- Second World War (1939-1945)
- SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant-colonel)
- Kommandeur, SS-Sturmbrigade "Reichsführer SS", Waffen-SS
- Awarded on:
- July 4th, 1944
The following document describes the Knight’s Cross actions of Obersturmbannführer Gesele. It is possible that this was substituted as his actual Knight’s Cross recommendation…
“The treachery of the Italian royal house also brought about a completely new military and political situation overnight for the Sturmbrigade Reichsführer-SS.
In the days beforehand the Italian Colonel General Magli had transferred the Brigade to new billets around Aulene, located in the middle of the island of Corsica and far from any secure supply base. However the commander of the Sturmbrigade RF-SS had seen through this move. Nevertheless, despite skillful maneuvering, he eventually had to fulfill Magli’s order as he was technically subordinate to him. Despite this he managed to ensure that the Brigade instead found itself further south, in the area around Sartene.
After the Brigade had learned of the disarming of the Italians through the Italian liaison officer, SS-Obersturmbannführer Gesele made a swift decision to go south at full speed. In doing so he and his men occupied the Bonifacio harbour and took over the posts of the 55th Blackshirt legion. Through the occupation of this harbour and the creation of a bridgehead here he removed the possibility of two significant potential dangers: firstly an invasion of Corsica by Anglo-American troops at one of the most dangerous points and thereby the obstruction of the German forces retreating from Sardinia; secondly an encirclement of the Brigade by the Italian troops on Corsica loyal to Badoglio.
On the 11.09.1943 the Brigade was relieved of its position at the bridgehead by the 90. Pz.Gren.Div., which had been brought over from Sardinia. It now received the mission to take the city and harbour of Bastia along with the Borgo airfield, positions the enemy had by this time occupied with a Division and reinforced with 15 batteries as well as tanks. This would guarantee the smooth evacuation of the German units from Sardinia and Corsica.
The Brigade first moved along the eastern coastal road, smashed an enemy battalion and reached its assembly area. Then SS-Obersturmbannführer Gesele commenced his attack. But as a result of the strong artillery fire from batteries located on overlooking positions, this motorized thrust was gradually sapped of its drive. The commander thus decided to give his Brigade a moment of respite. Despite the strong enemy fire the Brigade managed to regroup and prosecute the attack on foot in spite of the friendly inferiority in artillery. In the evening both the city and harbour of Bastia were firmly brought under friendly control. By this the destruction of two important bridges was prevented just in the nick of time. Even during the night SS-Obersturmbannführer Gesele allowed the bridgehead to be expanded, and on the morning of the next day he personally directed the capture of the Teghime Pass. By this the bridgehead around Bastia was now shielded to the west.
In the following days the Brigade held its bridgehead despite the daily pressure from the enemy. In this time the Brigade commander was the soul of the resistance. He always appeared at the hotspots of the fighting and cleared up the situation through ruthlessly committing himself to the action. The calm and confidence he exuded gave his men a persistent feeling of superiority, as well as the strength to fight. As a result the evacuation of the German forces from Corsica could proceed in an orderly fashion.
On the 03.10.1943 the last bit of territory from the Bastia bridgehead was given up after the southern portion around the Borgo airfield had been evacuated on the night of the 02./03.10.1943 according to plan. At 21:00 SS-Obersturmbannführer Gesele left the island on the last ship alongside the last security elements and demolition troops.”