Petersen, Heinrich (SS-Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 1)

Date of birth:
March 31st, 1904 (Sonderburg/Schleswick, Germany)
Date of death:
May 9th, 1945 (near Melnic/Bohemia and Moravia. Czechoslowakia)
Nationality:
German (1933-1945, German Reich)

Biography

Heinrich Petersen comitted suicide on 9th May 1945 as SS-Standartenführer and Führer 18.Panzergrenadier-Division "Horst Wessel".

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Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant-colonel)
Unit:
Kommandeur SS-Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 1 "Prinz-Eugen" / 7.SS-Freiwilligen-Gebirgs-Division "Prins Eugen"
Awarded on:
November 13th, 1943
Action:
Petersen’s Knight’s Cross recommendation reads as follows…

"On the 10.09.1943, SS-Obersturmbannführer Petersen assumed as independent leader, far away from Division Headquarters, command over the Kampfgruppe transferred by air from Mostar to Sinj. On order of the XV. Geb. A.K., the group was to be employed for the occupation of Split. As the troops at his disposal were very light (I./Geb.Jg.Rgt. 1, IV./Geb.Jg.Rgt. 1 and the I./Geb.A.R. 7) without horses or motorised baggage trains, they were dispatched via air transport to Sinj. Petersen landed in Sinj late on the night of the 10.09.1943 with the IV./Geb.Jg.Rgt. 1 and I./Geb.A.R. 7, rushing in after the I./Geb.Jg.Rgt 1, which had landed earlier. Handling these assets skillfully, by 18:00 hours of the 11.09.1943 they had disarmed the strong Italian garrison troops at the castle of Klis.

Against strong enemy resistance in Brnace, and after repulsing a tough attack in Dugo Polje at 23:00 hours in close combat, the Kampfgruppe continued its' advance at 01:00 hours on the 11.09.1943. The group was halted by a surprise attack at 02:00 hours from the dominating heights of Kocino Brdo/487 and Sv. Gospa/354; Hill 354 was stormed and captured. Early in the morning Petersen repelled new bitter attacks by the enemy, who knew the importance of maintaining control of Klis, and he finally ousted the opponent from the heights while inflicting heavy casualties.

At 11 :30 hours the breakthrough of the I./Geb.Jg.Rgt. 1, itself repeatedly attacked and critically threatened, was finally accomplished. Because of the situation and statements of agents, as well as the civilian population, the conclusion was reached that the Partisans had mastered the situation (according to the statement of the Italian Commander of Klis, there were 4-5000) Partisans between Klis and Split). Only with a hold and quick engagement of the combat group in Split could the city fall in our hands. The Commander decided to conquer Split the very same day. At 16:30 hours Petersen, leaving behind as garrison only weak elements in the castle, advanced towards Split.

The attack of the Kampfgruppe, strongly inferior in numbers and artillery, collapsed under the deadly fire from the dominating heights filled with bunkers at the flanks, mainly Hills 602 and 616. At 18:00 hours, the withdrawal of the Kampfgruppe to Klis began. On the 14.09.1943 Petersen attacked again, trying to eliminate the flanking fortified heights with limited attacks. By 14:00 hours the I./Geb.Jg.Rgt 1 reached the water course before Solin, 3km north of Split. The fortified Hills 602, 616 and also the strongly fortified line of bunkers in front of Sohn proved to be unconquerable by available forces against the tough enemy resistance. The Kamplgruppe retreated again to Klis, where it became encircled and had to take defensive positions.

For nine full days, from the 15-23.09.1943, Petersen defended Klis with his Kampfgruppe without supplies and under heavy fire from artillery Batteries. The Stukas sent for relief could achieve only limited success against the enemy who was fortified in concrete bunkers and rock nests. The II./Geb.Jg.Rgt. 1, which was brought into Sinj by air as reinforcement after being relieved by other forces on the 15.09.1943, was itself encircled in Sv. Jakob (7km northeast of Klis). Superior Partisan forces forced the unit to fight for its' life. A motorized Kampfgruppe, hastily assembled by the Divisional Commander for the relief of the Petersen group and personally deployed from the east along the rocky coast sector, failed northeast of Omis due to the enemy resistance before the insurmountable road demolition.

The situation of Petersen's Kamplgruppe became more critical. The supply from the air in this mountainous area had to be halted almost every hour due to the weather. Care for the wounded became a problem. The enemy pressure from the rocky heights on both sides of Klis intensified menacingly. Relief forces were no longer on hand. Due to this situation, on the 18.09.1943, the Division gave the Kampfgruppe the choice either to hold Klis or to break out to Sinj. By his own initiative, Petersen decided to hold Klis under all circumstances. At that time Petersen had no knowledge if relief was really possible.

SS-Obersturmbannführer Petersen, in the course of every operation of the Kampfgruppe, remained personally in the thick of the fight. Above all, during the hard days of the encirclement, he provided his men with a shining example by his courageous independent decision of holding Klis. Relief was finally provided to the Kampfgruppe by a force led by the Divisional Commander with the attached Gren.Rgt.92 (mot.). As Klis was the key jump off point for the attack on the 25.09.1943, its' success is largely due to the earlier efforts of Petersen. With all this in mind, he has proven himself worthy of bearing the high award of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross."
Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes

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