text from angelfire
SS Obersturmbannfuhrer Heinz Von Westernhagen, Ace Commander! SS 101/501 Leibstandarte
Heinz Von Westernhagen was Michael Wittmann's commanding officer in 101 SS Schwere Panzer Abteilung on the western front, whose offensive spirit and aggressiveness embodied the best of German soldiery, which it took the heart of a warrior to tackle a superior enemy force in a tank, gain the upper hand and defeat him. It was in Heinz Von Westernhagen's 007 Command Tiger tank in which Michael Wittmann was killed on August 8 1944.
Heinz Von Westernhagen, who had commanded the Leibstandarte's Assault gun battalion since June 1942, was the hand picked officer chosen to command the newly created 101 SS Schwere Panzer Abteilung. Heinz Von Westernhagen had suffered serious head injuries on July 6 1943 during the Citadel summer offensive.
The commander of the 101 SS Schwere Panzer Abteilung who gave the battalion a special profile and made it an extraordinary potent force was undoubtedly Heinz Von Westernhagen. He received his Iron Cross 2nd class during the Greek campaign on 13 May 1941, on 10 July 1942 Von Westernhagen was awarded the Royal Bulgarian Medal of Bravery IVth class 2nd Grade, which was followed on September 3 1942 by the Rumanian Crown with Swords Vth class, and on the next day was awarded the German Eastern "Order of the Frozen Meat" Medal.
Heinz Von Westernhagen led his Assault gun battalion immediately in the Kharkov area in 1943, engaging soviet assault forces with stunning success, it was here where he was decorated with the Iron Cross 1st class and the Tank battle badge in silver.
On 16 December 1944, Heinz Von Westernhagen was the Commanding officer of the newly created 501 SS Schwere Panzer Abteilung equiped with the new King Tiger tank, which as attached to Kampfgruppe Peiper for the Ardennes offensive, most commonly known as the Battle of the Bulge. Heinz Von Westernhagen was one of Kampfgruppe Peiper's 800+men that succeeded in breaking out of La Gleize while trapped and reaching the German lines on a 33-hour march on foot, through extreme conditions. Heinz Von Westernhagen was exposed to the burdens of high command while still in his late 20's, his soldiers were asked to do nothing that he had not already done himself, with all this magnitude of achievements, this career failed to win him the Knight's Cross, he was among the best.
Heinz Von Westernhagen was from the very beginning an obviously superior individual with the capacity for leadership and command. To these talents he added formidable skill as a tank commander. Heinz Von Westernhagen always had the right point of view for the center of things, for the resolution of complex problems, he was also very hard against himself, he was ambitious, but the ambition never disturbed the other qualities that made him an outstanding soldier and leader. Heinz Von Westernhagen's exceptional accomplishments in command of the most elite and powerful units in the German Army, which were the very essence of German armored might. Although Germany sought to equalize the basis for the award of the Knight's Cross, one of the anomalies of the war is that Heinz Von Westernhagen received no further recognition. His outstanding feats which surely should have been recognized with the award of the Knight's Cross.
In this phenomenal time situation where there were completely inexplicable and fantastic examples of bravery, idealism, and spirit of sacrifice, the loftiest human qualities, I name Heinz Von Westernhagen to the list of men who are an expression of the highest degree of those virtues, the conventional picture of a hero, his humanity and vulnerability, his sensibility was obvious. What he had done was no mere "Act of Heroism", but took place on a higher plain. Something granted to only a few in such scope and depth.