The French prisoners, sixteen United States infantry under

            The Battle for Castle Itter was one
of the final battles of World War 2, taking place on the 5th of May,
1945, only five days after Hitler’s suicide and two days before the official surrender
of Nazi Germany. Castle Itter (Schloss Itter) was a small 19th-century Austrian
Castle located in Itter, a village in the state of Tyrol; which later became a
prison for French VIPs in the second world war. Probably the most interesting
part of the battle would easily be the participants that fought in it; namely
the fact that it is one of, if not the only, battle where both American and
German soldiers fought alongside each other.

            The allied side of the battle
consisted of a grand total of somewhere around 45 people, about nine or so being
former French prisoners, sixteen United States infantry under the command of
Captain John C. Lee, Jr and Lieutenant Harry Basse, eleven Wehrmacht Heer
soldiers under the command of Major Josef Gangl and a Waffen SS Hauptsturmführer,
Kurt-Siegfried Schrader, as well as one M4A3E8 Sherman. Opposing them is an
estimate of about 150 to 200 Waffen SS under the command of Hauptsturmführer
Sebastian Wimmer as well as two 2 cm Flak 30, and a single Flak 41 88mm. The
allied side received reinforcements after about twelve to sixteen hours after
the battle began, said reinforcements consisting of approximately two more
Wehrmacht Heer Soldiers, 3 additional M4 Shermans, a single member of the
Austrian resistance, and other reinforcements from the United States 104th
Infantry Division. By the end of the battle, only a handful of Wehrmacht and US
troops were killed in the battle, as well as the M4A3E8 Sherman destroyed,
while having killed dozens of SS.

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            On the 3rd of May, 1945, the
French Prisoners within Castle Itter rebelled against their captors, the SS
tropes of the “Death’s Head brigade” (SS-Totenkopfverbände);
beginning with killing one of the top leaders of the prison, Eduard Weiter.
This act resulted in the retreat of the SS troops under the order of Hauptsturmführer
Sebastian Wimmer and the true beginning of the battle. Now freed, the French
prisoners armed themselves with the discarded weapons left behind. The next
day, Andreas Krobot snuck through SS lines using a bicycle and went looking for
help, which he had found in the town of Wörgl in the for of Major Josef Gangl.
The Major and his soldiers had made the conscious decision to defy Hitler’s
orders, as was surprisingly common among the Wehrmacht in the last few days of
the war. Gangle and his men had joined up with the Austrian resistance to
protect the town from the SS; because of this, their forces were depleted, and would
not be able to be much assistance on their own. However, Gangl’s troops had met
with a division of American Armor, and its commander of Captain Jack Lee, who
also decided to help the French prisoners. Even with the small force, the
combined force broke through SS lines and back to the castle.

            On the 5th of May, 1945,
the SS troops launched their assault. The Sherman had held back the SS from
reaching the gates, but was unfortunately destroyed by an 88mm shell; no
casualties were caused from the destruction, though Major Gangl was killed
trying to pull one of the French Prisoners, former Prime Minister Reynaud from
the line of fire not long after the destruction of the Sherman. As the battle
raged, the allied side quickly ran low on ammunition and were close to defeat;
however, one of the French Prisoners, a tennis player by the name of Jean
Borotra lept the castle walls and ran through the SS lines to contact the allied
reinforcements. Miraculously, he both survived and succeeded, leading the
United States 104th Infantry Regiment, and defeating the SS troops and
rescued the prisoners; taking somewhere around 100 SS as prisoners, the former
French prisoners evacuated that evening, and reached Paris about five days
after. It is not certain whether Hauptsturmführer Sebastian Wimmer was
captured, killed, or escaped during the battle. In the end, it was a short
battle, lasting only two days, one in conflict, and resulted in an Allied
victory, as it tended to during the last days of the second World War.

            Despite how interesting, and seemingly
ridiculous nature of the battle, it is still relatively obscure; the only things
that tell the story outside of historical documentaries or other information
sites would be the Swedish metal band Sabaton’s song The Last Battle and a movie coming out in 2018, sharing the same
name, directed by Peter Landesman. As stated previously, the battle was one of
the only ones, if not the only one, where both German and American forced fought
alongside each other for a goal during World War 2; and that is really fascinating.