The remains of German soldier regarded as the world’s greatest ever tank ace have been found in a grave in the Czech Republic.
The remains of Kurt Knispel – who was the tank warfare equivalent of what the Red Baron was to flight – were found at the Moravian Museum in Vrbovec lying in an unmarked grave for German soldiers at a cemetery in Znojmo.
After completing his apprenticeship in an automobile factory in 1940, Knispel applied to join the armoured branch of the German Army and was sent in to battle aged 20 in 1941.
With 168 confirmed and 195 unconfirmed kills Knispel was by far the most successful tank ace of the Second World War, even knocking out a T-34 at 3,000 metres. He fought in virtually every type of German tank as loader, gunner and commander, and was awarded the Iron Cross, First Class, after destroying his fiftieth enemy tank and the Tank Assault Badge in Gold after more than 100 tank battles.
When Knispel had destroyed 126 enemy tanks (with another 20 unconfirmed kills), he was awarded the German Cross in Gold. He became the only non-commissioned officer of the German tank arm to be named in a Wehrmacht communique. As the commander of a Tiger I and then a Tiger II, Knispel destroyed another 42 enemy tanks.
Though he was recommended for it four times, Knispel never received the coveted Knight’s Cross, a standard award for most other World War II German tank aces. But he was not keen for honours, and when there were conflicting claims for a destroyed enemy tank, Knispel always stepped back, always willing to credit success to someone else.
He also had longer than allowed hair and a beard and a tattoo – the latter that was used to identify him when his body was found in an unmarked grave on the Czech-Austrian border.
Museum spokesman Eva Pankova said: “He was eventually identified by the a military tattoo on his neck.
“His remains will now be placed at the Central Cemetery of Honour.”