It's a pretty well known fact around this site that I have a tendency to award bonus badassery points to men and women who made a career out ofkilling Nazis. So when you take into account the incredible disdain I have for all things Fascism-related, it may come as a coronary-inducing shock to many of you that I am actually featuring a fucking goddamned Nazi SS bastard as my Badass of the Week. Now before you fire up your e-mail client and start composing angsty letters to me informing me of a now-pressing need for me to choke to death on my own vomit and rot in the fiery inferno of the seventh layer of Hell, hear me out. This week's badass, Michael Wittman, is up here despite the fact that he's a Nazi, rather than because of it. The man was the most accomplished tank commander in the history of warfare, and his exploits in Russia and France (where he fucked up Allied forces left and right) were so insane that he was actually able to overcome the epically large number of bonus points he had working against him. After quite a bit of deliberation on the subject, I decided that just because he served a goverment comprised entirely of assclowns and douchebags doesn't mean that his accomplishments should go unnoticed.
Michael Wittman joined the German army as an infantryman in 1934 at the age of twenty-one and quickly proved himself to be a high-quality soldier. It wasn't long before he was recruited into the military arm of the SS and assigned to the 1st SS Panzer Division - the elite of the German elite and a military unit so incredibly badass that every Avalon Hill tabletop wargame ever created lists it as a fucking 12-6 unit. Just for the record, a combat-ready regiment of motherfucking fifty foot tall robot Godzillas that shoot heat-seeking missles out of their crotches probably wouldn't be listed as a 12-power unit. So that's saying some shit right there. Unfortunately, instead of fragging the proponents of Democracy from the turret of a hardcore Panzer, Michael Wittman was instead assigned to the Scout Platoon, where he was in command of a crappy little armored car with a machine gun strapped to its front bumper while his buddies got to drive around like the bad guys in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade shouting cool shit like "Achtung!" and "Auf Links!". Wittman sucked it up and did his duty for the Vaterland while the Blitzkrieg rocked Poland, France and Greece like a hurricane, and finally when it was time for the 1st SS Panzer to start kicking Josef Stalin in the beets, German high command assigned Wittman command of a StuG III Assault Gun.
Now the Sturmgeschütz III technically wasn't a tank. Sure it had a big-ass 75mm gun that could punch a sucking chest wound in the Terminator, but it didn't have a moveable turret, and was generally considered to be more of an artillery piece than a straight-up tank. Nevertheless, Wittman put his skills to good use on his first day on the front lines, when he was out in the woods by himself facing a company of 18 Soviet T-34 tanks - the most badass heavy tank the Russkies had to offer. Wittman didn't even give a shit. He was so pumped to be out of that stupid armored car that he just went nuts with his little assault gun, killing six tanks and chasing the rest from the field. For his one-man assault on Communism, Wittman was awarded the Iron Cross, Second Class. Throughout 1941 and 1942 he continued kicking Russian asses from the cockpit of his self-propelled artillery piece, winning victory after victory despite being consistently outnumbered and outgunned by Soviet forces. By the time the 1st SS Panzer reached the outskirts of Moscow, Wittman and his crew had already knocked out 25 T-34s and 32 Anti-Tank Guns. His medal was upgraded to the Iron Cross First Class, and he was shipped back to Germany for Officer School.
After fucking around in Germany for a while, Wittman returned to the Ostfront in 1943 in the commander's chair of a Panzerkampfwagen VI Tigertank. While I've long said that the Panther was the most badass tank of World War II, it should be noted that the Tiger is a close second, and in the hands of a guy like Michael Wittman it was deadlier than heart disease and more dangerous than sticking your face in a bag full of angry squirrels. Wittman returned to the 1st SS Panzer just in time for the Battle of Kursk - the largest tank battle ever fought in the history of the universe - and he was prepared to whomp some asses. In the first day of fighting alone, Wittman's crew recorded eight tank kills. After fighting basically non-stop for five straight days, the crew of his Tiger had taken out 30 tanks, 28 anti-tank guns, two full batteries of artillery and one of those trucks that drives around and ladles out borscht for $2 a bowl.
As the Germans continued to fight a losing campaign against the Soviets, Wittman continued to be awesome. Once he recorded fifteen tank kills in a single day; Another time he notched thirteen. He was an unequalled tactician who had complete control over his machine, and he and his crew worked together seamlessly. He was a master of spotting out ambushes and locating concealed anti-tank gun positions, and at one point was credited with killing 66 Russian tanks in the span of only 6 months, a feat that netted him the Knight's Cross. As if he needs anything to make him more badass, I should mention that his turret gunner was a dude named Balthazar, which makes it sound like he had a fucking demon or some shit sitting in the cockpit with him.
|"Wittman blasted the enemy with furious barrages of gunfire, crashed through the position and positioned himself astride the enemy's supply road like a wolf in a herd of sheep. He placed his fiery mark on the road, smashing long lines of Soviet vehicles into junk and causing mass confusion among the Soviets".
- SS-Sturmmann Walter Lau
Just to prove that this guy wasn't a total pimmelmeister, one time Wittman blew the shit out of some jerk T-34 and the tank caught on fire like a bag full of lighter fluid. The Russian crew all bailed out and started running around on fire, flapping their arms and shit. Wittman couldn't bear to see fellow soldiers in such extreme pain, so he ordered his crew to dismount and use their bedrolls to help put out the burning soldiers. The Russians thanked him and everybody just went on their way.
After killing everything that moved on the Eastern Front, the 1st SS Panzer Division was transferred to France to help push back the invasion of Normandy, which (in case you haven't ever heard of it) was when some jackass American, British and Canadian dudes decided it would be cool to liberate Europe from the tyrannical psychotically-oppressive dictatorship of Hitler. Wittman was sent to the front to dish out fireballs like a Level 20 Sorcerer with a personality disorder, and was stationed near the French town of Villers-Bocage. This would be the place of his greatest triumph.
On 13 June 1944 two battalions of British armor came rolling up towards the town that Wittman was supposed to be defending. Wittman sat there, alone, staring out from his concealed position at a group of roughly two hundred tanks, armored carriers and other vehicles. Knowing that his orders were to hold the town, Wittman decided there was no way in hell he was going to back down from a good fight. He seized his opportunity to take the element of surprise and led a goddamned motherfucking one-man suicide charge directly into the heart of the British formation, firing like a bastard all over the place. His initial surprise attack split the British forces in two, and he went down the line picking off tanks and half-tracks one at a time, while somehow not getting blown up by enemy tanks. He closed to a range of about fourteen meters, more than close enough for the weaker Allied tanks to punch through the armor of his Tiger, but he still managed to break the back of the enemy tank battalion, leaving a swath of wreckage in his wake. Once the armored columns were in disarray, he pushed on into the town, where he came face-to-face with another company of Sherman Firefly tanks. He continued firing and moving around like a spastic chicken until all of a sudden some jerkass blew one of the treads off his Tiger, leaving him immobilized in front of a horde of angry Brits. Instead of giving up and surrendering to overwhelming odds like some sort of pussy, he instead kept blasting away like a disgruntled postal worker, destroying several enemy tanks and forcing the survivors back out of range of his guns. Once the coast was clear, he and his crew bailed out of the tank and ran fifteen kilometers to the German forward HQ. As soon as he set foot into camp, he began organizing a counter-attack, and eventually was able to force the Allies out of Villers-Bocage.
During his insane-o one-man Rambo-style assault on the British forces, Michael Wittman destroyed twenty-seven Allied tanks - the highest recorded tally of tanks killed in one day by one unit in the history of the world. In addition to single-handedly annihilating an entire battalion of Limeys, Wittman also took out a large number of armored troop transports, half-tracks and supply carriers. For his balls-out assault, Wittman received the German equivalent of the Medal of Honor and was hailed as a hero throughout the Third Reich. High Command offered to give Wittman a chance to retire and work in Berlin as a tank instructor but Wittman refused, stating that his duty was to engage the enemy. He had asses to kick, goddamnit. He returned to the front almost immediately, and on 8 August 1944 he was killed in action when he was fired on simultaneously by eight million different British and Canadian tanks, anti-tank guns, bazookas, bomber aircraft and nerf rocket launchers. His tank was obliterated to the point where his remains weren't found until like two years after the war ended or something.
Despite being a goddamned Nazi, Michael Wittman was perhaps the greatest and most daring tank commander the world has ever seen. During his career, he recorded 138 tank kills, 132 anti-tank gun kills, and destroyed hundreds of trucks, carriers, artillery, and errant sportscars. There's even a report that he fired his tank gun at a Russian submarine once, probably just to be awesome. The guy was completely balls-out, afraid of nothing, and capable of killing anything with wheels and/or tracks. He was an accomplished commander, a skilled tactician, and a worthy adversary for Allied forces on both sides of the European Theater.
"At this point, enemy tanks have ceased to be a strain on my nerves."
- Michael Wittman