- Second World War (1939-1945)
- Kommandeur III. / Grenadier-Regiment 53
- Awarded on:
- November 14th, 1943
The following report from a comrade of Major Pilat, Oberleutnant Hudemann, describes how the Major would receive his Knight’s Cross…
“On the night of 25-26.09.1943 the Kampfgruppe Pilat withdrew to a new line as planned. Combat outposts were still adjacent to the enemy, in order to prevent his swift pursuit and report any such move immediately. There had been no sleep for anyone in the previous days and nights, and as Major Pilat returned from the battle positions around 06:00 following his usual rounds he hoped to get some rest at the battalion command post, as nothing major concerning the enemy had been reported.
However he had scarcely arrived at the peasant hut where the command post had been set up when the first bursts of MG fire struck against the wood. ‘Good grief, where is that coming from?’ Just a few minutes before everything had been quiet at the front, now the gunfire already sounded like it was not at all far off. From the relatively high hut it was possible to overlook the whole area, which was set deep in the valley of the R. river before rising up steeply to the field positions of our Kompanie. There was still not much visible in the many ravines (which were still thick with morning mist), when the following radio message was received from the left Kompanie: ‘Enemy broken through to our left, with elements already in our rear and launching strong attacks against our flank!’ Now a decision had to be made quickly, but fortunately Major Pilat was the man of swift resolve and sure decisions.
A glance at the map, a look at the terrain, and Pilat radioed the 11. Kompanie: ‘Pull back - reposition the left wing - hold the R-bridge under all circumstances!’ Now we could also see a bit more clearly how the Bolsheviks had pushed past the Kompanie with strong forces and already reached the village of SCH. Soon he would be at the bridge, the only crossing for many kilometers. Would our troops be able to reach and secure the bridge in time? Major Pilat doesn’t wait for the next message from the Kompanie. Instead he gathers some messengers and communications troops, rushes to the creek and occupies the bridge to prevent the enemy crossing. It was a race to take control of the bridge with both advancing forces being under fire, and our Major was the first to reach it, beating the enemy to the bridge by just a few meters. And with some troops of the 11. Kompanie, who could only come to this side of the water by wading across, a new defensive front was swiftly established.
However the situation couldn’t remain this way for long, as the enemy could see the whole lay of the land from their captured hill and were already bringing down heavy artillery fire upon us. And there came a new message from the Kompanie on the right: ‘The enemy has bypassed us and crossed the creek in the sector of the right neighbour!’ The Bolsheviks had now broken-in to the right of our battalion, with the aim of thrusting towards the crossing from this side and destroying its garrison in a pincer movement. In this situation swift action was required. With calm and determination Major Pilat now gave his orders. First off, order had to be restored at the bridge! Short and clear are his orders for the attack, and with artillery support the attack was to be set into motion immediately. Only a few minutes remained to organize what combatants were available, and then Major Pilat stormed across bridge at the head of his small group while roaring the familiar German battle cry ‘Hurra, Hurra!’ The enemy is not prepared for such a move, and the first positions were viciously overrun. Other enemy elements gave way and tried to flee, but were relentlessly pursued by Major Pilat and his troops. Fewer and fewer Bolsheviks remain standing, one after the other is killed or captured, and their resistance was totally broken. The old German position was once again occupied in its full breadth.
After this point the enemy no longer attempted any moves against us. His losses had been too high, and they had surely noticed that they were up against a man who is unwilling to give up one meter of ground unless ordered to do so. There was to be no rest for this man however, as now it was necessary to clean up the situation on the right. Here things also looked grim, as elements of the enemy had already pushed behind the battalion command post and threatened to interdict the only negotiable road in the area. Once again he set out at the head of a handful of men, which included combat troops pulled out of other sections of the front as well as a few messengers, radio operators, artillerymen and whoever else could be spared. A counterattack was launched which managed to secure the threatened hill and road for good, while simultaneously removing the danger of an encirclement.
A few days later, on 01.10.1943, the Bolsheviks once again broke into the positions of the right neighbour and penetrated into the village of E. With a handful of troops from his staff Major Pilat launched a counterthrust, attacking the much superior enemy and throwing him out of the village in bitter close combat and back over the J.-creek. However the enemy gave us no rest, as the possession of this village and by extension the good road nearby was as important to him as it was to us. However he was not counting on Major Pilat. The road from R. to Ch. had to remain in our hands no matter what for the sake of further operations. Again and again the enemy struck against our weak frontline, but no matter where he attacked Major Pilat was swift to respond. With his calm and determination, he always renewed the strength of our few soldiers, and each of us knew that:
‘Wherever our Major is, there nothing can pass, there everything goes smoothly!’”