Michael Wittmann (22 April 1914 – 8 August 1944) was a German Waffen-SS tank commander during the Second World War. He rose to the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer (captain) and was a holder of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.
Wittmann is known for his ambush of elements of the British 7th Armoured Division, during the Battle of Villers-Bocage on 13 June 1944. While in command of a Tiger I tank, he destroyed up to fourteen tanks and fifteen personnel carriers, along with two anti-tank guns, within the space of fifteen minutes. The news was picked up and disseminated by the Nazi propaganda machine and added to Wittmann's stature in Germany.
Wittmann became a cult figure after the war thanks to his accomplishments as a "panzer ace" (a highly-decorated tank commander) as part of the portrayal of the Waffen-SS in popular culture. Historians have mixed opinions as to his tactical performance in battle—some praising his actions at Villers-Bocage, and some finding his abilities lacking, and the praise for his tank kills overblown.
The circumstances behind Wittmann’s death have been the subject of debate over the years. It was accepted that Trooper Joe Ekins, a British gunner in a Sherman Firefly tank of the 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry, fired the round that destroyed his tank, killing Wittmann and his crew. In 2005, the historian Brian Reid suggested that members of the Canadian Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment may have been responsible instead.
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