS troops. There is also a great more in depth article in the Aug/Sept issue of WORLD WAR II magazine.
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#2 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 01 August 2008 - 06:02 PM

12th Men Free French Big-Wigs

By Cpl. John G. Mayer
Co. B, 23rd Tank Bn.

American troops, soldiers of the Wehrmacht, and a handful of French personages slated for death by the SS, fought side by side in an alpine castle on the last day of the war in Bavaria.
Among the 14 French notables rescued by tankers of the 12th Armored Division were former Premier Edouard Daladier, aging General Maxim Weygand who commanded the French armies when the Germans broke through into France, tennis star Jean Borotra and his wife, and a sister of the present chief executive of France, General Charles de Gaulle.
Also in the strangely mixed pro-and-anti-Nazi group were former premier Paul Reynaud; General Maurice Gamelin, former commanding general of all the French armies; Mrs. Weygand; Colonel DeLaRoque, former French fascist leader; M. Caillaux, former member of the government; Leon Jouhaux, French labor union leader; and Michel Clemencau, son of the World War I statesman.
Top heroes of the scenario-scrap were Lieutenant John C. Leo, Jr., commanding officer of Company B of the 23rd Tank Battalion, and his gunner, Corporal Edward J. Szymcyk.
Across the Border

Their saga began the afternoon of May 4 shortly after their platoon took Kufstein, just across the Austrian border, after knifing through a well-defended roadblock. Into the town came a German major, under a flag of truce, who said that he was in position to surrender a large force of enemy troops and 14 notables once connected with the pre-Petain governments of France.
All, he said, were at a castle in Litter, eight kilometers away. Lee and Szymcyk immediately left with the major but when they arrived, the German colonel in command refused to surrender.
Back in Kufstein, Lee picked up his reinforcements -- two tanks from his own outfit and five more from the 36th Infantry Division's 142nd Battalion. With Lee and Szymcyk went Lieutenant Harry Basse, Santa Ana, Cal., maintenance officer and the tanks' crews. At the town of Worgl the force paused. Lee, leaving the others behind, took his own medium tank with five volunteers, said goodbye to his rear-guard, and rumbled on to the castle, the faithful major trailing in his car.
Then began the classic defense of the ancient "schloss", which had not known battle since the days of crossbow and boiling oil. The defenders numbered 41 -- there were 20 soldiers of the Wehrmacht (German regular army), 14 French men and women, and seven Americans.
At 4 o'clock on the morning of May 5, a small force of SS men launched an attack up the slope toward the castle. American rifles and German light machine guns teamed up to beat them back.
Tennis Star Helps

"Jean Borotra was the spark of the defense," Leo recalls. "He volunteered to jump over the castle wall and make his way to Worgl to summon help. It meant a run across forty yards of open field before he could reach cover. I refused."
But half an hour later things started looking tougher, so Lee permitted Borotra, whose name ranks among the immortals of tennis history, to make what was a brave but futile dash. Soon after he left tanks of the 36th were sighted far away.
Guessing that they hadn't received Borotra's message and regarded the castle as simply another German stronghold to be blasted out of the way, Lee and Weygand quickly teamed up on an American 30-calibre machine gun and opened fire sending long bursts crackling into the woods well ahead of the approaching tanks.
"It worked," Lee said. "Later I found that the tankers had their heavy guns trained on the castle ready to fire when they recognized the sound of the American 'thirty' and decided it was a signal rather than a threat."
So the possibility of being killed by their own rescuers was averted for Lee and his men, who included, in addition to those already named, Technical Sergeant William E. Elliott, Corporal Edward J. Seiner, and Pfc. Herbert G. McHaley, Linton RFD 1, Ind.
Sgt. Glenn E. Shermann of Cameron, Mo., served as radioman and gunner on Elliot's tank. Pvt Joseph Wall, Selma, N.C., was left to guard the bridge alone all night, armed only with a carbine, and took a number of prisoners.
The SS, however, had no compunctions about blasting away at the castle. Their 88 shells crashed through thick walls into several rooms, wounding a German.
Last Fight on Front
At 3 o'clock on the afternoon of the 5th, the cautiously-advancing tanks of the relief force, led by Elliott and Sherman, after 16 hours pounded through the opposition and arrived at the castle like mechanized cowboys in a new-style Western movie. Lee's saga was ended. His tank, "Besotten Jenny," as she was fondly dubbed by the Negro troops, was kaput. All the infantry peeps were filled with notables. So Lee and his heroes climbed onto a truck loaded with German prisoners and rode ingloriously back to their outfit. They arrived just in time to hear the radio broadcast that all German troops in the south had agreed to stop shooting that day at noon. Theirs had been the last fighting on the whole southern front. But there's a postscript: a few days later Lee's promotion to Captain was announced and his men have all been cited for decorations.

Lone Sentry: "Hellcat News" - 12th Armored Division WWII Newspaper, May 1945, Germany
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For the first time I have seen "History" at close quarters,and I know that its actual process is very different from what is presented to Posterity. - WWI General Max Hoffman.

#3 dd09999

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Posted 03 August 2008 - 01:27 AM

This is a great story. I just read about it in WW2 magazine.
Semper Fi

#4 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 21 August 2008 - 03:23 AM

I had too. I thought I would bring it up as one of the lesser known "Battles" of the war. It was interesting to read how all joined forces against a common enemy no matter which side they were on :).
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For the first time I have seen "History" at close quarters,and I know that its actual process is very different from what is presented to Posterity. - WWI General Max Hoffman.

#5 War Hawk Sniper

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Posted 30 August 2008 - 05:04 PM

Yep I read it too in ww2 Magazine.
Thanks for bringing this topic up.
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"War does not determine who is right, only who is left"- unknown...
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#6 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 01 September 2008 - 06:06 PM

Just to set the record straight it is not WW2 magazine, Its World War II magazine :).
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For the first time I have seen "History" at close quarters,and I know that its actual process is very different from what is presented to Posterity. - WWI General Max Hoffman.

#7 C.Evans

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Posted 06 January 2009 - 09:03 PM

I had read something about this many years ago-I do not know what book or magazine it might have been in but I do remember reading about thi spairings up of Heer forces and G.I's to defend this Castle. I'd sure love to see a movie made about this battle-as well as to know what exact German unit it was that had fortressed this castle.
Lost are only those, who abandon themselves) Hans-Ulrich Rudel.
:snoopy: :ww1ace:
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#8 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 12:28 AM

I think so too. But I doubt that most would know who these people were :( LOL.


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Reynaud

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Gamelin

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Daladier

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Sorotra


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For the first time I have seen "History" at close quarters,and I know that its actual process is very different from what is presented to Posterity. - WWI General Max Hoffman.

#9 C.Evans

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 07:54 PM

Sadly all too true my friend-so very true.
Lost are only those, who abandon themselves) Hans-Ulrich Rudel.
:snoopy: :ww1ace:
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#10 skywalker

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 05:40 AM

What ever happened to the SS men.

#11 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 06:14 AM

"LEON BLUM, French premier
He was born in 1872. An intellectual and writer, he became a leader of the French Socialist Party in the 1920s. He was premier during the Popular Front in 1936, until he resigned in June 1937 after losing support of the radicals. He then tried unsuccessfully to recreate the "Sacred Union" coalition of 1914. In 1940, conservatives, remembering his Socialist government, tended to embrace Petain and Vichy. After the Vichy government deported Blum to Germany in 1940, he was imprisoned in Schloss Itter castle in Austria and was among defendants at the notorious trial in Riom in 1942. On May 5, 1945, American troops freed him, along with former premiers Edouard Daladier and Paul Reynaud, and Generals Maxime Weygand and Maurice Gamelin. Although conservatives blamed him for his country's lack of military preparedness in 1940, he again was premier briefly after the war. He died in 1950."

Courtroom Battles of WWII: werner best
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For the first time I have seen "History" at close quarters,and I know that its actual process is very different from what is presented to Posterity. - WWI General Max Hoffman.

#12 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 06:14 AM

"LEON BLUM, French premier
He was born in 1872. An intellectual and writer, he became a leader of the French Socialist Party in the 1920s. He was premier during the Popular Front in 1936, until he resigned in June 1937 after losing support of the radicals. He then tried unsuccessfully to recreate the "Sacred Union" coalition of 1914. In 1940, conservatives, remembering his Socialist government, tended to embrace Petain and Vichy. After the Vichy government deported Blum to Germany in 1940, he was imprisoned in Schloss Itter castle in Austria and was among defendants at the notorious trial in Riom in 1942. On May 5, 1945, American troops freed him, along with former premiers Edouard Daladier and Paul Reynaud, and Generals Maxime Weygand and Maurice Gamelin. Although conservatives blamed him for his country's lack of military preparedness in 1940, he again was premier briefly after the war. He died in 1950."

Courtroom Battles of WWII: werner best
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For the first time I have seen "History" at close quarters,and I know that its actual process is very different from what is presented to Posterity. - WWI General Max Hoffman.

#13 sharding

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Posted 15 January 2009 - 06:16 PM

I'm glad you all seemed to like the Castle Itter story in World War II magazine — I wrote it. And just to add a little info, the story has been optioned as a movie. Screenwriters are at work on it now ... though whether it ever makes it to the big screen is another question altogether. :)
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#14 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 15 January 2009 - 06:34 PM

I'm glad you all seemed to like the Castle Itter story in World War II magazine — I wrote it. And just to add a little info, the story has been optioned as a movie. Screenwriters are at work on it now ... though whether it ever makes it to the big screen is another question altogether. :)


Thanks for writing it!!! LOL. I really love the lesser known stories of the war. This being one of them :). I truly hope it makes it to the big screen.
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For the first time I have seen "History" at close quarters,and I know that its actual process is very different from what is presented to Posterity. - WWI General Max Hoffman.

#15 Halldin

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Posted 15 January 2009 - 07:17 PM

That's an awesome story, love to read these things.

Thanks sharding and JC.

#16 C.Evans

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Posted 15 January 2009 - 07:21 PM

I'm glad you all seemed to like the Castle Itter story in World War II magazine — I wrote it. And just to add a little info, the story has been optioned as a movie. Screenwriters are at work on it now ... though whether it ever makes it to the big screen is another question altogether. :)



WWII Magazine always been a great magaziine. I'm glad to see it be in publication as long as it has been. I love the other titles as well-such as Military History & the one about the old West-etc.

Anyway, I too am a fan of the much lessor-known stories of WWII as well. Any hopes of anyone convincing those H-wood Powers-that-be, in making a movie about the Battle of Kursk? ;-))
Lost are only those, who abandon themselves) Hans-Ulrich Rudel.
:snoopy: :ww1ace:
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#17 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 15 January 2009 - 08:36 PM

WWII Magazine always been a great magaziine. I'm glad to see it be in publication as long as it has been. I love the other titles as well-such as Military History & the one about the old West-etc.


I pick up a copy everytime I can. And I highly recommend it and the others that they publish. Back to the topic though. sharding? Do you have any info on what happend to the SS troops and others afterwards?
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For the first time I have seen "History" at close quarters,and I know that its actual process is very different from what is presented to Posterity. - WWI General Max Hoffman.

#18 sharding

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Posted 13 July 2009 - 06:07 PM

Sorry it took me awhile to reply. Other than Weiter, the Dachau commandant who killed himself, and Gangel, the Wehrmacht officer who was killed during the course of the battle, we don't have a clue what happened to the Germans (either SS or Wehrmacht). I've looked in all the usual places, and the records just aren't there. As for the movie, the first draft of the script is done, optioned and is making the rounds of the studios. With luck, it could be in production this year. Keep your fingers crossed!

#19 SPGunner

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 05:34 PM

Does anyone know what unit of SS troops were involved?

#20 Otto

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 04:28 AM

A book on this topic has been published by Stephen Harding (sharding in this thread) called The Last Battle, I'm halfway through it and it's very well researched and written.


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