The strangest battle of the Second World War
The strangest battle of the Second World War happened in its closing days, when US Army and German Wehrmacht troops fought side by side to free French political prisoners being held by the SS. The French prisoners included former prime ministers, generals, and a tennis star. It was the only battle in the war in which Americans and Germans fought as allies. The Battle for Castle Itter was fought in the Austrian North Tyrol village of Itter on 5 May 1945, in the last days of the European Theater of World War II. Troops of the 23rd Tank Battalion of the 12th Armored Division of the US XXI Corps led by Captain John C. "Jack" Lee, Jr., a number of Wehrmacht soldiers led by Major Josef "Sepp" Gangl, SS-Hauptsturmführer Kurt-Siegfried Schrader, and recently freed French prisoners of war defended Castle Itter against an attacking force from the 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division until relief from the American 142nd Infantry Regiment of the 36th Division of XXI Corps arrived. For his service defending the castle, Lee received the Distinguished Service Cross and was promoted to Captain. Gangl died during the battle from a sniper's bullet but was honored as an Austrian national hero. The battle was fought five days after Adolf Hitler had committed suicide!