He showed an eager interest in new military ideas, especially those that promised a new artistry in tactics as a game of skill, but was still more enthusiastic about the possibilities of resuscitating the code of chivalry. Close observation of the higher military levels over a long period makes for scepticism, but Blomberg impressed me as exceptionally genuine, if boy- ish, in his profession of faith. Tall and broad physically, he was neither overbearing nor grim in his manner, but showed a natural courtesy combined with a refreshingly frank way of talking.
It was his hard fate to be called on to deal with two rival groups, and to become a buffer between them. In a better environment he might have proved a greater figure. Yet in one important respect his influence may have been more effective than it seemed. The relative improvement in behaviour, and the greater care shown to avoid stains on its record, may be traced to the more refined conception of soldierly conduct which Blomberg and a number of others who shared his views had striven to instil in the Reichswehr.
The restraint shown in by the troops that invaded Belgium and France, compared with their predecessors of , was also a wise policy. It went quite a long way to soften the sting of defeat and conciliate the people of the conquered countries, and might have had a more lasting effect but for the contrasting behaviour of the Gestapo and the S.
In fhe tactical sphere Blomberg helped to give an important turn to the trend of development. But, in East Prussia, Blomberg had experi- mented with new forms of tactics which more realistically recognized the existing superiority of modern defence, and sought to turn this to advantage the other way, as an offensive aid.
They were demonstrated in his subse- quent sweep from Normandy to the Moselle. General Wood, who com- manded his spearhead, the 4th Armoured Division, was another enthusiast for these ideas, and on reaching the Seine wrote to tell me how successful their application had proved. The triumphs of German tactics and of the German armoured forces in the first two years of the war cast an ironical reflection on the measures taken to disarm the de- feated country after the previous war. Materially, they proved effective. For the numerous evasions that German military chiefs practised were on a petty scale, and in themselves amounted to no considerable recovery of strength.
It was the hesi- tancy of the victors after that time which allowed Germany again to become formidable. Moreover, an important result of her enforced disarmament was to give her a clear start, by freeing her army from such an accumulation of weapons as the victorious nations had preserved — a load of obsolescence that tended to bind them to old methods, and led them to overrate their own strength.
When the German Army began large-scale re-armament, it benefited by having more room for the development of the newer weapons sug- gested by a fresher current of ideas. The development of such fresh ideas was, in turn, helped by another of the measures imposed by the victors — the sup- pression of the General Staff.
If it had been left to carry on in its old form, and its old cumbersome shell, it might have remained as routinely inert and overwhelmed by its offices as other General Staffs. Driven underground, its members were largely exempted from administrative routine, and impelled to concentrate on constructive thinking about the future — thus becoming more efficient for war.
Any such military organiza- tion can be destroyed in so far as it is a physical substance, but not in respect of its activities as a thinking organ— thought cannot be suppressed. Limitations in the degree of modernization were due more to internal con- servatism and conflicting interests than to the exter nal restric- tions that had been placed upon her. When he tried, at the end of , to secure the appointment of Reichenau as Chief of the Army Command in place of Hammerstein, he was foiled by the concerted opposition of the senior generals. Acting on their advice, Hindenburg chose General von Fritsch, a soldier of great all-round ability, who represented the more conserva- tive school, both politically and militarily.
Thus German military organization, though it forged ahead of other countries in developing mechanized forces, remained a compromise between the old and new patterns. Werner von Fritsch, as a comparatively young staff officer, had worked under General von Seeckt at the Reichswehr Ministry from to , in preparing the new org anic. Then he went to regimental duty in command of a bat- tery, and subsequendy became chief of staff in East Prussia. Here he was largely responsible for devising the plan, in case of war, for a swift offensive against Poland combined with a defensive in the West to hold France in check.
It was the embryo of the plan that was actually executed in , al- though then amplified in scale and resources. During the pre-Nazi period Fritsch showed a diplomatic talent, unusual among German officers of the old school, in dealing with democratic deputies who were inclined to ask awkward questions regarding increases in the military budget, and the reasons why an army limited in size required such a disproportionately large framework of staff and instructional cadres.
Fritsch was adept in explaining away such curious points, and in persuading critics not to press their inquiries. He knew how to gag them in subtle ways— by appealing to their patriotism, playing on their weaknesses, or cultivating their friendship. Normally he had an ice-cold manner, and nature, but he could turn on a warm-tap of charm, when it served a purpose. When the Nazis arrived in power the generals realized that they would need a chief who combined determination with diplomacy in order to hold their own. His first moves were directed to curb the ambition of the amateur sol- diers of the Nazi party, headed by Captain Roehm, and to counter the threat that their advancement might carry to the authority and interests of the professional army.
Himmler was working on the same line — from a different motive. They succeeded in convincing Hitler so well as to produce the bloody purge of June 30th, For a time, he established the supremacy of the Army Com- mand upon the internal balance of power, and was able to outmanceuvre Himmler. Over such issues as the reintroduc- tion of conscription and the reoccupation of the Rhineland, Fritsch marched in step with Hitler. But he insisted on testing the ground before each step was taken, and was careful to restrain the pace of developments, so that the German Army should not be committed to a dangerous trial of strength while it was' still growing.
His caution was resented by the Nazi leaders, flushed with their recent successes in defiance. At the same time his diplomatic efforts to foster better relations with the Red Army excited violent complaint on their part. Meanwhile the rift between Fritsch and Blomberg was growing. Blomberg had fallen in love with a typist in his office, and married her. He graced the wedding, as a witness. For any protest they might have made was forestalled — by Himmler. That news did not disturb the other generals.
But they were shaken to their roots by a second stroke that immediately fol- lowed. For now that the question of appointing a new War Minister had to be considered Himmler brought out a further dossier to show that Fritsch was under police watch for homo- sexual offences. It was, actually, a dossier about another bearer of the same name.
Hitler thereupon removed him from his post. It would have been very difficult to appoint any fresh soldier over his head. Fritsch was the only possible one, because of his existing seniority to Goering as a Commander-in-Chief. All his moves had the aim of paving the way for his ambition of replacing the army by the S. Himml er next tried to get at the witnesses for the defence. To en- sure their attendance, and their safety, the generals arranged for them to be guarded by soldiers.
But Fritsch was completely acquitted. Meanwhile, Hitler had taken the opportunity to assume supreme command of the Wehrmacht himself, declaring that he had lost confidence in the generals. At the same time General von Brauchitsch was appointed to command the Army in place of Fritsch, so no room was left for the latter by the time he was cleared of the charges that had been framed against him.
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By making himself actual Commander-in-Chief of the Wehrmacht the armed forces as a whole , Hider naturally increased the importance of its executive organ, the Ober- kommando der Wehrmacht — a tide commonly shortened to O. In this were centralized the political and administra- tive matters common to all three services. There was soon a move to develop this into a Wehrmacht General Staff — a development equally desired by Hider and Keitel. He had still a long way to go before he could fulfil his ambition of playing the part of executive strategist — and actually handling the pieces on the board.
For he had shown him- self conspicuously loyal to the former republican regime, and inclined to take a liberal view of political and economic issues, while outspokenly critical of Nazi policies. Neither Junker narrowness nor Nazi fanaticism appealed to him. At the same time he was generally regarded as a man who had a keen sense of honour and was by no means self-seeking. For these reasons, coupled with his strong sense of justice and consid- eration for others, he was trusted both by his fellows and his juniors to an exceptional degree.
The second, and better, explanation tends to be supported by the fact that Brauchitsch continued on good terms with Fritsch after the latter had been shelved, and took more than one opportunity of paying tribute to him, in a way distasteful to the Nazi leaders. Events soon showed, however, that Brau- chitsch had stepped on to a slippery slope where he would find it hard to keep upright. Hitler was shrewd enough to realize the importance of making a choice that would inspire general confidence, even though it meant taking a man who was not in sympathy with the Nazi party.
In other respects, too, he was less conservative than the school that Fritsch had represented. His popularity with all sections was an obvious asset, which would help to offset suspicion of the political motives behind the changes an d of the internal struggle that had preceded them. His unassuming manner fostered the hope that he would prove easier to handle than Fritsch. Hitler soon found, however, that Brauchitsch — though more polite in his manner — was no more disposed than Fritsch had been to allow a political infiltration in the army.
His first steps were to introduce a number of welfare measures for improv- ing the condition and post-service prospects of the ordinary soldier, but he insisted on keeping these clear of Nazi organi- zation. At the same time, he tightened discipline. He sought to quicken up the process of equipping the forces, but also to put a brake on the tendency of Nazi foreign policy to precipi- tate an early conflict.
After Hitler, that summer, had made his designs clear, Brauchitsch summoned all the senior generals to a conference, and told them that Beck had drafted a memorandum which, if they approved, he proposed sending to Hitler. Beck then read the memorandum. No one objected, so the document was delivered. A tougher personality than Brau- chitsch, he was more ready to be tough with Hitler.
The French and British Governments, however, were even less prepared for war or willing to risk a fight on behalf of Czechoslovakia, so Hitler gained his claims for the Sudeten- land with little difficulty, at Munich. In the flush of that triumph, Hitler became harder to curb. While still hoping that the Poles would climb down, and save his face, he became more inclined to risk war— provided that the risk in a war would not be too big.
When he consulted the military chiefs on this question, Brauchitsch gave a more qualified reply than Keitel. But he emphatically declared that Ger- many would not have much chance of w innin g if she had also to fight Russia. The French Ambassador in Berlin, M. Coulondre, heard of the arguments and reported them to his government early in June.
They developed a campaign against him. This may explain why he was led at this time to make a public declaration of confidence in the Ftihrer, and also to express sentiments in a speech at Tannen- berg which sounded threatening towards Poland — though they could be construed in a strictly defensive sense. But it is understandable that he should feel that there was little danger in such language, since no one who weighed the situation in military scales was likely to imagine that Britain and France would actually carry their support of Poland to the point of war in such a hopeless strategical position as would result if Russia was induced to stand aside.
Once he accepted the necessity of a political turn-about, Hitler moved quickly to arrange a pact with Russia — in striking contrast to the hesitation and delay of the British Government in their negotiations with Russia at the same time. Despite the announcement of the Russo-German pact, the British Government defied logical military calculation by de- ciding to fight, and pushed the French into the same course. For the moment, Brauchitsch and Haider were fully occu- pied in conducting the campaign — and could drown their anxieties by immersing themselves in their professional task. The plan was of their design, and the campaign was swifdy successful.
The executive commanders were allowed a free hand, and demonstrated the value of it by showing an initia- tive and flexibility that were in the best vein of the old tradi- tion. That stroke, which decided the issue, was the more notable because O. But Rundstedt and his Chief of Staff, Manstein, had gauged that the main Polish armies were still west of Warsaw, and could thus be trapped on the near side of the Vistula. On this occasion the com- mander on the spot was allowed to act on his own judgment, which the result vindicated — but when a similar crucial turn came in the next campaign Hitler imposed his own decision and thereby paid a heavy forfeit.
The effect of victory in Poland had an intoxicating effect on Hitler. To Brauchitsch and Haider the victory in Poland had brought no such intoxication. Once the dust of battle had settled they perceived more clearly the awkward consequences of that victory, and the dangers of becoming embroiled more deeply.
The dynamism of war increasingly took charge of the train of events. As the evidence brought out at Nuremberg made clear, he was led into it unwillingly, more by fear than by desire, under the com- bined influence of persuasion and provocation. Although he achieved this conquest with ease he was no longer in control of his own course. The persuasion started from the arguments of Vidkun Quisling, the Norwegian pro-Nazi, about the like- lihood of the British occupying the coast of Norway, with or without the connivance of the Norwegian Government.
It was reinforced by the anxiety of the Naval High Command about the danger of such a development, both in tightening the grip of the British blockade and hampering their own submarine operations. These fears were increased, after the outbreak of the Russo-Finnish war at the end of November, by Franco-British offers of aid to Finland — which, as the Ger- mans shrewdly suspected, concealed an aim of gaining strategic control of the Scandinavian peninsula.
In January, however, nervousness was accentuated when Churchill made an emphatic broadcast appeal to the neutrals to join in the fight against Hitler, while other signs of an Allied move multiplied. This step was taken on orders from the Admiralty, of which Churchill was then head. It not only infuriated Hitler, but made him think that if Chur chill was ready to violate Norwegian neutrality for the rescue of a hand- ful of prisoners, he was still more likely to do so in order to cut off the iron-ore supplies from Narvik that were vital to Germany.
Hitler repeatedly argued to the Army High Command, especially over Norway, that if he did not move first, the British would — and establish themselves in such neutral points. Hitler appointed General von Falk- enhorst to prepare the forces for a coup to seize the Norwegian ports. That could not be undone. On March 1st Hitler issued his directive for the expedition to Norway. On the 9th, the Naval High Command presented their plan, and dwelt on the urgency of the operation in view of the reports that a British landing was imminent.
They were very worried, but their own preparations would take some time to complete, and all they could do was to send submarines to lie off the ports in case the British transports appeared. When Admiral Raeder saw Hitler on the 26th, he expressed the view that the danger of a British landing in Norway was no longer acute for the moment, but considered it certain that a fresh pretext would soon be found and fresh attempts made to interrupt the iron-ore traffic.
Thus it was advisable to do this soon, rather than be too late. Hitler agreed, and fixed the date. Now that prepara- tions had gone so far, there was an irresistible urge to put them into operation. At almost the same time the Allies decided to put fresh pressure on the governments of Norway and Sweden. A mine-belt was to be laid in Norwegian waters, on April 5th, and the first convoy of troops was to sail for Narvik on the 8th. But the mine-laying operation was delayed until the night of the 7th, and next afternoon the German invading force sailed.
Early on April 9th, small detachments of German troops, carried mostly in warships, landed at the chief ports of Norway, from Oslo to Narvik, and captured them with litde difficulty. This conquest was achieved without any material subtraction from the forces on the Western front, or interference with the preparations there. Moreover, the operation was carried out under the direction of O.
The story of how the plan for the invasion of the West took form is related in later chapters, and is too complex for brief summary here. For the moment it is more useful to trace the outline of the plan, and point out the basic factors that gov- erned its issue — as a background to the more detailed record of personal influences and internal controversies. While it appeared to the world as a supreme example of the shock-offensive, it was really more remarkable for its subdety.
The essential condition of its success was the way that the Allied armies of the left wing, comprising the pick of their mobile forces, were lured deep into Belgium, and even into Holland. It was only through the left wing being caught in this trap, and wrenched from its socket, that the panzer stroke cut through the Allied left centre deeply and quickly enough to have decisive effects.
Moreover, as fast as the German armoured divisions drove towards the Channel coast, cutting a pocket in the Allied front, the motorized divisions followed them up to form a defensive lining along the whole length of the pocket. These tactics extracted a maximum advantage from a minimum use of shock, and exploited the power of tactical defence as an aid to the offensive. For the burden of attacking, at a disadvantage, was thereby thrown on the Allied armies in any attempt to force open the trap and reunite their severed parts.
Such subtlety is the essence of strategy. With the failure of the Allied left wing to break out, its fate was sealed, save for the portion that managed to escape by sea from Dunkirk, leaving all its equipment behind. None at all might have escaped but for the fact that Hitler stopped the sweeping advance of the panzer forces on the outskirts of Dunkirk— for reasons that are discussed further on. But this forfeit did not affect the immediate future. In the German Com- mand concentrated on cutting off a portion of the opposing armies by an outward sweep, with the result that in this piecemeal process it eventually succeeded in swallowing them completely.
The Wehrmacht had been prepared for continental warfare, and for a more gradual development of events than had taken place. Having been led on to attempt, and attain, much more than had been foreseen, it was caught unprepared in shipping and equipment for carrying out any such new technique as was involved in a large-scale oversea invasion. Placed in that dilemma, the sweeping success of the earlier continental campaign encouraged the tendency, inherent in the Nazi gospel, to follow in the footsteps of Napoleon and repeat his invasion of Russia.
Conditions in Russia favoured this design in so far as the vast width of the front offered more room to manoeuvre for piercing thrusts than there had been in the West, but were unfavourable in the lack of natural back-stops, comparable to the Channel, against which they could hope to pin the enemy after breaking through.
The German plan achieved a series of great piecemeal vic- tories which brought it ominously close to complete success — helped by the initial over-confidence of the Russian leaders. The armoured thrusts cut deep, and successively cut off large portions of the Russian armies, including a dangerously hi gh proportion of their best-trained and best-equipped troops. But, on balance, the advantage which the German offensive derived from the breadth of space in Russia was outweighed by the disadvantage of the depth of space through which the Rus- sians could withdraw in evading annihilation.
That balance of disadvantage tended to increase as the campaign continued. Another handicap which emerged was the limited scale of the armoured forces on which the success of the German strokes mainly depended.
In the victory in the West had been virtually decided by the thrusts of the 10 panzer divisions used to open the way for the mass of ordinary divisions which the Germans deployed there. For the invasion of Russia in the number of panzer divisions was raised to 21 — but only by halving the number of tanks in each. The greater power of manoeuvre provided by this increased scale of mobile divisions was valuable on such a broad front, while the de- creased punching power did not matter much in the earlier phases of the invasion. Indeed, the consequent rise in the pro- portion of infantry in these divisions was welcomed by the orthodox, since it provided a higher ratio of troops to hold the ground gained.
The nearer they came to such objectives, the more obvious became the direction of their attacks and the less room they had for deceptive manoeuvre. Moscow became as fatal a magnet for him as it had been for Napoleon. When the German armies failed to fulfil their aim of a decisive victory west of the Dnieper — to destroy the Russian armies before they could retreat beyond it — Hitler wavered in a state of indecision, and then temporarily flung his weight southward into the Ukraine.
But after a spectacular encircle- ment of the opposing forces around Kiev, he reverted to the original axis. Although autumn was now at hand, he decided to continue the advance on Moscow— as well as the southern advance through the Ukraine towards the Caucasus.
Early in October he staked his prestige on the gamble by the an- nouncement that the final stage of the offensive to capture Moscow had begun. But it was the end of October before they were rounded up, and by that time winter had set in, with the result that the exploitation of victory was bogged in the mud on the way to Moscow.
When Hitler called for fresh efforts, Brauchitsch and Haider advised that the armies should draw in their horns and consoli- date a safe defensive line for the winter, where the troops could g ain shelter from the weather as well as from the enemy. But Hitler would not listen to such cautious arguments. So another great effort was mounted in November. Brauchitsch was fortunate in the time of his departure. For it left his military record distinguished by the most striking series of victories in modern history, and blemished merely by a check which he had not only foreseen but of which he had forewarned his superior.
Unwilling executants do not make for good execution. The transition was traced by Dittmar in one of our talks. The battle of Kiev was the first occasion when Hider attempted to take direct charge of operations. He justified this on the ground that it was essential to finish the Russian campaign before the winter. From then on, O. As a result, O. The division of spheres, and interests, be- tween O.
He said that Hider was a mystic, who tended to discount, even where he did not disregard, all the rules of strategy. All freedom of action was eliminated. Even the highest commanders were subjected to an unbearable tutelage. He had the most startling rise of any— from colonel to field- marshal. He was an outsider, in a double sense — as he had not qualified for high position in the hierarchy of the General Staff, while he long performed in a theatre outside Europe. Both performed in the wings of the main stage, where Hider intended to keep the limelight for himself.
Both were vigorous fighting soldiers whose qualities promised well for local suc- cess, without being of the intellectual calibre that might make them competitors for the higher strategic direction. Both seemed certain to be loyal instruments of Hider. As a junior officer in the previous war Rommel gained ex- ceptional distinction, receiving the highest German decoration, Pour le Write, after the Caporetto offensive of against the Italians.
But his professional knowledge was not regarded as equal to his fighting record, and he was given only minor employment in the post-war army. He was not considered suitable for the select circle of the future General Staff. The story that in the post-war years he was a Nazi storm-troop leader is, however, a legend invented by propagandists in the days when he became famous, in order to associate his reputa- tion with that of the party.
His opportunity came when, after the Nazis attained power in , he was appointed a military instructor to the S. Subse- quently he became instructor at the Infantry School at Dres- den, and was then appointed to the new one at Wiener- Neustadt. Before this he had come in contact with Hitler, who found him a refreshingly unorthodox soldier with whom to discuss new military ideas. After the Polish campaign he asked Hitler for command of a panzer division, and got it. His division played a dashing part in the break-through over the Meuse and on to the Chan- nel coast.
In the next stage, it broke through the French front on the Somme between Abbeville and Amiens, and led the drive to the Seine near Rouen. He had little understanding of tank technique, but he had a tremendous sense of mobility and a flair for sur- prise. He caught the British distributed piecemeal, and with most of their tanks in need of repair.
The speed of his onset and enveloping dust-clouds magnified his strength. The British were swept headlong out of Cyrenaica and back over the Egyptian frontier. In the process the troops of the British Eighth Army came to think much more highly of him than they did of their own commanders, and his Jack-in-the-box performance so tickled their sense of hu- mour that their admiration became almost affectionate.
General Auchinleck, the British Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East, intervened at this crisis by taking over personal charge of the battered Eighth Army and rallying the disheart- ened troops for a definite stand on the El Alamein position. In two successive efforts they were foiled and thrown back. Rommel still appeared confident that he would succeed at a third attempt, but his inward hopes were fading, while time was slipping away in the process of accumulating supplies.
During the interval the British were reinforced by fresh di- visions from home. There was also a change of commanders. Churchill wanted the British to take the offensive as soon as the reinforcements arrived. Auchinleck, more wisely, in- sisted on waiting until they were accustomed to desert con- ditions. But Rommel struck first, at the end of August, and was again baffled by the new defence plan. Then the initiative changed sides. After a long pause for thorough prep- aration — longer than Auchinleck had contemplated — Mont- gomery launched an offensive in the last week of October that was now backed by a tremendous superiority in air- power, gun-power, and tank-power.
Even then it was a tough struggle for a whole week, as there was no wide outflanking manoeuvre. But the enemy, besides being overstretched, were vitally crippled by the submarine sinkings of their petrol tank- ers crossing the Mediterranean. That decided the issue, and once the enemy began to collapse at their extreme forward point they were not capable of any serious stand until they had reached the western end of Libya, more than a thousand miles back.
Following that disappointment, he was so badly shaken that his moral depression lowered his physical state, and he had to go sick, with desert sores, for treatment in Vienna. He himself left Africa, for further treat- ment, in March — over a month before that occurred. Such disparagement is a common accompani- ment of a change of fortune. But there was a deeper reason for it in the first place.
No other generals on either side gained the victory under such conditions, except for the early British leaders under Wavell, and their successes were won against Italians. That Rommel made mistakes is clear, but when fight- ing superior forces any slip may result in defeat, whereas numerous mistakes can be effectively covered up by the gen- eral who enjoys a big advantage of strength.
More definite defects were his tendency to disregard the administrative side of strategy and his lack of thoroughness over detail. At the same time he did not know how to dele- gate authority, a defect that was very irritating to his chief subordinates. He not only tried to do everything himself but to be everywhere — so that he was often out of touch with his headquarters, and apt to be riding round the battlefield when he was wanted by his staff for some important decision.
On the other hand, he had a wonderful knack of appearing at some vital spot and giving a decisive impetus to the action at a crucial moment. He also gave dynamic junior officers such opportunities to prove their value as seniority-bound generals would never have dreamt of allowing them. As a result he was worshipped by the younger men. That feeling was shared by many of the Italian soldiers who saw him in such a vital contrast to their own senile and safety-first higher com- manders. In the field of tactics, Rommel was often brilliant in ruse and bluff. In his first attack in Africa he pushed his tanks so hard that many went astray in the desert, but when he reached the main British position he cleverly concealed the scanty number that were present by utilizing trucks to raise a great cloud of dust, and create the impression that tanks were con- verging from all sides.
This produced a collapse. A repeated fea- ture of his battles was the way he used his tanks as a bait, to lure the British tanks into traps that were lined with anti- tank guns — thus skilfully blending the defensive with the offensive. When he left Africa his departure was almost regretted by his opponents, so big was the place he had come to fill in their lives, and in their imagination. That was partly due to his remarkably good treatment of British prisoners; indeed, the number who managed to escape and return to their own lines after a personal contact with him suggests that his chivalry was blended with strategy.
Much wider still was the impres- sion made by his swiftness of manoeuvre and his startling come- backs after being apparently defeated. As a strategist, his defects were apt to be a serious offset to his subtlety and audacity. As a tactician, his qualities tended to eclipse his defects. As a commander, his exceptional com- bination of leading power and driving power was accom- panied by a mercurial temperament, so that he was apt to swing too violently between exaltation and depression.
In Rommel reappeared as army group commander on the Channel coast, to meet the Anglo-American invasion. Their views differed as to the best way to meet the invasion and also as to the place where it was to be expected. Rundstedt favoured defence in depth, trusting to the effect of a powerful counter-offensive when the invaders had fully committed themselves. Rommel had a natural disposition to favour such a form of strategy, which he had followed so often in Africa, but experience there had modi- fied his view of its practicability against an invader superior in air-power.
He was now anxious to concentrate right forward with the aim of checking the invasion before it became estab- lished ashore. Here he took the same view as Hider. His efforts, fortunately for the Allies, were hampered by the shortage of resources — so that both the under-water obstructions and the coast fortifications were far from complete. They argued, also, that Rommel had had no war experience comparable to that provided by the Russian campaign, which had taught the im- portance of disposing forces in great depth.
But when one takes account of the size of the Allied forces, coupled with their domination of the air, and set against the wide space open for manoeuvre, it looks very doubtful whether any deliberate counter-offensive by the Germans could have stopped the invading armies once they penetrated deep into France. In such circumstances the only real hope may have lain in preventing them from secur- ing a bridgehead big enough for building up their strength on that side of the Channel. Beyond that there was the lack of any adequate general reserve in the West.
Rundstedt had wished to create one by evacuating the south- ern half of France, but Hitler would not sanction such a step. A timely withdrawal might have enabled the German forces to make a stand on the Seine, and a much longer stand subsequendy on the German frontier. But Hider insisted that there must be no general withdrawal, and would not allow the commanders in the West the free- dom to carry out a local withdrawal, even of a few miles, with- out his approval. As a result divisions had to cling on until they were hammered to bits — a rigidity which in the end resulted in much longer retreats than Rundstedt and Rommel had proposed.
At the end of June Hitler came to France at their urgent request— it was the only visit he paid to the West in — and they met him at Soissons. But he would not agree to their very modest proposal to withdraw behind the Orne, preparatory to an ar- moured counter-stroke. In the following week the strain on the front grew worse. Rundstedt now blundy said that it was vain to continue the struggle, and that the war ought to be ended. As that solution did not appeal to Hitler, he decided to try a change of commanders, and despatched his leading gen- eral in the East, Field-Marshal von Kluge, to replace Rund- stedt.
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It was significant that Hitler passed over Rommel, though he did not remove him. It is certain that he was acquainted — at the least— with the plot that culminated in the attempted assassination of Hitler on July 20th. His car capsized and he was thrown out, fracturing his skull.
The scene of this crash was the aptly-named village of Sainte Foy de Montgommery. He was taken to hospital in Paris and when convalescent went to his home at Ulm. By this time the Ges- tapo had investigated the plot against Hider. Two generals came to see Rommel at his home and took him out for a drive. During it they gave him a message from Hider that he could choose between taking poison and coming to Berlin for inter- rogation. He chose the poison. It was then announced that he had died from the result of his accident, and he was given a state funeral.
Thus ended the career of a soldier who, though defective both in his grasp of higher strategy and in administrative de- tail, had a real touch of genius in the tactical field, combined with dynamic executive power. He had a flair for the vital spot and the critical moment. Exasperating to his staff officers, he was worshipped by his fighting troops.
The last chapter, after following the divergent thread of Rommers career in the African field, came back along with him to the decisive reopening of the Western field in the summer of But that has left a gap in the pattern; before passing to the final stage it is desirable to pick up the thread of events in Europe from the end of , and carry it through the interval. To avoid anticipating the fuller picture that emerges from the accounts of the generals, in Part III, this interim chapter will be confined to a brief indication of the course of events, still in terms of the chief military personalities concerned.
But O. Between Brauchitsch and Haider there was a harmony rare in high quarters, and differences of view hardly ever arose. According to other generals who knew them, the two had worked so closely together that their respective functions and influence could hardly be distinguished, though Haider tended to be the dominating mind.
Haider never saw Hitler with- out Brauchitsch being present to support him. The summer campaign of had brilliant initial success and bore evidence of masterly planning by Haider. An artful delay in opening the campaign on the main front, coupled with a startling coup against the Crimean peninsula, incited the Russians to take the initiative with an offensive towards Kharkov. Having got the southern Russian armies deeply embedded here, the main German offensive was launched past their flank, and gained a clear run down the corridor between the Don and the Donetz rivers.
The very name of the city was a challenge to him. Once ag ain, by the directness of his aim he helped the Russians to concen- trate their reserves to frustrate him. As soon as it became clear that the effort was losing mo- mentum, Haider argued that it should be broken off. Hider had grown increasingly impatient of his objections, and this time his unwelcome advice led to his dismissal, at the end of September. It was he who found a way to solve the problem of supplying ar- moured forces during long-range advances and rapid switches.
Less of a strategist than his predecessor, Zeitzler was an out- standingly resourceful organizer of strategic moves, with an exceptional grasp of what could be done with mechanized forces. It im- pressed Hitler all the more because he had a deep conviction that German professional soldiers were too imbued with sealed- pattern methods, and could not improvise. Soon afterwards, Zeitzler was sent to be Chief of Staff in the West, and reorgan- ize the defences there. In September, after the repulse of the Dieppe landing, he was called back to the East, and told by Hitler that he was to become Chief of the General Staff.
It was a dazzling jump for a young major-general. In placing such a junior general at the head of O. Momentarily, Zeitzler was dazzled. Zeitzler was driven to tender his resignation, but Hider brushed that aside. After the army at Stalingrad had been forced to surrender, Zeitzler managed to induce Hider to sanction withdrawals from two dangerous salients in the north, facing Moscow and Leningrad respectively. This eased the strain and helped to maintain that front intact in face of subsequent assaults, be- sides releasing reserves for elsewhere.
Zeitzler did not lack courage in standing up to Hider, but he had to fight his batdes alone, for Keitel and Jodi always backed Hider. He was a first-rate clerk. Zeitzler, by contrast, was impulsive and far from subservient— he frequendy lost his temper in arguing with Hider. The end came early in July, , soon after the collapse of the armies on the Upper Dnieper. Zeitzler went to see Hider privately and urged him to sanction the withdrawal of the Northern Army Group, in the Baltic States, before it was encircled.
Hitler refused, and then both men flared up. Having had his resignation rejected several times, Zeitzler went sick as the only way out of a responsibility he was unwilling to share any longer. Hider took his revenge by depriving Zeitzler of various privileges of his rank, and then by giving the humiliat- ing order that he was to be discharged from the Army without the normal right to wear uniform. But, in reality, it proved more in the nature of window- dressing.
For Hider had long since taken the direction of the war completely into his own hands, and regarded O. As things were, he was doubly checked— by an atmosphere of professional mistrust around him, and by Hitler on top of him. Hider was now in such a mood of distrust that he was apt to take any contrary opinion as a symptom of treason. Some of the younger soldiers knew how to disarm his suspicions, and could argue with bim up to a point, but Guderian lacked the knack. Guderian himself had aged, and much of his original vi- tality had been used up. He had partially burnt himself out in fighting continued batdes against disbelievers and doubters.
In the process, determinadon had tended to degenerate into obstinacy; and fiery energy, into irascibility— as often happens to men of his kind. The cramping circumstances of his be- lated opportunity aggravated these tendencies. Nevertheless, this apostle of the new offensive gospel seems to have shown more insight than his master into the defensive requirements of the situation.
Early in , when he was still Inspector-General of the Panzer Forces, he had urged Hitler to carry out a strategic withdrawal in the East, and for tW purpose prepare a strong rearward defensive line along the frontier. When he became Chief of the General Staff, the front north of the Pripet Marshes had just previously col- lapsed, but the Russian flood was eventually checked on a line not far behind what he had proposed. This opened the way for the Russians to push up through the Carpathians into Central Europe in a wide flank march.
He allowed only a paltry reinforcement to be sent eastward, although Guderian warned him that a fresh Russian offensive was imminent there, and that the German front was not strong enough to hold out. When the Russian offensive was launched on January 12th, Guderian had a mobile reserve of only twelve divisions for a front of nearly miles. Moreover, three days earlier, Hitler had refused his appeal for permission to forestall the Rus- sians by withdrawing from the threatened salients.
Here there was a mo- mentary chance for a riposte, as they had outrun their sup- plies and their flanks were exposed. Hitler had now agreed to release the 6th Panzer Army from the West, but instead of allowing it to be used for this counterstroke be sent it to Hungary for another vain bid to relieve Budapest. He was living in a world of dreams, remote from reality. That was the verdict of most of those with whom I discussed the war, from Rundstedt down- wards. He had a superb strategic sense, combined with a greater understanding of mechanized weapons than any of the generals who did not belong to the tank school itself.
Yet in contrast to some of the single-track enthusiasts he did not lose sight of the importance of improving alternative weapons, and defence. He was responsible, shortly before the war, for developing the armoured assault-gun, which proved invaluable later.
A Lewinski by birth, he had been adopted by the Manstein family as a boy. He got an infantry commission shortly before the war, and, although too young to qualify for die Staff College, he made his mark on the staff of General von Loss- berg, who in produced the new system of defence in depth. By Manstein had become head of the operations section of the General Staff, and next year was made Deputy Chief under Beck. But in February, , when Fritsch was ousted, Manstein was also removed from O.
He was sent to command a division in Silesia. After that he accompanied Rundstedt to the West. Here he was the source of the brain-wave that produced the defeat of France — the idea of the tank-thrust through the Ardennes. But his arguments only prevailed after he had paid personal forfeit. After his removal he was summoned to see Hitler and seized the chance to explain his idea. Hitler agreed with it; a week later O. In the first stage of the campaign, Manstein had no chance to show what he could do as a commander of troops, for his corps was merely among the backers-up of the panzer drive.
But in the second stage, the attack on the new French defence line along the Somme, his corps was instrumental in achiev- ing the first break-through, west of Amiens. His corps was the first to reach and cross the Seine, on June 10th — marching over forty miles that day. Then, by rapid strides, he pushed on to the Loire. After that, when it came to a question of invading England, he was allotted the formidable task of making the initial landing across the Straits of Dover, near Folke- stone.
But that plan was stillborn. Before the invasion of Russia he was given command of a new panzer corps — the 56th, in East Prussia. He broke through the Russian front here, and raced on so fast that he reached the Dvina nearly miles distant within four days — cap- turing the main bridges across it.
But he was not allowed to pursue his drive towards Leningrad or Moscow, as he wished, and had to wait on the Dvina for a week while the other panzer corps and the 16th Army came up. In September he was promoted to com- mand the nth Army, in the far south, and there opened the gateway to the Crimea, by breaking through the narrow and fortified Perekop Isthmus — a feat which proved his mastery of the technique of siege warfare. When the invasion of Russia became stuck in the mud and snow before Moscow that winter, and Hitler sought a scape- goat in sacking Brauchitsch, many of the younger generals in the German Army hoped that Manstein would be chosen to succeed him as Commander-in-Chief.
But Hitler wanted to assume the post himself. He thought of appointing Manstein Chief of the General Staff, but felt he might prove even more difficult than Haider.
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In the summer of , Manstein was responsible for the attack on the famous fortress of Sevastopol, which preceded the main offensive. His success in that task deprived the Russians of their chief naval base in the Black Sea. After that, he was chosen to command the attack on Leningrad, with forces transferred for the purpose from one extreme flank to the other. It looked as though his scope was to be continually limited by the skill he had shown in this specialized r 61 e of siege tactics.
Soon that impasse developed into a crisis, and the army there was surrounded. It was too late and the effort failed— after some of the most breathless cut-and-thrust in the war. In the subsequent retreat be rallied the cracking line and prevented the Russians cross- ing the Dnieper. A dazzling counter-stroke threw them back a long way and recaptured Kharkov, in March, He had proposed alternative courses. One was to strike early in May before the Russians were ready, and dislocate their preparations by a pincer-stroke against the Kursk salient.
Hider rejected the latter, fearing to run the risks involved in such a daring stra- tegic gambit. But after choosing the former he postponed the attack — just as it was about to be launched — with the idea that by waiting until his own strength had increased he would re-insure his chances. In the end he waited until July before striking — and the Russians profited more by the delay.
This devel- oped into a general counter-offensive, which the Germans no longer had the strength to resist Manstein showed great skill, against heavy odds, in con- ducting the step-by-step retreat to the Polish frontier. But Hitler would not listen to his arguments for shaking off the Russian pressure by a long step-back.
The vigour with which he argued became an increasing annoyance to Hitler, who finally shelved him in March, , in favor of Model — saying that stubborn resistance yard by yard was more needed than skill in ma- noeuvre. A man of that quality was too difficult for Hitler to swallow for long. At conferences Manstein often differed from Hitler, in front of others, and would go so far as to declare that some of the ideas which Hitler put forward were nonsense. But in the summer of , when he was fit again, Hider found fresh room for him— in the West.
He was sent to supersede Rundstedt as Commander-in-Chief there. Field-Marshal Guenther von Kluge was the only survivor of the original army commanders with whom Hider em- barked on war in In the Polish campaign, the French campaign, and the campaign in Russia he commanded the Fourth Army. While he was a strong per- sonality, it was testimony to his forbearing temperament that he endured Bock so long — for Bock was a very difficult man to serve. In the same way Kluge had sufficient moral courage to express his views frankly to Hider, yet he also refrained from pressing his views to the point of being troublesome.
After Bock was put on the shelf early in , Kluge succeeded him in command of the Central Army Group. There he created a well-woven defence that withstood successive Russian assaults during the next two years. His defensive successes, together with his temperament and loyalty, naturally recommended him to Hider when Rund- stedt and Rommel failed to give satisfaction by achieving the impossible — and caused Hider further annoyance by pointing out the inevitable.
But Hitler still forbade any withdrawal. Kluge was too obedient to disregard such definite instruc- tions. Shrewdly aimed, this stroke could have been deadly if the panzer divisions there employed had been strong in tanks; but in their diminished state its chances were desperately small, even before it was broken up by concentrated air attack. Worse still, the German forces were not permitted to break away from the clinch when this forlorn hope miscarried. Although retreat was now inevitable, every withdrawal was fatally late and short.
In consequence, the battle ended in a general collapse of the German armies in France. Kluge took his dismissal with apparent calm, spent a day and a half explaining the situation to his successor, then quiedy set off for home and swallowed a capsule of poison on the way. That action was due, not to his chagrin at the ending of his career, but to his anticipation that he would be arrested on arriving home.
For he had been in close contact, and sympathy, as early as with the conspiracy that culminated on July 20th, , in the attempt to overthrow Hitler. Character- istically, he had refrained from committing himself, but he knew that his name had been found in the documents when the plot was investigated after the attempt had failed.
MODEL Walter Model was fifty-four, a decade younger than most of the German higher commanders— whose average age had remained much higher than in the opposing armies. Nor did he come from the same social level. When the big expansion of the army began, with the Hitler regime, Model worked under Brauchitsch in the training department of the War Ministry, and there established close touch with the Nazi leaders. He made a strong impression on Goebbels, who introduced him to Hider.
They were created by the first Dark Lord, Morgoth , before the First Age and served him and later his successor in their quest to dominate Middle-earth. Many Orcs along with fallen Maiar and other evil servants of Melkor survived in the deep caves, pits, chambers, and tunnels of Melkor's great underground fortresses of Utumno and Angband. They multiplied and later spread through northern Middle-earth.
They were first seen by the Dwarves who reported them to King Thingol , the High King of the Sindar , causing the latter to seek weapons of war for the first time. The newly organised orcs killed Denethor , the King of the lightly armed Laiquendi , but were eventually defeated by Thingol and his allies. The heavy losses that the Sindar suffered at the hands of the Orcs frightened them to the point that Melian , Queen of Doriath raised a great enchantment to protect their kingdom.
The Laiquendi, who suffered the most in the battle, hid themselves in the Ossiriand under the cloak of secrecy, or took refuge in Doriath. Melkor was the first to learn of the Awakening of the Elves. He soon began sending evil spirits among the Elves, who planted seeds of doubt against the Valar. It is also rumoured that some of the elves were being captured by a "Rider" if they strayed too far, and the elves later believed these were brought to Utumno, where they were cruelly tortured and twisted into Orcs.
In the First Age , thousands of Orcs were bred in Angband by Morgoth and to participate in the Battles of Beleriand , which lasted years. They first appeared in the Battle of Lhammoth , where they were defeated by the Noldor. Years later, when the House of Fingolfin arrived in Middle-earth, Orcs were sent against them as well, but they were utterly defeated in the Battle of the Lammoth. After their crushing defeat in the Dagor Aglareb and in a minor raid on Hithlum , the Orcs nevertheless regained their numbers and fought again in large numbers in the Dagor Bragollach and Nirnaeth Arnoediad , where they and their master won crushing victories against the free peoples.
They were nearly destroyed in the War of Wrath , and those that survived fled eastwards into the Mountains of Angmar and the Grey Mountains. Despite the immeasurable number of Orcs present, the battle was won by the Elves and the Numenoreans due to their united force and numbers.