World War 2 Field Marshalls

Flag of a Field Marshal as Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces 1941-1945.
Flag of a Field Marshal as Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces 1941-1945.

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Ernst Busch

Ernst Bernhard Wilhelm Busch (6 July 1885 – 17 July 1945) was a German field marshal during World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub). The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or outstanding military leadership.

Wilhelm List

Siegmund Wilhelm Walther List (14 May 1880 – 17 August 1971) was a German field marshal during World War II, and at the start of the war was based in Slovakia in command of the 14th Army.

Friedrich Paulus

Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Paulus (23 September 1890 – 1 February 1957) was an officer in the German military from 1910 to 1945. He attained the rank of Generalfeldmarschall (field marshal) during World War II, and is best known for commanding the Sixth Army in the Battle of Stalingrad, including the successful advance toward the city and the less successful attack in 1942 (Case Blue) stopped by the Soviet counter-offensives during the 1942-43 winter. The battle ended in disaster for Nazi Germany when about 265,000 soldiers of the Wehrmacht, their Axis allies, and the anti-Soviet Hilfswillige Russian volunteers were encircled and defeated. Of the 107,000 captured, only 6,000 survived the captivity and returned home by 1955.

Paulus surrendered to Soviet forces in Stalingrad on 31 January 1943, a day after he was promoted to the rank of Generalfeldmarschall by Adolf Hitler. Hitler expected Paulus to commit suicide, citing the fact that there was no record of a German field marshal ever being captured alive. While in Soviet captivity during the war, Paulus became a vocal critic of the Nazi regime and joined the Soviet-sponsored National Committee for a Free Germany. He moved to the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) in 1953.

Ferdinand Schörner

Ferdinand Schörner (12 June 1892 – 2 July 1973) was a General and later Field Marshal (Generalfeldmarschall) in the German Army (Wehrmacht Heer) during World War II. He was one of 27 people to be awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub, Schwertern und Brillanten) and one of the youngest German generals. The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade the Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or outstanding military leadership.

Schörner was a convinced Nazi and became infamous for his brutality. By the end of World War II he was Hitler’s favourite commander. He was also the last of Hitler’s field marshals to die.

Werner von Blomberg

Werner Eduard Fritz von Blomberg (2 September 1878 – 14 March 1946) was a German Generalfeldmarschall, Minister of War, and Commander-in-Chief of the German Armed Forces until January 1938.

Fedor von Bock

Moritz Albrecht Franz Friedrich Fedor von Bock (3 December 1880 – 4 May 1945) was a German field marshal who served in the German army during the Second World War. As a leader who lectured his soldiers about the honor of dying for the German Fatherland, he was nicknamed “Der Sterber” (literally, ambiguously, and ironically: “The Dier”). Bock served as the commander of Army Group North during the Invasion of Poland in 1939, commander of Army Group B during the Invasion of France in 1940, and later as the commander of Army Group Center during the attack on the Soviet Union in 1941; his final command was that of Army Group South in 1942.

Bock is best known for commanding Operation Typhoon, the ultimately failed attempt to capture Moscow during the winter of 1941. The Wehrmacht offensive was slowed by stiff Soviet resistance around Mozhaisk, and also by the Rasputitsa, the season of rain and mud in Russia. Once the full fury of the Russian winter struck, which was the coldest in over 50 years, the German armies quickly became unable to fight, with more casualties occurring due to the cold weather than from battle. The Soviet counteroffensive soon drove the German army into retreat, and Bock — who recommended an earlier withdrawal — was subsequently relieved of command by Adolf Hitler.

A lifelong officer in the German military, Bock was considered to be a very “by the book” general. He also had a reputation for being a fiery lecturer, earning him the nickname “Holy Fire of Küstrin”. Bock was not considered to be a brilliant theoretician, but possessed a strong sense of determination, feeling that the greatest glory that could come to a German soldier was to die on the battlefield for the Fatherland.

A monarchist, Bock personally despised Nazism, and was not heavily involved in politics. However, he also did not sympathize with plots to overthrow Adolf Hitler, and never filed official protests over the treatment of civilians by the Schutzstaffel (SS). Bock was also uncommonly outspoken, a privilege Hitler extended to him only because he had been successful in battle. Bock — along with his wife and only daughter — were killed by a strafing British fighter-bomber on 4 May 1945 as they traveled by car toward Hamburg.

Walther von Brauchitsch

Heinrich Alfred Hermann Walther von Brauchitsch (4 October 1881 – 18 October 1948 was a German field marshal and the Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres (Commander-in-Chief of the Army) in the early years of World War II.

Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist

Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist (8 August 1881 – 13 November 1954) was a leading German field marshal during World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern). The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves and Swords was awarded to recognize extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.

Georg von Küchler

Georg Karl Friedrich Wilhelm von Küchler (30 May 1881 – 25 May 1968) was a German Field Marshal during the Second World War. He was a recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves. After the end of the war he was tried by a military court and on 27 October 1948 was sentenced to twenty years’ imprisonment for his treatment of partisans in the Soviet Union. However, he served only eight years before being released in 1953 due to illness and old age.

Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb

Wilhelm Josef Franz Ritter von Leeb (5 September 1876 – 29 April 1956) was a German field marshal of the Second World War, during which his younger brother, Emil Leeb, rose to the rank of General der Artillerie. In 1940, after the Fall of France, Leeb was promoted to field marshal during the 1940 Field Marshal Ceremony.

Erich von Manstein

Erich von Manstein (24 November 1887 – 9 June 1973) was one of the most prominent commanders of the Wehrmacht, Nazi Germany’s armed forces during World War II. Attaining the rank of field marshal, he was held in high esteem by both the Axis and the Allies as one of Germany’s best military strategists and field commanders.

Born into an aristocratic Prussian family with a long history of military service, Manstein joined the army at a young age and saw service on several fronts during World War I. He had risen to the rank of captain by the end of the war and was active in the inter-war period helping Germany rebuild her armed forces. During the invasion of Poland at the outbreak of World War II, he was serving as Chief of Staff to Gerd von Rundstedt’s Army Group South. He was one of the planners of Fall Gelb (Case Yellow), an offensive through the Ardennes during the invasion of France in 1940. Attaining the rank of general at the end of the campaign, he was active in the invasion of the Soviet Union and the Siege of Sevastopol and was promoted to field marshal on 1 July 1942. Germany’s fortunes in the war began to take an unfavourable turn after the disastrous Battle of Stalingrad, where Manstein commanded a failed relief effort in late 1943. Later known as the “backhand blow”, Manstein’s counteroffensive in the Third Battle of Kharkov regained substantial territory and resulted in the destruction of three Soviet armies and the retreat of three others. He was one of the primary commanders at the Battle of Kursk, one of the last major battles of the war and one of the largest battles in history. His ongoing disagreements with Adolf Hitler over the conduct of the war led to his dismissal in March 1944. He never obtained another command and was taken prisoner by the British in August 1945, several months after Germany’s defeat.

Manstein gave testimony at the main Nuremberg Trials of war criminals in August 1946, and prepared a paper that, along with his later memoirs, helped contribute to the myth of a “clean Wehrmacht”—the myth that the German armed forces were not culpable for the atrocities of the Holocaust. In 1949 he was tried in Hamburg for war crimes and was convicted on nine of seventeen counts, including the poor treatment of prisoners of war and failing to protect civilian lives in his sphere of operations. His sentence of eighteen years in prison was later reduced to twelve, and he served only four years before being released in 1953. As a military advisor to the West German government in the mid-1950s, he helped re-establish the armed forces. His successful memoir, Verlorene Siege (1955), translated into English as Lost Victories, was highly critical of Hitler’s leadership, and focused strictly on the military aspects of the war while ignoring its political and ethical contexts. Manstein died in Munich in 1973.

Walther von Reichenau

Walter von Reichenau (8 October 1884 – 17 January 1942) was a German Generalfeldmarschall during World War II. He issued the notorious Severity Order concerning fighting on the eastern front, which made him a war criminal. He was in charge of forces which helped to commit the massacre of Jews at Babi Yar.

Maximilian von Weichs

Maximilian Maria Joseph Karl Gabriel Lamoral Reichsfreiherr von Weichs zu Glon (12 November 1881 – 27 September 1954) was a German Generalfeldmarschall during World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub). The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.

 

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German Military History with a focus on World War 2 History including other areas of German History