La Gleize - Köningstiger 213


La Gleize, situated in the northern part of the Belgian Ardennes, is a small village in the Belgian province Liège. La Gleize is mostly known as being the location where the German offensive came to a standstill during the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944.

History

When people think about the Battle of the Bulge, they inevitably think about the heroic American Forces who where surrounded in Bastogne. From a German point of view, the gravity point of the offensive was situated in the northern part of the Ardennes. For the Germans, Bastogne was not the most important target during the offensive. Just like some of the other pockets of resistance who had to be bypassed very quickly.

The gravity point of the German offensive, called “Wacht Am Rhein”, was based completely on the success of the 1e SS Panzer Regiment Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler under command of the legendary Obersturmbahnführer Jochen Peiper. The regiment was also known as Kampfgruppe Peiper.

In order to stop the German offensive the US Army moved some of their divisions to the La Gleize region with as main task to surround Kampfguppe Peiper and stop the advance. Units included were: 3e Armored Divsion, 30e Infantry Division and the paratroopers of the 82e Airborne Divsion.

When the 800 survivors of Peiper's 1st SS Panzer Regiment withdrew from their encirclement on Christmas Eve of 1944, they left behind 135 armored vehicles, including the Tiger 2 tank currently in front of the museum. The cancellation of the attack by Peiper is seen as one of the main causes of the failure of the German Ardennes Offensive. It is often said that the Americans won the Battle of the Bulge at Bastogne, but that the Germans lost it at La Gleize.

In the museum, the memories of these tragic events are kept alive through one of the most impressive war collections in Europe. Most of the objects from this unique collection come from the immediate vicinity of la Gleize.

Köningstiger 213

The museum has an impressive collection of vehicles, equipment and uniforms. The most unique of the collection is the German Köningstiger tank. This Tiger II, build in October 1944, with number 213 was destroyed during the defense of the Werimont farm. When the Americans came to collect the tank for scrapping after the battle, the innkeeper's wife swapped the tank for a bottle of brandy, thus saving the tank from demolition.

Tank 213 was used during the last battles around la Gleize as a command tank by SS Obersturmführer Helmut Dollinger. It is not entirely clear when Dollinger took tank 213 into service because the tank was also used by SS Unterscharführer Franz Faustmann. The fact is that Dollinger used the tank in la Gleize.

Tiger 213, Tiger 221 and a Panzer IV tank defended the Werimont farm near la Gleize. On December 21, 1944, the American tanks of Task Force McGeorge and Task Force Lovelady of the 3rd Armored Division attacked la Gleize.

At about noon, Dollinger in tank 213 and Georg Hantusch in tank 221 opened fire on fifteen American tanks coming from the direction of Roanne, but they did not destroy one single American tank. The Americans fired back and damaged the 88mm barrel of Dollinger's tank. Hantusch's tank was also badly damaged and both crews had to leave the tanks behind. Dollinger had been injured in the head and was taking cover in the cellar of the Werimont farm before retreating on foot with the rest of the defeated Kampfgruppe Peiper.

After the war, the Americans came to clean up the remaining wreckage from the battlefield. Mrs. Jenny Geenen-Dewez traded the tank for a bottle of cognac in July 1945.

The imposing Tiger was moved to the square in la Gleize and restored by welding part of the barrel of another tank to the barrel of the 213.


Source: http://www.december44.com/

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