Orth, Karl

Date of birth:
April 18th, 1906 (Dürkheim/Palatinate, Germany)
Date of death:
July 20th, 1968 (Rheinberg-Orsoy/North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany)
Nationality:
German (1933-1945, German Reich)

Biography

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Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Grenadier
Unit:
13. / Grenadier-Regiment 453 / 9.Armee
Awarded on:
March 3rd, 1944
Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Grenadier
Unit:
13. / Grenadier-Regiment 453 / 9.Armee
Awarded on:
March 3rd, 1944
Eisernes Kreuz 1. Klasse
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Grenadier
Unit:
13. / Grenadier-Regiment 453 / 9.Armee
Awarded on:
March 3rd, 1944
Action:
On 19.02.1944, north of Bobruisk, the Soviets began an attack against the positions of the 253. Infanterie-DIvision. Following a two hour artillery barrage, they began their advance. At the same time the Infantry Gun crews of the 13./Grenadier-Regiment 453 (including Grenadier Orth) rushed out of their bunkers and dugouts to their guns, removing their camouflage and preparing them for battle. By the time this was all completed the enemy was only about a few hundred meters away. Unexpectedly however a second barrage came down on the infantry gun position of Grenadier Orth. Of the 10 men in this gun position, the gun commander (who also commanded the platoon) and the gunner became heavily wounded and were no longer able to contribute to the battle.

With this the gun platoon was leaderless and without connection to the command post, and was now on its own. Despite the dire circumstances, Grenadier Orth immediately sprang to the gun on his own initiative and began firing one HE round after another at the attacking enemy. They did not cease their advance, however the German defenders were equally determined and were able to repulse both this as well as a second attack. After that however the Soviets brought up mortars and heavy machine guns. More of his comrades became wounded, however Orth was able to keep the resistance going. He gave the firing orders, brought up ammunition, took care of the wounded and was always on the lookout for new enemy groups.

After defeating the third enemy attack, the enemy tried once again with a company of soldiers. By using the last of their strength the “Gruppe Orth” were able to change their position and continue the battle. By the time almost all their ammunition was expended, the enemy finally gave up their attacks in this sector. However at the same time Orth became wounded in the thigh. Nevertheless he stayed in his position until finally relieved by the Regiment.

Orth, who had been at the front for only seven weeks as an ammunition handler, was the soul of the resistance throughout this battle. It was only by his outstanding dedication that this gun position containing only 10 German soldiers at the start of the battle could hold off such an overwhelming foe. This success was furthermore of great importance for the continued fighting of the Germans in this area. Orth would thus be decorated with both classes of Iron Cross simultaneously as well as the Knight’s Cross, an extremely rare achievement. He would also be one of the few soldiers of the rank Grenadier (or equivalent) to be decorated with the Wehrmacht’s highest medal for valour.
Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes

Sources