by Giles Milton
Who was Hermann von Oppeln-Bronikowski? And why was he so important to the Germans on D-Day? Turns out, he was the only enemy commander capable of defeating the Allied forces on June 6, 1944.
Welcome to Season 3 of Unknown History: D-Day Stories. I’m your host, Giles Milton, and today we’re talking about a colourful SS Panzer commander who was tasked with driving Allied forces back into the sea.
Colonel Hermann von Oppeln-Bronikowski was one of the great panzer leaders of Nazi Germany, described as “an exuberant, dashing, gay individual” with a noble Prussian pedigree that stretched back to the age of chivalry. War was in his blood: His ancestors had fought their way through central Europe for the better part of half a millennium.
He certainly looked the part, with well-chiseled features, black oiled hair, and an engaging smile. As one of his friends said, he was, “frankly, enjoying the war for the thrills that he got.”
Oppeln-Bronikowski had fought as a panzer commander on the Eastern Front and he knew the value of speed when it came to tank warfare. Strike hard and fast, that was how to fight with tanks. He knew that the only conceivable way of driving the Allies back into the sea was for the Germans to hit them with everything they had—including the mechanized and highly trained panzer divisions.
But Hitler had insisted that these panzer divisions could not go into battle without his express command. Since this did not come until after midday on 6 June, the colonel could do nothing but sit and wait while the Allies poured ashore.
To learn more about the German opposition on D-Day, and to read on about the early hours of the beach landings, visit the Unknown History channel on QuickandDirtyTips.com. You can also listen to the entire episode with the player below.
Giles Milton is a writer and journalist. He has contributed articles to most of the British national newspapers as well as many foreign publications, and specializes in the history of travel and exploration. In the course of his researches, he has traveled extensively in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas. He has written four previous books of nonfiction, including the bestselling Nathaniel’s Nutmeg, and has been translated into fifteen languages worldwide. Edward Trencom’s Nose is his first novel.Tags: D-Day, D-Day Landings, Hitler, Normandy, Normandy Landings