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World War II’s Strangest Battle: When Americans and Germans Fought Together

Discussion in 'ETO, MTO and the Eastern Front' started by syscom3, May 12, 2013.

  1. syscom3

    syscom3 Member

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    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-last-battle-stephen-harding/1112878806

    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.

    The most extraordinary things about this 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
     
    Fred Wilson and George Patton like this.
  2. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    It's not THAT rare - I seem to remember a prolonged pitched battle between the FJ and SS troops in a forest in North Germany in the last days of the war...and the FJ on parole guarding a POW camp.

    There's also the cases of the British using armed Japanese troops on parole as constabulary troops in Malaya for a couple of weeks (months???) after VJ Day....and the Dutch did the same thing in the NEI; they had to emply the Japanese on parole against the militias loyal to the puppet Nationalist Government the Japanese had themselves set up in the Netherlands East Indies!
     
  3. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    I think I'll buy this one -- looks very interesting.
     
  4. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    I just ordered it on Amazon. They also have a Kindle version.
     
  5. syscom3

    syscom3 Member

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    When done reading, give us a write up of it.
     
  6. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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  7. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    This is definitely on the "to buy" list now! What a great story.

    "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 this 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."

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/05/12/world-war-ii-s-strangest-battle-when-americans-and-germans-fought-together.html
     
  8. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Threads merged. Same topic.
     
  9. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    The 17th SS was also at Mortain which gives me some personal interest in this story. Their insignia was an iron fist, the Teutonic cliche apparently escaped them.
     
  10. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    I purchased this one too. I should have it in a few days -- looking forward to reading it.
     
  11. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    It better than that. General Gracie and the 20th Indian Division deployed to French Indochina and rearmed the Japanese to defend the French colony from the Viet Minh. A couple of years ago I met an RASC officer who commanded a column which was ambushed by the Viet Minh when brining weapons and ammunition to the interned French troops. The troops under his command included platoons of Gurkhas and Japanese soldiers.
     
  12. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    Guys - the PIC on that link provided by The_Historian...

    Italian-made CV-33s and strange armoured cars...is that actually the pre-Anschluss Austrian Army???
     
  13. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    OK...

    I'm disappointed. It's a very short book (172 pages) and even so, much of that is filler. The author didn't have much to work with since it wasn't much of a battle and most of the people involved are long dead or unknown. He resorts to giving overly long biographical sketches of many of the people, even very minor characters.

    The prominent French prisoners were abandoned by their guards and they went to a local soldier (Waffen SS Major Gangl) who was basically hiding out by nursing a wound and waiting for the war to end. Gangl rounded up a few troops, contacted the Americans who sent a few troops and tanks to rescue them accompanied by a dozen or so German soldiers. Only one Sherman actually reached the castle.

    I'm not even sure the Waffen SS attackers (17th SS Panzergrenadiers) intended to attack the castle. I'm reading between the lines here, but it seems (to me) that they may have attacked because of the lone Sherman sitting outside the gate. The author doesn't explore this, but there was no serious attack until after the Sherman arrived. It was quickly knocked out by one of the near-by guns that (in my opinion...) may have been just sited to stop the American advance. Gangl was killed very early and few of the other German soldiers on either side are known.

    Even the French prisoners (who actually took up arms in the attack) didn't have much to say about the episode in their memoirs.

    It's an interesting little episode, but when you get to the heart of it there just isn't much information.
     
  14. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    I'm still waiting for my come. Hopefully it'll be worth the money.
     
  15. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    It would make a better short story than a book.
     
  16. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    I recieved my copy in the mail yesterday, and have gone through the first 60 pages. So far I am impressed. Yes, there is a lot of 'filler' (biographies of the French prisoners, the Anchluss, etc), but I think it adds to the book. On top of that, its well-written. Hopefully I'll have it finished by the end of the weekend.

    I was doing some research this morning, and came across this thread from 2009. http://www.ww2f.com/topic/15776-battle-of-schloss-itter/?hl=%2Bschloss+%2Bitter

    The book is apparently based on a 2009 article in WWII Magazine, so that might explain why you feel its better present as a 'short story'. I've been a subscriber for nearly 10 years now, and I don't recall having read it. It looks like its time to dig through my archives. Additionally, the author (Stephan Harding) is/used to be a member here.
     
  17. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    It is well written, and it is an interesting subject. Obviously, the writer couldn't get any more info on the battle since most of the German participants are unknown. I hope it does make it to the screen because there is enough there to fill a 90 minute film.
     

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