- Second World War (1939-1945)
- Leutnant (2nd Lieutenant)
- Zugführer 1./Pionier-Bataillon 36
- Awarded on:
- February 23rd, 1944
During the attack of the Pionier-Bataillon 36 northwest of Hetschiza, Leutnant Willms realized an opportunity in the middle of the battle due to the confusion of the enemy. Taking two squads with him, he pushed into a village occupied by the Soviets and pushed through it an a bitter house to house fight, finally reaching the bridge south of the town. This bridge was not an objective of his battalion, but the armoured forces that were due to capture it had been held up due to enemy resistance and Willms saw the need to preserve this crossing for the continuation of the attack.
Having occupied the bridge, the Soviets realized only a few German soldiers were present in the area and began to launch counterattacks supported by artillery fire. However Willms and his handful of troops were able to beat off these attacks, while never losing focus of their primary goal, the bridge. When three Soviet soldiers tried to detonate the explosives on the bridge Willms shot them down with his SMG. Afterwards he crawled to the bridge under protection of a friendly MG and disabled the explosive charges.
Following continued Soviet attacks Willms' group of soldiers was whittled down to only four men, but despite the desperate situation Willms and his troops were able to hang on until reinforcements finally arrived in the shape of other elements of the battalion as well as the newly arrived friendly Panzers and Sturmgeschütze.
By his actions Leutnant Willms had thus ensured the bridge fell intact into the hands of the Germans. This was decisive as the loss of at least a day that would've resulted due to the bridge's destruction was avoided. For this achievement Willms was decorated with the Knight's Cross.