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Thread: How Much of this Major von Luck’s Story is True?

  1. #1
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    Default How Much of this Major von Luck’s Story is True?

    Excerpt from Pegasus Bridge, by Stephen Ambrose:

    In North Africa, Hans von Luck was fighting in the only war he ever enjoyed. He commanded the armed reconaissance battalion on Rommel’s extreme right (southern) flank. He thus enjoyed a certain independence, as did his British opposite number. The two commanding officers agreed to fight a civilised war. Every day at five p.m. the war shut down, the British to brew up their tea, the Germans their coffee. At about quarter past five, von Luck and the British commander would communicate over the radio. “Well,” von Luck might say, “we captured so-and-so today and he’s fine and he sends his love to his mother, tell her not to worry.” Once von Luck learned that the British had received a month’s supply of cigarettes. He offered to trade a captured officer – who happened to be the heir to the Players cigarette fortune – for one million cigarettes. The British countered with an offer of 600,000. Done, said von Luck. But the Players heir was outraged. He said the ransom was insufficient. He insisted he was worth the million and refused to be exchanged.

    One evening, an excited corporal reported that he had just stolen a British truck jammed with tinned meat and other delicacies. Von Luck looked at his watch – it was past six p.m. – and told the corporal he would have to take it back, as he had captured it after five p.m. The corporal protested that this was war and anyway the troops were already gathering in the goods from the truck. Von Luck called Rommel, his mentor in military academy. He said he was suspicious of British moves further south and thought he ought to go out on a two-day reconaissance. Could another battalion take his place for that time? Rommel agreed. The new battalion arrived in the morning. That night at five thirty p.m, just as von Luck had anticipated, the British stole two supply trucks.

    ---

    I’ve heard von Luck may embellish, but there must be some truth in it.

    Does anyone know of an account of this story by the British?

    Here’s some additional background info. That I found on Wikipedia, that I believe is taken from von Luck’s book ‘Panzer Commander’:


    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.

    ---


    Cheers,
    Saxon

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    Default Re: How Much of this Major von Luck’ Story is True?

    I can't help you with a specific answer to your question but, although on first impression it seems improbable, the conduct described isn't entirely inconsistent with accommodations made between some opposing forces in both world wars, even including WWII Russians and Germans across a river in some forgotten book I read ages ago.

    Even in in the later years of the Pacific War there was in some places effective but not formally agreed observation of a 'no fighting' policy by both sides in some areas where the starving Japanese land forces were marooned. The Japanese were content to tend their vegetable gardens to try to ward off starvation and the Allies didn't want to incur unnecessary casualties.

    I'll be interested to learn more about the von Luck case, which is new to me. But anything is possible in war.
    Last edited by Rising Sun*; 05-12-2009 at 09:55 AM.
    ..
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    Default Re: How Much of this Major von Luck’ Story is True?

    Hi RS,

    One of things I love about WWII history is the anecdotes. They are often bizarre, and stranger than fiction, but true.

    I have no problem believing that this story could be entirely true. But I've conflicting information about von Luck's propensity to romanticise.

    I've also heard that his book - Panzer Commander - is considered one of the most 'balanced' books on WWII.

    Either way, I'd love to hear a British version of this story.

    Cheers,
    Saxon

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    Default Re: How Much of this Major von Luck’ Story is True?

    According to Charles Askins, in his auto-biography, "Unrepentant Sinner', he was a recovery specialist in the ETO in 44/45. He wrote in one sector he was in the Americans and Germans had a unwritten policy of not firing on each other across the river where both sides faced each other.

    Askins broke the policy when he borrowed an M1 Garand and went to the river and picked off a few Germans on the other side. All heck broke loose when the other side retaliated and the GI's didn't want him there anymore.

    So who knows, Von Luck may be telling the truth (or not bending it to much.)

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    Default Re: How Much of this Major von Luck’ Story is True?

    I think Studs Terkel's "The Good War" includes an account of an American and a German forward artillery observer each noting the other's position while they were setting up on opposite sides of a valley. They called fire for perhaps several days but not on each other, until American artillery called by someone else struck a German ambulance convoy. The German artillery observer then called fire on the American observer, who managed to survive unhurt. The American came into the open and indicated by gestures that he wasn't responsible. They resumed their observer roles and left each other alone.
    ..
    A rational army would run away.
    Montesquieu

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    Default Re: How Much of this Major von Luck’ Story is True?

    Why dont you go to pegasis bridge and ask him he's there every 6th June, I'd belive every word of it strange things happen in war.

    I am the Thread killer!

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    Default Re: How Much of this Major von Luck’ Story is True?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cpt_Prahl View Post
    Why dont you go to pegasis bridge and ask him he's there every 6th June,
    Hans von Luck died in 1997

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    Default Re: How Much of this Major von Luck’ Story is True?

    bummer didnt bother to look if he was still with us he was a yearly 6 June participant some of my other historian researcher friends met him there many many times, I have a photo of him a friend of mine took of him there at the 50th. Read His autobio cover to cover at age 10 that was 30 years ago. Bummer another old soldier goes another is created..
    sad really he was a great soldier his book was great allot of good realistic reflection in it.
    I wouldnt doubt it. Strange things happen in war.

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    Default Re: How Much of this Major von Luck’ Story is True?

    I found a little more info. But I'm not sure if this is taken from von Luck's book, or from 'An Army At Dawn' by Rick Atkinson.

    While the Afrika Korps retreated to the relative safety of the Mareth Line, von Luck’s Battalion screened the retreat and sparred with their British counterparts, the Royal Dragoons & 11th Hussars, on a daily basis. There are references to the Western Desert campaign as being a ‘clean’ fight, with civility & chivalrous behavior exhibited by the Germans, Italians & 8th Army opponents. Von Luck’s outfit was one of these, and being in close contact with the British recon units, led to inevitable captures by both sides. They had a ‘gentleman’s agreement,’ that every day at 1700 hours, precisely, they would halt for ‘tea time’. And at exactly 1705 hours, they would make open radio contact with the British, and exchange “news” of the prisoners. This even when so far as the exchange of German prisoners for quinine, desperately needed by the British, as the Japanese had severed their supply line to Asia and seized the source of this malaria medicine.

    As they entered Tunisia, this agreement came to an end. Von Luck managed to give the pursuers ‘the slip’ and after two days of no contact, a Bedouin reached him with a farewell note from his worthy adversaries.

    From C.O.,
    Royal Dragoons

    Dear Major von Luck,

    We have had other tasks and so were unable to keep in touch with you. The war in Africa has been decided, I’m glad to say, not in your favor.

    I should like , therefore, to thank you and all your people, in the name of my officers and men, for the fair play with which we have fought against each other on both sides.

    I and my battalion hope that all of you will come out of the war safe and sound and that we may find the opportunity to meet again sometime, in more favorable circumstances.

    With the greatest respect.


    Von Luck sat down, and penned an appropriate reply from his battalion, and dispatched it via the Bedouin courier. But he had other pressing problems. It now being November 20th, he met with Rommel and General Gause, to discuss the supply situation in detail, and the looming threat of a ‘German Dunkirk’. They all agreed that the best course of action would be to fortify Cape Bon, and withdraw the Afrika Korps to Sicily & Italy.

    A few days later, another act of chivalry was displayed. Rocket firing Hurricane fighters had discovered the lair of the Recon command group and swiftly dispatched von Luck’s antiaircraft vehicles, and several armored cars. All of the Germans had fled the vehicles to find cover with the exception of von Luck’s radio operator, who was relaying his messages requesting fighter support. A Canadian Hurricane approached, and on it’s first pass, ‘I could clearly see the pilot’s face under his flight helmet. But instead of shooting, he signaled with his hand for the radio officer to clear off, and pulled his machine up into a great curve’. Von Luck yelled for his men to take cover, and on the second pass, the Hurricane commenced his rocket attack.

    Von Luck wrote, ‘This attitude of the pilot, whether he was Canadian or British, became for me the example of fairness in this merciless war. I shall never forget the pilot’s face or the gesture of his hand.’

    ---


    Does anyone know of a British version of these stories?


    cheers,
    Saxon

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    Default Re: How Much of this Major von Luck’ Story is True?

    There you go!

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    Default Re: How Much of this Major von Luck’ Story is True?

    I belive that Col Luck's Family will be attending the pegasis bridge ceramonies there this year, I am certain that at least one son will be there. I'll have to call Martin and ask!

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    Default Re: How Much of this Major von Luck’ Story is True?

    I recall reading about a Luftwaffe fighter pilot durting The Battle of Britain; he was on his way back to France, over the English Channel, when he saw a Spitfire coming the other way trailing smoke.

    He turned around, pulled up alongside the Spitfire, waved, and escorted the plane back to the English coast before returning to France. He went on to say, exactly the same thing happened to him, but in reverse, the following week. A RAF pilot escorted his damaged plane across the Channel.

    He also said firmly, that that sort of thing never happened on the Eastern front.

    The Battle of Britian was very early in the war (July-Oct 1940) so I guess there was a little more idealism around. And the British German relationship, although bitter at times, could not be compared to the brutality and lack of respect that existed in the Soviet German conflict.


    cheers,
    Simon

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    Default Re: How Much of this Major von Luck’ Story is True?

    thank you for these information guys. I have learned a lot from this thread

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    Default Re: How Much of this Major von Luck’ Story is True?

    Quote Originally Posted by nkkie123 View Post
    thank you for these information guys. I have learned a lot from this thread
    And what would that be? Please elaborate.
    "I just ran out of ammo. I will ram this one. Good bye, we'll meet in Valhalla." - Major Heinrich Ehrler, April 4, 1945

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    Default Re: How Much of this Major von Luck’ Story is True?

    This is very interesting. i had no idea of the Von Luck (great name by the way). Thanks for the story.

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