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Schenk, Rudolf

Date of birth:
April 1st, 1913 (Misdroy (Usedom), Germany)
Date of death:
May 6th, 1945 (Bielefeld, Germany)
Nationality:
German (1933-1945, Third Reich)

Biography

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Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Major
Unit:
II. Bataillon, Grenadier-Regiment 558, 331. Infanterie-Division, Heer
Awarded on:
April 7th, 1944
Ehrenblattspange des Heeres und Waffen-SS
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Major
Unit:
Kommandeur II./Grenadier-Regiment 547
Awarded on:
August 8th, 1944
During May 1944 the Soviets took control of the high-lying village of Grigorkino. From here their observation posts had a commanding view to the west, and their MGs were also able to fire effectively into the Welikaja valley. The 83. Infanterie-Division therefore decided to recapture the village of Grigorkino. A report by the divisional Ia (Oberstleutnant i.G. Woite) describes the course of this operation as follows…

“An attack with the codename ‘Thunderbolt’ was thoroughly prepared and carried out on Ascension Day (17.05.1944). Old positional warfare experience taught that the alertness of the enemy sentries was lowest about 1-2 hours before daybreak, and this knowledge would be exploited in the operation. At this time of day the dangers of the night and morning were non-existent, people breakfasted, officers/NCOs slept and the sentries dosed. The operation would correspondingly be carried out two hours before daybreak as a surprise attack, without any artillery preparation.

The attack would be launched as a pincer movement. The II./547 under Major Schenk would strike from the south, whilst the I./257 under Major Zirpel would come at the village from the north. Pioniere were able to open up lanes through our own minefields and barbed wire obstacles during the night without the enemy noticing. The attacking Bataillone silently entered their jump-off positions and concealed themselves until the appointed time.

When this moment came the infantry surprisingly emerged from their cover, stormed through the mine lanes and climbed up the mountain towards Grigorkino. The surprise attack completely succeeded. The first shots were only fired after the first men (led by Major Schenk) jumped into the Russian trenches. Bunker after bunker was rolled up in hard close combat from the rear, whilst the whole position was sealed off to the east.

Friendly artillery and mortars had been conducting ranging fire throughout the previous day against both the enemy artillery positions and the forest edges to the east of Grigorkino. The divisional commander had taken up positions with the artillery commander at a forward command post, and the former had waited to unleash the artillery fire at just the right moment. The resultant barrage eliminated the flank threat to our attacking infantry from the forest edges, and the enemy artillery was pummelled from the moment that they opened fire. Stuka attacks reinforced the furious artillery strikes from the entire divisional artillery.

Russian counterthrusts were beaten back, and those more deliberate counterattacks that led to local penetrations were likewise eliminated to the extent that the Russian observations posts remained out of action. 46 prisoners were taken (including 7 officers and a Russian girl in uniform) and numerous weapons were captured. Major Zirpel fell after receiving a headshot. Major Schenk was awarded the Knight’s Cross.

This operation was a total success, and it showed that the Division was still possessed of offensive spirit.”
Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes

Sources

  • - Scheibert, Horst. Die Träger der Ehrenblattspange des Heeres und der Waffen-SS/ Die Träger der Ehrentaffelspange der Kriegsmarine/ Die Inhaber des Ehrenpokals für Besondere Leistung im Lukftkrieg. Friedberg, Ger.: Podzun-Pallas Verlag, 1986, ISBN 3-7909-0283-7
    - Axis History Forum via Awardholders / unit
    - Tiemann R., Geschichte der 83. Infanterie-Division: 1939 - 1945, Podzun Pallas Verlag, Friedberg, Germany, 1986

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