Germany – Third Reich: A Rare and Interesting Greek Campaign Iron Cross 2nd Class, Sevastopol Iron Cross 1st Class and Rzhev Salient German Cross in Gold Winner’s Document Group to Hauptmann of the Reserve George Stussel, 8th Machine Gun Company, HQ II Battalion and Regimental HQ 266th Infantry/Grenadier Regiment, 72nd Infantry Division, which includes two superb accounts written by Stussel of his Battalion’s actions in the Crimea, including of the final assault of the Sevastopol fortress, detailing his units fighting in the area around Sapun Hill. Wounded in this final attack, he would go on to see service in the Rzhev Salient, in the Defence of Dnieper Crossings, the Baranov Bridgehead, before seeing out the war as a Battalion Commander in the area around Gorlitz on the Oder, where he was probably involved in the retaking of the town of Bautzen, the last successful German attack of the war on 26th April 1945.
A rare document group which belonged to a former combat proven Infantry Reserve Officer comprising the large and small award certificates for the German Cross in Gold and 8 others, his well-used Soldbuch, a photo of Stussel as an Oberleutnant, 18 documents (period 1933-1945) and 2 battle reports written by Stussel about his Battalion’s actions in the Crimea.
It is evident from the photos that Stussel had also been awarded the The Close Combat Bar in Bronze and the Romanian Commemorative Medal for the Fight against Communism.
This is a very fine head and shoulders portrait of Georg Stussel wearing the following decorations:
The German Cross in Gold, Iron Cross 1st Class, Infantry Assault Badge in Silver, Close Combat Bar in Bronze, Black Wound Badge and a ribbon bar for the Iron Cross 2nd Class, Ostmedaille and the Romanian Commemorative Medal for the Fight against Communism.
Note: This photo must have been taken in 1943 between 5th May 1943 (date of the award of the German Cross in Gold) and 1st December 1943 (Date of the award of the Silver Wound Badge) – possibly whilst on leave after he had been awarded the German Cross in Gold.
George Stussel was born on 9th February 1910 in Grossenenglis/Fritzlar near Kassel, he was married to Liselotte and lived in Immenhausen near Kassel. A philosophy student, he graduated as a teacher in 1939 but not before he had enlisted for a year in the Infantry in 1934, being discharged to the Army Reserve in 1935.
Called up again on the outbreak of war he would have initially seen service in the west, including in the campaign in France in 1940 where it played a prominent role in holding the southern flank of the thrust to the channel coast, before attacking south over the Seine and Loire. The Division then spent the remainder of 1940 on occupation duty including some time in this role in Paris, before it moved east to Romania at the beginning of 1941.
By April 1941 the Division was moved south to take part in the invasion of Greece, a quick campaign that was to all intense and purposes finished by mid-May with a decisive German victory. On the cessation of the fighting in Greece, the Division moved north to Romania in preparation for the invasion of the Soviet Union. Given the fact that Stussel’s Iron Cross 2nd Class is dated 30th June 1941 and at this time the Division was still in Romania, we can ascertain that it was a slightly delayed award for Greece.
Initially 72nd Infantry Division was in Reserve at the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, but it joined the fighting in the front line in mid-July in the south of the Ukraine via Kishenev and then onto the area around Kherson by the beginning of September. In early October the Division then began it’s advance on to the Crimea, where it pushed towards Sevastopol. On 1st December 1941, Stussel was awarded the Infantry Assault Badge in Silver for his role in at least 3 Infantry assaults up to that date. Shortly afterwards on 15th December he was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class for an act of bravery in the fighting around Sevastopol that was taking place around that time. Stussel writes an excellent report about the combat between 23rd October to 21st November 1941:
‘Fighting and marching are the words which the achievements of the Battalion is characterised. The area of Bessarabia pillaged by the Romanians, the capital Kishinev, the Ukraine and the advance up to the Azov Sea are the headlines of the battles since 21st June 1941. The Battalion marched towards a new combat sector in the beautiful October days of 1941. The Russians stubbornly defended the strategically very important Crimea Peninsula at the Isthmus near Perekop. That this resistance was broken, that Sevastopol Fortress was encircled and stormed, all are high points in the story of a Battalion which has no real visibility and which has no ringing name but which achieved so much in the many violent and bitter battles.
On 23rd July 1941 the Battalion started to attack on the field positions tenaciously held by the Russians near Bestchasnoye with I/266th on its left and 105th Infantry Regiment on its right. The assembly positions area is occupied near Kasyonny-Utchastok No9 during the night of the 22nd/23rd October.
The terrain to be overcome provides the defender with all the advantages and the attacker only disadvantages. Flat, no cover, no suitable positions for the heavy weapons. Against that the Russians are in their field positions, well dug in and closed up to the lakes which makes outflanking the enemy impossible.
At 0800 hours the Stukas appear and drop bombs on the neighbouring sectors further to the right. The appearance of the German aircraft brings about a silence of the enemy field guns and heavy mortars which have up to now been speaking with all their might and which have already cost us casualties. This support is used immediately. The order comes to advance. The Battalion has gained about 600 metres before the enemy has time to think. Then enemy fire is laid down with all available means. The shells rain down everywhere, machine-gun and rifle fire of the Russian riflemen whistles flat just above the ground. There are casualties. This defensive wall can not be overwhelmed without artillery support and without the elimination of the enemy weapons. Since this support is missing for the time being, the Battalion remained lying down about 300 metres in front of the enemy positions. The order rings out ‘Dig in!’ The bullets still trace over the flat ground, the shells of all calibres scream over. Assault guns appear in the afternoon. The Battalion attacks gain 100 metres and the Battalion gets bogged down. It digs in at this point. A hot day comes to an end. Many a comrade has had to give his life.
The Battalion remains lying and defending at this point until 28th October. The snipers in the most forward Russian trenches made themselves particularly noticeable. As soon as a head was seen, a bullet whistled over. The Isthmus to the Crimea must be conceded to the defenders, they have not made its capture easy.
The attack begins on 28th October after detailed preparation. Strong artillery is arrayed behind us and moved up. Support was to be with Stukas and rocket launchers, a weapons which we should learn to know for the first time. The attack begins at 0800 hours after violent artillery preparation. The Stukas arrived punctually to the second and dropped their loads over Bestchasnoye. As the Battalion wants to begin, about 20 Russians come running towards us from the Russian trenches, waving a white handkerchief and explained that during the night the forces, which had previously defended the positions, have withdrawn and only a covering force has remained in the trenches. The preparatory artillery fire can now be stopped immediately and the Battalion then immediately starts out. The resistance of the remaining Russians is moderate. It is broken, the village is taken and further advances made. The Battalion pushing by onto Ishun comes across renewed resistance on the ridge of hills in front of Magasinka and Monastirka. The enemy is immediately tackled and the hills, reinforced by bunkers and field positions, are taken in a decisive thrust. 80 prisoners are brought in during the day, MGs, rifles, and equipment and captured. As a result of an order the Battalion continues the further advance in the evening on Alexandrovka. The enemy has withdrawn according to the aforementioned order. After about 3kms however the spearhead bumps into a new enemy position which is reinforced and well occupied. A baptism of rifle and MG fire confronted us which was certainly quite something. The Battalion Commander Oberleutnant Rothe is left with the decision: attack or dig in and only reconnaissance the ground at daybreak. As a result of the heavy casualties during the previous day he decides to wait for daybreak in order to renew the attack with the support of heavier weapons.
After our artillery had laid down an excellent barrage on the well constructed hill positions near Monastirka, we attack at 1100 hours on the 29th. It becomes an attack suitable as a classic example to be shown in a film. Everything went like clockwork. Cooperation within the Company with the Battalion heavy weapons and in the Battalion with the subordinated anti-tank Platoon and the Infantry field gun Platoon as well as with the artillery which essentially supported the Battalion in its heavy work through its forward observers. Magasinka is taken in the assault and the trenches and field positions on the range of hills are completely cleared of the enemy. Prisoners are sent back, shown the way that they have to go, we do not have the time to occupy ourselves with them, The advance goes on. Here and there once again Resistance flares up, here and there is a Russian who believes that he can hold up a Battalion with his shooting. The greatest part of the Russians in the area around Monastika see the pointlessness of resistance against a German Battalion in the fullest attack momentum and capitulate after the very well built trenches, bunkers, and positions are taken with this momentum. Alexandrovka is reached in the evening. The penetration of the lake narrows of the Crimea is forced through. The Russians had again and again raised a new line of resistance linked to the lakes. Now the lake narrows are penetrated. The entry to the Crimea is open.
The Battalion marched further on towards Simferopol with enemy contact. The monotonous countryside of North Crimea is soon relived by the delightful picture of the Yaila Mountains at whose the foot the capital of the Crimea nestled, seeking and finding shelter. The view of a mountain is a rallying point for us central Germans after this march through an endless plain. The eye can not see enough of the rock massifs, the hills and valleys. Unfortunately a short stay in Simferopol is denied us. The town was taken shortly before we arrived. The Battalion itself had no more contact with the enemy. However here and there signs of battle are still to be seen and individual parts of the town are still in flames.
Simferopol was reached on 5 November, on 6 November the unit continued its advance over the Yaila Mountains to the Black Sea. The way led via Churt-Albat-Kokossy-hill passes-Yalta.
The Russians have again taken up positions in the first range of hills. Their whole strength of resistance appears to be tired. Violent battles are certainly still to come, march groups are raided by partly scattered and partly organised enemy groups concealed in the mountains. It is by and large established that the enemy operations pursue the purpose of checking our advance, no more being able to have the objective to completely stopping it. The enemy obviously wishes to gain time in order to evacuate the Crimea, to get clear away.
The troops have to deal with two difficulties with the march and fighting through the Yaila Mountains which are surmounted. There is first of all the enemy and secondly the terrain. The task falls to the Battalion to block the roads running from west to east and so preventing a withdrawal of the enemy. That is why one must set off from the routes, the mountains are passed through by a cross-country march. Hills are awesome, valleys passed through and streams crossed. All equipment must be carried since the smallest vehicle can not follow on the mule tracks. What our men have gone through during these days in physical trains, will remain a hidden, mostly unknown contribution. The advance must go on in an unstoppable way, the possibility of the withdrawing Russians once again taking up a position must be denied to them at all costs. As the Battalion has arrived in Kokossy in front of the 1200 metres high pass before Yalta, assault guns, Flak Guns, light air defence guns and mechanised artillery passed by. A relief so thinks each Landser. It is the Ziegler Mobile Brigade which was pursuing the shattered enemy. But the Russians blew up a bridge 6kms after Kokassy. Assault Guns, Flak Guns etc can not go on any further. So the Battalion starts off again and overcomes the enemy, rain, storms and snow (winter has come on the hills), the latter also the most strenuous and highest range of mountains/ as on 11th November in the first light of dawn the Black Sea lies to the front of us from the hills of the mountains, as we take in the charming view of Yalta town at the foot of the mountains, as we take in the far horizon of this scenic unique beauty called the Sea, all the stresses and strains are forgotten.
We were soon to notice that we have not come here for recuperation and that the harsh law of the war rules. We are roused by the gunfire from our dreams, in which many of our Landsers may well have become immersed with the sight of this picture. Machine-gun fire is heard at the edge of the town. The forward detachment of the Division under command of the Knights Cross Holder Major Baacke has already forced its way into the town and has achieved the main task of capturing Yalta. The Battalion still only finds slight resistance as it advances into the north-west part of the town. A load of prisoners are hauled out from the houses. They show all the cussedness of the Russian Soldiers – indifference and mindlessness. The few who once again made use of their weapons soon see the futility of their conduct. They all surrender. In addition to the prisoners, the troops captured a string of horses and vehicles. They are particularly useful to the troops. The vehicles of the fighting troops are unable to accompany them any more because of the demolition of the bridge near Kokossy, that is why the troops were instructed to carry all equipment on the horse-drawn litters. The rations also failed to appear for a few days. Now the men, who have gone without sleep for days because of the heavy physical demands, at least got rid of the weight of the litters.
The Battalion marched along the south coast of the Crimea on 12th and 13th November. It is a march which everyone who was there will never forget. We experience and take in the beauty of South Crimea which one only knew from books and pictures. The march direction is Sevastopol. There are skirmishes again in the hills of Doros, there where the road leaves the Sea and swings to the north. A tunnel is blown up, there is insufficient time to make the road useless. The boulders, which block the road, are soon got out of the way with the help of the Engineers. The attempt by the enemy to halt the advance of the troops by blowing up the coast road did not succeed. These obstacles were soon got rid with the help of our own forces and the action of the prisoners.
Baydari is reached in the evening of 13th November. Before us lie the range of hills and defiles which give the landscape of the land and sea fortress of Sevastopol its character. The Battalion forces its way up the ridge of the hills near Varnutka and Kamary. Here the enemy has once again taken up positions, favoured by the terrain. Weakened by casualties and tired out by the strenuous marches, the forces were no longer sufficient to throw out the Russians from their mountain hideouts and prepared positions. The important range of hills with the dominating hill 440.8 is still taken. It was to be the area in which the Battalion remains until the attack on Sevastopol in June 1942 and plays its part in the encirclement of the city. The Sea and the Sevastopol panorama is viewed to the front of the crests. The Battalion occupies its positions on these hills and prepares for defence. The ridge of hill 440.8 leading towards the main road is taken in a bold attack on 21st November. A dangerous situation with the beginning of the attack is overcome by the decisive intervention of the acting Commander of 8th Company, Lt Ude. As the Battalion wants to start of the attack, the Russians suddenly appear in the rear. A position lying facing the sea and to the west was penetrated and the whole Battalion is threatened by this action. The Russians had already forced their way to the positions of the heavy mortars. The enemy which had broken through was destroyed by Lt Ude with his Company detachment and the men of the heavy mortar Platoon. So the Battalion is able to carry out its task. Once again it has come through a tough battle. The Russian positions are stormed. The acting Battalion Commander, Oberleutnant Rothe, is however wounded with this action.
How important and how significant the capture of hill 440.8 is, was only shown in the attack beginning in June on the Sevastopol fortress which had been built up with immense energy by the Russians. It was because this hill offered the unique possibility of an assembly position from the south against Sevastopol. A perfect observation is possible from these hills. Enemy movements in the Chorgonny Valley are seen from here and entries into the city harbour observed. That this is important terrain for German troops to be in possession of for the siege of the city as well as for the later attack, is a contribution of the Battalion for which it feels entitled to be proud.’
The 72nd Infantry Division then continued to act as a screening force for the encircled Sevastopol garrison throughout the winter of 1941-42, while other units successfully defended the Crimea against landings at Kerch and Feodosia.
In early June 1942 the Germans sought to end the siege of Sevastopol, and Stussel was wounded on 15th June 1942 during one of these attack, receiving the Black Wound Badge while still in the Crimea on 22nd July 1942. Stussel goes on to write a second report on the fighting that covers the end of November 1941 until 1st July 1942.
‘Hill 440.8 ‘Home’ of the Battalion. The Battalion has managed in the tough and rocky earth. Rain makes the stay and work on the trench system full of suffering. The rainy season on the hill becomes an obstacle. Smeary earth, mud, and streaming water mark the first days in this theatre of war. We had to get a roof over our heads. So we dig on, chop wood and construct. The means of blasting was not available to us. The callused hands of our men showed the work they had carried out. Little by little bunkers, combat posts and finally trenches come into being. During these days we noticed nothing of the previously described, much praised, sunny Crimea. This was to remain for quite some time. Later mind you we still learnt about the sunny side of the Crimea.
Mid December. Eager work at the Battalion command posts. Preparations were being made for the attack on the fortress. On 21st December the attack on the city, which is already in full wing from the north, begins for the Battalion. The task of the Battalion was to occupy Kamary and push through to Fort Hill (Fortkruppe) (Hill 164.9). The support of our heavy weapons is modest. Nevertheless the advance succeeded in getting up to Kamary. Night then falls. The Battalion forms a hedgehog position of all round defence and remains there during the following days on the north ridge of Hill 440.8 on which heavy enemy fire was deployed, above all artillery and Flak guns. As a result of a hollow, which offered good cover, there are no appreciable losses. The attack is called off after two days. The forces are insufficient to take the fortress. The Battalion takes up its old position on Hill 440.8.
The ridge, which has received the name of ‘Little Turret Saddle’ (Turmchensattel) from us and which the Battalion had stormed in November, was in view of the road running from Baidary to Sevastopol. From there the main battle line runs to the crest of the ridge of Hill 440.8 (hill itself not in the Battalion sector.)
The Companies were fitted into this area and created a main battle line which ran along the rear slope which was not in view to the enemy. Again and again the Russians attempt to regain Hill 440.8. There are many a violent defence battle against manpower which is far superior to us. Little by little our position becomes more impregnable. Bunkers are excavated by Engineers assigned to us and by the use of explosives which are available. Combat posts are so constructed that there is a greater safety for us.
A particular result during this time is the cooperation with our Romanian comrades subordinated to the Regiment and who are neighbours to the right of our Battalion. A very nice comradely relationship developed. Reciprocal visits bring us closer and allows the customs and traditions of both nations to come into their own.
Training is carried out besides improving fieldworks, standing guard and other duties. It is a physically heavy demand which is placed on our men. But it is managed. The Crimea winter was very severe this year. The local inhabitants confirmed that it was as hard as winter as anyone could remember. Nevertheless we have had it better with regard to the cold and snow in contrast to our comrades in other parts of the East Front. Against that another handicap forms in the long supply routes for the troops deployed on the Crimea. As a result rations are at times meagre but the problems are overcome.
As spring draws near, as the first comrades go on leave, we all have the awareness: we have now done it, the winter and with it the allied dangers have been overcome and we have played our part in it.
The Battalion becomes combat worthy again with the arrival of replacements. Enemy penetration attempts are all driven off. Gradually it becomes clear to everyone that we will soon attack again. Preparations are in full swing. A short relaxation follows once more before the real attack begins on the fortress which in the meantime has been reinforced with enormous energy. Then everything is ready. The most powerful fortress in the world, as the Armed Forces Report later reported, is attacked.
Our airmen appear before the day of the attack of our Divisions in the South. Stukas, bombers, fighters, recce planes – all types are represented. The fortress installations lying to the front of Hill 440.8 are covered in a hail of bombs that one should approve of since nothing is left standing. Optimists were by and large even of the opinion that only the Infantry still occupied the terrain. How very much mistaken we should be as the next day shows.
The Battalion assembly position area is the rear slope of Hill 440.8. The Battalion does not attack from its old positions but from the defence sector of I Battalion. Its task was: the Battalion is to attack via the ski-jump (Sprunghagel) occupy it and advance further on via Eagle Hill (Adlerhohe), Eagle Village (Adlerdorf) up to Saddle Hill (Sattelberg). The Battalion is the assault Battalion and the attack is supported by artillery, Infantry field guns and airmen. In the action an extremely strong artillery force had been brought into position behind the hill slope. The Russians nevertheless had put up resistance against us, we wondered how after a hail of bombs and artillery barrage he still achieved such a tenacious and dogged Infantry like resistance, which was able to demand respect from us, even if we did not know that this only occurred through the pressure of the Commissars from behind.
There are regrettable casualties with the first move into battle on 11th June. The Battalion CO Major Plapp, his Adjutant and Ordnannz Officer are wounded with the first emergence. The attack in the original planned form is not possible. The preconditions are missing which are that the north ridge and the three Cinnabar Hills (Zinnoberhohen) are snatched from the enemy. That is not the case. Consequently the flanks of the Battalion are open. Besides the strong Russian defensive fire, above all this flanking fire comes with mortars. Nevertheless 7th Company, as the spearhead, stormed down over the Trig Point, taken by I Battalion, away to the ‘Appendix’ and takes the enemy trenches there. Our losses are great. A Russian counter-attack appears to put the whole initial success in question. The courageous heart of an individual man decides the outcome. At this point Feldwebel Port, who supported 7th Company with his heavy machine-gun platoon, deserved the Knights Cross. He stopped the counter-attack and with it safeguarded the initial success and consequently all further operations building upon it through which Sevastopol finally falls.
12th June is a black day in the history of the Battalion. It brought us many and painful losses without gaining a metre of ground. On this day, the Battalion was to first of all follow I Battalion after the latter Battalion had taken Kamary. But Kamary can not be taken because the whole ground is mined in such a way that, despite zealous work of our Engineers, once again a gap in the minefield through which a Battalion in line would have been able to get through can not be achieved. At the same time 124th Regiment started to the attack on Ski-jump. Both of its Battalions, which are deployed for the attack, had to advance over the Trig Point. Here also the enemy defence and mines hindered the attack, a factor also arose which brings severe losses to the Battalion as well as to all other parts of the Division massed around the Trig Point (there are 124th Infantry Regiment’s two Battalions, and I and II Battalions of our own Regiment.) The Cinnabar Hills are still in Russian hands and machine-guns were still firing from the north ridge which was taken from our III Battalion the previous evening. A deserter stated that some concealed Russians still hold out on the hill peak under the command of a Commissar. From these hills the enemy has a precise depth view of the ground around the Trig Point. Artillery fire and above all mortar fire, which claimed many victims is directed and observed from there.
On 13th June, using the morning mist, the Battalion starts via the so-called Appendix on to the Ski-jump pushing further on past to the right and occupies the gardens situated to the north of Kamary. Here the order reached us to attack. Fort Hill 164.9 and the hill to the right of it. Fort Hill itself for 124th Regiment.
The attack gains good ground using the artillery bombardment and the Stukas. The attack objective is reached and a penetration made up to Fork Hill (Gabelhohe). All enemy resistance is broken. It is a battle which leaves much to be desired in violence. The Russians doggedly defend themselves with every trick of the Russian camouflage and position constructional skill used to build defence installations, bunkers, field positions and combat trenches. But it does not help them at all. The old offensive spirit of the German Infantryman is still alive. The enemy obstinacy was able to again force admiration from us. We have no sympathy mind you for their treachery. After part of the Russians have surrendered and are directed by us to the rear to the collecting point, they jump again into the trenches when nobody was looking, seize a quantity of carbines which are lying around and fire at us from the rear. The Battalion Doctor (Assistenarzt Dr Bunnemann) attacks them as he was bandaging a badly wounded comrade. Luckily he had spotted them in good time and was able to fend them off.
Fork Hill is taken on 14th June, the rail loop of the Sevastopol-Balaklava railway line is crossed during the next few days and finally the Eagle Hill is taken in a violent battle involving close combat – man against man. Its storming is above all due to the involving close combat - man against man. Its storming is above all due to the contribution of the acting Company Commander of 7th Company, Oberleutnant Frank.
Before the attack on the Sapun Hills goes further on, the Battalion remains for few days on Eagle Hill and penetration attempts thwarted during these days.
Russian aircraft regularly appear in the evenings and strafe the trenches. They are unable to achieve any success because our ‘Landsers’ were waiting in the evening on the appearance of the ‘Sewing Machines’ as these Russian aircraft are known to us. Then everyone sat at the ready and the Russians received a baptism of fire from machine-guns and carbines which ensured that the Russian airmen only came near with caution. Unfortunately a visible success was denied to the Battalion in that no aircraft was shot down but there was certainly damage to the aircraft.
The Battalion had become small in number as it started out for the last phase of the battle round Sevastopol, the storming of the Sapun Hills and the breakthrough to the sea. An immense strain in the battle is the oppressive heat. Thirst torments everyone. There is nothing to quench it. It must be endured until the evening. Rations and drink comes then. But nothing anymore can take away the zest of those persons still involved in the battle. We have up to now conquered every obstacle. We will also overrun the last stronghold. We are certain that we will be victorious in the battle round Sevastopol.
Once more there are violent battles. The forward trenches running lengthwise of the Sapun Hills are freed by force and with this the Saddle Hill is reached. From there the Battalion penetrates towards Ballosova to the sea. Here once again the Russians took up positions in their final desperation and maintain a stubborn resistance. The last parts of the shattered Soviet Sevastopol Army faced its destruction on the Cherson Peninsula. Its spiral downhill was made possible by the decisive break through of the Regiment to the sea. Sevastopol is stormed. A Battalion which no-one knows, that has no ringing name, that does not possess all possible special weapons, a simple Battalion has taken part in this assault from the first to the last day, has given its blood in sacrifice. It has done its duty in every hour and minute. Decorations which the men wear on their chests are the external symbol. But in the heart of each one of II/266 what distinguishes the German man and in particular the German soldier is the clear awareness that he has done his duty. The greatest reward which a soldier can receive despite all violence, privations and sacrifice in spite of all the pain about our fallen comrades’
After the cessation of the fighting on the Crimea, the 72nd Infantry Division moved north to the Rzhev area near Moscow where Army Group Centre was busy fighting off several large scale Red Army assaults in the area throughout the summer and into the autumn of 1942. On 23rd August, around the time of his arrival in the Rzhev area, Stussel received his Crimea Shield for his fighting on the peninsula.
Staying with the 72nd Infantry Division he would have continued to fight in the Rzhev salient until March 1943, when the German Army abandoned it in order to shorten it’s line and free up manpower for the summer offensive. On 24th March 1943 Stussel was wounded for the second time, although it appears he continued to serve at the front. After withdrawal from the Rzhev Salient, the Division then fought in the Orel area to the north of Kursk. It was whilst serving in this area that Stussel was to receive the German Cross in Gold on 5th May 1943.
The 72nd Infantry Division was hit hard by Operation Kutozov the Red Army’s post Kursk offensive and was gradually pushed west as a result, initially via Bryansk. In October the Division was transferred to Army Group South and was involved in the defence of Kiev and the Dnieper crossings, it was whilst involved in this combat that Stussel was wounded for a third time on 12th October 1943 and subsequently awarded the Wound Badge in Silver on 1st December 1943. This wound led to a period of two months recuperating, firstly in a Reserve Hospital in Cracow, and finally in Marienbad, where his Ostmedaille was belatedly awarded to him on 12th December 1943. In addition to those awards mentioned, Stussel was awarded the Close Combat Bar in Bronze for 15 days close quarter fighting (most of which would have been on the Eastern Front), and the Romanian Medal for the Crusade against Communism, a common award to soldiers of Army Group South who often fought alongside Romanian troops on their initial advance through the Ukraine.
Upon return to the troops he served in Kaiserslautern from February 1944 until 30th May 1944 when he returned to his original unit, 266th Grenadier Regiment, 72nd Infantry Division. During his time away, the Division had been essentially destroyed in the Cherkassy Pocket and reconstituted in April.
The 72nd Infantry Division was pushed back to the Baranov Bridgehead during the Summer of 1944, and by August the area was the scene of heavy fighting as the Red Army attempted to extend it’s foothold on the west bank of the Vistula, during this time Stussel served as the Regimental Adjutant before becoming the Commanding Officer of the HQ Company from 1st September 1944.
Stussel’s Division was pushed back to the Oder as a result of the Vistula-Oder Offensive that took place in January 1945, and by early April was fighting in the Gorlitz area on what is now the German-Polish border. Stussel was promoted to Battalion Commander on 1st April 1945 and saw out the war in this capacity, he was most likely involved in the last successful German attack of the war, when the forces around the area of Bautzen defeated the attacking Polish forces and retook the town.