Michael Wittmann (22 April 1914 – 8 August 1944) was a German Waffen-SS tank commander during the Second World War.He rose to the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer (captain) and was a holder of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.Wittmann was awarded the Oak Leaves on 30 January for the destruction of 117 tanks, making him the 380th member of the German armed forces to receive it.
The news was picked up and disseminated by the Nazi propaganda machine and added to Wittmann's stature in Germany.
Wittmann became a cult figure after the war thanks to his accomplishments as a "panzer ace" (a highly decorated tank commander) as part of the portrayal of the Waffen-SS in popular culture.
Due to the Anglo-American advance south from Gold and Omaha Beaches, the German 352nd Infantry Division began to buckle.
As the division withdrew south, it opened up a 7.5-mile (12.1 km) wide gap in the front line near Caumont-l'Éventé.
The following morning, the lead elements of the British 7th Armoured Division entered Villers-Bocage.
They had been given the objective of exploiting the gap in the front line, seizing Villers-Bocage, and capturing the nearby ridge (Point 213) to attempt to force a German withdrawal.
Late on the 12th, Wittmann’s company arrived at an area in the vicinity of Villers-Bocage.
Nominally composed of twelve tanks, Wittmann's company was 50 per cent understrength due to losses and mechanical failures.
This battalion was assigned to the I SS Panzer Corps as a corps asset, and was never permanently attached to any division or regiment.
Wittmann was appointed commander of the battalion’s second company, and held the rank of SS-Obersturmführer.
Historians have mixed opinions as to his tactical performance in battle—some praising his actions at Villers-Bocage, and some finding his abilities lacking, and the praise for his tank kills overblown.