Waffen-SS Tiger Crews at Kursk

The Men of SS Panzer Regiments 1, 2 & 3 in Operation Citadel, July 5-15, 1943

Waffen-SS Tiger Crews at Kursk

Books by French MacLean

This Date in History: July 14


Kapitänleutnant Gerhard Bigalk

U-751, still under the command of Kapitänleutnant Bigalk, left St. Nazaire, France on July 14, 1942 for her “lucky seventh” war patrol.  It was anything but.  Only three days out of port, on July 17, 1942 northwest of Cape Ortegal, Spain, a Whitley bomber of RAF Coastal Command’s 502nd Squadron, surprised the U-boat on the surface off northwest Spain and dropped six depth charges that, according to the aircrew, literally lifted the U-751 out of the water.  The Whitley doubled back for a second run and Kapitänleutnant Bigalk dived and avoided destruction.  After several hours he surfaced the boat only to find a Lancaster four-engine bomber of the 61st Squadron orbiting overhead.  The Lancaster bore in and dropped ten depth charges, while the U-751 fired back with all of her flak guns.  This massive attack succeeded and the U-boat slid stern first to the bottom.  The Lancaster’s crew reported that many of the doomed crew made it off the boat into the water, where they shook their fists at the British aircraft in an audacious gesture of final defiance.  None were ever seen again.  (Dönitz’s Crews: Germany’s U-Boat Sailors in World War II)



At Kursk the mechanics were slowly losing the fight to fix all the damaged Tigers.   The 13th (Heavy) Company now had five operational Tigers on July 14, 1943.   The plan, part of Operation Roland to envelope elements of the Soviet 69th Army, was for the division to wait northeast of Komsomol’skiy State Farm at Hill 241.6 until Das Reich had seized the village of Pravorot’ (Правороть,) and then Leibstandarte would advance to Yamki farm.  To undertake a time-phased mission of this sort, the armored group of Leibstandarte was placed under the operational control of Das Reich.  However, division reconnaissance forces detected that the Soviets were massing to attack near Yamki farm in the east and Mikhaylovka (Михайловка) in the west to cut off the salient held by the division, and the 2nd SS Panzer Corps called off the attack of the Leibstandarte.

For July 14, the SS Panzer Grenadier Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler lost 21 killed in action, 114 wounded in action and 16 missing in action during the fighting at the Oktiabrskii Sovkhoz area and Storozhevoye Woods.  Soviet elements from the 53rd Motorized Rifle Brigade, the 31st  Tank Brigade, the 25th Tank Brigade and the 26th Tank Brigade suffered 144 killed in action, 467 wounded in action and 50 missing in action.  (Waffen-SS Tiger Crews at Kursk: The Men of SS Panzer Regiments 1, 2 & 3 in Operation Citadel, July 5-15, 1943)


Where mysteries are solved!

As in The Fifth Field; why and how 96 American Army soldiers were executed in Europe and North Africa in World War II, and are now buried in a secret cemetery in France. And why those records were kept in a closet for six decades.

Or in American Hangman, was the US Army Hangman at Nuremberg later murdered on a remote Pacific atoll? Or that the Waffen-SS scoured German prisons in World War II to use hardened criminals in combat, much the same as the Russians do today in the Ukraine? Read The Cruel Hunters

Or maybe you like Wild West adventures. Did you know that two years before Custer’s Last Stand at the Little Bighorn, a wagon train of some 150 of the best shots on the frontier traveled part of Custer’s later route in search of the Lost Cabin Gold Mine, ran into Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and 1,400 warriors and survived? And that the longest rifle shot of the Wild West happened in their final battle? See where in Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Gold & Guns

Here’s the bottom line up front. Don’t spend your life chasing a decimal point and see how rich you can get. Make your life one grand adventure after another.

I had a great life spending over thirty years in the Army; was able to help defend the country in two wars with a bunch of tremendous soldiers and any success I may have had was due to each and every one of them; as I frequently tell my friends — I am no hero, but I served with heroes and you can’t do any better than that. I was also able to see the world, help develop complex technology and understand that I lived in a pretty special country.

And the people I’ve been lucky enough to meet? One is a king in the Mideast. One briefed Hitler in 1942 about the situation on the Eastern Front and then ate lunch with him. Another was scheduled to receive an award from Hitler at the Wolf’s Lair on July 20, 1944 and had a cup of coffee and small talk that morning with a gent by the name of von Stauffenberg! And then there was the interview in 2002 with a very interesting fellow in his office in Vienna — Simon Wiesenthal.

The only downside to all that Army time was that after I retired, regular day-to-day living was pretty boring.

So I concentrated on writing. It didn’t and doesn’t bring you much money, but it sure has been interesting traveling around the world to chase after historical mysteries. I came across a page or two in some World War II history books, for example, on some special Waffen-SS unit in World War II that was composed of criminals let out of jail — but there were not that many details about it — and by luck I ran into detailed records of the unit buried in our National Archives. That led to The Cruel Hunters: SS-Sonderkommando Dirlewanger Hitler’s Most Notorious Anti-Partisan Unit.

Several more books on Germany in World War II followed: the dark side with works on concentration camps, Einsatzkommandos, and the Destruction of the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto, and more-traditional writings on Luftwaffe Knights Cross winners and U-Boat sailors. That was fun, because I was able to interview many of them.

On a trip out to the Little Bighorn, I began to wonder what life was like for enlisted cavalryman, as most books talked about officers — George Custer, Marcus Reno and Frederick Benteen — but what about the hundreds of privates & sergeants? That search led to Custer’s Best: The Story of Company M, 7th Cavalry at the Little Bighorn, which was able to win the John M. Carroll Award.

In 2001, I discovered Army records languishing outside Washington, D.C. concerning 96 American soldiers who were court-martialed in Europe and North Africa in World War II and then executed by the Army — not the German Army, but our own Army. And they were buried in a secret cemetery northwest of Paris that is not shown on any map! It took me a decade to run down all the loose ends, which led to The Fifth Field: The Story of the 96 American Soldiers Sentenced to Death and Executed in Europe and North Africa in World War II, which subsequently received the Lieutenant General Richard G. Trefry Award, proof that if you are willing to hunt for the truth long enough, you can find it and prove what happened.

I stumbled across a little known battlefield in southeast Montana on a bed & breakfast ranch (The longest shot of the West happened nearby,) and that turned in into Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Gold and Guns: The 1874 Yellowstone Wagon Road and Prospecting Expedition and the Battle of Lodge Grass Creek, the saga of a wagon train in Montana in 1874 that was searching for gold. The 150 gold miners, buffalo hunters and Civil War veterans found no gold, but they did run into Sitting Bull and 1,400 of his closest friends. You can visit the route they took today, as many of their campsites and their three major skirmishes with Sitting Bull are all shown with GPS coordinates that you can just plug into your device.

I helped a great friend finish his own non-fiction book on the murder of Tsar Nicholas II, as well as a magazine article analyzing the Little Bighorn Cook-Benteen Note (it might have been “doctored” after the battle.) His book is titled Romanovs’ Murder Case: The Myth of the Basement Room Massacre. (Spoiler Alert: The Bolsheviks lied about what happened, and there was an American Army officer closely involved with the event.)

Then I finished a massive book on the German offensive at Verdun in 1916, but so far have been unable to contract with a publisher, so if you know of one that might be interested let me know!

Then came a biography of Master Sergeant John C. Woods, the U.S. Army hangman in Europe, who also hanged numerous Nazi war criminals at Landsberg and Nürnberg in 1945-46. American Hangman: MSgt. John C. Woods: The United States Army’s Notorious Executioner in World War II and Nürnberg.

The latest book is on the Tiger tank crews of the 2nd SS Panzer Corps at the Battle of Kursk in July 1943. Waffen-SS Tiger Crews at Kursk is the first work in any language concentrating on the crews, rather than the tank; you’ll meet over 220 crewmen that rode on these super tanks.

An upcoming book is on my father’s experience as an Infantry soldier in the 9th Infantry Division in World War II. He fought in the Hürtgen Forest, a place called Merode Castle, and The Battle of the Bulge, and the book is about what it was like to be a young infantryman in these bloody battles. They had a really tough time; in just the last eleven months of the war, they had 88 killed in action and several hundred wounded. You’ll see some guys were wounded up to three times and some replacements arrived at the company in the morning and were dead by sundown. I’ve put my heart and soul in this because of my father and I think it will be the last book I write — and clearly the best I believe.

The best news is that Schiffer Publishing is doing the book. Dying Hard : Company B, 39th Infantry Regiment, 9th US Infantry Division in WWII. Publishing is scheduled for September 28, 2024, appropriate as that will be roughly the 80th Anniversary of the start of the Hürtgen Forest!

Two other books are ready for you right now, completely FREE, and can be found in the E-Books section. Both are novels. One is a crime novel set in Puerto Rico that touches on the murder of famed boxer Hector “Macho” Camacho, and the other a new version of “Dante’s Inferno” with World War II personages occupying the various levels of hell. Both books are downloadable in three formats. There are no ads or commercials in either one, no surveys to take, and both are ABSOLUTELY FREE.

Another observation I made while in the Army was that the world is a dangerous place and unfortunately a lot of that danger is coming to our own country. September 11, 2001 should have been a wake-up call, but too many lessons have already been forgotten and acts of terror now occur in large cities and small towns across the country. So I have also started several projects to help people organize their thoughts on personal protection (such as self-defense weapons, situational awareness, etc.) and how we might want to analyze some of these enemies to our nation (see Strategy, Weapons and Tactics).

So come on inside and go on Your Own Adventure!

Latest News

Publication Date Dying Hard: September 28, 2024

Schiffer Publishing announced the publishing date for Dying Hard:  Company B, 39th Infantry Regiment, 9th US Infantry Division in WWII.  You can go their website,  https://schifferbooks.com/products/dying-hard

Book is roughly 345 pages long; 10 maps of Company B during the war, with emphasis on 1944-45.  16 pages of photos, including  composites showing about 45 soldiers in the company.  Many of the rest, 34 pix, are combat photos, many never in print before.

So, why should you read it? 

Most importantly, it puts YOU in Company B. In North Africa, Sicily, Normandy, the Hürtgen Forest, Merode Castle, Battle of the Bulge, Siegfried Line, Remagen Bridge, and a nice little hellhole called Stalag VI G.

Secondly, you will fit right in with us in Company B.  How do we know?

When something in life knocks you down, you get back up, wipe the blood off your nose, and say: “Is that all you’ve got?” you’re in Company B.  If people told you that you were too small, too slow, too poor, or too anything, and you proved them all wrong, you’re in Company B.

You love dogs?  In 1942, a young soldier found a stray dog in the Aleutian Islands and took care of him until reassigned to the States. Putting the dog, named Buff, in his duffel bag, the trooper took him on the long journey.  Months later, the soldier climbed aboard a troopship—Buff hidden again in his duffel bag—and sailed to Europe
and Company B, where Buff served as a mascot and helped pull guard duty.  So if you love dogs, you’re in Company B too.

So, rise and shine, grab your helmet and follow us.  And make sure your M1 Rifle is loaded because we’re going back to the line.

July 3, 2024|

Kudos for Stalingrad

(November 8, 2013)  Distinguished Stalingrad author Jason Mark, who has written such classics as Island of Fire: The Battle for the Barrikady Gun Factory in Stalingrad, Death of the Leaping Horseman: 24. Panzer-Division in Stalingrad, Into Oblivion: The Story of Pionier-Battalion 305, Angriff: The German Attack on Stalingrad in Photos, and An Artilleryman in Stalingrad, now offers Stalingrad: The Death of the German Sixth Army on the Volga, 1942-1943 for purchase on his website (www.leapinghorseman.com).  Jason writes on his site:

“Leaping Horseman Books gives this two-volume set its highest recommendation. The level of detail is astounding.  For every day of the battle there is map and an account of the actions and casualties of every corps and division in 6. Armee, followed by a closer look at an individual soldier who died on that day.”

Check out his website for this book and for many of Jason’s excellent offerings.

November 8, 2013|
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