Case #1 - Who Strafed Rommel's Car?

Discussion in 'German' started by Pat Curran, Feb 18, 2013.

  1. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    Oct 20, 2012
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    Hi All,

    Regular readers will recall our success in identifying F/O Robinson as almost certainly the pilot from No. 602 Squadron, RAF who flew Spitfire LO-C to the A6 ALG at La Londe Farm in Normandy. The story behind identifying the pilot of LO-C can be read by following this link.

    Following on from that story, I have received a request from Gerry Traynor of 602 Squadron (City of Glasgow) Museum asking that we take a look at the strafing of Field Marshall Erwin Rommel's car on the 17th July 1944. Below is an extract from Gerry's email:

    I love Gerry's last line; confidence is everything in this game :D

    OK Guys, lets go to work :rolleyes:

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  2. Sean

    Sean Active Member
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    Hello there,

    The relevant passages from the 602Sqn Summary of Events for 17th July, with le Roux's claim underlined in red, Remlinger's in blue:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Relative to the comments in the Gerry's last paragraph, Charley Fox's words from
    this website:

    Our wing and others were flying constantly, two and three trips a day. As we were based close to the front lines with the Navy in the Channel, every night was filled with constant bombardment. We only dozed, and got very little real sleep. At the time, the question of "Who got Rommel?" was not a priority.

    As the war of liberation progressed, and with the sequence of events that followed Rommel's recovery, it became even less important.

    Later, word got out about General Rommel being implicated in the assassination attempt on Hitler. He was given the choice to commit suicide or be executed. I never felt comfortable about the attack... because of the man, the soldier that Rommel was. And, because of the events of that day, there will always be the big question…

    What if I hadn't made a successful attack? What if he hadn't been hurt? What if the Field Marshal had talked to Monty? What if?... ..What if?...... What if?


    Cheers,

    Sean
     
  3. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    Oct 20, 2012
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    Hi Sean,

    I will try to track down the other RAF squadrons' ORBs for the 17th tonight. Before I do, can you confirm whether or not you already have any of them?

    IIRC, there is gun camera footage somewhere of Lt. R. Jenkins's (USAAF) attack on a road target on the 17th. Does anyone have a copy or know where a copy might be located?

    Any other gun camera footage which might show an attack on a staff car would also be useful.

    I think the first task would be to tie down the search area. If this page is correct, that part of the task has already been done for us. Can anyone confirm that there are no other locations to consider?

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  4. Sean

    Sean Active Member
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    Pat,

    I don't think there's much, if any, doubt about the location.

    I have an old issue of After the Battle somewhere that has a fair bit about it.

    So it's only "who", not "where"...... ;)

    I sent you an e-mail re ORBs.

    Cheers,

    Sean
     
  5. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    Oct 20, 2012
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    Hi Sean,

    I have some screenshots from Google Earth/Maps done late last night but did not get a chance to post them. It's good that we have only to concentrate on the 'who' and not the 'where' ;)

    If anyone comes across any material on this story, I would appreciate a scan, link or email.

    BTW, I found an account on the web yesterday here which appears to be an oral transcript by one of the claimants, Charley Fox of 412 Squadron, RCAF:

    Can anyone tell me why you would not attack a road target from behind on a wooded road?

    Thanks,

    Pat
     
  6. John Szweda

    John Szweda Administrator
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    Oct 25, 2012
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    Hi Pat,

    I am going to guess here and say that the direct line approach down a road from the rear would allow for unobstructed return fire by any soldiers seeking shelter along the road and ditches. Obviously no trees in the middle of the road to prevent that one well placed rifle round. I think the angular or perpendicular approach is more for pilot safety and obstructed observation and return fire.
    Just my opinion, but I think it makes sense.

    Respectfully,
    John Szweda
     
  7. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    Oct 20, 2012
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    Thanks John,

    I would think you may be correct. All the gun camera footage I have looked at over the past few nights have all shown beam attacks on road targets.

    My current understanding is that the attack took place about a kilometre north of the small town of Vimoutiers on the D979. Below is a small scale extract from Google Maps; note Falaise at lower left circled red and, if my location is correct, our Area of Interest is within the red rectangle:
    [​IMG]
    Below is the area of the red rectangle zoomed:
    [​IMG]
    Note the green circle which indicates the location of the attack as I currently understand it to be. If anyone knows this to be incorrect, please let us know. You will note that the location is right on the boundary between the Departments of Calvados and Orne. The GE view below shows two points marked 'Gate Lodge' and 'Bridge over Stream'. My understanding is that it was between these two points that the car was attacked and Rommel found unconscious on the road near the bridge:
    [​IMG]
    Below is the 'street view' version:
    [​IMG]
    I went hunting on the IGN site for post war cover of the area and found this aerial photograph from 1947:
    [​IMG]
    Note Vimoutiers at lower right and our AoI within the red rectangle, zoomed to here:
    [​IMG]
    This is an interesting photograph. Making allowances for the fact that the War was over for two years and a lot of trees had been cut for firewood in the cold post war winters, I still believe this photograph shows a good view of what the attacking aircraft would have seen on the 17th July 1944 - again assuming I have the correct location. If the reader accepts this, then I want to have a look at a claimant who is not listed in Gerry's email, that of Lt. Harold O. Miller, USAAF.

    I dug out my old set of 'World War II' magazines published in 1972 by Orbis (showing my age now :)) and found this extract from page 1708, Vol. 5:
    [​IMG]
    The four stills are from gun camera footage of an attack made by Lt. Miller on a vehicle which it is claimed may have been Rommel's car. I have not yet tracked down his unit, but one source on the web has him in the 353rd Fighter Group, 8th USAAF. I have enlarged the red rectangle from frame #1 below:
    [​IMG]
    Can anyone tell what type of vehicle we are seeing here? I am wondering if it has turned over and is resting up side down, perhaps having first struck the left side of the road (note apparent debris beside the vehicle).

    In any event, I believe that if I have the correct location, we can almost certainly rule out Lt. Miller as the stills from his gun camera do not, in my view, show the area between the 'Gate Lodge' and the 'Bridge over Stream' points as marked above.

    Just to confirm the four stills as being from Lt. Miller's gun camera, here is an extract from the "Montrose Herald" newspaper dated 15th December 1944 showing Lt. Miller with two of the four stills:
    [​IMG]

    Comments and corrections welcomed and appreciated.

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  8. Sean

    Sean Active Member
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    Hello,

    As this is mentioned by Mr Fox, it might be a good idea to establish what was or wasn't the case.

    He is/was partly correct, in that the Germans were using single (sometimes referred to as "simple") daylight saving time, whilst the Allies were using what is usually reffered to as "double British summer time".

    So, double British summer time is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Central European time is one hour ahead of GMT and what you might call the "base" on which the Germans (and most of Europe) ran their clocks. Central European summer time (ie single daylight time, the time reffered to by Fox as that used by the Germans) was an hour ahead of that.

    Therefore, the time used by the Germans was two hours ahead of GMT, whilst the time used by the Allies was..... two hours ahead of GMT.

    As an example of a source for the above, Hubert Meyer's divisional history of the 12.SS has this information on p.21 of the English language version published by JJ Fedorowicz, and the same information in French in the Heimdal edition on page 113.


    Cheers,

    Sean
     
  9. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    Oct 20, 2012
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    Hi Sean,

    Thanks for the clarification on the time zones. If we can treat all times referenced as being the same, then that will greatly simplify matters for us.

    This page from a No. 193 Squadron, RAF perspective puts the location of the attack much further north. It is the first German account I have come across and must be given some added weight because of the eye witness account.

    This really is the first problem to be sorted...where exactly did the attack take place?

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  10. Sean

    Sean Active Member
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    Hello Pat,

    I've dug out the old After the Battle...... it may through more doubt on the location than I'd remembered.
    As far as I can tell it's one of the earliest confirmations(sic) of the location.. The issue was published in 1975 and makes reference to a visit to the site by Hauptmann Helmuth Lang in 1970.

    According to Lang, in Rommel's Horch were Rommel, Daniel (his personal driver), Major Neuhaus, Feldwebel Holke (spotter) and Lang himself.

    Lang's account makes it two from the German side:)
    Here it is:

    About 4pm Marschall Rommel started on the return journey from Dietrich's HQ. He was anxious to get back to Army Group B HQ as quickly as possible because the enemy had broken through on another part of the front. We had to be careful of enemy aircraft, which were flyng over the battlefield continually and were quickly attracted by dust on the roads.
    All along the road we could see transport in flames: from time to time the enemy bombers forced us to take to second class roads. About 6pm the Marschall's car was in the neighbourhood of Livarot. Transport which had just been attacked was piled up along the road and strong groups of enemy dive-bombers were still at work close by. That is why we turned off along a sheltered road, to join the main road again two and a half miles from Vimoutiers.
    When we reached it we saw above Livarot about eight enemy dive-bombers. We learnt later that they had been interfering with traffic on the road to Livarot for the past two hours. Since we thought that they had not seen us, we continued along the main road from Livarot to Vimoutiers. Suddenly, Feldwebel Holke, our spotter, warned us that two aircraft were flying along the road in our direction. The driver, Daniel, was told to put on speed and turn off on to a little side road to the right, about 300 yards ahead of us, which would give us some shelter.
    Before we could reach it, the enemy aircraft, flying at great speed only a few feet above the road, came up to within 500 yards of us and the first one opened fire. Marschall Rommel was looking back at his moment. The left hand side of the car was hit by the first burst. A cannon shell shattered Daniel's left shoulder and left arm. Marschall Rommel was wounded in the face by broken glass and received a blow on the left temple and cheekbone which caused a triple fracture of the skull and made him lose consciousness immediately. Major Neuhaus was struck on the holster of his revolver and the force of the blow broke his pelvis.
    As a result of his serious wounds, Daniel, the driver, lost control of the car. It struck the stump of a tree over to the left of the road and then turned over in a ditch on the right. Hauptmann Lang and Feldwebel Holke jumped out of the car and took shelter on the right of the road. Marshcall Rommel, who at the start of the attack had hold of the handle of the door, was thrown out, unconscious, when the car turned over and lay stretched out on the road about twenty yards behind it. A second aricraft flew over and tried to drop bombs on those who were lying on the ground.
    Immediately afterwards, Marshall Rommel was carried into shelter by Hauptmann Lang and Feldwebel Holke. He lay on the ground unconscious and covered with blood, which flowed from the many wounds on his face, particularly from his left eye and mouth. It appeared he had been struck on the left temple. Even when we had carried him to safety he did not recover consciousness.
    In order to get medical help for the wounded we tried to find a car. It took about three-quarters of an hour to do so. Marschall Rommel had his wounds dressed by a French doctor in a religous hospital. They were very severe and the doctor said there was little hope of saving his life. Later he was taken, still unconscious, with Daniel to an air-force hospital at Bernay, about 25 miles away. The doctors there diagnosed severe injuries to the skull- a fracture at the base, two fractures on the temple and the cheek-bone destroyed, a wound in the left eye, wounds from glass and concussion. Daniel died during the night, in spite of a blood transfusion.




    [hr]
    A bit more....

    Oberfeldwebel Karl Daniel, the driver, is now in the Champigny-St.Andre cemetery.
    Block 10 Row 10 Grave 665
    He was born on 2nd January 1915 and was from Munich.

    A quick Google image search for "Rommel Normandy" yielded the following images:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    In both photos it appears to be the same driver, who wears Luftwaffe uniform/insignia, by the way, and possibly the same car (depending on whether or not a spare wheel is visble in the bottom right hand corner of the upper photo*), neither of the pictures indicate a black finish.....

    Anyway, in the photo where insignia is visible, if Daniel's rank at the time of his death was Oberfeldwebel, there should be four wings on his collar, not two. I can't make out for certain whether there's the appropriate NCO braiding or not around the collar, but I think it's there.
    Maybe the photos were taken some time before (ie time enough to gain two grades) or he got a posthumous promotion?

    Cheers,

    Sean

    *Edit: I don't think it's the same car, one has a folding windscreen the other doesn't.
     
  11. Sean

    Sean Active Member
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    The pharmacy referred to in the Heins account is also cited by the After the Battle article as being the place where Rommel was initially taken, which does conflict with Lang's statement a bit.

    The article has a photo of the building, which is still there and is still a pharmacy:

    [​IMG]


    Sorry about the squashing of the word "pharmacie" in the Street View photo.


    Cheers,

    Sean
     
  12. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    Oct 20, 2012
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    Hi Sean,

    From Lang's account, it looks like the car came back onto the D979 at Sainte Foy de Montgommery still heading south for Vimoutiers so the Gate Lodge and Bridge remain in contention. I think its time to do a NCAP search for the car ;)

    There are other claimants to be investigated however; IIRC one of the Typhoon Squadrons refer to an attack much closer to the coast at Dozule. There seems to have been a heavy escort in this convoy, much heavier than the one passing the Gate Lodge but that might be because whoever the senior officer was, he was also much closer to the front lines.

    Thanks for the help Sean; much appreciated.

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  13. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    Oct 20, 2012
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    Hi All,

    I tracked down Lt. Miller's gun camera footage from which the above stills are taken. It's the opening few seconds of this clip on the British Pathe site. I would wonder how the stills can show the vehicle in such detail when compared to the footage, but of course the full resolution version may well produce far better results. The footage title board also states that he was a member of the 352nd Fighter Squadron / 353rd Fighter Group, USAAF.

    In any event, this confirms to me that Miller's attack did not occur at the Gate Lodge / Bridge location on the D979 Livarot / Vimoutiers road.

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  14. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    Oct 20, 2012
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    Hi List,

    I have tonight commenced a NCAP search at the suggested location where Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's car is thought to have been attacked using a date window of 15th July to 15th August 1944 and the GE screenshot below:
    [​IMG]

    Now we wait...:D

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  15. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    Oct 20, 2012
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    Hi All,

    I have now received the high resolution copy of NCAP_ACIU_4_0439_4132 flown on the day of the attack on Rommel's car - 17th July 1944. Below is a downsized version with our AoI within the yellow rectangle:
    [​IMG]
    Image Credit: RCAHMS/www.aerial.rcahms.gov.uk

    I have marked what appears to be some form of irregular object between the gate lodge and the bridge on the zoomed versions of the AoI below:
    [​IMG]
    Image Credit: RCAHMS/www.aerial.rcahms.gov.uk
    [​IMG]
    Image Credit: RCAHMS/www.aerial.rcahms.gov.uk

    It is very tenuous and I am by no means certain that it is what I would like it to be. Forum members with 'Advanced Researcher' status can examine the file for themselves and I would value input from all viewers. Below is the same location marked on a GE screenshot. The yellow arrows are my estimation of the long axis direction and the red the short axis:
    [​IMG]
    I cannot be sure though of the measurements and I may be even wrong with the axis directions.

    Note also that the account we have places the car at the bridge which is about 35 metres south of this object, but that small amount does not overly concern me; the real problem is the lack of definition.

    I spent a good hour playing around with the 'object' in Photoshop last night and finally arrived with this:
    [​IMG]
    Image Credit: RCAHMS/www.aerial.rcahms.gov.uk

    Did I subconsciously massage the pixels until I got 'something' or is there really a Horche staff car there?...

    I fear more questions than answers :D

    Comments and corrections welcomed and appreciated.

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  16. Sean

    Sean Active Member
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    Pat,

    I can't offer much at the moment, I'm afraid, other than to say I agree there's something there, which appears to be about the right size, in more or less the right place......

    Will have another look later.....


    Sean
     
  17. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    Hi All,

    Does anyone know if the photograph on the right side of this German publication is supposed to be Rommel's car after the attack?

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/mlq/9033989524/in/photostream/
    Image Credit: Michel Le Querrec

    I am also looking to know if a copy of this particular issue of the publication can be purchased.

    Thanks,

    Pat
     
  18. John Szweda

    John Szweda Administrator
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    Pat,
    When I right click on the image from the above link I can enlarge it enough to see the name Sepp Dietrich in the caption for each photo. Although I don't know german, I assume it relates to this being General Dietrich's car.

    John
     
  19. Sean

    Sean Active Member
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    Hello there,

    It's Dietrich's car, he himself being the guy hands on hips looking annoyed.

    Cheers,

    Sean
     
  20. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    Thanks Guys,

    Does anyone know if Rommel's car was left in place or was it removed by the Germans?

    Regards,

    Pat
     

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