Panzer III at La Fière (Knotts Photo)

Discussion in 'German' started by Pat Curran, Feb 11, 2013.

  1. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    Oct 20, 2012
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    Hi Niels,

    Here is the photograph you refer to from page 19 of the Brown Album, Kenny I. Knotts Photograph Collection on the US Army Heritage and Education Center site:
    [​IMG]
    IIRC, you have one of the same tank with the gables of a house outlined to show the roofline resemblance to the buildings at La Fière Manor.

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  2. Jpz4

    Jpz4 Active Member
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    Oct 24, 2012
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    Wrote this article in 2006: http://www.network54.com/Forum/47207/thread/1165343863
    and another in 2007: http://www.network54.com/Forum/47207/thread/1174669606/

    And this is probably the photo you're thinking of.
    [​IMG]
     
  3. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    Hi Niels,

    Yes, that's the one I was thinking of - I have no doubt it's the same tank.

    Do you think it has been moved in between the the two photographs?

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  4. Jpz4

    Jpz4 Active Member
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    Oct 24, 2012
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    Maybe a little bit forward on the new photo, but the trees in the background are visible on both shots and I think the angle accoutns for most of the differences.
     
  5. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    Mmm...maybe :huh:

    I think it's the other way round; the new photo has it further from the Manor. If you were standing at the same position in relation to the wreck in the new photograph as the still from the British Pathe footage shows, I do not think you would see any of the bushes at the side of the road to the right of the turret.

    Not of huge importance in any event.

    Pat
     
  6. John Szweda

    John Szweda Administrator
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    Oct 25, 2012
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    Pat and Niels,

    I dont think the tank was moved at all because the thrown track to the rear remains in the same position about the same distance from the tank.
    I think the Knotts photo was taken slightly more to the rear and maybe a foot or two higher in elevation. Its a shame he didnt get more of the tank in the frame.
    Those Knotts photos are wonderful to see and Niels I completely enjoyed reading through your links attached regarding the Panzer III.

    Respectfully,
    John Szweda
     
  7. pvtjackbauer

    pvtjackbauer Guest
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    Interesting photo...now with that being said, you have to be clear on what portion of the battle you are talking about. From what I understand the battle that first took place (With Marcus Heim saving the day), it was Renault R35 tanks that were thrown at the paratroopers. Seen here:
    [​IMG]

    The photo the Jpz4 posted, the tanks look way too close to the manor unless the photo was taken later after the battle sometime and they were moved. Here is a good shot I took when I stayed at the manor in 2011. I am standing right in the driveway and you can see the bend in the road near the top of the photo where the R35's were taken out by Marcus Heim.
    [​IMG]

    Speaking of La Fiere which is one of my favorite study topics, I hear good progress is being made with Dale Dye and the production of No Better Place to Die.

    -Brian
     
  8. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    Hi All,

    John, the sprocket wheel...now this is embarrassing :blush: ... wood for the trees. Well spotted.

    Brian, nice picture of the bridge. Niels has done a lot of armour work on the battle and is far more able to place the vehicles than I am. IIRC, the shed track from this Panzer III is visible in Signal Corps footage shot from beside the tank.

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  9. pvtjackbauer

    pvtjackbauer Guest
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    Oh Wow...I just saw the links under Niels post...some of the best reading on the action I have seen in a while!!! Great job on that! Yea, my depth perception maybe off but that photo is deceiving. It almost seems as if the tanks are right in the front yard of the manor.

    Another side note I forgot to mention...when my wife and I were returning one evening in 2011 to the manor, the owners were having the Merderet river dredged in front of the manor house. We were helping them sift through some of the mud and muck and came across a live 57mm shell. It is now on display there at the B&B that occupies the main building.

    -Brian
     
  10. Jpz4

    Jpz4 Active Member
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    Oct 24, 2012
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    Brian, may I suggest you read my 2007 article (link in my first post of this thread). While the article could use an update and some fine-tuning, I still agree with most of it.*
    The film still you posted makes everything look a lot closer together. Keep an eye on all the poles lining the causeway to get a better feel for the distances involved. Footage looking east from the bend in the road also helps.

    Also keep in mind a lot about these tanks is not clear at all. The order in which these two Renault R35, one Hotchkiss H39 and Panzer III were knocked out is a puzzle I've been working on for years.
    AFAIK the film was not discovered until after all bazooka men had passed away.
    And unfortunately all available photos and film were shot after the capture of the causeway. As a result it is highly likely one (or even all) vehicles were moved. Also remember there already was a German attempt to recover one of the tanks. I had been hoping on getting the aerial photos of the causeway before 9 June, but the photos (8 June IIRC) are still missing in the archive.

    Without more information the available photos and footage just illustrate the situation some time after the capture of the causeway and tell quite little of what the situation during the fighting actually was.

    Niels

    *to give one example of something I would change: the two photos from the 'National D-Day Museum' almost certainly do not show the La Fière causeway.
    [hr]
    Hi Brian, guess we were typing at the same time ;)
    Nice story on the 57mm round BTW.

    @ All: have you noticed one of the Knotts albums has a photo of Cauquigny...
     
  11. John Szweda

    John Szweda Administrator
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    Oct 25, 2012
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    Hi All,

    From the location of the Panzer III tread being strung out in the middle of the causway as seen in the photo of the 3 French tanks. it seems to me the Panzer III was struck in the middle of the causeway, and then later moved forward towards the bridge and to the side. it seems odd that the tread on the road is upside down with the guidehorns or teeth facing down. That seems kind of strange with the weight of a tank sitting on the treads. I think the treads were flipped over intentionally so the guidehorns or teeth wouldnt do any damage to other vehicles or jeep tires.

    This kind of leads into a strange question... Is it possible that the tank wreck that was obstructing the American troops assault westward, and that General Ridgeway personally tried to assist in moving, was not a Sherman as often read about but actually the Panzer III ?

    Call it fog of war... Kind of crazy, but could it be?

    Respectfully,
    John Szweda
     
  12. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    Oct 20, 2012
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    Hi All,

    I note there appears to be drag marks on the surface of the causeway in the still from the Signal Corps footage below as outlined by the dashed blue lines:
    [​IMG]
    It looks like a tracked vehicle has been dragged along the causeway surface with its tracks either not turning or not in place. Also, looking at the R35 at the right, there seems to be a lot of damage to the rear. I know it has taken at least two hits on the front hull but I wonder if the Sherman was beside it when the American mine exploded and put the Sherman out of action, with the same blast damaging the rear of the R35?

    I think the Signal Corps guys avoided showing American armour losses and so did not pan the scene in the footage.

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  13. John Szweda

    John Szweda Administrator
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    Pat,

    We are obviously seeing everything after the vehicles were pushed to the side, including the Panzer III. If all these tanks were on the causeway would the Sherman even get that far or could that be where the Panzer was hit? My opinion is I suspect that might be about where the Panzer III got hit. The ground underneath the tread looks disturbed in the same fashion your area outlined in blue is... but I could be wrong.

    Respectfully,
    John Szweda
     
  14. Jpz4

    Jpz4 Active Member
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    Oct 24, 2012
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    The general story is about a Sherman hitting a mine (in one of the verges) while driving around one of the wrecks. Supposedly this was a mine left behind from the original D-Day minefield. According to Heim "These mines were placed across the causeway about 50 or 60 feet on the other side of the bridge". I think 'No better place to die' places the mines even closer to the bridge.
    So it seems the mines were somewhere between the 60 feet in front of the bridge and the bridge itself, and for now that seems to be the most likely area where the Sherman hit a mine.
    For what it's worth I've not found a single source to claim the Sherman sustained any significent damage, although it is possible it was temporarily disabled.
    As for Gen. Ridgway, I'll have to check the stories again. I was under the impression however his work involved moving several tanks.

    BTW Some books mention Pvt Joseph C. Fitt(s) (C/505) crossing the bridge and dropping a handgrenade in the turret of one of the tank. Apparently he received a Silver Star for this (he was killed on 13 June). Does aynone know the official citation?
    Nordyke mentions this trooper as well and lists the following source "Elmo E. Bell and The University of Southern Missisippi Center of Oral History and Cultural Heritage, An Oral History with Brigadier General Elmo Edwin Bell: A Saga of a Survivor, 2003, p.48"
    Anyone here ever read his account?
     
  15. Pat Curran

    Pat Curran Administrator
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    Hi Niels,

    Have you an ID on the disabled Sherman at bottom left on page 23, Brown Album?

    Regards,

    Pat
     
  16. Jpz4

    Jpz4 Active Member
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    Oct 24, 2012
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    Either A or B Company 70th Tank Battalion (DD Tanks). Damage seems minimal so I doubt we can find it in any of their records.
     
  17. StevenJ

    StevenJ Guest
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    #17 StevenJ, Sep 15, 2018
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 15, 2018
    Hey guys, I know this is an old thread, but there is a paper written by one of the platoon leaders who was present for part of the battle, Lt. Donald C. O'Rourke from 1st Plt, I Co., 507th PIR available from the Fort Benning Maneuver School library: http://www.benning.army.mil/library/content/Virtual/Documents/Hardcopy/paper/Forcing of Meredet Causeway at La Fiere -D809.7 .A3 no. 4000.pdf.

    Lt. O'Rourke wrote this account for the Advanced Infantry Officers' Course 1947-1948. The account contains more than his own memories, and this might account for missing detail since he may not have had first hand knowledge for some of it, though the actions including that with the Renaults is cited as "personal knowledge".

    The German tank supported attack on 7 June is described as "a strong counterattack, led by Renault tanks" and later "...two German tanks, which had been knocked out by bazooka fire, were left on the causeway." He doesn't mention if there were additional tanks that managed to pull back or the Panzer III.

    The author implies that the Sherman came from Co. A, 746th Tank Bn which was assisting in the pre- June 9 assault. He supports the mine story, saying that it wounded a number of infantry who were alongside, but doesn't describe when or where it was laid. He doesn't mention the story of a general helping move a tank wreck, though he does note that the Sherman blocked things up on the causeway.

    When I went to collect the link to the initial document, I found a second one that goes into further depth describing the actions of the bazooka men AND the Panzer III (the Renaults and Hotchkiss are just "tanks" while the Pz. III must be the "German Tank"). This account lists one tank being knocked out by a bazooka. It was then passed by two others which were knocked out with Gammon grenades. The Pz. III is the last to arrive. It seems it was first de-tracked, then destroyed by a number of bazooka shots. There are wide variety of interview sources used to build up the account, so it reads somewhat confused and I think it continually retreads the same events from multiple perspectives. http://www.benning.army.mil/library...round the la fiere bridgehead D809.7 .A3.pdf
     
  18. Jpz4

    Jpz4 Active Member
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    Oct 24, 2012
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    The fighting around La Fiere remains difficult to understand and the many conflicting sources do not make it easier. It is a shame that the aerial photographs of 8 June are still missing...…
    The incident you mention with the 'German' tank took place at Cauquigny. This is essentially unrelated to the loss of tanks in front of the bridge.

    What we do know is that four tank wrecks were left on the causeway: 1 Pz.III, 2 Renault R35 and 1 Hotchkis H39. Another H39 was left in Cauquigny. Damage on most of these vehicles is difficult to determine, but the forward most R35 was clearly hit by the 6-pounder.

    I've always had a hard time believing the version in the Regimental Unit Study. Heim's and Dolan's account seem to make more sense....

    BTW, the Shermans were from C/746TB. This compan took heavy officer losses in the first days of the invasion and as a result its reports lack detail.
     
  19. Steven Jaskowiak

    Member

    Nov 25, 2019
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    I just stumbled on an Action Against Enemy/After Action Report file for the 746th TB for all of June along with narrative statements from most of the sub-units-its uh, too large to upload here at 161 pages. Here is a picture from Co C's narrative. Available via the Ike Skelton library here: Action against enemy reports after/ after action reports: 746th Tank Battalion. :: World War II Operational Documents though it doesn't quite explain all of the things in the photo discussion above. At least it purports to provide names to some of the action.
    upload_2019-11-29_18-4-44.png
     
  20. John Szweda

    John Szweda Administrator
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