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Hans von Luck
File:Hans von Luck.jpg
Hans von Luck during World War II
Born (1911-07-15)15 July 1911
Died 1 August 1997(1997-08-01) (aged 86)
Place of birth Flensburg
Place of death Hamburg
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch Heer
Years of service 1929–1945
Rank Oberst

7th Panzer-Division

21st Panzer-Division
Commands held Kampfgruppe von Luck
Battles/wars Invasions of Poland, France and Soviet Union; North Africa
Awards Iron Cross {II & I Class}
Knight's Cross
German Cross
Close Combat Clasp in Bronze
Medaglia d'Argento
Other work Military lecturer, author

Hans–Ulrich Freiherr von Luck und Witten (15 July 1911 – 1 August 1997),[1] usually shortened to Hans von Luck, was a Colonel in the German Armored Forces (Oberst der Panzerwaffe) during World War II. He served with the 7th Panzer Division and 21st Panzer Division, seeing action in Poland, France, North Africa, Italy and Russia. He was a close associate of Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel. He is author of the book Panzer Commander.

Early life

Luck was born in Flensburg, Province of Schleswig-Holstein, into a Prussian family with old military roots, going back to the 13th century.[2] Members of his family had fought for Frederick the Great during the Seven Years' War. Luck's father, Otto von Luck, broke tradition by serving as an officer in the Kaiserliche Marine or the Imperial German Navy. During the First World War he took part in the Battle of Jutland, and died in July 1918 from the great flu pandemic. Germany signed the armistice four months later, ending the war. Following his father's death, his family was destitute. They lived for a time with a local farmer, until his mother remarried. Luck's step-father was a naval chaplain and an instructor at a cadet school. Luck was brought up in a strict household by his adoptive father, in what was a typical "Prussian" manner, a manner which he believed was ultimately to his benefit during the hardships of later years.[3]

On 1 April 1917 Luck enrolled in the Monastery School in Flensburg. There Luck studied the classic languages of Latin and Greek. In addition to his studies, Luck practiced horsemanship and became a skilled pianist.[4] He became fluent in a number of languages, including French, English, and Russian. During the war, he was able to communicate with French and British soldiers, and later, during his imprisonment in Soviet Russia, he was able to use his knowledge of Russian in many negotiations, including that of his release. Luck felt his early training in classical languages served him well in later life.

In 1929, after taking his Abitur, Luck started his career as an Army officer, serving as a cadet in a Silesian cavalry regiment.[5] He was unexpectedly transferred to the 1st Motorized Battalion in East Prussia after a short while, something Luck regretted, perceiving the cavalry as the elite force.[5] He soon found the future Panzerwaffe to be to his liking, however. Through the winter of 1931 to 1932 Luck attended a nine-month course, led by Erwin Rommel, at the infantry school in Dresden, to complete his commission as a junior officer.[6] In the autumn of 1932 Luck was promoted to Lieutenant, and in 1933 his unit were equipped with their first scout cars, marking the first step towards becoming an armoured reconnaissance battalion. On 30 June 1934 Luck's unit took part in the Night of the Long Knives, arresting several Sturmabteilung members in Stettin.[7]

In 1936 Luck assumed command over the 3rd company in the 8th Armoured Reconnaissance Battalion, stationed in Potsdam. Here he spent much time working under the personal supervision of General Heinz Guderian, who was responsible for forming the doctrines for the new German armoured force. Luck spent the next years serving in various armoured units, and traveled extensively around Europe when on leave. In 1939 he was posted to the 2nd Light Division, serving with the 7th Armoured Reconnaissance Battalion.

World War II

Invasion of Poland

Motorcycle reconnaissance forces in Poland, September, 1939

On 1 September 1939 the 2nd Light Division, under General Georg Stumme, attacked Poland. Luck led the reconnaissance force in the vanguard of the Division. Over the next days, the Division advanced through Kielce, Radom and Łódź, but it was not until 6 September that serious resistance was encountered. The Division continued on towards Warsaw, and on 9 September it reached the outskirts. The city did not fall until 27 September, marking the unit's end of fighting in Poland, after suffering only light casualties.[8]

After Poland, the unit returned to Germany, where the 2nd Light Division was reorganised and reequipped to form the 7th Panzer Division. On 6 February 1940 General Rommel assumed command of the unit. As a new division it was equipped with what was available. In this case the divisions single panzer regiment was equipped primarily with the Panzer 38(t) obtained from Czechoslovakia. These were supplemented by a handful of German Panzer III and Panzer IV medium tanks. Luck was a part of the reconnaissance unit, the 37th Armoured Reconnaissance Battalion commanded by Major Erdmann. This unit was equipped with six-wheel scout cars armed with a 2.0 cm gun. At the beginning of May 1940 the unit was moved to the Eifel mountains area, in preparation for the invasion of France.

Invasion of France

On 10 May 1940 the 7th Panzer Division, a part of 15th Panzer Corps under General Hermann Hoth, advanced into Belgium to proceed to the Meuse river near Dinant as part of the invasion of France. At the Meuse 7th Panzer was held up, due to the bridge having been destroyed and determined sniper and artillery fire from the French defenders. The Germans lacked smoke grenades, so Rommel, having assumed personal command of the crossing, ordered a few nearby houses to be torched to conceal the attack, and summoned Ju87 Stukas to dive-bomb the French defences. The German Panzer Grenadiers crossed the rivers in rubber boats, with Rommel leading the second wave across the river.[9] The aerial bombardment, while not seeming to do much damage, psychologically battered the French defenders so much that most of them abandoned their posts and ran. The Division, still spearheaded by Luck's recce force, dashed further inland, always spurred on by Rommel, and far in front of any friendly forces.

German armour in France, May 1940

By 18 May the Division had captured Cambrai, and on 20 May it reached Arras. Here Rommel wanted to cut off the British Expeditionary Force's path to the coast, and Luck was tasked with forcing a crossing over the La Bassée canal near the city. During this action Luck was wounded in the hand, but after a night's rest he was back with the unit. Supported by Stuka dive bombers, the unit managed to force a crossing. The British launched a counterattack (Battle of Arras) with Matilda tanks, and the Germans found their 3.7 cm antitank guns and their 75mm tank guns useless against its heavy armor. Several batteries of 88 mm guns and 105mm guns had to be brought up to deal with the threat. The British and French Counterattack was so effective that the German gunners found themselves firing over open sights in order to knock out the Matilda tanks and the Char B1s. The crossing was secured after several days of fierce fighting.

The 7th Panzer continued its advance, and on 27 May it reached Lille. The following day the Division came under heavy fire from German artillery due to the rapidity of the advance. During this barrage the commander of the 37th Armoured Reconnaissance Battalion was killed, and Rommel assigned Luck to this command, despite Luck being the second youngest company commander in the unit. While the British evacuated the troops at Dunkirk, the 7th Panzer Division was given a few days of rest. During this period Luck received the Iron Cross I class.

On 5 June the Division resumed its advance, in a drive for the Seine river to secure the bridges near Rouen. Advancing 100 km in two days, the Division reached Rouen, only to find the bridges destroyed. On 8 June Luck led his recce battalion towards the coast, with the tanks of the Division some distance behind. On 9 June Luck reached the coast, where Rommel ordered him to proceed southwards with only his recce battalion and a battery of 88mm guns in support to capture the port of Fecamp. Upon reaching the port, Luck demanded the port's surrender, but due to the presence of two British destroyers evacuating troops, this was denied. On 10 June Luck ordered all his troops to open fire on the destroyers, the port facilities and the radio station in the town, in the hope of forcing the town into surrendering. Apart from the few 88 mm guns he had only the light 3.7 and 2 cm guns of the scout cars to help with the barrage. Nevertheless the barrage quickly persuaded the French garrison to surrender, while the two British destroyers steamed away.[10]

On 15 June 7th Panzer started advancing on Cherbourg. On 17 June the division advanced 350 km, and on 18 June the town was captured. The Division then proceeded towards Bordeaux, but stopped when the armistice was signed on 21 June. In July the Division was sent to the Paris area to start preparations for Operation Seelöwe. The preparations were half-hearted however, as it became clearer and clearer that the Luftwaffe would not be able to secure air superiority over the British coast. In February 1941 Rommel was replaced by General Freiherr von Funk. In June the Division was sent to East Prussia.

Invasion of the Soviet Union

Hans von Luck's map of 7th Panzer's advance to Yakhroma, North of Moscow on the Moscow-Volga Canal

On 22 June 1941 the invasion of the Soviet Union began. Luck, now a Hauptmann, was attached to the Division HQ, and the division was attached to 3rd Panzer Group under Army Group Center. 3rd Panzer Group captured Vilnius, Lithuania before advancing on Minsk. During this advance Luck had a narrow escape, when he and his adjutant in a Mercedes cabriolet stumbled into a large group of Russian infantry along a narrow wooded track. The adjutant firing wildly, they managed to escape.[11] After the capture of Minsk the armored spearhead continued east towards Vitebsk. After Vitebsk, Luck was again assigned as commander of the Armoured Reconnaissance Battalion, after the previous commander was killed in action.

On 26 July the pocket around Smolensk was closed, with Luck's Battalion closing the Smolensk-Moscow road. Continuing on towards Moscow Luck encountered increasingly stiff resistance, and more and more T-34 and T-50 tanks, which were impervious to the 3.7 cm guns the recce battalion had, and could only be destroyed with 88 mm guns. This, and the lengthening supply distances, forced the advance to a crawl.

By the end of October massive snowfalls and plummeting temperatures forced the advance to halt. During November only very few advances were made, although the 7th Panzer Division managed to secure a bridgehead south of Kalinin and not far from the outskirts of Moscow, with a detachment of Luck's command penetrating into the city itself. On 3 December Luck had to cover the retreat of the division from a bridgehead to an area east of Klin. The withdrawal could only be conducted on two roads, with very high piles of snow alongside them, meaning that no maneuvering could take place. The Soviet air force put the retreating columns under constant attack, and it suffered heavy losses. There was little antiaircraft artillery available, and the Luftwaffe had already retreated to air bases further west. Luck's rearguard, however, had a substantial number of light antiaircraft guns, and managed to extract itself without heavy losses. The withdrawal did not end until the German units were forced to a position 100 km from Moscow. On 2 January 1942 Luck was awarded a new honor that Hitler had created, the German Cross in Gold.[12] Since November Rommel had requested the transfer of Luck to Africa to take over command of one of his recon battalions. 7th Panzer's General Funk finally allowed the order to go through once the crisis of the Russian counterattack had passed. Luck left the Russian front in late January, 1942.

North Africa

Elements of a German reconnaissance battalion.

After spending February and March 1942 on leave, Luck reported back for duty on 1 April 1942 and transferred to the Afrikakorps, reaching Africa on 8 April, where he was reunited with Rommel. Luck, now a major, assumed command over the 3rd Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion of the 21st Panzer Division. Over the next two months Luck familiarised himself with the African theatre, during a lull in the fighting. On 24 May an offensive was launched towards Tobruk.

On 27 May Luck's recce battalion, in support of the attack on the Gazala positions, encountered a group of American built Grant tanks. The Grants opened fire from such a range that the 5 cm antitank guns Luck commanded were ineffective. Luck ordered his men to set up defensive positions, but while he was directing the deployment and fire of the antitank guns, he was wounded in the right leg by shrapnel, and the doctor treating him wanted him evacuated to a field hospital. By this time the battalion, and indeed the whole Afrikakorps, was encircled by the British, however, and Luck had to conduct defensive operations. Rommel decided to withdraw through the partially defended Gazala positions, and Luck was tasked with protecting the south flank of the withdrawal. For five days Luck, with a steady dosage of morphine to ease the pain in his leg, conducted a fighting retreat with his battalion. On 1 June the Afrikakorps had managed to disengage, and Luck could finally be evacuated to a field hospital, while Rommel resumed the attack on the British positions south of Gazala.

Reversal of fortunes

The wound in Luck's leg had become infected, and he was sent to Germany to recuperate. In mid September Luck was declared fit for duty and returned to Africa. There he resumed his command of the 3rd recce battalion, garrisoned at a pleasant oasis near Siwa on the edge of the Qattara Depression, guarding the south flank of the Afrikakorps. Here, the battalion lived a mostly carefree existence, the only threat being the occasional raid by the British Long Range Desert Group.

El Alamein 1942: Destroyed Panzer IIIs near Tel el Eisa

On 23 October 1942 the lull was broken, as the British launched the attack of the Second Battle of El Alamein, and on 2 November General Montgomery broke through the German lines. On 4 November the XX Italian Corps had been surrounded, and a 20 km gap had appeared in the German lines. Rommel, despite Hitler's orders to the contrary, ordered a general retreat, and Luck's recce battalion withdrew, protecting the south flank, and scouting for any mounting threats to the retreat. On 7 November Luck linked up with General Hermann-Bernhard Ramcke who led the Ramcke Parachute Brigade. The remaining 700 paratroopers had left all their heavy equipment behind, and had walked a long way, but still remained in good fighting order.

On 8 November Luck received two additional recce battalions in support, and continued operations to ensure the safety of the Afrikakorps southern flank. During the next days there were frequent encounters with British patrols seeking alternative paths to outflank the Germans. On one occasion Luck, facing the Royal Dragoons regiment, received a radio transmission from the British asking about the well being of a British patrol gone missing. Luck confirmed that the men had been captured, and were in fine form. After this a regular 5 pm cease fire was established, and the two sides swapped information about men captured and their conditions.[13]

On 20 November Luck returned to Rommel's HQ, where a depressed Rommel told him the battle of Africa was lost, and that all that was left to do was to evacuate as many officers, specialist and veterans as possible.[14] Rommel also told Luck that the war was lost, and all that was left was to make a peace treaty with the allies, which would entail the removal of Hitler. Rommel claimed that only an alliance between the Western countries against Russia could save Western Civilization, and Winston Churchill was the man to lead it. On 6 December the Germans retreated to Tunisia. The severe fuel shortage curtailed operations, but on 17 December Luck and his reinforced detachment managed to flank an advancing British Armor Division, and destroy 20 tanks using the 88mm guns. On 31 December Luck was ordered further west, to secure the area south of Tripoli.

The end of the campaign in Africa

On 23 January Tripoli fell to the British. A few days later Luck, leading a patrol following a report of high-ranking officers in the area, observed through his binoculars a meeting between Montgomery and what he believed to be Churchill, wearing a safari helmet.[15] The range was considered too far for engagement, but Luck claims in his memoirs that "Actually, I thought about what Rommel said about Churchill and held my fire." Later that month, Luck captured David Stirling of the Special Air Service.

On 1 February 1943 Rommel attacked the Americans in Morocco who had landed there during Operation Torch. Luck was again tasked with protecting the flanks of the assault, and then to go on the offensive to harass the retreating Americans. On 19 February Luck was tasked with capturing the Kasserine pass in a surprise coup. The Americans were alert, however, and the heavy defensive fire spoiled Luck's advance. Rommel, however, led a decisive attack on the following day with the 21st and 10th Panzer Divisions, breaking through the Pass within minutes. The Americans fought stupidly, and their tanks were no match for the Panzer IV F2 (called 'MkIV Special' by the British) and Tiger tanks of the Germans. Over the next days, Luck supported the advance, but his unit lost most of its armored cars and ammunition, and in the beginning of March the battalion was pulled back and kept as reserve.

By the end of March the German positions in Africa became more and more desperate. Rommel flew to Germany to argue that the forces would have to withdrawn. He was rejected, and denied permission to return to Africa. Luck received orders from the new commander of Army Group Africa, General Hans-Jürgen von Arnim, to fly back to Germany to try to persuade Hitler of the necessity to withdraw experienced troops from Africa. It was hoped a battle-hardened major would perhaps have a better chance. Luck travelled to the Führer's HQ, but the plan was flatly rejected by Hitler's chief of staff, Alfred Jodl. Luck wanted to travel back to Africa, but all travel to the beleaguered forces was forbidden. By the end of April, as the situation had grown very desperate, Hitler backed down and ordered the evacuation. This was, however, too late, and on 6 May the forces in Africa surrendered, with more than 130,000 Germans taken prisoner.

In the reserves

The next couple of months Luck spent on leave (He was informed that he was to take 12 months leave after the meeting with Jodl, he suggested that it should be six months and he could be assigned to the Panzer Reconnaissance School in Paris. So in August he was assigned to the Panzer Reconnaissance School in Paris, where he taught new officers the tricks of the trade. In March 1944 he was sent on a short course for regimental commanders in Berlin, and in the beginning of April Luck assumed command over one of the regiments in the elite Panzer-Lehr-Division, led by General Bayerlein. Upon reaching the Panzer Lehr HQ Luck was informed that he had been reassigned to the 21st Panzer Division, that was stationed near Rennes, in Normandy. In early May Luck took up his duties there.

The 21st Panzer Division had been reconstituted in late 1943, after it had lost all its men in Africa during the surrender there. It had been put together with a cadre of experienced men from Russia, along with new recruits from Germany, and was commanded by General der Artillerie Edgar Feuchtinger, who had no combat and no Panzer forces experience. Luck was put in command of the 125th Panzer Grenadier Regiment. Much of the materiel of the Division was captured French armaments, and many of the tanks and assault guns consisted of captured French vehicles retrofitted with German armor and guns.[16] Luck's regiment was stationed at Vimont, northeast of Caen, with two companies of assault guns in support.

The Normandy invasion

Map showing territory gained in Operations Atlantic and Goodwood

On 6 June 1944 the invasion of Normandy started. During the night Luck was startled by the reports of paratroopers landing in his area, and establishing a bridgehead on the east side of the Orne River. A quick attack was launched by the II Battalion, and it succeeded in disturbing the paratrooper operations, and capturing some prisoners. Luck was, however, hampered by the strict orders not to engage in major operations unless cleared to do so by high command. As the day wore on, the defenders on the coast were smashed, while 21 Panzer Division remained mostly motionless, apart from an order at 4:30 a.m. directing other elements of the unit to move against the paratroopers of the British 6th Airborne Division and thus farther away from the coast.

Around 10:30 a.m. General Erich Marcks, commander of the German LXXXIV Corps to which 21st Panzer Division was attached, ordered the entire 21st to attack east of the Orne River. This was later countermanded from 7th Army high command, ordering only Luck's detachment to attack east of Orne, while the rest of the division should attack on the west side of the river. This naturally caused much confusion and further delayed the German response. Nevertheless, at 1700 p.m. Luck attempted to break through to the Orne river bridges at Bénouville with his Schützenpanzerwagen (armoured personnel carriers), but heavy fire from the warships supporting the British paratroopers, under Major John Howard, holding the bridges drove his forces back.[17] Added to this, more British paratroopers landed in the rear area of the Regiment, forcing Luck's II Battalion to fall back to avoid getting surrounded. This battalion lost its commander on the morning of 7 June.

On the morning of the 9 June Luck's command was designated Kampfgruppe von Luck, and in addition to the elements of 125th Panzer Grenadier Regiment already under Luck's command it consisted of Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion 21, 4th Company, Panzer Regiment 22, three batteries from Major Alfred Becker's Assault-Gun Battalion 200 and one company from Antitank Battalion 220 (88mm guns). With this force Luck was again tasked with assaulting the Orne bridges, and recapturing them from the British paratroopers. Starting one hour before dawn to avoid the worst of the British naval and aerial support, the Kampfgruppe advanced on the village of Ranville, dislodging the enemy there, but it could not penetrate the British lines to reach the bridges. The British paratroopers had been reinforced by the British 51st (Highland) Division on the evening of 8 June.[18]

On 12 June Kampfgruppe von Luck, now further enlarged with an addition of a brigade of Nebelwerfers, successfully reclaimed the village of Sainte-Honorine, lying on an important hill overlooking the invasion beaches. A furious counterattack by a Canadian Division resulted in the Germans having to withdraw again, after fierce hand to hand fighting. After this final attack had been repulsed, Luck determined that the British bridgehead could not be eliminated, but due to the counterattacks launched by Kampfgruppe von Luck, the British/Canadian forces stopped any further advance in the sector, preferring to lay mines and dig themselves in.[19] Apart from a failed German attack on 15 June, the sector was relatively quiet for the next two weeks.

Operation Goodwood

With British attempts at breaking out around Caen taking place further south, Luck, holding the right flank of the German lines around Caen, did not see any major action until Operation Epsom was launched and the British 11th Armoured Division attacked the positions of 192nd Regiment on 27 June. The British armour advanced without infantry support, and was easily destroyed in the hedgerows of the area. However, some elements of the British forces managed to penetrate the western outskirts of Caen.

File:Hans von Luck During Goodwood.gif

Major Hans von Luck (center) receives a report from Lt Gerhardt Bandomir (left), who commanded 3. Ko. of I./125 Panzer Grenadier Regt. during Operation Goodwood. Looking on is Major Willi Kurz, CO of II Battalion.

In the beginning of July Luck's Kampfgruppe were further augmented with the arrival of Heavy Tank Battalion 503 equipped with Tiger I tanks. Further assault gun elements were also brought in. Luck was now attached to I SS Panzer Corps, commanded by Sepp Dietrich. On the morning of 18 July Luck, returning from a three-day leave in Paris, was faced with the opening of Operation Goodwood. A heavy bombardment, followed by a creeping artillery barrage, had hit the Kampfgruppe's positions, but no action had been taken by the commander put in place in Luck's absence.[20]

Luck set out for the front, and to his dismay saw a large contingent of British tanks rolling over what had been the dug in positions of I Battalion/125th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, in the direction of Cagny. Spotting a Luftwaffe Flak battery of 88mm guns, Luck ordered the commander to open fire on the flank of the British tanks. The battery commander, a young captain, refused to do so, as he was under orders to engage enemy aircraft. At this refusal Luck drew his service pistol, leveled it at the man and said "Either you're a dead man or you can earn yourself a medal."[21] The battery thus engaging the enemy, Luck spent the remainder of the day furiously trying to plug the gaps in his line. Most of the Kampfgruppes armour had been destroyed in the heavy barrages earlier in the day, so it was left to a few scattered antitank and assault gun batteries to take on the advancing British tanks. In recent years the truth of this portrayal of Luck's guns has been questioned by academics such as Ian Daglish who have studied the aerial photographs of Cagny taken hours after the battle; these show no sign of an 88mm battery or even that one had been positioned in the village. However, no suitable alternative seems to explain the heavy destruction wrought on 11th Armoured.

Assuming the story is fact, the 88mm guns at Cagny had indeed stopped the British advance, inflicting heavy casualties on the 11th Armoured Division. The following division, the Guards Armoured Division did not heed the fate of the 11th, and it too took massive losses in the area, effectively halting the British armoured advance. Advancing without infantry support, the armour units were unable to overcome the entrenched antitank guns. The Luftwaffe 88mm battery Luck commandeered earlier in the day accounted for about 40 British tanks alone. In the afternoon the first elements of the 1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler had moved up in support and the situation was somewhat stabilized.

During 19 July Luck's Kampfgruppe, still supported by the SS armour, held the British at bay, counterattacking on the flanks and causing them heavy losses. The British advance ground to a halt after having covered only 9 km, and suffering the loss of some 450 tanks. In the evening the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend relieved Luck's men. For his important role in defeating the British in Operation Goodwood Luck earned the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 8 August 1944 as Major and leader of the Panzergreandier-Regiment 125 and was promoted to Oberstleutnant.[22]

The Falaise Pocket

A week later, after some time to rest and reinforce, the 21st Panzer Division was sent to the Villers Bocage area south of Bayeux to prevent a breakthrough in that area. This was the same area where Michael Wittmann and his Tiger crew almost single handedly had defeated a British thrust on 13 June during the Battle of Villers-Bocage. On 26 July Panzer Lehr's lines were broken, and 21st Panzer Division reoriented themselves on this new threat. On 31 July General Patton broke through at Avranches. With this all the German divisions in Normandy were in danger of being encircled, and a rapid retreat was ordered.

Luck reached Falaise after two weeks of delaying action. On 17 August a British attack split the 21st Panzer Division, leaving half inside the now emerging Falaise Pocket, while Luck's command found itself on the outside. Kampfgruppe von Luck was now tasked with holding the Western end of the gap open, and succeeded in holding it open until 21 August, allowing about half of the 100,000 trapped troops to escape, though most of the heavy materiel and vehicles were destroyed in the pocket. A new threat was already emerging, with Patton threatening to create yet another pocket, south of the Seine River. Luck was put in command of the remains of 21st Panzer Division and conducted a rearguard action, only barely able to keep the front intact until the last German forces could be withdrawn over the Seine on 26 August.

Now began an eleven-day march across the axis of advance of the American forces. On 9 September Luck's command reached its assigned area near Strasbourg. Here Luck established himself under General Hasso von Manteuffel's Fifth Panzer Army operating in the Lorraine area and eventually defending the Siegfried Line. During Operation Nordwind, Luck was ordered to participate in the recapture of Hatten, Bas-Rhin. In January 1945, when the division was moved to the Oder front, Luck played a major role in the division's operations along the Reitwein Spur. He surrendered to the Soviets while attempting a breakout from the Battle of Halbe encirclement in April 1945.

After the war

After internment for five years at a Gulag in Georgia, pressure from the allies resulted in the repatriation of many German soldiers in captivity, and Luck was among those released. He returned to Germany and initially found employment at an international hotel in Hamburg, where his command of multiple languages made him a valuable asset.[23] He eventually moved on to work in an import business.[24] He married, and had three sons.[25] He became heavily involved in veterans' associations, and also lecturing military students. He also became good friends with several of his former opponents, most notably British Airborne Major John Howard. He also formed a friendship with popular U.S. historian Stephen Ambrose, at whose instigation he wrote his memoirs, titled Panzer Commander.

After the war, Luck and Howard would have coffee together in Bénouville at probably the first building in France to be liberated from German occupation, the Café Gondrée. Because the owners were severely anti-German, Howard convinced them that Luck was a Swede.[26][27] Hans von Luck died in Hamburg on 1 August 1997, shortly after his eighty–sixth birthday.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Mitcham, Jr., Samuel W. (2009). Defenders of Fortress Europe: The Untold Story of the German Officers During the Allied Invasion. Washington, DC: Potomac Books. p. xcvii. ISBN 978-1-59797-274-1. 
  2. Luck 1989, p. 9.
  3. Luck 1989, p. 11.
  4. Luck 1989, p. 64.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Luck 1989, p. 13.
  6. Luck 1989, p. 14.
  7. Luck 1989, p. 16.
  8. Luck 1989, p. 32.
  9. Luck 1989, p. 38.
  10. Luck 1989, p. 47.
  11. Luck 1989, p. 68.
  12. Luck 1989, p. 83.
  13. Luck 1989, p. 125.
  14. Luck 1989, p. 129.
  15. Luck 1989, p. 136.
  16. Luck 1989, p. 167.
  17. Ambrose, D-Day
  18. Ambrose. Pegasus Bridge
  19. Luck 1989, p. 187.
  20. Luck 1989, p. 192.
  21. Luck 1989, p. 193.
  22. Scherzer 2007, p. 516.
  23. Luck 1989, p. 326.
  24. Luck 1989, p. 328.
  25. Luck 1989, p. vii.
  26. Ambrose, Stephen: Pegasus Bridge, p. 198. "When Howard went to the cafe in the seventies and early eighties, he sometimes brought Hans von Luck with him. Howard told Madame that von Luck might look suspiciously like a German, but that he was in fact a Swede."
  27. Luck 1991, p. 342.
  • Ambrose, Stephen E (1994). D-Day, June 6, 1944, The Battle for the Normandy beaches, Pocket Books. ISBN 0-7434-4974-6
  • Ambrose, Stephen E (2001). Pegasus Bridge, Touchstone Books. ISBN 0-671-67156-1
  • Luck, Hans von (1989). Panzer Commander: The Memoirs of Colonel Hans von Luck, Cassel Military Paperbacks. ISBN 0-304-36401-0
  • Luck, Hans von (1991). Panzer Commander: The Memoirs of Colonel Hans von Luck, Dell Publishing. ISBN 0-440-20802-5
  • Patzwall, Klaus D. and Scherzer, Veit. Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 - 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II. Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall, 2001. ISBN 3-931533-45-X.

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