“Anyone can do the little job of directing operations in war.”

“I am the greatest warlord of all time.” – Adolf Hitler

NOT EXACTLY:

“German men and women! The High Command of the armed forces has today… declared the unconditional surrender of all German fighting troops.”

Foreign Minister of the Dönitz government, Schwerin von Krosigk, In a broadcast to the German people on German national radio on the afternoon of 7 may 1945.

as quoted by the New York Times

 

Hitler [above far right] attained the rank of gefreiter in the First World War (1914-1918). This is equivalent to the rank of private first class in the US Army or lance corporal in the US Marines or British Army. 

(He grew up in Linz in what had been the Bohemian area of the Austrian Empire. This led Herr General Fieldmarshal von Rundstedt to refer to him as that “Bohemian corporal.”)

“Anyone can do the little job of directing operations in war.” Hitler to Colonel-General Halder, Chief of the German General Staff in December 1941 after the resignation of Field Marshal Walter von Brauchitsch (1881-1948) as Commander-in-Chief of the German Army (1938-1941).

Instead of appointing a professional soldier, Hitler appointed himself, thus assuming operational command of the German Army. Given that he was already Head of the Nazi Party, Chief of State, Minister of Defense, and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, this new responsibility put him in the position of giving orders to himself.

This would be as if President Franklin Roosevelt, who held the office of President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed forces, had also assumed the roles of Secretary of War and Secretary of the Navy, Chief of Staff of the US Army and Airforce and Chief of Naval Operations, Commander in Chief of Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, and Commander in Chief of the Southwest Pacific Theater.

Herr Colonel-General Halder, only man to hold Nazi Germany’s Knights Cross & the US Meritorious Civilian Service Award

“Incredible as it may sound, Hitler did not even have a general plan for the war.” – Colonel General Franz Halder, Chief of the German Army General Staff until dismissed by Hitler in September of 1942.

After the war, Halder worked for the US Army Historical Branch for 15 years and in 1961 received the US Meritorious Civilian Service Award from President Kennedy, thus becoming the only man in history to hold this award and the Knights Cross.

Can You Tell Me What War Is Like? No.

Herr Generaloberst Halder held the office of Chief of the German Army General Staff (OKH) from 1 September 1939 until 23 September 1942. Although he served in the German military from 1902 to 1945, he never heard a shot fired in anger. He was always a staff officer “in the rear with the gear.”

Books I Mentioned This Week: Read with Caution (Part 1)

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Fighting the Invasion: the German Army at D-Day, edited by David C. Isby. Greenhill Books, who published this volume, publishes a number of books which, like this one, are collected reprints of German monographs of different battles. Once POWs, German generals were ordered by the Allies to write their remembrances of the great battles they were involved with and after 1949, a permanent office of military history was set up by the Americans and overseen by former German Army Chief of Staff, Franz Halder. After that was set up, a number of former Wehrmacht generals were paid to write their accounts.

This book only gets three stars. Not because it is a bad book. It’s just a collection of essays by German officers recalling their impressions of battles past. I give it three stars because it is an unreliable book. First and foremost, some of the original German language monographs, translations of which comprise the book, cannot be found. When the German generals wrote these monographs, they were translated into English by the US Army, often in the years immediately after the war.

In the last number of years, several scholars have found some of the original German monographs, the translations of which are gathered together in this book and others and are often completely misleading. The US Army did a terrible job translating these documents. In fact, any translations of German accounts of World War Two by the US Army are not reliable unless the original can be found and re-translated by a competent German language translator.

There are a lot of books like this one. It is fascinating to read what the Germans wrote, keeping in mind that they are writing to please their captors and that if the original German document can’t be found and hasn’t been re-translated, you shouldn’t rely on the facts of that account.

[Mentioned in Too Many Chiefs, Not Enough Indians: The Organization of the German High Command During D-Day and the Weeks Afterwards (Part 1)]