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Major Willy Jähde
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Willy Jähde was born in Helmsdof on January 18th 1908. At the age of 18 he joined the Reichswehr; his first unit was the 6th Prussian Automotive Division, based out of Hanover. When the Germans rearmed in 1934 he was promoted to Leutnant. Over the next few years he carried on rising through the ranks, eventually becoming a company commander in the 7th Panzer Division by the start of the Second World War.

During the twelve hour battle at Woźnicka, Jähde led his men from the front, earning himself an Iron Cross 2nd Class as the outmatched Polish forces put up stubborn resistance, holding the hill to the town’s north and knocking out about fifty tanks. In the final days of bitter fighting Jähde won an Iron Cross 1st Class.

Jähde's Career nearly came to an end in France when his company was caught in the path of the British Counter attack at Arras, which steam-rolled into the 7th Panzer Division’s flank and reportedly caused Erwin Rommel to panic. Jähde managed to escape the limited British attack with his company.

After a promotion to Hauptmann and a period at the Panzer training school at Putlos, Jähde returned to the war, this time on the Eastern front. After 18 months of action Jähde was given another promotion to Major and transferred to command the 502nd Schwere Panzer Abteilung; the same unit that would later be commanded by Otto Carius.

In the weeks that followed, the Tigers of the 502nd stood against the might of the Red army. On on occasion at Gatchina, Jähde led a company of Tigers against the attacking Soviet armour. German forces were stretched so thin that Jähde's company had to be transported by train to the battlefield, and then under fire the tanks unloaded from the train and began to fight immediately.

Tiger of 502nd Heavy Tank Bataillon
being rearmed in the field

Even this wasn't enough to halt the Soviet forces. After being forced out of Gatchina the Germans forces were now at a severe disadvantage - in his final battle Jähde and his adjutant each commanded a Tiger, the last two working Tigers in the battalion, and stood against the Red army forces. Despite knocking out nine Soviet tanks Jähde couldn't stop their advance. His Tiger was hit and destroyed by the enemy, and Jähde was wounded. This was the third time Jähde had been wounded during the war.

After recovering Jähde was awarded the Knights Cross for his actions during his brief command of the 502nd. He was then posted to take command of the Panzer school at Eisenach. In 1945 the area was under threat from the Americans, so Jähde led a small Kampfgruppe consisting of the school’s Panzer III's and IV's. He was captured by the Americans shortly afterwards.

In 1946 Jähde was handed over to the Soviets after allegations of war crimes. However these seem to have just been a precautionary measure as he was released without charge. He returned to the town of his birth and settled with his family. He then disappeared from official sight, never coming to notice of any of the East German authorities. However just as the Berlin wall was being constructed Jähde and his family moved to the West, where once again he disappears into civilian life. At the age of 96, in April 2002 he died in Munich.

The War Thunder Team

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