Operation Peiper

On the 9th January 1943 the LAH returned to Russia to a rather desperate situation. Stalingrad was surrounded and through the gap in the German lines the Russians were aiming at the important Junction City of Kharkov. The 1st Panzer corps (LAH & Reich) held the 8th Guards army who were probing for a weak spot. They found it to the north east of the LAH’s position where the 320th “Green Heart” Infantry Division were holding out in the small town of Stary Oskol which is North of Kharkov. General Postel ordered his division to retreat to the Donetz. They had 1500 wounded and were moving so slowly that they risked being destroyed.

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Dietrich ordered Peiper to proceed with his troops and a column of ambulances to save what was left of them, in a fighting retreat. Peiper commanded the IIIrd battalion of Panzer Grenadiers. He met Postel’s men and told them to proceed to a wooden bridge over the Udy River at Krasnya Polyana (which he had just cleared of Russians) while he spread out to provide cover. He waited all the afternoon but no enemy appeared. On returning to the bridge he discovered that the bodies of the wounded had been mutilated and that the survivors were involved in a fierce fight with a Russian Ski battalion. Peiper & his men attacked at once firing from the hip as they ran through the snow. The battle raged for several hours until the ski battalion was wiped out.

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Peiper-“After a long wait, which we spent sitting in our APC’s with a nasty feeling, the army division turned up. We all thought the same thing: Beresina! Napoleon’s retreat must have looked just like this. Those capable of walking led, followed by the lightly wounded. The seriously wounded brought up the rear. A picture of despair on horse drawn carts and sledges. As there where not enough room for everybody on these, the unlucky ones were hooked up and towed along on their stomachs. Our surgeons and medics had meanwhile arranged a system in which the wounded got something to eat and drink and some first aid. Nobody came from 320 division to help. We secured the area and , hollow-cheeked, stared into the ghostly night convinced that this would not keep going satisfactory for long.”

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When General Postel was informed that contact to his rearguard had been lost, he established calmly and cold-bloodily that it was already the problem of ‘Aunt Frieda'(an expression for the HDV Nr 300, military command) and said the rearguard should sacrifice itself should the opportunity present itself! Peiper’s opinion of what the general should do was similar.

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Peiper was awarded the Knight’s Cross on  March 9 1943 for his successful and  heroic rescue efforts.

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Published in: on January 8, 2017 at 4:06 am  Leave a Comment  

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