Historian Stephen Harding discusses the battle of Castle Itter. It was both the last battle of WW 2 between German and US forces, and the only time they fought together. Harding is the author of the book “The Last Battle” about this conflict.
The May 5th, 1945 engagement took place in Austria between US forces, and regular German Army soldiers, against heavily armed fanatical SS troops. The defenders were seeking to protect prominent prisoners being held in Castle Itter from the SS which intended to kill them now that the war was lost. The prisoners included two former French Prime Ministers and Charles de Gaulle’s sister (leader of the French resistance and later President of France). Harding discusses this battle and the outcome.
This open fighting between the German Army and the SS also raises questions of whether this could have occurred on a larger scale had German Generals taken bolder action against the regime. For example, after the bomb plot against Hitler in June, 1944 could German Generals have ordered the SS disarmed throughout Europe despite Hitler’s survival as was the plan if he had been killed? Harding discusses this question. He also talks about a movie that’s in the process of being made about this battle based on his book.
The interview concludes with a discussion of the end of the WW 2 in Japan. Harding is also the author of “Last to Die” about the last American military death in Japan after the country had supposedly surrendered.
The tenacious fighting of the Japanese, even after their supposed surrender and the dropping of the atomic bombs, raises questions about what would have happened if the Americans had not dropped the bombs. Furthermore, Harding points out that members of the Japanese military even tried to seize Emperor Hirohito’s speech to prevent the surrender itself.
Harding also speculates what would have occurred had US General Douglas MacArthur sought to retaliate for the American post-surrender deaths by the Japanese. He also explains why a number of Japanese fought on and ignored their Emperor’s order to surrender.