When World War II came to an end, five days after Hitler committed suicide in his Berlin bunker, one of the strangest battles of World War II took place in a 19th century castle in the Austrian Alps.
In the castle Itter, located on a hill near the town of Itter, there were some very important French personalities captive at the hands of the SS. When the SS soldiers fled the castle the prisoners took up arms and fought side by side with US and German troops against the Nazis.
The Battle of Itter Castle was the only battle of the Second World War where Allied forces fought alongside German troops.
After the German annexation of Austria in the late 1940s, Itter Castle was expropriated and by order of Heinrich Himmler became a prison where several high profile prisoners and personalities from various fields were imprisoned, including former French President Albert Lebrun , Former prime ministers Paul Reynaud and Edouard Daladier, generals like Maxime Weygand and Maurice Gamelin, and a renowned tennis star, Jean Borotra, among others.
The story of the battle begins on May 4, 1945, when three Sherman tanks under Lieutenant Jack Lee Jr.’s orders head to the castle with the intention of rescuing their prisoners. Meanwhile, the German commander Josef Gangl, commanding a unit of Wehrmacht soldiers, and future deserter, made similar plans. Gangl was due to surrender to US forces and decided that helping to free the French prisoners could do well on his service sheet. So, waving a large white flag, Gangl approached the lieutenant and gave himself. He told the lieutenant his willingness to fight against the Nazis and the American officer decided to have him and his men on the rescue mission.
The castle was heavily protected by members of the 17th Panzer Grenadier Division of the Waffen-SS, but before the imminent arrival of American troops and the threat of resistance, one of whose leaders had escaped, the castle garrison fled. The French prisoners, already without the presence of the SS, were equipped with the weapons that the Germans had abandoned and received the three Sherman tanks and the German soldiers that was going to rescue them.
The dawn of May 5 the Nazis returned to try to take over the castle again.Lieutenant Lee along with the German soldiers antinazis and the French prisoners defended themselves. Its forces consisted of only fourteen American soldiers, two Sherman tanks , one Volkswagen Kübelwagen and one truck carrying ten German soldiers.
This strange alliance was able to resist until reinforcements arrived, the 142nd American Infantry Regiment, which defeated the SS. German commander Josef Gangl died during the battle, victim of a sniper.
It was the only battle in history where American, French and German fought together and in addition, defending a castle.
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