The DesertFox: Panzer: The PANTHER

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PANTHER in action

Panther Ausf. G (FgstNr. 121163 completed at MAN in late October 1944) was knocked out in Belgium during the "Battle of the Bulge" in December 1944

PANTHER in action

Panther Ausf.D in Summer 1943 before the battle of Kursk

Operation "Citadel", July 1943

Despite Guderian's warnings, Hitler's desire to employ these tanks in the up-coming "Operation Zitadelle" (the assault on the Kursk salient) conducted to a disaster. Not fully developed Panther were simply too ready to mechanical faults and the engine easily over-heated: of the 200 Panthers the 4th Panzer Armee had on July 4th 1943 (most in the ad-hoc formed 10th Panzerbrigade with panzer abteilung 51 and 52 and the others assigned to several companies of privileged units such as the GD and the IInd SS Panzerkorps's divisions) only 43 were still functional the following day (note that Panther's problems were known as the large complement of tanks to the two battalions was seen as remedy to this). Grossdeautschland Panzerregiment reported to have lost six of its brand new Panthers while moving towards the attack positions because of technical failures. In the mid-day of July 4th the same unit had a quarter of its Panther broken-down and by July 5th it has lost the 80% of its Panthers! Gefreiter Werner Kriegel of Pz.Abt. 51 remembers:

"[...] By the evening of 5th, Pz.Abt. 51 had only 22 Panthers operational. Some 28 were totally destroyed, the rest damaged. My comrades complained about the final final drives and of their engines overheating. The engine compartiment was very tight because of UK equipment (diving equipement) ... On the 8th of July we again headed for Oboyan south of Kursk. Our tank received a hit form a tank gun at the commander's cupola. We carried on the attack with an open hatch and a cracked cupola. My commander shill has the shell ... We lost one tank to one of those heavy assault guns [SU-152], the mantlet was simply penetrated. We also met American tanks [M3A3 Lee-Grant] which were no match for us ... We destroyed a number of T-34s at ranges well over 2,500 meters ..."

He also remembered some other anecdotes to underline Panther's engine compartment defects: it was too tight as it was designed to be fully sealed and did not let a proper flux of air to cool the engine down. Gaskets defects added to this as well.

"Our platoon moved through a pine forest. The vibrations of the heavy tanks resulted in a steady 'rain' of pine needles. After a short time, the first tank broke down, and other followed. We examined the incident. The pineneedles had fallen into the air inlets and blocked it. The respective engines had stopped almost immediately. As a stop-gap solution we welded a perforated bucket over the rear air inlet".

"We were not satisfied with the Maybach. Many problems already occurred before Kursk ... We had some engine fires due to fuel that was spread from the carburators over the hot exhaust. Here it ignited and burned electric linings and gaskets ... Later these problems were generally solved. I, however, won't forget the glowing exhausts. Occasionally, Ivan used to target them at night ..."


Panther Ausf.A driving at full speed in France 1944

The "Barkmann Corner" Normandy, July 1944

As Barkmann set out to rejoin his Kompanie at its latest position, SS-Hauptscharfuehrer Heinze and a motor transport NCO, Corth, were clinging to the roof of the tank and taking a look at their new surroundings. Coming out of the village of le Lorey, to the north of the St Lo-Coutances road, they pulled up alongside some infantry and rear area troops who were running in the opposite direction. The answer to the men's shouts from on top of the tank came from a Feldwebel: the Americans were on their way from St. Lo -in fact, from where the regiment's tanks were supposed to have been - and even as the two NCOs looked hard at one another they could make out the sounds of fighting. Heinze and Corth went forward on foot to investigate. Shots were heard and they came running back, one of them having been hit in the shoulder and arm. 

The Americans were indeed on the main road from St Lo Barkmann decided to go as far as the crossroads. At battle stations, the Panther moved along between a row of hedges which screened it on both sides, and stopped at the crossroads under the thick spread of an oak tree. Armoured vehicles with white stars on them were coming along from the left. The gun-layer, Poggendorf, estimated that they were 200 metres away. Carefully, he adjusted his sight to the base of the olive-green silhouette that stood out magnified in the viewer. The Panther's turret shuddered. Flames leapt up from the leading American vehicle and the others started to back away. The loader, in his shirtsleeves, was by now shoving round after round into the breech; the dull thud of the gun and the clang of spent shell cases adding to the background noise of the ventilator as it drew out the cordite fumes from inside the turret.

Further along, smoke from burning petrol tankers sullied the sky with black oily scrolls, and jeeps and halftracks lay twisted and torn under the fire of the 7.5cm gun. Barkmann scanned the whole area around him continuously. To the left of the road two Shermans were coming up. It took two shots to brew up the first, although the second managed to get two hits on the Panther before it too fell victim. Beneath clouds of black smoke, the crossroads were no longer visible yet still more vehicles kept coming.

It had to end somehow. Fighterbombers were now cratering the ground all around. One bomb landed five metres away and nearly turned the tank over, another rocked it on the left and damaged the running wheels, and cannon shells bit into the armour plate as the aircraft concentrated on this solitary tank that, singlehanded, was blocking the road. Yet Barkmann hung on, continuing to fire at anything that came in sight.

Two Shermans opened fire from a flank, their shells scraping along the sides of the Panther's hull. As the Panther's turret turned relentlessly, the gun-layer responded instinctively. Both Shermans brewed up. Battered and scarred, tank 424 was missing a track torn off by a direct hit, one of the hull welds had been ripped open, and its ammunition was practically exhausted, The driver, who had been wounded in the neck and was moaning with pain and trembling uncontrollably, was struggling to open his hatch and get out - but it had jammed. Throwing aside his earphones, he tried to work his levers to get the tank onto a slant. Barkmann called out to his gun-layer to try to calm him.

A shell clanged against the Panther's side. Back in his seat, the driver wrestled to get the tank away. With only one track and a twisted drive sprocket, he somehow managed to get it to reverse in the meantime the gun-layer had managed to knock out another Sherman.

The two NCOs who had remained behind had totted up Barkmann's kills: the tanks alone came to nine. Crab-like, his Panther crawled back to the little village of le Neufbourg; only then were they able to prise open the jammed hatches with crowbars to release the driver and radio operator.

The "black panther". Inspired by the unofficial insignia, this Panther Ausf.A also has LSSAH etched in the Zimmerit on the turret. R02 identifies it as belonging to Hauptsturmfuehrer Gruhle, adjudant to Obersturmbannfuehrer Peiper who would have used Panther R01.

Normandy, August 1944

Alfred Johnson was a Corporal in B Squadron of the 4/7 Royal Dragoon Guards in Normandy in 1944. He has recounted the following account:

"The Panther was undoubtedly the best tank of both sides engaged in the long Normandy struggle. It was more manouverable and faster then the Tiger I. AP from it´s long 75 would penetrate a Sherman more easily than an infantryman could prod open a can of beans with a bayonet. Its frontal armour was too thick for us to have much hope with an AP shot from our 75mm howitzers which lacked muzzle velocity. Even by August 1944, few tank troops had a firefly (17pdr Sherman). The chances, therefore, of my troop knocking out a Panther were not good, even after two months in Normandy. In the first place, we had to spot one before he got us, an unlikely occurrence when attacking in the bocage. Usually when we were supporting infantry the first sign of opposition was seeing soldiers mown down by Spandau fire or one of our tanks going up in smoke. In the latter case, either the Sherman brewed up straight away or ground to a halt with some of the crew bailing out.

So it was on 1st August, when the Regiment was supporting 214 Infantry Brigade of 43 Wessex Division in an advance on Cahagnes, south of Caumont. During the night the objectives at Les Haies crossroads had been reached. This was part of the overall move to capture the Bois au Homme feature with Mont Pincon on ist eastern end. German resistance therefore increased and the next ten days or so saw some of the most intensive action we had experienced.

B Squadron took over the lead the next day, supporting 1st Worcesters. My troop was committed to crossing the crest of some rising ground in the middle of a fairly large field. Lance Sergeant Perry was the first over on the left, followed by Lieutenant Penrose, for whom I was loader/operator, in the centre. Sergeant Collins with the third tank, on the right, was hit as he came on slightly to the rear, his driver being killed. Fortunately for the rest of us, Lance Sergeant Perry spotted the gun flash from a Panther 400 yards away to the left and concealed behind the usual huge hedgerow. He quickly brought his 75mm to bear, knocking out the Panther with a lot of luck and a good shot into one side just under the gun turret. The crew baled out and escaped under cover…

In the same area the next morning, while waiting for new orders, we had the rare sight of a war correspondent/photographer who was interested in the location of the knocked-out Panther. We pointed out the site and this "intrepid warrior" then drove off in his jeep, to pour a jerrycan of petrol over the wreck before taking graphic pictures for the mollification of the armchair critics back home who thought Monty was too slow."


Panther Ausf.A of 5."SS" Panzer Division "Wiking" in 1944

East Prussia, August 1944

Oberfeldwebel Heinz Bergmann of the 4. Kompanie/Panzer-Regiment 26

The East Prussian border was threatened. The enemy had succeeded in reaching Wilkowischken. Counter measures were initiated. During the night of 8/9 August, heavy Panzers, Artillerie, Fusiliers, Grenadiers and Flak came rolling together on the roads Ebenrode-Eydtkau-Wirballen and gathered in the assembly area. It is the best division in the East, "Grossdeutchland" with its attached units. The fire fighters of the East as they are called. It had the objectives of pushing back this corner of the Front and to retake Wilkowischken.

The assembly area was lit by the dawn and quiet reigned. A gigantic portrait of military might and power had gathered here in a confined area. Punctually at the ordered time for the attack, the motors started and their droning ripped through the still of the morning. Like an avalanche, the impregnable spearhead rolled toward the enemy main battle line and bored through. Closely followed by the Fusiliers and Grenadiers enlivened by a spirit to attack against which every resistance must break. Also, the enemy is awakened and sent his artillery and motar shells against the juggernaut. Enemy destroyer aircraft attack in waves attempting to force a halt. Fountains of earth climb skyward. Sheds in which the enemy take cover, go up in smoke and flames. Unstoppable, the spearhead advanced toward Wilkowischken, grinding guns and positions underneath. Often in man-to-man combat, the Fusiliers and Grenadiers engage the tough and stubborn enemy. At about 1200 hours, the city is in our hands. The battlefield shows the mark of heavy combat. The enemy has lost large quantities of both men and material. Positions were established to defend the city. Toward the southeast, in the rear of the city, two Panthers pulled into their defensive area. Russian tanks were reported. Not a half hour had passed when four Russian tanks approached the city from from the southeast. They were spotted immediately, but the range was still too long. Then they disappeared into a depression. Will they come up again is the question. There, somewhat left, all four appeared in a line at a range of 1300 meters. Now their full size was seen and the defenders opened fire. Five shots quickly followed each other and three columns of smoke stand out against the sky. The fourth was lucky to turn right and disappeared into a patch of woods. Was it only an advanced spearhead? Will still more follow or were they recon vehicles? The eyes of the commanders search the terrain. But nothing stirs.

Twilight slowly enveloped the terrain in darkness. What will the next day bring? Will the Russians try to counterattack and retake the city or not? The leader decided to change to another position to get a better field of fire. During the night running motors from moving tanks were heard. Toward morning, a Panther was called back for resupply and the other Panther had to take over the entire defense.

Daybreak has long since passed and an attack was not expected when out of the depression at full speed fourteen Russian tanks carrying infantry charged toward the defending Panther. The loader was outside well away from the Panther finishing his business when shelling forced him to take cover. This made the situation more difficult. The driver took his place and fire was opened at a range of 1000 meters. Shot after shot was sent toward the attacker. The enemy had charged to within 600 meters turned right and disappeared into a hole. Four enemy tanks remained as smoking wrecks on the track. An immediate call on the radio alerted the defenders positioned further to the north. They managed to destroy six of the ten remaining tanks. Driving wildly, the rest escaped. An attack behind our front had been repulsed and cost the enemy heavy losses.

Again the defending Panther changed his position. After an hour, the second Panther returned from being resupplied and took up his defensive position. The enemy hadn’t given up their attempt to enter the city. During the afternoon, the enemy with an infantry battalion supported by four SU assault guns, under cover of the tall corn fields, tried twice to break in from the southeast. But, both attacks were completely repulsed by the two defending Panthers. All four SU assault guns that took part in both of these attacks were shot up. Two Panthers defending the city from the south and southeast had broke up two tank and two infantry attacks. The enemy suffered the loss of eleven tanks and very heavy losses of men

Two Panther Ausf.G in the Hagenau Forest (Voges) 3 January 1945

"Odyssee of a Panther" Ardennes, December 1944

The advance on Manhay began at 9.00 p.m. At the same time as the grenadiers of SS-Pz.Gren.Rgt.3 backed by the Panthers of SS-Pz.Rgt.2 started forward, the junior commanders of the 7th Armored's CCA received word over the radio to report in the village - to be told to pull back as part of the general withdrawal northwards. However it was already too late for the Americans in the Manhay area: a road-block, set up on a minor road north of Odeigne and manned by a company of the 40th Tank Battalion and of the 48th Armored Infantry Battalion, was already in contact with the grenadiers. 

A mysterious column had been cautiously observed approaching the position from the south but as the leading tank showed what was taken to be the typical blue exhaust of a Sherman, it was decided that they must be a detachment from the 3rd Armored Division, when suddenly Panzerfaust rockets blasted through the nearby woods: grenadiers had crept up to the American position without being seen. Within a few minutes six Shermans had been disabled although two of them managed to limp northwards with the last one that was undamaged. North of the Belle-Haie crossroads the column arrived on the N15. About a kilometre up the road to Manhay another roadblock was defended by a company of infantry in positions around ten dug-in Shermans. Again, the tanks and armoured vehicles were observed as they came on through the night and were not taken for German. 

The column was almost upon the dug-in Shermans before the leading Panther fired flares and shot up the positions with all its armament. The blinded and immobilised Shermans were soon disabled, the crews bailing out to join the infantry failing back towards Manhay. It was now a little after 10.30 p.m., the very time set for the CCA to withdraw. Its columns had already started moving out of Manhay when the Shermans that had escaped from the destroyed road-blocks burst into the village with news of the German advance. The planned withdrawal rapidly degenerated into a rout as, in desperation, some of the drivers tried to get away faster than those in front. One platoon commander attempted to get two of his Shermans into firing positions at the crucial crossroads in the centre of the village but the situation rapidly deteriorated as one of the Panthers loomed out of the night. It was every man for himself.

The Panthers belonged to 4. Kompanie, SS-Pz.Rgt.2, which, under the command of SS-Hauptsturmfuehrer Pohl, led the divisional attack. SS-Oberscharfuehrer Ernst Barkmann, commander of Panther '401', provides this account of his panzer's advance into American-held territory:

'We reached the enemy-occupied crossroads coming from a south-westerly direction, drove on in a double column, and from all our tanks guns brought coordinated fire to bear on the recognisable enemy positions with highexplosive shells. After this surprise bombardment there was hardly any further reaction from the enemy.

'SS-Hauptscharfuehrer Frauscher reported by radio that he was pulling away in order to reach the Manhay road which was to be attacked. While turning off the road, the leading tank in his section received a direct hit and remained out of action. The second Panther was likewise hit. The section was at a standstill. The commander urged us by radio to continue the attack. I was anxious about my comrade Frauscher and his crew.

'To clarify the situation, I sent a brief message to the company commander to say I had decided to pull away, in accordance with what he surely wanted.
Without waiting for his reply, we moved on. Making better use of the terrain than its predecessor, Panther 401 reached the road without interference. We crossed over it, and immediately turned in the direction of the enemy. No firing! Using the higher contours of the road both for observation and cover, we went slowly on, parallel with it so as to reach the leading tank which had got stuck and give it protective fire. We couldn't find Frauscher's tank. I learnt by radio that it had changed its position and moved forward again. So we went on under the protection of the high-lying road and after a long time reached the edge of the woods. Under the moonlight shadows of tall pine-trees, we penetrated into the woods along the roadway.

'Fifty metres away, on the right, there was a tank which had moved in, with its commander standing in the turret, and which was apparently waiting for me. Frauscher! I moved up to the tank on its left-hand side. As soon as both turrets were on a level with each other, I gave orders to stop and turn off the motor and started to speak. But in a flash my opposite number disappeared inside the turret and the hatches clanged shut. My neighbour's driver's hatch lifted and then was lowered again. I noticed a winecoloured panel light. But the Panther had a green one. Then I knew that the tank alongside us was an American Sherman.

'Headphones on, I shouted on the tank intercom: "Gunner! The tank alongside is an enemy one. Fire at it". Within seconds, the tank turret turned to the right and the long gun barrel banged against the turret of the Sherman. Gunner to commander: "Can't fire - turret traverse stuck". The driver, SS-Rottenfuehrer Grundmeyer, had been listening and, without any order being given, he started up the motor and pulled back a few yards. Whereupon SS-Unterscharfuehrer Poggendorf, the gunner, loosed off the Panzergranate into the middle of the rear of the enemy tank at a distance of a few yards. I was still standing in the tank turret. A blue flame sprang out from the circular hole in the rear of the Sherman. As I took cover inside the turret 1 heard the detonation.

'We moved on past the burning tank. From a clearing in the forest on the right two more enemy tanks came at us. We fired immediately. The first one gave out black smoke and came no further. The second one likewise came to a halt.

'No radio contact could be made with the company. We went on nevertheless, supposing that Frauscher's tank had been hit in front of us, and that the enemy tanks which had just been shot up were lying in wait on the edge of the forest and were now trying to make contact with their own units in their rear. But we had become more careful now.

'As everything remained quiet, we still moved on and on. The forest was getting light. Then suddenly there was a wide area in front of us that was clear of trees - a real forest meadow. The road ran around it in a large S-shaped curve and disappeared into a downward slope between the trees on the opposite side.

'I caught my breath. In the open grassy area in front of us I counted nine enemy tanks close beside each other. They all had the muzzles of their guns pointing threateningly at our tanks which till then had been moving unsuspectingly directly towards them. Our driver Grundmeyer recognised the danger. He was really taken aback. Standing still or retreating would be suicidal. Only bluff could still save us. So it was a question of escaping in a forwards direction. And the commander's orders to the driver were:"Move on ahead without reducing speed". Perhaps we would succeed in passing around them without being recognised because they were thinking that we were their own tanks. We advanced along the bend, showing them the full length of our sides and with nine turrets threatening us. Their gunners really had us in the bag. But not a shot was fired. As soon as we were on their flank and I could pick out the backs of all the enemy tanks drawn up behind each other, I called a halt. We had the best firing position and in fact had only one enemy tank to deal with. All the rest were blocking each other's field of fire. I let the turret swing round to 3 o'clock (to the right) so as to let the gunner get the targets in his sights. And then I couldn't believe my eyes. Those Ami crews jumped out, rushed headlong from their tanks, and charged into the shelter of part of the forest that lay behind them. 

'This changed the situation for us once again. I knew now that Frauscher's tank was behind me, was aware of the company's combat plans, and had come to grips with an adversary who, in nightfighting at least, was inexperienced and could be thrown into confusion. We had to make use of this advantage in the context of the entire operation. Radio contact with the company was still unobtainable. 'All on my own I decided to have the turret turned to 12 o'clock (to the line of advance) and gave the order: "Tanks forward!" We would have been happy to knock out the enemy tanks but this would have alerted the whole enemy front. Also, our friend Frauscher who followed us took care of that. According to his report, the tanks were kept busy once again. He bagged all nine of them.

'We moved on towards Manhay. The forest closed in on us again. Singly at first, then in groups and columns, there were American infantry pulling out on to the road from the right side of the forest. For reasons I couldn't understand, the enemy was disengaging. We were moving through the middle of them without taking any special care. My crew, and especially my driver, needed some clarification regarding the situation in which we found ourselves. My young troops were very tensed up indeed, but wonderfully calm, as always in such dangerous situations. The American soldiers were avoiding us, jumping to one side, cursing and threatening us, but they didn't recognise us as German tanks, though I was standing upright out of the cupola and looking down at them. Beneath the squares of the pattern of the camouflage netting their steel helmets were shining in the moonlight. Their faces were haggard. Then the dawn broke over the forest. Suddenly, there were houses on the left and right of the road. We had reached Manhay. So as to continue unrecognised, we increased our speed. 

The buildings became denser. There were tanks and lorries which had arrived at the house and signs of activity in front of a lighted cafe - surely a staff headquarters. Scurrying soldiers enlivened the picture. We drove right through the middle of them - with them even making room to let us through.

'Then we found ourselves at the crossroads. The left-hand road led through Grandmenil to Erezee, the objective for the company's attack. From this direction, three Sherman tanks rolled forwards at us. I refrained from turning aside, and continued to drive straight on over the crossroads towards Liege Anything to get out of the village! And then turn round at some point so as to join up with the attacking company again, or at least get back into its area of radio contact. That was what we were trying to do. Till then, not a single shot had been fired - either by the enemy or by us. To start an exchange of fire would have been mad and would have doomed us. The danger had not yet been staved off; it was just beginning. On our right, in the direction of the crossroads, there was one enemy tank behind another and all Shermans of the worst type. And always in groups of nine or twelve, behind each other in company formation. In the gaps between them there were jeeps - company commander vehicles. The crews had sat down and were smoking and chatting near their tanks. There was one enemy company after another, all in rows. I gave up trying to count them but estimate the number of tanks at eighty or more.

'We had no choice left, we had to get past them. The American soldiers jumped aside. Before long they recognised us as German, but not until we were already past them. Behind us motors were whirring and tank turrets turning but thank God that one tank was blocking the view and field of fire of another one. I had egg hand-grenades distributed in case we had to abandon the tank, lit up a smoke generator, and let it roll over the rear on to the road. Thick smoke was screening us from behind. The situation was becoming increasingly unpleasant.

'My gun loader Karl Keller pulled me gently down out of the cupola in which 1 had till then been standing exposed, and turned up the collar of my camouflage jacket. Pointing to my Knight's Cross, he said, "It shines too much in the moonlight....'He had been watching me the whole time from the dark fighting compartment below, and had judged what was happening outside from the expression on my face. His MG position had rows of machine gun belts with tracer bullets hanging beside each other in it.

'The gunner was pressing his face against the optical gunsight, thus having the possibility to see at least something through the narrow field it offered. His hand was grasping the lever operating the turret traverse mechanism.

'The driver suddenly said: "There's a car coming at us from in front". My head went outside again. It was true. There was a jeep moving along towards us. And there was a man who must have been an officer standing in it and frantically waving a signal disc. "He´s trying to stop us", I thought.

"He's been ordering us to do that for a long time already as he approached. Is the man a hero or a maniac?" Then the driver was given the order: "Run the jeep over!" My driver acknowledged it. The jeep driver reacted, realised that his situation was critical, stopped, and accelerated in reverse. A wild chase began. The officer stopped signalling. Yard by yard the distance narrowed. Then there was a crash. Our right track had caught the jeep and overrun it. The occupants tried to jump off.


'Our Panther was thrown off the road by the impact and came to rest with all its weight against the nearest Sherman. I was flung halfway out of the turret. My headphones rolled away over the roof of the turret and were left dangling. My cap remained as a memento for those outside. Our engine stalled. Our big rumbler had ended up with its righthand driving sprocket embedded in the tracks of the enemy tank and stuck fast. After a moment of shock, all hell broke loose outside. Bullets from infantry weapons were zipping round my ears and forced me to take cover in the turret. The driver vainly tried to make the motor's starter work. I fished up the indispensable headgear - microphone and headphones - from over the edge of the turret and considered all the possible ways in which we could save ourselves. But was there still any way out?

'Leaving the tank or defending ourselves with our turret weapons would in fact lead to the same result - either death or capture. So I had an urgent word with the driver. He was obviously concentrating on his job. The batteries were recharging themselves. After a few misfires, the engine came to life. We all breathed freely again. "Move backwards!" Slowly and carefully, and without the track coming adrift, the Panther disengaged itself from the Sherman and swung out on to the road. The smoke pouring from a smoke generator scared the Amis away. "Move forward!" Under cover of the smoke we moved on again. All along the level road we went past tanks and still more tanks, columns of trucks, supply vehicles including two halftracks, trucks belonging to a medical unit with a bus for operations, until we at last reached open country. The houses of Manhay lay behind us. The way to Liege lay open for us. Where I now longed to be was up with the spearheads of my company with my tank unit behind them.

'As 1 noticed that there were vehicles following us, the gunner swung the turret to 6 o'clock and as we moved along loosed off high-explosive shells back in their direction and into the village. After about 300 metres, I halted our '401', had the engine switched off, and listened to the sounds coming out of the night. 'From Manhay were coming the sounds of motors and the noise of tanks on the move. We had thrown the Americans into total confusion at their assembly point. In the distance, I could hear the sounds of fighting.

'Enemy vehicles were following us again, including a Sherman, but we shot them up with accurate shell-fire. Burning vehicles were blocking the road for the others. A couple of hundred metres further on, we repeated the exercise. As we then changed course again towards the north, we left the road and, on a bend, found a well hidden firing position with a good view of the road. Here I stopped to let my crew get down. They stood around my turret gulping in the air. I looked at their grinning faces. Everything had worked out alright again.

'As the sounds of fighting came nearer, we heard the ringing crack of the Panther guns. It was like music to our ears. The company was attacking Manhay. The radio operator was tuning his frequency adjuster. "German Tiger! German Tigers!", we heard. "Help!, help!", coming through on some enemy channel in our combat area. So our Panzer Vs were being taken for Tiger tanks, though there was not a single one of these in action on this sector of the front.

'The enemy was under severe pressure and was carrying out a mass disengagement, westwards towards Grandmenil and in a north-easterly direction towards Vaux-Chavanne. We scattered the enemy vehicles pressing us with our guns and many of these vehicles drove off the road into open country and got stuck in the snow.

'Manhay was taken by our troops in a relatively short time and our '401' had played a part in this. The way to Liege lay open before us. We followed the advance on Grandmenil from the sounds of the fighting, then left our firing position and moved slowly back to Manhay past burning vehicles. There was not a German tank to meet us at the entrance to the village. Instead there were hemmed-in and abandoned American tanks and vehicles. The Sherman tanks which had capitulated were standing in the front gardens, between and behind the houses. We counted twenty of them.'

On December 31st SS-Hauptscharfuehrer Frauscher, the 3rd Platoon leader in the forefront of the attack against Manhay and Grandmenil, was awarded the Knight's Cross for his part in the attack.

The DesertFox: Panzer: The Panther

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