- Second World War (1939-1945)
- Hauptmann (Captain)
- Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 667
- Awarded on:
- October 18th, 1943
Awarded for the successful actions of his battalion during the fighting southeast of Smolensk in the summer of 1943.
On the 7th of August his battalion of assault guns comprised the reserve of the German XII. Armeekorps along with the Grenadier Regiment 87. The Soviets launched an attack against the 268. Infanterie-Division along a 7km front but failed to achieve a breakthrough. The next day though they attacked the neighbouring division and were more successful, capturing an important hill on the flank of the 268th and threatening it with encirclement. On his own initiative Zettler launched a counterattack with his force of StuGs and infantry into the open flank of the Soviets, retaking the hill and destroying 29 tanks in the process. The threat to the 268. Infanterie-Division was thus temporarily eliminated.
Several days later, when the Korps was no longer able to continue to hold the front, it commenced a planned withdrawal to a new defensive line on the night of 12/13 August. Zettler and 11 of his assault guns were positioned forward of the new line in order to shield the reforming German units, and with the help of friendly artillery were able to hold off three pursuing Soviet regiments.
A part of Zettler's force was during this time detached and fought with the 267. Infanterie-Division in the area around Spas Demensk. In a period of heavy fighting from 10-14 August this detachment claimed to have destroyed 95 (!) attacking Soviet attacks, earning the recognition of the 4. Armee commander, Generaloberst Heinrici.
Zettler was thus awarded the Knight's Cross for his battalion's successes during this month as well as its overall performance in the past year. The battalion claimed a total of 710 Soviet tanks destroyed in the period July 1942 up to 15. August 1943.