The Battle for Castle Itter

The Battle for Castle Itter

By Jake McKeel
January 16, 2018

The Battle for Castle Itter is widely regarded as the strangest battle of the Second World War, because of the combatants involved. The battle took place on the 5th of May, 1945, at Castle Itter in what is now Austria. The combatants involved included an American- armored division and infantry regiment, former French prisoners who were being held captive, including a tennis player, Austrian resistance, and a group of German infantry who defected to the Allies. The battle occurred five days after Adolf Hitler commited suicide, and two days before Germany signed the unconditional surrender agreement. The battle was a victory for the Allied forces, thanks to a relief force.

The American 142nd Infantry arrived at the castle to see that it had been abandoned by the germans except for a small group of Wehrmacht troops and French prisoners who had taken up arms. The German troops at the castle under Major Josef Gangl had defected from Nazi Germany, and set up defenses. The 17th Waffen-SS Panzergrenadier Division would launch an assault against the castle to take it back. The Allied forces had little ammo and only one tank. The tank was used for machine gun support until it was destroyed by an 88mm anti-tank gun. The only person inside was a radioman who escaped without injury. The allies were nearly overrun and out of ammo until finally a relief force, the 12th Armored Division, had arrived and defeated the SS forces.

Major Gangl was killed in the battle by a rifle bullet while trying to move former French prime minister Reynaud out of harm’s way. He was honored as an Austrian hero, and had a street named after him. The captain of the American forces, John C. “Jack” Lee Jr., was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his service defending the castle. A movie about the event is set for release in 2018, currently titled, “The Last Battle.”