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Eisgruber, Johann

Date of birth:
December 21st, 1915 (Aunkofen/Bavaria, Germany)
Date of death:
June 13th, 1993 (Munich/Bavaria, Germany)
Nationality:
German (1933-1945, Third Reich)

Biography

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Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Feldwebel der Reserve
Unit:
Pionierzugführer Stabskompanie Grenadier-Regiment 62 / 7.Infanterie-Division
Awarded on:
August 31st, 1943
Eisgruber’s Knight’s Cross recommendation reads as follows…

“On the 07.07.1943 the attack of Grenadier-Regiment 62 (the middle regiment of the 7. Infanterie-Division) reached the southwestern edge of the forest south of Tureika and the entrances to the low-lying ground near Degtjarnyj. Over the course of the Division’s attack against Hill 249.8 on the 10.07.1943 the Regiment thrusted into the bottom of such a hollow west of Degtjarnyj.

The enemy had filled these depressions with anti-tank and anti-personnel mines. Individual vehicles were damaged and soldiers heavily wounded by these mines.

At this time Feldwebel Eisgruber was leading his Zug in the foremost line for the purposes of fortification work and anti-tank defense. After learning about the difficulties with the mines he made the decision to go forward without any particular orders, being fully aware of the necessity and importance of his abilities. He wished to reconnoiter the type and extent of the minefield. He learned that the bottom and slopes of the hollow 500 metres west of Degtjarnyj, located just behind the foremost line, were infested with randomly scattered and highly sensitive anti-personnel mines. 64 anti-tank mines had already been dug out further in the rear by other Pioniere.

The position of this anti-personnel minefield was identified by the enemy as a likely German attack route because of the good approach possibilities it offered. As such it was constantly under heavy flanking fire by rifles, MGs, anti-tank guns, railway guns, dug-in tanks and numerous mortars. Artillery covered the area from the northwest, west, south and southeast, conducting observed fire by day and harassing fire by night.

Feldwebel Eisgruber identified the morning as the most favourable time to operate, as the enemy could not easily observe and at the same time some light was available to aid the infiltrators. As such he crawled forward on his belly during the morning of the 11.07.1943, probing the ground with his hands and removing any mines encountered. In order to ensure that no well-camouflaged mines were overlooked, and that they were preferably rendered harmless, Feldwebel Eisgruber went about this dangerous work alone and only let 2 men escort him as assistants.

He first cleared a small supply path to the foremost Kompanien and marked it. Then, over the course of 4 separate mornings and evenings, he cleared the whole minefield with 91 anti-personnel mines. Fully aware of the dangers posed by harassing fire, snipers or the mines themselves, Feldwebel Eisgruber mercilessly put his own life at risk while enduring the highest kind of stress. In doing so he displayed a measure of bravery unmatched by any pilot or tank crewman. With such a task at hand there were no guarantees that he would get away with his life.

The deed of Feldwebel Eisgruber was decisive for the subsequent tactical success at this position:

The friendly attack on the 10.07.1943 bogged down in the hollow, and the enemy began counterthrusts. Their main effort was the recapture of Hill 250.2, located 2 km to the southeast of Degtjarnyj. Here they repeatedly attacked in battalion-regimental strength, supported by 15 tanks. At the same time they pressed against the Degtjarnyj hollow on the 15.07.1943 with a newly brought-up Regiment. Their goal was apparently to move through the hollow and forest east of Degtjarnyj and infiltrate into the deep northwestern flank of Hill 250.2.

It was therefore of decisive importance that the enemy did not succeed in breaking through the hollow west of Degtjarnyj. However the absence of mines from this area enabled Pak to be deployed to block the hollow against tanks. It also allowed for the swift and safe bringing up of intervention groups. As such the three enemy attacks launched into the hollow on the 15.07.1943, which were supported by occasional tanks, were all beaten off.

Feldwebel Eisgruber thus effected a deed with wide-reaching implications, far beyond what would normally be demanded of a regimental Infanterie-Pionier-Zugführer.

Feldwebel Eisgruber has cleared 340 mines with his squad during the war in the East. He personally was responsible for 190. During the mine-clearing in the Degtjarnyj hollow he was struck by two shell splinters, but only to the point where he received bruises. On the 28.07.1943, during the sealing off of a penetration at Krassnikowo, 4 fingers from his left hand were torn off by an enemy anti-tank round. The character of Feldwebel Eisgruber makes him one of the most humble, loyal and combat-ready fighting personalities of the Regiment.”
Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes

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