While reading about various German Panzer Aces, I came across Herman Bix. He is not as well known as some of the others, like Wittman, Carius, and Bolter, but his record is one to be admired.
He started the war as a motorcycle messenger, then moved into tanks. As a Corporal, he was the commander of PKIII, then later moved to PKIV and Panthers. He was promoted and it was as a Master Sergeant (Oberfeldwebel) he achieved fame. He considered the Panther as his favorite tank and was successful in many battles. He was a Platoon Leader for most of his wartime career.
After receiving his third severe wound and finishing his recuperation in Germany, he returned to the eastern front. Due to the shortage of tanks, he was given command of a platoon of JadgPanther tank destroyers, while commanding these, he achieved his greatest victories.
Here is a brief description of his winning the Iron Cross, First Class. He had already received the Second Class, a requirement prior to the award of the First Class. He was also awarded the German Cross in Gold in 1942.
On 6/22/1941 as a tank commander of the 7th Company of the 35th Panzer-Regiment, during Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet union. Under the commander Major Lauchert he is involved in the fighting around Korop Bachmach. While attacking a village, Bix’s tank was on the left wing, he recognized the situation and avoided the enemy anti-tank gun which had knocked out a couple of tanks already. After sighting the anti-tank gun, Bix moved into the village and reached the main road, which was packed with vehicles of all kinds. He immediately took under fire, causing the Soviets to flee in all directions. He immediately brought the fleeing Soviets to his commander’s attention. Captain Lekschat was beside himself at first, but was reassured about Bix solo attack as soon as he saw the extent of Bix `s attack. Through this actions, Bix was able to capture more than 800 prisoners, and to destroy over 60 vehicles, 12 anti-tank guns, and 16 heavy guns. For this action Bix was awarded the Iron Cross First Class.
While commanding the PKIV, he developed the tactic of firing at the KV-1 and 2 gun barrels as a means to destroy the tank. The 50mm on the IV was not able to penetrate the thikc armor of the KV, so Bix had his gunner aim for the gun barrel. While risky, a hit usually resulted in destruction fo the tank, or at least disabling it.
While the commander of a Panther, he survived running over 5 mines during one battle, but continued to fight until the Soviets withdrew. On another occasion he received 17 hits, but continued the fight. You can see why he like the Panther best. He was also known for his quick reaction and lack of fear. He rescued many of his comrades when they were surrounded or in trouble, incuding his company commander.
Upon returning to the front, Bix was assigned to command a JadgPanther with the 88 L/71 gun. In his most significant action, Bix with his two section mates were defending against a Soviet push. When his two mates ran low on armor piercing ammunition (AP), he sent them back about a mile to establish a final defensive line and took up position to blunt the Soviet attack. He was ordered to hole the village, while the German infantry withdrew, he had 20 AP rounds remaining. Two crews without tanks came up to help him. They would act as infantry and guard against the Soviet infantry or pioneers getting with range to attack the lone tank destroyer.
The Soviets sent forward some T-34s to scout the village, Bix destroyed these immediately. Then the Soviets attacked in strength. Bix ordered his gunner to make every shot count, then started to identify targets. He picked off the lead tank, then selected one near the rear, this caused a traffic jam among the attacking Soviets and Bix’s gunner started picking them off as they appeared. While moving to various different firing positions and allowing his gunner to have access to the Soviets, Bix was able to destroy 16 Soviet tanks and allow the German infantry the opportunity to withdraw.
Next day, he was helping the German infantry in the counter attack. He aided the infantry, destroying many machine gun and anti-tank gun emplacements. A few days later his section was dispatched to assist a Grenadier battalion that was surrounded on an estate near Warsaw. He contacted the commander to determine how to be most effective. He then took his 3 JgPanthers to a small hill and positioned to defend as the sun was rising. Bix assigned his mates to positions on the hill and took the prominent position himself. As the sun rose, the Soviet tanks could be seen moving in the village, Bix positioned himself and ordered his team mates to open fire. During the battle that ensued 19 Soviet T-34 and KV-1 tanks were destroyed, with Bix accounting for 11. The Grenadier Commander offered Bix his personal Iron Cross First Class in appreciation.
In less that 3 weeks, Bix had destroyed 75 Soviet tanks, for these actions he was awarded the Knight’s Cross in March 1945.
At the end of the War, Bix was evacuated back to the English lines via submarine. This allowed him to surrender to the English rather that the dreaded Soviets. He returned to active duty in 1956 and retired as a Sergeant-Major from the German Army. Among his awards are the Panzer Badge Second, Third, and Fourth Class, signifying over a 100 battles in an armored vehicle.