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  • German generals

    It's been awhile since one of these was put on the forum.

    We all know that Germany produced an outstanding crop of military commanders over the course of World War II. Each had their own personality and their own way of operating and maneuvering the forces at their disposal.

    But who was the best of the lot? I'm sure you all have your own opinions on the issue. Even Hitler had his favourites.
    112
    Heinz Guderian
    17.86%
    20
    Erwin Rommel
    26.79%
    30
    Erich Manstein
    46.43%
    52
    Walter Model (Hitler's fav.)
    5.36%
    6
    Other (please amplify in a post)
    3.57%
    4
    Last edited by tigersqn; 25 Jan 03, 13:37.
    Scientists have announced they've discovered a cure for apathy. However no one has shown the slightest bit of interest !!

  • #2
    As I keep learning about Rommel, Guderian, and von Manstein I keep changing my mind as to which one was the best. For now, I picked Rommel, because of the three I think that he did the most with the least amount of resources.

    But I could change my mind tomorrow.
    ". . . those who win every battle are not really skillful--those who render other's armies helpless without fighting are the best of all." Sun Tzu, The Art of War

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    • #3
      Vom Manstein......I have read his memoirs, 'Lost Battles' and found them very good......also the other Generals rated him the best and they would know!

      Rommel was a great commander at the level of battalion, Division and Korps. However his dash and elan against his enemies in WWI, France 1940 and North Africa 1941-1943 does not make him one of the great Commanders. By the time he reached very high command he was a broken man, ' burnt out' by the hardships of the African desert. The 'Rommel Papers' are very good, also his 'Infantry Attacks' IIRC, about his experiences in WWI

      I also rate Karl Donitz as one of the great German commanders of the War. If you can get your hands on a copy of his memoirs ' Ten Years and one Day' IIRC, then it too is well worth a read.
      http://www.irelandinhistory.blogspot.ie/

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      • #4
        I know the most about Rommel, and voted for him.

        Guderian seems to have ended up a Nazi Toady towards the end of the war - but don't know much about his late war battlefield record.

        Perhaps those with more info can post a few of their greatest exploits.

        For Rommel I would put:

        Master of Blitzkrieg tactics in 1940.
        Proponent of striking for the Middle East, Malta, etc. realizing their importance to crippling the allied war efforts...was rebuffed by Hitler at all turns.
        Master of adaptation and knowledge of enemy, in tying up British forces in North Afrika for several years with smaller forces.

        In his late-war defense, much of the problems he faced were created by Hitler and the confused command structure in Tunisia and France.
        Our forefathers died to give us freedom, not free stuff.

        I write books about zombies as E.E. Isherwood. Check me out at ZombieBooks.net.

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        • #5
          I personally prefer Manstein to the others.

          For the entire course of the war when he was present, he expounded a fluid defence of the Eastern Front, which, if allowed by Hitler, could very well have lengthened the war by a considerable extent. ie. He recognized that Germany did not have the manpower required for the type of positional warfare that Hitler attempted to carry out.

          Among his master strokes were the destruction of Soviet 6th Army in his counter attack to regain Kharkov in summer/fall of '42, his reduction and susequent capture of Sevastopol, and what I consider his coup de grace, the extrication of 1st Panzer Army from a potential pocket north of the Dnestr river.

          In this action, Hube, the commander of 1st Pz Army at the time, wanted to escape to the south,the easier route. The Soviet commanders, Zhukov and Koniev, expected the breakout to the south. This action would have opened up a gaping hole north of the Carpathian Mountains. Manstein recognized this and insisted on a western breakout, in turn keeping the Front intact to confront the Soviet juggernaut.

          In short, Manstein, with limited forces, consistently frustated Stalins plan to destroy the southern wing of the Eastern Front, usually with masterly withdrawals, but occasionally, when Hitler unleashed him, with devastating counter attacks.
          Scientists have announced they've discovered a cure for apathy. However no one has shown the slightest bit of interest !!

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          • #6
            Oh-oh, Tigersqn and I are currently playing the Kharkov 42 battle, and he's reading up on the Historical Counterattack. My Soviet forces had better start digging in I think.

            I'll vote for Rommel in this, not only was he an excellent attacking General, he is the only one of the choices that I know of who had a movie made about him!

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            • #7
              I voted for Rommel, but in retrospect, I might have been to hasty.

              von Manstein might have been a superior commander to Rommel. As Tigersqn said, he was a skillful defensive commander and came very close to bailing out 6th Army at Stalingrad with just a few divisions in horrible conditions. His 1943 offensive handed the Soviets a major defeat at Krasnograd. Manstein might have been able to do more had Hitler not placed so much focus on Kursk.

              We are forgetting about Albert Kesselring. The Allies had designs on beginning their campaign to retake Europe by attacking what Churchill called the "soft under belly of Europe." Kesselring skillfully used the Italian terrain to mount a successful defense which prevented the Allies from ever capturing the country.
              "As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy."-Christopher Dawson - The Judgement of Nations, 1942

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              • #8
                I wanted to put Kesselring in the poll, but I didn't think of it until yesterday. He did an incredible job in Italy. By the time he took over the Western Front, it was too late. Nobody could have stopped the Allies.

                He was also a very versatile commander, having commanded part of the Air Fleet that took part in the BoB.

                As for Manstein, he also came very close to winning the Battle of Kursk in spite of the formidable defences the Soviets had erected.
                Scientists have announced they've discovered a cure for apathy. However no one has shown the slightest bit of interest !!

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                • #9
                  With these kinds of subjects, its usually difficult to compare. Rommel and Guderian were much more tactical commanders, leading the troops literally from the front in their armoured cars or halftracks. Manstein was a bit more of a big picture kind of general, while Model was more a defensive specialist.

                  I voted for Manstein for his strategical brilliance, but my personal favourite would be Colonel-General Gotthard Heinrici, who was the unchallenged German defensive master.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Martin Schenkel

                    I voted for Manstein for his strategical brilliance, but my personal favourite would be Colonel-General Gotthard Heinrici, who was the unchallenged German defensive master.
                    I would have to agree, Heinrici did a masterful job on the Seelow heights before Berlin. His specialty was pulling back his main defensive lines just before the Russian pre assault bombardment, causing the shells to hit empty trenches. I think a lot of that success can probably be attributed to excellent intel though.
                    Scientists have announced they've discovered a cure for apathy. However no one has shown the slightest bit of interest !!

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by tigersqn


                      I would have to agree, Heinrici did a masterful job on the Seelow heights before Berlin. His specialty was pulling back his main defensive lines just before the Russian pre assault bombardment, causing the shells to hit empty trenches. I think a lot of that success can probably be attributed to excellent intel though.
                      His defense before Berlin was the culmination of his career, however he perfected his technics in Russia, facing numerous Russian attacks in 42-43, on the 'quiet' fronts. His pulling back tactic depended upon good intel (captured prisoners, etc.), but I think it was also largely due to excellent intuition and experience gained in fighting of Russian attacks earlier in the war. He somehow always knew when they were coming.

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                      • #12
                        The trouble with fame is it is often based just on good luck.

                        I voted Guderian simply because German Armour owed so much to him in the early years. A lot of his efforts were low glamour but likely had a major influence on a lot of aspects of the war.
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                        • #13
                          To me the choice is simple: von Manstein. This officer commanded far larger forces than most of the other commanders mentioned and did so in far more desperate situations. He record of achievement at operational maneuver is basically unparalled. Guderian once said of him, "our finest operational brain." Liddle Hart also stated that his grasp of the possibilities of modern warfare were greater than any other German general he interviewed.

                          There is no right answer to this question, but IMHO von Manstein's record eclipses almost any other senior commander in WWII.

                          An interesting point is that he was also instrumental in giving advice to the Allies in post-WWII Europe for use against the Russians. It's obvious that the British and American people who were in charge at the time believed his skills were the cream of the crop.

                          Good question.
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                          GameSquad.com

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                          • #14
                            Here's an easy question. What is the best book to read to learn more about von Manstein?
                            Our forefathers died to give us freedom, not free stuff.

                            I write books about zombies as E.E. Isherwood. Check me out at ZombieBooks.net.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Siberian HEAT
                              Here's an easy question. What is the best book to read to learn more about von Manstein?
                              'Lost Victories' by Erich von Manstein
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