Friday, July 13, 2012

Enemy Elite Friday: Erich Zepper (Germany)

"Following our withdrawal to the Dnieper river, the enemy succeeded in expanding their bridgehead at Kanew during the first days of October 1943.  In this time they pushed towards the southeast in the direction of the village of Kreschtschatik, located at the Division’s left boundary.  The enemy’s overall objective was to continue attacking in multiple directions in order to enlarge their bridgehead and thereby lay the groundwork for a subsequent operation to roll up the front line of III. Panzer-Korps
The Regiment Westland was dispatched to eliminate this enemy bridgehead, and on the 07.10.1943 it occupied its designated assembly area on Triangle Island.  During the attack which followed (which initially had the main effort on the right) the enemy defended bitterly with all available weapons, and ground was gained only with great difficulty in the 300-400 meter wide sand banks between Triangle Island and Foxtail Island.  On the right wing the advance got as far as the eastern edge of Foxtail Island, albeit with heavy losses.  Here those weak elements of the Regiment that had broken into the enemy positions were ejected by an hostile counter-thrust and pushed back to Triangle Island.  On the left wing of the Regiment the enemy reinforced their defense in such a way that the first friendly attack bogged down in fierce defensive fire.  SS-Hauptscharführer Zepper and his badly depleted Kompanie found themselves pinned down in a dune position opposite the southeastern tip of Foxtail Island, from which persistent and powerful enemy defensive fire was being unleashed.  During the course of the first attack Zepper realized that the enemy sought to hold their crossing site at the northern edge of Foxtail Island at any cost and under any circumstances.  From this he concluded that the Regiment’s attack would only meet success if the enemy was ejected from the southern part of the island.  After friendly forces had regrouped, friendly artillery conducted a powerful barrage in order to prepare the enemy positions for a renewed assault.  Recognizing the effectiveness of this preparatory fire, SS-Hauptscharführer Zepper decided not to wait for the ordered attack time but instead commence the assault immediately. Acting on his own initiative, he moved forwards with his men during the friendly artillery barrage and broke into the hostile positions.  Only then did he direct the friendly preparatory fire to move on.  The enemy was totally surprised by an attack launched while the barrage was still in progress, and their defense was much less effective.  SS-Hauptscharführer Zepper skillfully utilized this moment of opportunity, and he pressed his advantage by plunging deep into the enemy trench positions whilst leading at the head of his men.  In this fighting the Kompanie eliminated enemy MG, anti-tank and infantry gun crews in close combat while also capturing a considerable quantity of materiel within a relatively small space.  This amounted to:
4 anti-tank guns
4 light field guns
2 infantry guns
20 machine-guns
30 anti-tank rifles.
Moving inexorably forwards, he and his men destroyed bunkers and battle positions.  Zepper himself played a major role in the clearing of an enemy regimental command post.  The enemy took very high losses, and consequently their defensive power was considerably reduced.  This sally, conducted with extraordinary bravery and decisiveness, created a great deal of confusion among the enemy.  This in turn enabled the remaining elements of the Regiment to seize a foothold on the island [Foxtail Island], re-energized the stalled attack and resulted in the destruction/capture of much additional enemy men and materiel.  The decisiveness and exceptional courage that SS-Hauptscharführer Zepper displayed here were the primary factors that led to the shrinkage of the enemy bridgehead to a considerable degree.  This, combined with their significant losses, caused the enemy to halt their higher ambitions in this sector for the time being.  SS-Hauptscharführer Zepper is an experienced front-line NCO who has already proven himself as an outstanding Zugführer.   He was also awarded the Iron Cross First Class already on the 24.12.1941.  As such, I believe Zepper to be someone who is particularly worthy of being awarded the Knight’s Cross to the Iron Cross."  from his Knight's Cross to the Iron Cross citation, awarded on December 2nd, 1943 as SS-Hauptscharführer of the 2. / SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 10 "Westland".
Another capable enemy elite,
Brian & Mel

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