The highest scoring tank ace of WWII was Germany’s Kurt Knispel. Knispel total tank kills were confirmed at 168, with some unconfirmed estimates stating that total could actually be closer to 195 kills. Knispel is considered by some as the greatest tank ace in history. His awards included the Iron Cross, Panzer Badge and German Cross in Gold.
Step close and get a sense of the strength of the cold metal on AFHMs authentic, fully restored, fully operational battle tanks, which are prominently displayed throughout the museum. Get a sense of the combat they endured throughout their service. Take a moment, put yourself in the turret – feel the power, feel the fear, feel the pride.
Knispel’s Early Service
Kurt Knispel began his basic training at Panzer Replacement Training Battalion. He later received tank training on the Panzer I, Panzer II and Panzer IV tanks. Knispel was also instructed on the Panzer IV as a loader and gunner. When training was completed in June of 1941, Knispel was assigned as gunner of a Panzer IV under the leadership of Lt. Hellman and he began his World War II service.
Later in the War
In January of 1943, Knispel returned for training on the newer Tiger I tanks. At that time, he was already credited with 12 kills. His squadron – 1st Company of the 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion – participated in various battles throughout World War II, eventually upgrading to the Tiger II tank. Knispel is said to have accomplished an incredible 24 hits in one action with the Tiger II tank.
A Closer Look
Kurt Knispel was recommended four different times to receive the Knight’s Cross – a coveted award received by many of the other German tank aces. Knispel, however, did not mind that he was consistently passed over. The purpose of his mission was not for decoration. He is even said to have credited others with kills he could have easily disputed as his own. His rise in ranks was slow which is attributed to a few conflicts he encountered with Nazi authorities and his lack of typical military uniformity – sporting longer hair than most and a goatee.
Kurt Knispel – an individual who fought in every type of German tank as a loader, a gunner and a commander – received a fatal wound just ten days before the end of the war. At age 23, the highest scoring tank ace of WWII – Kurt Knispel – was dead.