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Special - tank duel at the cathedral (1) Deutsche Version
Deutsch

Cologne, Germany, March 6, 1945.

The 3rd Armored Division tanks advance on the Cologne center and the cathedral. It's about 2 pm.

The following minutes will produce some of the most dramatic combat images to come out of WWII.

This page will show you the famous tank battle at the Cologne cathedral.
 
Coming from western city districts, passing the city areas around Venloer Strasse, Friesenplatz, Friesenstrasse and Zeughausstrasse, a group of several US-tanks approach the central square in front of the cathedral. Big mountains of rubble on the Komödienstrasse prevent the further advance of the tank group. They have to stop only 120 m / 395 ft away from the place where the street leads into the central square.
 
1.) Skirmish Panther vs. Sherman


One M4A1W76 Sherman tank (right) and one M4A3W75 Sherman tank (left) from F Co, 32nd A.R., 3rd AD are standing on Komödienstrasse next to street Andreaskloster (at the left side).
        
Suddenly a shell from a German Panther tank hits the leading US tank. Then a second one hits. A member of the crew, tank commander Kellner, tries to flee out of the tank.
 

Where did the shots from come ?
There's a picture taken by George Silk when the battle at the cathedral was over. It shows the Sherman and in background the german Panther, which had hit the Sherman. On the right side there's the Sherman and in background the burning Panther at street crossing Marzellenstrasse. He is really good to see there.


Excerpt of a picture made by George Silk, Life Magazin

And now a comparison with movie sequences before and after the hits:

In the background there's no Panther shortly before (right) and shortly after the hit (left), where one can see the Panther on the Silk photo later. So, where was the Panther located when he had hit the Sherman ?

 
Video-Popup:
Here are the original movie scenes I took the still photos from and I zoomed the area where the Panther later stood with my video software. They show, he wasn't located there at the time he hit the Sherman.

 

In the background one can see a tunnel under the central station. It's the street tunnel Trankgasse.
 
When the Panther had shot he probably was located in or near the dark tunnel (white arrow) and the US troops were not able to see it there before. The red point is the place where the Sherman was located - distance tunnel / Sherman: 340 m / 1.115 ft.. After the hit the Panther was driving to the crossing Marzellenstrasse where he later was destroyed (distance Panther there / Sherman: 120 m / 395 ft.. There are records saying the Panther was already located at the crossing when the Sherman reached Komödienstrasse and they thought it was knocked out. But this seems to be unrealistic. Tank crews typically will not take it for granted that a tank in no mans land would be knocked out. They would shoot at it until it burned, which is what the Sherman crew would have done if the Panther was in sight on the crossing Marzellenstrasse. Following several sources the German tank Mark V (Panther) Ausf. A was from Panzerbrigade 106 "Feldherrnhalle".
 
Back to the Sherman in Komödienstrasse after the hits:
 

The tank smokes from the inside. One hit had cut off the soldier's left leg below the knee.
Video popup:
Kellner's injury, nothing for sensitive people
 
Behind the tank commander Kellner, who is creeping out, a second soldier falls down from the tank
 

The second soldier seems to be 19 years old Corporal 'Gunner' John J Gialluca of the 3rd Armored Division 'Spearhead'. His son Doug found my site on the web and sent me the following mail where he describes the situation as he heard it from his father:

The last tank battle in Cologne Germany on March 6 1945 happened as Corporal Gunner John J Gialluca approached the square of town between two buildings where suddenly by surprise a Panther Mark V hit their Sherman tank. John remembers the tank burning and they were trapped. The shrapnel went through his legs and he said he was pinned to his seat when a second blast under the turret forced him free from his position. There were no other survivors except Corporal John J Gialluca. There was another tank disabled next to his tank that tried to help the injured. They found John lying on the ground with his 45 caliber hand gun in his hand. Then John said as they were helping him he could hear the blast and gunfire from what is known now the battle of the last tank. The Sherman tank that Corporal John J Gialluca was in was facing the cannon of the 75mm high velocity Panther Mark V. The 76 mm is questionable as for penetrating the heavy armored Panther head to head. This was John's second tank hit in his journey from Normandy Beach and very fortunate to survive. Corporal Gunner John J Gialluca was sent to a hospital in England where he had a lengthy recovery and was able to walk again. After a long fight with kidney cancer John went to be with the Lord on July 5th 1998.

Contrary to the memory of John J Gialluca there's another crew member who survives the attack too, it's Oliver Griffin, the assistant driver.

So the Sherman crew was:

Tank Commander Kellner
Gunner Gialluca
Asst. Gunner Speer
Driver Patrick
Asst. Driver Griffin

 

Once again the exit of Gialluca:

At the beginning of the movie scene Gialluca is already located on top of the cupola. One can see the torso and the head. Then - picture top middle - Gialluca wants to jump down from the tank, showing his bottom. Next pictures: he jumps down headfirst, one can see his legs stretched upwards.

Video popup:
Gialluca's exit


Another detail:

When Kellner leaves the cupola he holds a rifle in his hand. But he loses it and the rifle falls down onto the street next to the Sherman.

Video popup:
Kellner's exit

 


Courtesy of The U.S. Army 3rd Armored Division History Website. Photo by Fred Ramage/Getty Images
The crew of another Sherman tank standing on the left side of the street tries to help the other crew.

 

The soldiers and a medic try to help Kellner in a bomb crater near the Sherman, but he passes away
The driver Patrick and the loader Speer die just when the shell hits.
On the Gettyimages website there's a picture showing the dead Patrick sitting on the driver chair, head outside the driver hatch, in addition the two bullet holes.

Weblink to Gettyimages:
Photo dead Patrick - nothing for sensitive people !


Source: Magazine "After the Battle #104"


Photo courtesy of Australian War Memorial
An American soldier is looking down the street Komödienstrasse, where the Sherman just had hit. The Sherman and its crew had passed this area where the soldier now stands just a few minutes before, not knewing their imminent end...
Only the two Sherman crew members Griffin and Gialluca survived the incident with injuries.
 
  The Pershing attacks. Watch the now
following duel Pershing vs. Panther on the next page
 

 

Tank duel
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Tank duel blow-by-blow
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