- Second World War (1939-1945)
- SS-Gruppenführer / Generalleutnant der Waffen-SS (Lieutenant General)
- Kommandeur, SS-Freiwilligen-Gebirgs-Division "Prinz Eugen", Waffen-SS
- Awarded on:
- July 4th, 1943
Phleps’ Knight’s Cross recommendation reads as follows…
“SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS Artur Phleps carried out Operations ‘Weiß’ I. and II. during the time period 20.01.-09.03.1943 as commander of the SS-Freiwilligen-Division ‘Prinz Eugen’.
In this time he especially distinguished himself through his far-sighted, energetic and flexible leadership. During the decisive attack from the Bos.-Petrovac area in the general direction of Bos.-Grahovo (23.02.-28.02.1943) it was to Phleps’ credit alone that the Petrovac—Drvar road could be reached. This was in spite of his Division having to march across snow over a metre deep while crossing a mountain as well as encountering numerous tree and road blocks.
Via a broad deployment of all available forces the enemy (in strength of 4 brigades) was surprised and their resistance definitively broken, meaning that for the remainder of the operation they were incapable of offering serious resistance.
Thanks to the personal actions of SS-Obergruppenführer Phleps alone his Division succeeded in reaching Livno and later the bauxite mines west of Mostar.
Enemy losses amounted to 1930 counted dead, 1673 estimated dead, 2378 wounded as well as countless materiel (heavy and light MGs, horses and vehicles) captured. In the course of further clean-up operations in this area the SS-Freiwilligen-Division ‘Prinz Eugen’ thrusted from the Mostar/Capljina area further to the southeast on the 15.05.1943. In doing so it succeeded in rendering an orderly withdrawal of Chetnik forces from this area impossible.
Within a very short time the Division was able to advance further to the southeast over arid and very mountainous terrain into the Niksic and Gornje-Polje areas. Through his initiative the divisional commander enabled his unit to overcome this water-deprived terrain. By completing this movement the Division secured a favourable jump-off point for surrounding the enemy forces pulling back from the Turmitor massif.
The thrust against Saving against a fiercely defending foe was achieved over the course of three days, and the Division succeeded in taking control of the three river crossings near Savnik in a 400 metre deep ravine via a coup-de-main. By doing this the path for a further advance towards Zabljak was opened. In cooperation with the 1. Gebirgs-Division (operating to the east) the enemy was blocked from retreating in a southeasterly direction. During this time the bandits north of the left wing of the Division assembled strong forces in a bow-shaped area passing through Piva, Drina and Sutjeska. They wished to force a breakthrough in both a southern and northern direction.
On the night of the 30.-31.05.1943 the Division received the order to release all available elements from the Savnik area and swiftly transfer them to the left wing in order to prevent an enemy breakthrough from the Mratinje area towards the south. Here it was solely thanks to the personal energy of SS-Obergruppenführer Phleps that, within two days and two nights, 3 battalions, 2 heavy motorized artillery batteries, two Flak platoons and two Panzer-Kompanien could be dispatched to the area around Avtovac (180 km away) with makeshift motorized assistance.
Through the ruthless thrust over the 2000 metre high Maglic massif, and through extensively occupying the area north of the Cemerno col, the Division succeeded in closing the pocket to the north in cooperation with the right wing of the 118. Infanterie-Division.
The physical and combat achievements of the SS-Freiwilligen-Division ‘Prinz Eugen’ in this wild, rough and remote mountainous area, in the middle of snowstorms, rain and fog, are truly remarkable. They are the pinnacle of all other successes of this kind carried out by the SS-Gebirgs-Division ‘Prinz Eugen’, all the more so when one considers it was formed from men from lowlands.
The swift conduct of operations from the Narenta to the Piva rivers, then the tactically difficult repositioning of the Division’s main effort from the right to the left wing, and finally the encirclement operation in the Maglic massif gave the hounded enemy no rest and smashed the hostile resistance in such a way that it collapsed.
SS-Obergruppenführer Phleps, by his personal bravery and superior leadership, did an outstanding job during these operations. The successes of his Division are above all attributable to the tactics that Phleps developed and well as his training of the Division under very trying circumstances.
Given these outstanding achievements, I ask that the commander of the SS-Freiwilligen-Division ‘Prinz Eugen’, SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS Artur Phleps, be awarded the Knight’s Cross to the Iron Cross.”