- Second World War (1939-1945)
- Oberleutnant (1st Lieutenant)
- Führer, 5. Kompanie, II. Abteilung, Panzer-Regiment 11, 6. Panzer-Division
- Awarded on:
- September 4th, 1940
The following wartime excerpt describes why Bethke was awarded the Knight’s Cross…
“On the 27.05.1940 Oberleutnant Bethke and his Kompanie destroyed 5 enemy tanks, 4 Carden-Lloyd carriers and 2 anti-tank guns during their attack on Cassel. 700 prisoners were also taken, including a brigade commander and two regimental commanders. During the coup-de-main against Epinal on the 18.06.1940 he eliminated 2 enemy batteries in a bold thrust, thereby enabling Marschgruppe von Ravenstein to cross over the Mosel river. His brave actions here significantly contributed to compelling Fortress Epinal to swiftly lay down its arms.”
The following press article provides an additional account as to his Knight’s Cross actions…
“Oberleutnant Bethke has decisively influenced the course of combat for his Division on several occasions through the outstanding leadership of his Kompanie and his magnificent boldness on the battlefield.
During the combat on the 18. and 19.05.1940, which take place near Bellicourt and Vendhuille, he and a few men defended the bridge crossings all alone in the face of heavy MG and mortar fire long enough for elements of his Kompanie and additional infantry to arrive as reinforcements. He personally eliminated several enemy AFVs and thereby enabled the Marschgruppe to swiftly move forwards.
On the 27.05.1940, during the attack on Cassel, he left his Panzer despite the strongest enemy artillery fire of all calibers. Showing boldness and great devotion to duty, he reorganized his Kompanie for a renewed attack in order to penetrate into the strongly built enemy position.
During the English breakthrough attempts near Houterque on the 29.05.1940 he and his Kompanie eliminated 5 enemy tanks, 4 Carden-Lloyd carriers and 2 anti-tank guns. 700 prisoners were also brought in, including a brigade commander and 2 regimental commanders.”
Submitted on August 18th 1940.