Overlord'S Blog: Stug Ace
Hugo Primozic was born in 1914 in Württemberg, Germany to a German mother and a Slovenian father. He enlisted with the German army in May 1934 and joined the Artillery. During the Polish campaign he was part of the 152nd Artillery Regiment of the 52nd Infantry Division.
After serving in the French campaign, he rotated through several reserve and replacement positions including a posting at the Artillery school in Jüterbog. After graduating, he was sent to join the 667th Sturmgeschutz (assault gun) battalion. He was given command of a platoon of Stug assault guns in the 2nd battery of the 667th.
After bitter fighting in August and September, the 667th halted several heavy Soviet attacks near Rzhev but was subsequently pulled back due to heavy casualties. Then on the 15th of September, the Soviets launched another massive attack. Primozic only had his platoon of three Stugs at his disposal which he promptly moved forward to face the assault.
As they approached under cover, Primozic halted his platoon and dismounted to scout out the situation facing his small force. Once this was complete, he moved his Stugs into concealed positions on the flank of the advancing Soviets tanks.
As Primozic’s platoon moved into firing positions, one of the Soviet T-34s apparently spotted Primozic and quickly swung its turret round and fired. By luck, despite the short range of the shot, the round bounced off. The Stug fired a heartbeat later destroying the T-34. Primozic's platoon began to pour fire into the sides and rear of the Soviet tanks. As the Soviets began to return fire, Primozic ordered his Stugs to pull back from their previously concealed positions and relocate to new firing positions to the left of their location. The Stugs low profile, speed and concealed positions made this manoeuvre possible despite enemy fire.
While Primozic had been moving, the Soviet tank had begun advancing towards his platoon and had closed the range so that the nearest T-34s were now only 300 yards (275 meters) away; well within optimal firing range for a T-34. Additionally, his platoon spotted KV-1 heavy tanks moving up to support the stalled T-34s. His Stug was hit by a round from a KV-1 which did no damage however Primozic’s gunner likewise bounced his shot off of the KV-1. It was now a straight reload race as the first to reload and fire accurately would likely destroy the other. The Stug's 75mm roared and the KV-1 shuddered to a halt gushing smoke.
The fighting continued with the heavily outnumbered platoon continuing to inflict damage on the T-34s and KV-1 heavy tanks until the Soviets began to retreat. The platoon had flanked the Soviet advance and used the covered, rolling terrain to maximum advantage to halt the soviet attack and destroy over 24 tanks during the engagement.
From the 15th through the 28th, Primozic and his platoon continued to fight with their battalion in repelling repeated Soviet attacks in the Rzhev vicinity. On the 28th of September, Primozic’s platoon was assigned to cover the extreme flank of their division and they proceeded to hold their position against repeated attacks conducted by Soviet tanks with infantry support. Primozic’s Stugs held their ground until they had literally fired off all of their ammunition and then attempted to withdraw to avoid being encircled. Before his platoon could disengage, Primozic left his vehicle while under fire with a steel tow cable and attached it to an immobilized Stug in his platoon to tow it from the battlefield using his own vehicle. Upon returning to his Stug, he personally covered the successful withdrawal of both vehicles against infantry attack with a machine gun.
In the five months from September 1942 to January 1943, Hugo Primozic destroyed 60 enemy tanks and was awarded both the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross and the Oak Leaves. Hugo Primozic was the first non commissioned officer in the Wehrmacht to be awarded the Oak Leaves to the Knight’s Cross and one of only seven NCOs in total to receive the Oak Leaves.
He received his officer’s commission in February 1943 and served as an instructor until 1945 when his training unit was deployed to face the advancing Americans on the Western front. Primozic was captured by American forces on May 8th, 1945 and survived the war. He died on the 18th of March 1996 in Fulda Germany.
(Following a suggestion last week, I'm trying something new out from today forward, if you don't like it, let me know. To stop the images in articles disappearing, I'll be copying them across to Imgur, and then giving credit to the original website.)Image Credits:
Wikipedia, Bundesarchive Photos and theatlantic.com