Hubert-Erwin Meierdress - Battles On The Mius Front

Battles On The Mius Front

On 22 July, the Totenkopf was entrained for the Mius-Front, where Generaloberst Holldit's reformed 6.Armee was under heavy Soviet attack and close to collapse. The Leibstandarte, which was heading to the Italian front, left its vehicles behind. These were used to partially refit both the Totenkopf and the Das Reich.

Upon arrival at the Mius-Front, Totenkopf and Das Reich were immediately thrown into action. In the rocky ravine-crossed terrain, Meierdrees led the understrength SS-Panzer-Abt in several ferocious counterattacks which prevented several breakthroughs. By late June, Totenkopf and Das Reich had succeeded in stabilising the front to some extent.

The launch of the Soviet Operation Rumyantsev on the southern flank of the Kursk salient meant that the Totenkopf and Das Reich were sent back north to deal with the threat to Kharkov. Meierdrees' now exhausted abt was ordered into the line near Belgorod, where it was engaged in a ferocious defensive battle in an attempt to stem the tide. The divisions halted the advance of Rumyantsev, and it seemed as if the line would be stabilized. However, strong Soviet forces soon outflanked the two divisions and forced them to fall back to Kharkov. The threat to the divisions' flanks was too great, and on 23 August the Totenkopf and Das Reich abandoned the city, narrowly avoiding encirclement. Despite the best efforts of the two SS-Panzergrenadier divisions, on 23 August Kharkov had fallen. Army Group South began a fighting withdrawal to the Dnieper.

Meierdrees continued to lead the abteilung in constant fire-brigade actions, preventing breakthroughs and flanking maneuvers as the slower formations of the Totenkopf fell back. By early September, the totenkopf reached the Dniepr. Elements of the Soviet 5th Guards Tank army had forced a crossing at Kremenchug and were soon threatening to break through the Dniepr line. Totenkopf was thrown into action against the bridgehead, with the panzer regiment leading many attacks. In late September, Meierdrees was seriously wounded in combat against the bridgehead. He was evacuated to an SS-Field Hospital where he recuperated. As this was his fifth serious wound, he was awarded the wound badge in gold. In recognition of his actions in Kharkov, Kursk, the Mius and the retreat to the Dnieper, Meierdrees was awarded the Oakleaves to the Knight's Cross. These were personally awarded to him by Adolf Hitler on 5 October 1943.

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