- Second World War (1939-1945)
- Führer 16. / SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment "Das Reich"
- Awarded on:
- March 12th, 1944
Schmelzer’s Knight’s Cross recommendation reads as follows…
"On the morning of 24.12.1943, the enemy advanced from the north on a broad front against the positions of SS-Panzer-Kampfgruppe "Das Reich" and attacked them.
After several hours' artillery fire against the bulk of I./SS-Panzer-Grenadier Regiment "DR", they launched an assault with tank support and after hours of hard battling managed to achieve one breakthrough. At the same time, an enemy force moved west along the road from Kiev-Zhitomir, pushed through, and by evening had already taken Kotscherowo and on toward the road. Thus, the way to the south was closed for all motorized elements.
The pressure of the enemy attacks from the north against Sabelotsche lasted all day unabatedly, so there was only one possibility: to move westward to avoid it. However, here there was the Teterev (river), an insurmountable obstacle that offered no possible passage. SS-Obersturmführer Schmelzer however knew there was no other way to go and he gave the order for the bridge to be removed the day before for supply work to quickly be repaired, made stronger, and passable for the heaviest armour and vehicles. Everything depended upon this bridge building; if he did not succeed, all of the vehicles of the Kampfgruppe would have to be abandoned.
Under the most difficult conditions (related to the procurement of building materials, very poor weather, and lack of a labour force) Schmelzer succeeded in completing the bridge at 01:00 hours through his ruthless actions. At 02:00 hours the vehicles of the Kampfgruppe and the neighboring division were able to start moving over the bridge and on toward Lenino. The supply trains and troops from all of the various branches could now flow over the bridge from the eastern bank of the Teterew and obtain new positions.
The following day (25.12.1943), Schmelzer had the order to blow the bridge immediately after the vehicles had driven over and therefore deny the enemy the ability to move over it. Schmelzer had every intention to follow the order, but the execution of it would demand everything from him. With his Kompanie as the demolition commando and bridge security, he had the order to wait until the enemy flood had reached the defensive positions on the eastern shore of the Teterew. While the disengagement from the enemy by each unit went smoothly initially, the enemy soon arrived on the heels of the most recently arrived battalion. Schmelzer was able to throw back weak elements of the enemy who had already arrived at the bridge over the Teterew, but then ensued a dramatic fight near the Teterew in the moments where the enemy had come forward closer to the bridge. Here too, Schmelzer threw his Kompanie repeatedly against the invading Russians and pushed them back in a counterattack so that the last friendly battalion could reach the western shore of the Teterew and withdraw to their new positions. During this time Kompanie-Schmelzer suffered the heaviest enemy artillery, anti-tank, and mortar fire. With outstanding toughness Schmelzer held the bridge and calmly threw the opponent back, ignoring all of their fire.
After Hauptrnann Speidel (commander of Panzer Pioneer Battalion 19) arrived as the last one at the bridge, Schmelzer received the order to finally blow the bridge. However the igniters were damaged. Once again, his pioneers had to fend off the attacking enemy until the cable was back in order. Once the last squads of the Pioneer Kompanie crossed SS-Obersturmführer Schmelzer went over and the bridge was blown.”
In total, following its reconstruction, the bridge rebuilt by Schmelzer’s pioneers would facilitate the retreat of a tank battalion, an artillery battalion, a rocket launcher battalion, an infantry regiment and a Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung.