Colonel Count Strachwitz von Gross Zauche und Camminetz was the most decorated regimental officer of the German panzer army in WWII. He was awarded all the grades of the Iron Cross, including the Knight's Cross on August 1941 and Oakleaves on 13 November 1942, the Swords on 28 March 1943, and Diamonds on 15 April 1944 when commanding a battle group in the sector of Army Group North.
Originally a cavalryman, Strachwitz belonged to an old military family with estates in Silesia. He served during WWI and with the Freikorps, and fought during the campaigns in Poland and France. He gained however reputation on the Eastern Front, exploiting with small battle groups to fight Russian armor. When isolated from friendly units he also showed courage outside his vehicle, fighting hand-to-hand against Russian infantry until his crew had repaired the tank. He became famous for his rapid advances, breaking through enemy lines and disrupting enemy headquarters and supply units. On one occasion he was the first to cross a river bridge, attacking a column of hundreds of Russian trucks and guns.
After fighting in the Stalingrad area, von Strachwitz commanded as an Oberst the Panzer Regiment of the elite Panzer Grenadier Division Grossdeutschland. Having only a handful of tanks, the Grossdeutschland division needed capable men like von Strachwitz to lead their tanks against a numerically superior Russian Army. On one occasion, he laid an ambush with four of his panzers deep inside Soviet lines. The Russian tanks never expected the enemy so deep in their own rear, and the German group destroyed 105 Russian tanks in less than an hour, without the loss of a single panzer.
After forming one of the first Tiger battalions, his disciplined crews were able to destroy many Russian tanks during the fighting for Kharkov. Von Strachwitz commanded the 1st Panzer Division and later as armor commander he was sent to Army Group North. Here he took part in the first offensive to restablish contact with Army Group North which had just been encircled for the first time. From September 1944 the various elements of Gruppe Strachwitz were used to cover the retreat of Army Group North into the Courland Sector.
Although von Strachwitz was a wonderful tactician at the battalion and regimental level, he was inflexible at times and unwilling to compromise. These qualities limited his success with larger units, and he was never used as a real divison commander. But in a situation where a battlegroup could operate independently, and when Strachwitz did not have to deal with equal or superior ranked officers, he was a great armor commander. Wounded no fewer than fourteen times during the war, he survived the front. He and his men found a way southwards through Czechoslovakia to become a prisoner of the Americans.