Häfele, Josef

Date of birth:
December 26th, 1910 (Stockheim/Bavaria, Germany)
Date of death:
May 17th, 1942 (Fedorovka, Soviet Union)
Nationality:
German (1933-1945, German Reich)

Biography

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Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Oberfeldwebel
Unit:
18. / Gebirgsjäger-regiment 99 / 1.Gebirgs-Division
Awarded on:
September 9th, 1941
Ehrenblattspange des Heeres und Waffen-SS
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Oberfeldwebel (Warrant Officer)
Unit:
Zugführer 11. / Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 99 / 1.Gebirgs-Division
Awarded on:
November 18th, 1941
The following press article, dated 06.06.1942, describes why Häfele was awarded the Knight’s Cross…

“In the middle of November 1941 Oberfeldwebel Häfele was awarded the Knight’s Cross to the Iron Cross by the Führer for an outstanding feat-of-arms. During the Regiment’s forward march a letter was received from a German prisoner of war. Coming from a village occupied by the enemy, it described in detail the location of a house in which German prisoners were being kept.

Oberfeldwebel Häfele volunteered to free these comrades, although he also had to reckon with the possibility that this letter was a trap. The large village itself was still occupied by a thousand Soviets which, being incited by the commissars, were not inclined to surrender. However, with courage and boldness, the Oberfeldwebel was able to make his way unnoticed up to the aforementioned house with only a handful of Jäger as escort. However here he found himself suddenly surrounded by a large number of enemies, one of which opened fire with a machine-gun.

Oberfeldwebel Häfele realized that only ruthless and lightning-swift action would save the day. He forbid his Jäger to shoot (which would have left to a quick annihilation of the handful of German troops) and instead screamed at the enemy soldiers with such energy that they actually were persuaded to lay down their weapons. Oberfeldwebel Häfele then freed the 18 German prisoners and returned to the Regiment with these and about 1500 prisoners. This bold feat-of-arms by Oberfeldwebel Häfele not only spared his Regiment a heavy battle within the village, but also save the lives of a number of his beleaguered comrades.”

To this article can be added an excerpt from Häfele’s Knight’s Cross recommendation…

“The carried out thrust by Oberfeldwebel Häfele against Podwyssokoje, one conducted with extraordinary bravery, not only saved the lives of a number of German comrades but also triggered the capture of about 1500 Russians, an act which affected the continuing combat decisively. As a result thousands of other Russians began to give up, which accelerated the complete capture of the village and the ending of the encirclement battle at Uman. The independent deed of Oberfeldwebel Häfele thus secured a success that had far-reaching consequences. Since Häfele has always been one of the bravest NCOs of the Regiment, I approve the recommendation of the Knight’s Cross to the Iron Cross.”
Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes

Sources