The Panthers belonged to 4. Kompanie, SS-Pz.Rgt.2, which, under the command of SS-Hauptsturmfuehrer Pohl, led the divisional attack. SS-Oberscharfuehrer Ernst Barkmann, commander of Panther '401', provides this account of his panzer's advance into American-held territory:
'We reached the enemy-occupied crossroads coming from a south-westerly direction, drove on in a double column, and from all our tanks guns brought coordinated fire to bear on the recognisable enemy positions with highexplosive shells. After this surprise bombardment there was hardly any further reaction from the enemy.
'SS-Hauptscharfuehrer Frauscher reported by radio that he was pulling away in order to reach the Manhay road which was to be attacked. While turning off the road, the leading tank in his section received a direct hit and remained out of action. The second Panther was likewise hit. The section was at a standstill. The commander urged us by radio to continue the attack. I was anxious about my comrade Frauscher and his crew.
'To clarify the situation, I sent a brief message to the company commander to say I had decided to pull away, in accordance with what he surely wanted.
Without waiting for his reply, we moved on. Making better use of the terrain than its predecessor, Panther 401 reached the road without interference. We crossed over it, and immediately turned in the direction of the enemy. No firing! Using the higher contours of the road both for observation and cover, we went slowly on, parallel with it so as to reach the leading tank which had got stuck and give it protective fire. We couldn't find Frauscher's tank. I learnt by radio that it had changed its position and moved forward again. So we went on under the protection of the high-lying road and after a long time reached the edge of the woods. Under the moonlight shadows of tall pine-trees, we penetrated into the woods along the roadway.
'Fifty metres away, on the right, there was a tank which had moved in, with its commander standing in the turret, and which was apparently waiting for me. Frauscher! I moved up to the tank on its left-hand side. As soon as both turrets were on a level with each other, I gave orders to stop and turn off the motor and started to speak. But in a flash my opposite number disappeared inside the turret and the hatches clanged shut. My neighbour's driver's hatch lifted and then was lowered again. I noticed a winecoloured panel light. But the Panther had a green one. Then I knew that the tank alongside us was an American Sherman.
'Headphones on, I shouted on the tank intercom: "Gunner! The tank alongside is an enemy one. Fire at it". Within seconds, the tank turret turned to the right and the long gun barrel banged against the turret of the Sherman. Gunner to commander: "Can't fire - turret traverse stuck". The driver, SS-Rottenfuehrer Grundmeyer, had been listening and, without any order being given, he started up the motor and pulled back a few yards. Whereupon SS-Unterscharfuehrer Poggendorf, the gunner, loosed off the Panzergranate into the middle of the rear of the enemy tank at a distance of a few yards. I was still standing in the tank turret. A blue flame sprang out from the circular hole in the rear of the Sherman. As I took cover inside the turret 1 heard the detonation.
'We moved on past the burning tank. From a clearing in the forest on the right two more enemy tanks came at us. We fired immediately. The first one gave out black smoke and came no further. The second one likewise came to a halt.
'No radio contact could be made with the company. We went on nevertheless, supposing that Frauscher's tank had been hit in front of us, and that the enemy tanks which had just been shot up were lying in wait on the edge of the forest and were now trying to make contact with their own units in their rear. But we had become more careful now.
'As everything remained quiet, we still moved on and on. The forest was getting light. Then suddenly there was a wide area in front of us that was clear of trees - a real forest meadow. The road ran around it in a large S-shaped curve and disappeared into a downward slope between the trees on the opposite side.
'I caught my breath. In the open grassy area in front of us I counted nine enemy tanks close beside each other. They all had the muzzles of their guns pointing threateningly at our tanks which till then had been moving unsuspectingly directly towards them. Our driver Grundmeyer recognised the danger. He was really taken aback. Standing still or retreating would be suicidal. Only bluff could still save us. So it was a question of escaping in a forwards direction. And the commander's orders to the driver were:"Move on ahead without reducing speed". Perhaps we would succeed in passing around them without being recognised because they were thinking that we were their own tanks. We advanced along the bend, showing them the full length of our sides and with nine turrets threatening us. Their gunners really had us in the bag. But not a shot was fired. As soon as we were on their flank and I could pick out the backs of all the enemy tanks drawn up behind each other, I called a halt. We had the best firing position and in fact had only one enemy tank to deal with. All the rest were blocking each other's field of fire. I let the turret swing round to 3 o'clock (to the right) so as to let the gunner get the targets in his sights. And then I couldn't believe my eyes. Those Ami crews jumped out, rushed headlong from their tanks, and charged into the shelter of part of the forest that lay behind them.
Part 2 follows below: