D-Day: Waffen-SS

Oberscharführer Ernst Barkmann

Near Le Lorey, July 1944

Barkmann wipes the back of his hand across his forehead before lowering his cap back on his sweat-soaked hair. He watches the company supply sergeant run back from the corner ahead, as a dust cloud creeps closer on the horizon.

“American tanks on the road at 500 metres,” Hauptscharführer Heinz pants, looking up at Barkmann leaning from the command hatch of their Panther tank.

“Excellent,” Barkmann replies. “We will attack.” He switches his throat mike on. “Driver, forward, halt under the next large tree. That should stop the aircraft from finding us and give us an excellent place to ambush the column from.”

The wait is not long, as Panther 424 idles in position, unnoticed by the slowly advancing Americans. Barkmann scans the road ahead, the thick Bocage creating a narrow lane. “Poggendorf, target Ami Panzer, 200 meters. Fire,” he orders.

The heavy Panther rocks back with a roar as the 7.5cm round flies towards its target. A second later the lead M4 Sherman tank explodes in a dazzling display of sparks, even before the dust from the muzzle blast clears. Time stands still as the loader rams round after round into the smoking breech, each shot rocking their tank as enemy tank after tank explodes just to his front. Return shots bounce off the thick steel of the Panther, the American guns unable to score a kill. Carefully, he pulls back to the next tree, resuming the fight from there.

Hearing the scream of aircraft engines in a steep dive, Barkmann drops into the turret, just as the tank is lifted into the air on the blast of the first bomb. The Panther is sprayed with bomb fragments. Moans come from his headphones and daylight streams through a crack in the side of the tank.

“Heinz,” Barkmann calls to his driver, his own voice lost in the ringing of his ears, “Can we still move? Can you get us out of here?”

Ernst Barkmann Command Card
Oberscharführer Ernst Barkmann

As the Panther tank’s fire slackens, the American fire redoubles. A round clangs against the armour. Another smashes the track damaged by the bomb, forcing 424 to slew violently to the left. The tank lurches again, and then grinds back around the corner, grunts of pain accompanying every movement of the vehicle.

“Poggendorf, see what you can do for Heinz,” Barkmann orders. “We must get back to the workshop so we can fight again tomorrow.”

“Don’t worry, Oscha,” Heinz breathes through gritted teeth, “I’m not leaving 424 for the Americans. We’ll make it home.” The Panther pulls out for home under the fading sun, leaving behind nine smouldering Sherman tanks on the field of battle: not a bad day’s work! 

Barkmann’s Career

Ernst Barkmann was a farmer’s son born in Holstein, Germany, on 25 August 1919. At the age of sixteen he joined the elite Waffen-SS, the armed force of the Nazi Party.

Barkmann first saw action as a machine gunner with the Germania regiment in Poland. Distinguishing himself, he was promoted to Rottenführer (corporal) and received the Wound Badge.

Oberscharführer Ernst Barkmann
Oberscharführer Ernst Barkmann

In 1940, he earned the Infantry Assault Badge for three days of battle during the invasion of France. Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, saw Rottenführer Barkmann seriously injured near Dnepropetrovsk. He spent the next year recovering and training SS volunteers.

Late in 1942 he returned to the Eastern Front where he was assigned to the ‘Das Reich’ SS-Panzerregiment as a gunner. He was promoted to Unterscharführer (sergeant) and given command of his own Panzer III just in time for the Third Battle of Kharkov. He continued to distinguish himself in the mammoth tanks battles around Prokhorovka during the Kursk offensive. In August 1943, Barkmann was given a new Panther D tank for the defensive battles in Southern Russia where he was awarded both classes of the Iron Cross.

In January 1944, Das Reich was ordered to southern France for refit and Barkmann’s battalion was upgraded to the new model Panther. A month after D-Day, elements of the division went into action against American forces near St. Lô. Here, the legend of Barkmann’s Corner was born and he received the Knight’s Cross and a promotion to Oberscharführer (senior sergeant) for his actions.

During the Ardennes Offensive in December 1944, Barkmann spearheaded the main attack against the US 2nd Armored Division. He finished the war knocking out Soviet T-34 tanks near Stuhlweissenburg in March 1945. 

Oberscharführer Ernst Barkmann in Flames Of War

To field use the D-Day: Waffen-SS Ernst Barkmann Command Card to add him to a Panther SS Tank Platoon (See above). 

Oberscharführer Ernst Barkmann

Barkmann’s Workshop

Barkmann repeatedly brought his badly battered tank back to the workshops when other commanders would have abandoned it for later recovery. His most famous battles were fought while returning to the front after having emergency repairs made to his tank.

GBX21 Oberscharführer Ernst Barkmann...

Barkmann's Corner...

Last Updated On Thursday, July 9, 2020 by Wayne at Battlefront