SS-Sturmbannfuhrer Ludwig Kepplinger Ludwig Kepplinger, an Austrian, was born in Linz in December 1911 and originally served with the Austrian Mountain Troops. Thrown out of the Army for espousing his right-wing political beliefs, he moved to Bavaria and in 1935, volunteered for the SS-Verfugungstruppe. He originally served with the Deutschland Regiment but returned to his native Austria in 1938 on the founding of the new Der Fuhrer Regiment in Vienna. Kepplinger worked his way through the ranks, becoming an SS-Hauptscharfuhrer by the outbreak of war in September 1939. During the campaign in the West, he served as a squad leader with an assault group from ll.Kompanie of the Regiment. On 10 May, Kepplinger and his men attacked the Dutch fort at Westervoort commanding the bridge over the River Issel. Having marched over 18km to reach their objective, they found the bridge had been blown. Undaunted, Kepplinger and two of his men crossed over the tangled wreckage of the bridge and launched a furious attack on the enemy positions with hand grenades. Overcome by the ferocity of the attack, over 90 soldiers of the Dutch garrison surrendered. Thirty more prisoners were captured later on the same day. Then, acting on his own while his comrades guarded the prisoners, Kepplinger attacked further Dutch bunkers with more hand grenades, swiftly neutralising enemy fire. Kepplinger's good fortune ran out the following day when he received multiple bullet wounds and was hospitalised. Ludwig Kepplinger is shown here in his field grey service uniform as an SS-Hauptschar-fuhrer with the SS-Verfugungs-Division, the forerunner of the famous Das Reich Division Whilst recovering he learned that he had been decorated with both Second and First Class Iron Crosses. Kepplinger's action, leading a force of only three men including himself to neutralise a key enemy strongpoint, had ensured the rapid progress . of his Regiment. His superiors had only authorised the two lower classes of the Iron Cross to ensure that their subsequent recommendation for the Knight's Cross, of which he was unaware, would be swiftly approved. Kepplinger was awarded this on 4 September 1940, the first NCO in the Waffen-SS to be so decorated. This was followed by a battlefield commission to the rank of SS-Untersturmfuhrer and a posting to the elite Wiking Division. Kepplinger subsequently rose to the rank of SS-Sturmbannfuhrer and commanded SS-Panzer-Abteilung 17, in the Gotz von Berlichingen Division. On 6 August 1944, during the fighting in Normandy, Kepplinger was in charge of a number of stragglers who had gathered at an assembly point for regrouping. These were predominantly Panzer soldiers, like Kepplinger, whose vehicles had been knocked out. On their way back to the front, the truck in which they were travelling came under a hail of enemy fire. Kepplinger, who was sitting 'up front' with the driver, died instantly from a bullet to the head.