Wilhelm Bittrich

Born: February 26th, 1894 in Wernigerode
Died: April 19t, 1979 in Wolfratshausen
Iron Cross 2nd Class (clasp): September 25th, 1939
Iron Cross 1st Class (clasp): June 7th, 1940
German Cross in Gold: March 6th, 1943
Knights Cross:December 14th, 1941
Oakleaves:August 23rd, 1944
Swords: May 6th, 1945

Wilhelm Bittrich was one of the most important figures in the Waffen SS. He began his military career as a fighter pilot in the First World War. He joined the SS in 1932 with SS Fliegerstaffel "Ost" (SS Flying Echelon "East") and later took command of 74.Standarte before leaving the Allgemeine SS in August 1934. When Himmler re-established the Politische Bereitschaft in 1934, Bittrich was made commander on August 25th. When this unit was expanded, it was renamed as Regiment "Germania", Bittrich became 2.Kompanie Kommandeur. In October 1936, Bittrich transfered to Regiment "Deutschland" as commander of II. Battalion and remained there until the spring of 1938. When the Austria-based Regiment "Der Führer" was created, Bittrich led 1/Der Führer after 1938. Bittrich moved to the "Leibstandarte" on June 1st, 1939, serving as Sepp Deitrich's HQ Adjutant and remained there through the Polish campaign. He transferred to the replacement section of the SS-VT in early February, 1940. He returned to the 2nd SS as Regimentskommandeur "Deutschland" on December 14, 1940. (Bittrich was awarded the Knights Cross while at this position.) As senior Regimental commander, Bittrich replaced Hauser when the latter was wounded. He served as divisional commander until January 1942, when he fell ill and had to step down. After he recovered, Bittrich was assigned to the SS-Kavallerie Brigade as commander on May 1, 1942. Bittrich oversaw the expansion of this unit until it reached division strength. On February 15th, Bittrich took command of the 9.SS Panzer Division "Hohenstaufen" and served with this unit while it formed up and reached full strength. When Hausser took command of 7.Armee, Bittrich was tasked as his replacement as II.SS-Panzer Korps commander and he retained this command till the end of the war. During his tour with II.SS-Panzer Korps, Bittrich was in large part responsible for one of the final "victories" for the Waffen SS, that being the successful defense and subsequent defeat of the Allied attacks at Arnhem during Operation Market Garden.

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