Gangl, Josef „Sepp“

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Gangl, Josef „Sepp“
germanyWehrmachtMajor

Gangl, Josef „Sepp“ born 12-09-1910, in Obertraubling, the son of a small official of the Royal Bavarian State Railways and a former shop assistant. When he was a toddler, the family moved to Peißenberg in Upper Bavaria, where Josef’s younger siblings were born.

Gangl joined on 01-11-2018 the then limited to 100,000 men Reichswehr, 8 infantery and 2 calvalry divisions to begin a career as a professional soldier in the Artillery Regiment 7 in Nuremberg. Here he remained until September 1929, to then serve in the artillery regiment 5 in Ulm.In 1935 he came to Ludwigsburg to the newly established Artillery Regiment 25 and married there the Ludwigsburg saleswoman Walburga Renz, with whom he later had two children: 1936, the daughter Sieglinde was born.

In November 1938 Gangl was promoted to Hauptfeldwebel. From October 1939 he was to attend an officer school of the Wehrmacht, but he was relocated as part of the preparations for war with his regiment in the Saar Palatinate on the border with France. There, on September 07-09-1939, eleven French divisions over a width of 25 km crossed the border and made about 8 km on German territory, but they retired on command Gamelins within two weeks back. This was Gangl’s first war effort. In the following months of the “Sitzkrieg” or ” Phoney war”. Gangl spent six months in hospitals. On 14-05-1940, he returned to his regiment and took part in the west campaign. There he served as commander of a reconnaissance unit of the 25th Infantry Division of the Wehrmacht. After the ceasefire of Compiègne he was instructor in the Artillery Replacement Department 25 and transferred in August 1940 after a short home leave at their base in Taus in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. On 25–11-1940, he began a one-month training at the artillery school in Jueterbog.

From 22-06-1941, Gangl participated in the German-Soviet War with the 25th Motorized Artillery Regiment as part of Army Group South in Ukraine, where he commanded a battery with 10.5 cm field howitzers at the Battle of Kiev in the 3rd Battalion , On 20-08-1941 Gangl was awarded the Iron Cross II. Class. In January 1942 he was promoted to leutnant and received on 12-02-1942, the Iron Cross I. Class. On  24-04-1942 Gangl was commander of a Nebelwerfer unit in the Artillery Regiment 25. This position on the Eastern Front, he held until he was assigned in January 1944 as commander of the launcher replacement and training department 7 in Höchstädt on the Danube. In February, he spent a month at the Army School for Battalion and Division Leaders in Antwerp. On 04-03-1944 Gangl was sent to the new launcher Regiment 83 in Celle, which belonged to the Werfer Brigade 7. With this he marched in May 1944 into France. After the Allied invasion of Normandy, he marched on 07-06-1944 with the launcher brigade to Caen, where she was subordinated to the 12th SS Panzer Division “Hitler Youth” under command of SS-Oberführer Kurt Meyer and played an important role in the defense of the city. The Werferbrigade 7 was able to escape in August under heavy losses from the boiler of Falaise. In November, she was re-erected in Prüm in the Eifel as Volks-Werfer brigade 7 with new equipment. Sepp Gangl took part with the brigade on the Battle of the Bulge, the following general retreat and in February 1945 in the futile defense of Saarbrücken. On 08-03-1945, he was awarded the German Cross in Gold. Shortly thereafter, he was promoted to Major and was given command of the II Division of the 83rd Launcher Regiment. The Launcher Brigade 7 had now lost half of its men and had no more Nebelwerfer. Their commander, General Kurt Paape, ordered the commanders of his battalions near Peißenberg at the beginning of April to fight their way through to Tyrol and to take part in the defense of the Alpine Fortress. General Paape survived the war and died age 58 on 06-05-1950 in Kassel  In mid-April Gangl met Generalleutnant Georg Ritter von Hengl, who assigned him with the remains of his Giehl Kampfgruppe under Oberstleutnant Johann Giehl in Wörgl.

A few days after his arrival in Wörgl Gangl contacted the local group of Austrian resistance to Alois Mayr. He supplied the resistance fighters with information and weapons. It was decided that the execution of the order of Johann Giehl, to defend Wörgl to the end against the Americans and to bridge it and to block ways to prevent, should also be to free prominent French prisoners from the nearby castle Itter

. On 03-05-1945, however, parts of the Kampfgruppe Giehl were attacked in Niederaudorf by the 12th US Armored Division, under command of Major General Douglass Taft Greene and suffered heavy losses. General Green died 13-06-1964 aged 73 in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, His youngest son Lieutenant Thomas Patrick Greene (1929–1951), USMA Class of 1950, was killed in action in Korea on 10-02-1951.

Total 12th Armored Division complement: 10,937 at end of 1944; 17,000 assigned to the division between activation and deactivation, with last commander Major General Roderick R. Allen Total battle casualties: 3,527, killed in action: 616, wounded in action: 2,416,missing in action: 17, and prisoner of war: 478

Von Hengl had his troops withdrawn from Wörgl and Itter, whereupon units of the Waffen-SS, 17. SS-Panzergrenadier-Division „Götz von Berlichingen“ under command of SS-Oberführer Georg Bochmann were advancing.

In the meantime, many residents of Wörgl had already hung white flags from the windows. According to a Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler‘s order, all male inhabitants of such a house were to be shot. Gangl, like Mayr, saw it as his duty to stay in place to protect the inhabitants from reprisals with his soldiers. Together with ten comrades from the launcher Regiment 83, he remained against the withdrawal order from Hengls in Wörgl back.

On 04-05-1945 at 11 clock appeared at Gangl, coming with a bike from Itter Castle, the Czech chef Andreas Krobot and asked for immediate help for the local prisoners, as an attack of the Waffen SS on the castle would be imminent. Gangl, who did not want to sacrifice his men in a suicide mission and promised them they would live through them, was forced to rush toward the Americans of the 142nd Infantry Regiment of the 36th Division of XXI Corps, under white flag and ask them for help. In 8 km away in Kufstein he met an intelligence unit of the Americans under the command of Captain John C. “Jack” Lee

He eventually moved with 14 US soldiers and Gangl and ten of his former artillery to Itter Castle, where it came with the Battle of Itter for possibly the only war action of World War II, in which soldiers of the US Army and the Wehrmacht fought side by side. Gangl once again called Alois Mayr for help by telephone, whereupon two other Wehrmacht soldiers and the youthful resistance fighter Hans Waltl drove to the castle. The liberated French prisoners also took part in the fight. On the morning of May 5, about 100 to 150 men attacked the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division “Götz von Berlichingen”.

Death and burial ground of Gangl Josef “Sepp”

Sepp Gangl was fatally beaten by a sniper’s bullet in an attempt to bring former French Prime Minister Paul Reynaud out of the line of fire. He died the only one of the defenders of the castle. At about 4 pm a detachment of the 142nd Infantry Regiment reached the castle and defeated the besiegers, capturing about 100 SS men. Sepp Gangl is buried at the cemetery “an der Antoniuskapelle” Sankt Johann in Tirol, Kitzbühel Bezirk, Tyrol (Tirol), Austria.

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