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Hans von Luck and the Cagny 88s. Fact or fiction?


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#1 harolds

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Posted 17 May 2012 - 02:12 AM

Just got through reading Ian Daglish's "Goodwood" published in 2005. One thing in it was quite intriging. He stated that other than von Luck's account, there is no corroborating evidence that this famous episode actually happened. He even shows aerial recon shots taken during the battle and there is no sign of the guns or their towing vehicles. Also, no German records could be found (especially Luftwaffe flak) to substantiate the story. Daglish did admit there were quite a few Brit tanks knocked out in front of Cagny but feels that they may have been destroyed by Becker's SP-AT guns.

For the few, if any, who haven't read or viewed something about this episode, von Luck was commanding the 125 Panzergrenadierregiment battle group of 21st Panzer Div. On coming back from leave in Paris he found his HQ in chaos with reports of extremely heavy aerial and arty bombardment. Motoring forward in a Mk IV to find out what was going on, he got to Cagny only to find Brit tanks surging forward past Cagny. He stated he found a Luftwaffe heavy flak battery in Cagny with its barrels pointing to the sky. The battery commander refused von Luck's order to fire against the enemy tanks saying his job was to fight bombers. Von Luck then supposedly pulled his pistol and told the Luftwaffe officer that he could either die now or earn himself a high medal. The Luftwaffe officer (no name has been found) figured that he really DID want to fight tanks and ordered his men to start shooting at the tanks. They knocked out 30-40 and slowed the advance enough so that von Luck and others could cobble together a defensive front and thus defeat GOODWOOD.

I always thought this was true, now I'm not so sure. Anyone have any facts or ideas on this?

#2 harolds

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Posted 17 May 2012 - 09:01 PM

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#3 Erich

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 02:31 AM

not all the 8.8cm's were LW Flak harolds you ahd singular batteries under other administarion in the area. severl German websites list the units on the web
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#4 harolds

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 02:25 PM

Erich,

According to von Luck, the unit was Luftwaffe and that's why the Captain in charge of the unit initially refused his order. Now if there was a battery, it should have been part of parent unit, a battalion, which was a sub-unit of a flak division, so it should have been relatively easy to for Daglish to track them down.

#5 Erich

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 05:40 PM

HArold hopeful this is more clAer, yes the larst contingent was a Flak LW unit but also Heer and of course in this area of craziness W-SS divisional 88's in thier own Flak Abteilungs which of course would of answered in this case in need to anything of Allied armor threatening their individual sector(s). the question is of course did von Luck have the authroity of overall control to establish line of defense and override any current LW agreements that this ground based "heavy" LW Flak unit would answer the call t ground to ground instead of providing the expected heavy air cover intended for defense ?
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#6 harolds

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 07:05 PM

According to Daglish, and other authors I've read, the Luftwaffe heavy batteries DID have an agreement with the Heer that in times of emergency, they would indeed help out if they could. However, my question is about whether there were any LW heavy AA units in the area and specifically in Cagney. Daglish could find no real confirmation (either archival or recon photo) that there was and von Luck specifically said the 88 battery was Luftwaffe. He also stated that the battery CO told him their duty was to protect Caen, but at that time Caen was a mass of rubble and mostly in British hands so why would they protect it? This is one of the most famous stories of Normandy and of the Goodwood battle. It made von Luck's post-war reputation. Daglish brings up the possibility that it's not true. I'm trying to find out if anyone can confirm on deny von Luck's account.

#7 m kenny

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 11:13 PM

The thrust of Daglish's reasoning is that Luck vastly overstates his contribution to the battle:


Goodwood. Over The Battlefield page 258/259

With GOODWOOD such an important feature of the Staff College annual tour, and the German defence an important study topic, von Luck was one of the obvious ’good Germans’ to be invited to participate (as also was the then Genemlmajor der Bundeswehr, Richard Freiherr von Rosen, a career soldier, and moreover a former Tiger commander happily untainted by SS membership). Von Luck clearly relished his role on the battlefield tours. He enjoyed lively debates with his sparring partner Pip Roberts, post-war friendship growing out of mutual respect which dated back to their armoured encounters on desert battlefields. And before groups of admiring students, von Rosen delivered his patter: a gently condescending story from which future British officers might learn from the ’mistakes’ of their fathers and the example of energetic and decisive German leadership. Indeed, so great was von Luck’s self confidence that the tour organizers occasionally found ’We had to remind him that he had lost the war.’ One standing joke between them and von Luck went, ’lt’s an odd—numbered year, so this year we win!’ As the years went by the ’regular’ presenters inevitably picked up details of each others patter. As an example: von Luck quotes his ’good friend' Bill Close as saying, ’We had warned the Guards Armoured Division coming after us about Cagny... We were glad we had been able to turn off to the west and so escape the fire of your damned "eighty-eights" Whether or not these are the actual words of Bill Close, the account is misleading. Since Major Close was at the very front of the advance, he had no knowledge of Roberts' warning to Guards Armoured Division and first heard the story of this and of the ’88s’ long after the battle, though his movements as presented by von Luck might imply involvement with both events.
Von Luck’s portrayal of the model officer came easily to him. The self belief that sustained his military career came through clearly in his lectures. Little wonder, therefore, that a generation of British Army officers came to regard von Luck’s personal role as a major determining factor in the GOODWOOD battle. However, some who watched his performance year after year came eventually to doubt aspects of his story And as more German accounts of the battle have come to light, some criticisms of von Luck’s story have emerged. The picture of an individual single—handedly turning the course of the battle has been questioned.
Some of those critical of von Luck’s story have wished their comments to remain ’off-the-record', insofar as they might be taken to impugn the integrity of a brother officer. These confidences are of course respected.
However, some published accounts shed light on the subject. As a former Staff College tour organizer, Brigadier Christopher Dunphie was well placed to write that, ’In fact the issue is not so clear cut as von Luck’s story suggests. Dunphie suggests that on his return from Paris, von Luck encountered a chaotic situation in which not all events occurring on the battlefield could be known to him. Less sparing of von Luck’s reputation was an American historian, accompanying the 1971 Battlefield Tour. In his dispassionate assessment, ]ohn Sweet concludes: ’Luck’s full story was that he... came over the ridge just in time to see the bombers attack and did not even have time to change his uniform before single-handedly stopping the British. He most certainly played a major role in the battle, but he undoubtedly enjoys claiming an even larger role." This view appears to fit with the evidence.
From the first publication of the ’BAOR battlefield tour' book in 1947 to the Staff College ’film of the book' in 1978, von Luck’s story of his ultimatum to the young Luftwaffe battery commander was recounted in full detail. However, nowhere in these publications was it explicitly stated that the Luftwaffe battery was responsible for the destruction of the Fife & Forfar. Similarly, some of the most authoritative German accounts of the action only credit the Luftwaffe battery with destroying German, and not British, tanks.


#8 harolds

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 07:07 PM

Yes, you are quoting from the book I'm referring to. Do you believe then that von Luck (a well-known recontier) was one of those who never let the facts get in the way of a good story? In other words, do you think he's a liar?

#9 m kenny

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 10:00 PM

It is not a question of lying. In a confused situation (like a pitched battle) people often get things wrong/ have memory lapses/fill in gaps etc. The error in this case is the way German participants have been allowed to write the history of Normandy. Thus every German claim is considered gospel and it is taken for granted a couple of flak guns were capable of stopping 3 Armoured Divisions.
Part of the problem was touched on by Daglish. Those listening to Luck were not convinced by his claims but they decided not to voice any concerns out of misplaced loyalty to a fellow soldier.

#10 harolds

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 10:09 PM

I can understand someone getting a few details wrong is such a situation but to have the whole episode being a memory lapse is a little fantastic. I could however see him being in the wrong village since pretty much every village in the area had been reduced to dust by the bombing. If, however, he fudged the account on this issue, how can we trust anything he said or wrote?

Edited by harolds, 23 May 2012 - 10:10 PM.
another thought


#11 Kai-Petri

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 07:33 PM

I would wonder could recon show any AA guns if they were meant to be disguised anyway, and if you were not, you were dead. I am not a diehard fan of von Luck, but is there any proof that Becker and guns were there instead?
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#12 harolds

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 02:50 PM

Becker's unit was fairly large. Some of it was destroyed in the bombing but most it it survived and was spread out in the little villages of which Cagny was just one. At least one sub-unit was in a nearby village. These SP guns weren't very well armored so they fought from fairly long range and then retired when British tanks came to close. One of these batteries could have possibly done the damage.

As far as the photo recon goes, it didn't show the 88mm guns, or their movers, nor any support vehicles. Not just that, the photos didn't show any tracks of those vehicles. With all the dust from the bombing covering the ground, one would think there would be quite a few vehicle tracks associated with the guns redeployment. If von Luck's account is true, I doubt that they had time to do any camoflaging but the orchard that they supposedly redeployed into would have given them some cover-but probably not enough to fool photo-recon.

If von Luck's account is correct the only possiblity I can think of is that due to the amount of bombing destruction in the area he was actually in a different village but didn't realize it due to all the stress and confusion.

#13 Kai-Petri

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 05:47 PM

Must check my library ( if I can bring any further ideas though I doubt it ) but it seems like 1.)the bombing did destroy almost everything of the German units in the way of the attacking British tanks 2) if it wasn´t the 88´s then which German units took this position? I would think someone should be aware and make orders for AT capable units to enter the scene to stop the attack. So there should be German orders? And who gave the orders if von Luck was not there, and to which units.? I can see from Wikipedia LAH was there in the afternoon but that was late. Just some thoughts.
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#14 harolds

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 06:53 PM

From what I have read, Becker's SP-AT guns, along with horrible traffic congestion, terrain bottle necks, a few Tigers and POSSIBLY the 88s in Cagny slowed the British advance down enough and inflicted enough casualties that a gun line was established further up Bourgebus Ridge. That night the gun line was augmented by Panthers which led to more Britishs tank casualties the next day.

Interestingly, a piece of evidence that could indicate the 88s were indeed there, was that one of the few Tigers to get into action was pierced and knocked out by an AT round. The only two guns that could have done that are the 88s or a 17 pounder. The Tiger was on the other side of the British tank thrust and pointing toward Cagny when it was hit. That means that either a Firefly spotted it and fired towards the rear, OR one of the 88s shot it thinking it was a Brit tank.

#15 m kenny

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 08:31 PM

Interestingly, a piece of evidence that could indicate the 88s were indeed there, was that one of the few Tigers to get into action was pierced and knocked out by an AT round. The only two guns that could have done that are the 88s or a 17 pounder. The Tiger was on the other side of the British tank thrust and pointing toward Cagny when it was hit. That means that either a Firefly spotted it and fired towards the rear, OR one of the 88s shot it thinking it was a Brit tank.


I would advise caution.
The sequence of events here was Rosen led his Tigers forward to attack into the flank of the British advance. He turned right just after he reached the tree line to the east of Le Prieure.

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Almost straight away 2 Tigers were penetrated and he immediately called off his attack. At the time he believed there was a new Allied weapon deployed and dared not continue with the advance.
Many years later (around 1966) he read about the 88 guns at Cagny and he decided (as a face saving exercise?) that they must have been the guns that hit his Tigers. There is no foundation for this belief and I despair that this claim has been given any creedence.
The postion and heading of this Tiger counter-attack is not known precisely. It features in a number of publications and they all differ on the exact position of the Tigers.

Below is from a French publication:
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Use your common sense to work out which way an attack would be facing.

It fits well with the other belated claim for the Tiger II rammed by Lt Gorman just outside Cagny. It is said the Tiger was not rammed but that it 'accidently' reversed into the Sherman. Not only that but, at the exact moment of the collision, was hit by a German AT gun by mistake!
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#16 harolds

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 10:25 PM

It was my understanding that von Rosen was trying a flank attack to perhaps cut off the leading elements as well as shoot up British tanks.

#17 Triple C

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Posted 27 May 2012 - 08:39 PM

I think it is not necessarily true that veterans who reported their roles in battles falsely were intentionally disingenuous though this certainly can be the case. Human memory under stress is a fascinating topic often discussed by historians. Facts were often re-arranged in strange and random ways that sometimes did not even serve any rational purpose. It might even be possible that Luck remembered an incident from a different battle and it was transplanted to Goodwood. Certainly this kind of memory malfunction was more noble than generals who misrepresented themselves in their knowledge of atrocities.

#18 harolds

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Posted 27 May 2012 - 11:23 PM

I think it is not necessarily true that veterans who reported their roles in battles falsely were intentionally disingenuous though this certainly can be the case. Human memory under stress is a fascinating topic often discussed by historians. Facts were often re-arranged in strange and random ways that sometimes did not even serve any rational purpose. It might even be possible that Luck remembered an incident from a different battle and it was transplanted to Goodwood. Certainly this kind of memory malfunction was more noble than generals who misrepresented themselves in their knowledge of atrocities.


Hans v. Luck was one of the most expirienced combat officers to survive the war. He fought in Poland, France, the Eastern Front, Afrika, Normandy, the Vosges Mtns. and then back on the Eastern Front. Therefore, even though I am not totally convinced of your hypothisis's correctness, I will certainly entertain the idea that it could be correct.
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#19 Earthican

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Posted 28 May 2012 - 01:11 PM

I would advise caution.
The sequence of events here was Rosen led his Tigers forward to attack into the flank of the British advance. He turned right just after he reached the tree line to the east of Le Prieure.

[map]

Almost straight away 2 Tigers were penetrated and he immediately called off his attack. At the time he believed there was a new Allied weapon deployed and dared not continue with the advance.
Many years later (around 1966) he read about the 88 guns at Cagny and he decided (as a face saving exercise?) that they must have been the guns that hit his Tigers. There is no foundation for this belief and I despair that this claim has been given any creedence.
The postion and heading of this Tiger counter-attack is not known precisely. It features in a number of publications and they all differ on the exact position of the Tigers.
...


According to Daglish in "OtB:Operation Goodwood" on an aerial photo, page 257 (time and date not known to me), he identifies two objects such:

"B: Two destroyed vehicles 1 km from central Cagny, 650 m, north of walled orchard. Westernmost is the size and shape of a Tiger I, facing south. The easterly wreck is shrouded in smoke."

After careful study of modern satellite I would locate these objects on the period map by the RED dots (attached).

Although this issue is tangential to the OP's question it does form a key piece of Daglish's argument.

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#20 m kenny

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Posted 28 May 2012 - 09:30 PM

Daglish had the original HQ photos. Despite this he was unable to confirm it was a Tiger. What he says that if the object is a Tiger then it might indicate that it is possible that Lucks story could be true.
The (claimed)Tiger wreck is also further south that the most obvious path for Rosen's attack. We must not forget that at the time Rosen was never in any doubt the fire was from Allied tanks. He was so shaken by the loss of his Tigers he called off the attack and led his surviving Tigers to the rear.
There are many claims made for this Tiger counter attack and many are loath to accept their efforts could have been anything but a resounding success. It is even claimed by some they got as far forward as Demouville. If you check where Demouville is then you will see how Rosen's line of advance would never have skirted Cagny

This from Over The Battlefield, Operation Goodwood




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note the tank tracks in the bottom rh corner (just where the Tiger should have advanced) that appear to show 2 retreating tanks.


The same view in 1947



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and wider view


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1947 marked up




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X1 is where Daglish says there is an object that could be a knocked out Tiger

X2 the normal assumed area for the loss of 2 of Rosen's Tigers.

Blue text is where Luck places the 88s .



Modern view


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#21 Earthican

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Posted 29 May 2012 - 06:20 PM

Daglish had the original HQ photos. Despite this he was unable to confirm it was a Tiger. What he says that if the object is a Tiger then it might indicate that it is possible that Lucks story could be true.


Those are the comments Daglish makes on page 256 but in his conclusions on page 263, he states:

..."Early-arriving German antitank weapons unknown to von Luck might possibly have accounted for von Rosen's Tiger losses."

I acknowledge it's a left turn conclusion to his previous comments, but to give him the benefit of the doubt, I believe he had previously cited the short distance from Cagny to grant the possibly that something less than an 88 could have done the deed.


The (claimed)Tiger wreck is also further south that the most obvious path for Rosen's attack. We must not forget that at the time Rosen was never in any doubt the fire was from Allied tanks. He was so shaken by the loss of his Tigers he called off the attack and led his surviving Tigers to the rear.


I only have Daglish's summary of the account of the action but he states that the Tigers in moving south encountered British tanks, destroyed them, in the process found the Tiger sights had been messed-up by the bombing, continued south, toward Cagny their assigned sector, when the lead Tigers were destroyed.

Daglish's account does not present von Rosen's acts so much as an attack but an attempt to set-up a defense facing west between Cagny and Manneville. Given his damaged sights and the apparent fact that he had lost the race to Cagny which now seemed occupied by a powerful new British weapon, he withdrew to defend what he already held.

It stands to reason Daglish's summary would match a piece of evidence that he would present later, but I got to believe he found no other candidates for the two known destroyed Tigers, even if they were not visually definite.

And full credit to Daglish for specifically stating what he could and could not see.

And thank you for sharing the additional imagery. Always fun to study!!!

#22 4th wilts

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Posted 02 June 2012 - 05:21 PM

Absolutely fascinating thread.Cheers,Lee.
"G-Garmans here.? I don't care much for Garmans .!"Thanks 4th wilts.:) !

#23 harolds

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 02:32 PM

To sum up so far: Confusion that equals the actual confusion of the battle. What is clear is that the Heer (including Waffen-SS units) did what they were famous for, that is reconstituting an ad hoc line out of bits and pieces of a smashed front and welding them into somesort of cohesive defence. This all being done on the initiative of local officers. Von Luck's efforts with the 88 battery would have been entirely in line with this type of effort. However, this is another thought: later on von Luck says that faced with infantry attack, this battery destroyed its guns in place and exfiltrated back to German lines. Now if that happened, wouldn't those destroyed guns have shown up on recon photos and been around after the war? In Ken Tout's book, "The Bloody Battle for Tilly" he stated that Caen and all the little villages to the west were so damaged by the fighting and bombing that it took about a decade to rebuild. Given that, those destroyed guns, IF THEY WERE THERE, would have been around several years after the war. I've never heard any post-war account of the guns. (Note that I'm becoming more sceptical of von Luck's account.)

#24 Earthican

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 02:35 PM

This thread has forced me to read more carefully Daglish's OtB:Operation Goodwood and I think I found a typographical error.

Daglish identifies a potential location for von Luck's LW 88's where evidence of their position would be obscured from aerial clues.

On page 259 there is a photo with an "E" marked where "E: Orchard with loopholed walls, clear of bombing". I believe this "E" is mis-marked on the photo (see attached).

There are other descriptions of this orchard on page 256:

"If it is assumed that German 8.8cm guns were present somewhere near Cagny, the only feasible position would seem to be the walled orchard on the north side of the former Cagny chateau."


And page 263:

"....A possible location would be the long, narrow, walled orchard north of the (former) Cagny chateau (Army map reference 112645)."

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#25 m kenny

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 03:07 PM

I doubt very much an AA Unit would be emplaced among trees!




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