Artist David Pentland with the original painting The Last Bridge
Personal notes on this painting from the artist :
I accidentally discovered this incident only while researching a more famous tank ace, namely Ernst Barkmann. Both served in the same unit, and both were present during the final days of the war in Vienna. Friesen actually volunteered to run an almost suicidal resupply mission at nightfall on the 12th April to bring tank ammunition to the southern bridgehead. Unfortunately having completed his task, one of the two other tanks, a Panther, was destroyed, compelling him and his crew to cover the eastern approaches to the bridge for the following day.
For the painting I chose to depict Friesen's Panther, apparently a replacement vehicle numbered 227, positioned among the trees and shrubs of the riverside park. I took some artistic licence showing possibly less camouflage foliage than in reality, in order to see the Panthers sleek lines. I could find no record of the actual variant of tank involved, so I opted for a late war G, as photographs indicate some were present in Vienna at the time. One photograph in fact showed such a Panther G using a steel wheel along with the more common dished type and I decided to include a similar one on mine.
One of the interesting aspects of the story was that Friesen claimed to have stalked and destroyed a Josef Stalin III, in the square south of the bridge, possibly the only account of this tank appearing in action during WWII. This is a controversial claim however as according to many experts the JSIII was not employed in combat before the wars' end. It may be he mistook a JSII for the new soviet super tank, but as an experienced tank man it seems unlikely.
It's of note that throughout this episode Friesen is at pains to portray himself as part of a crew, and credits any success and survival to the other men in the tank who were equally experienced. Namely gunner Sgt. Gert Ehegotz, loader Cpl. Fritz Sprieg, radio operator Sgt Guenter Rau and driver Sgt. Alwin Sternauth.