Skip to comments.US Mag Prints List of 'top 10 German Generals'
Posted on 11/21/2012 3:39:46 PM PST by nickcarraway
A US military history magazine has published a controversial list of the "top ten German generals," including three who fought under Adolf Hitler, causing some consternation in Germany.)
"Only an American could ask a question like this," German newspaper Die Welt wrote on Tuesday, in response to a list published in US magazine The Quarterly Journal of Military History. The list was sparked by a reader's question about the greatest German military minds.
It was answered by historian Robert M. Citino, professor for European history at the University of North Texas, and author of the book The German Way of War. Though the list leaves out major Nazi military figures like Erwin Rommel, it does include Heinz Guderian, who is said to have developed modern German tank strategies during World War II, as well as two other Nazi generals.
Such lists are considered highly suspect in Germany. "The actions of a general in the German-Soviet war is today exclusively judged on how many civilians and prisoners of war were killed or starved to death within his remit," military historian Johannes Hürter said in Die Welt. "Against that, hardly anyone asks about their military performance."
Two of Hitler's generals who made it onto Citino's list - Erich von Lewinski, known as Manstein, and Eberhard von Mackensen - were later convicted of war crimes. Manstein was sentenced to 18 years in prison and Mackensen was sentenced to death, though both were eventually pardoned.
The list largely concentrates on Prussian-German military history, and includes two actual Prussian rulers - Frederick the Great himself and Frederick William I, King of Prussia from 1713 to his death in 1740.
The pre-Nazi-era generals on the list include Count Hellmuth von Moltke, Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, Prinz Friedrich Karl of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm von Seydlitz, and Georg Freiherr von Derfflinger. Except for Guderian, the entire list is made up of members of aristocratic Prussian families.
But the newspaper could not resist a swipe at the academic value of such exercises. "Such debates are limited to hobby historians in Germany," Die Welt wrote. "If you want to reduce war history to lists, you have to go to America."
I know my military history reasonably well, and WWII history in particular, and had no idea who Eberhard von Mackensen was. Weird list just on that.
Oh, and there is no doubt Guderian created the doctrine for combined arms built around tanks, mechanized infantry, self-propelled artillery, and close air support that came to be known as Blitzkrieg. No “said to have developed modern German tank strategies” about it, it is absolutely so. He owed a lot to a Brit named Fuller, but Guderian was able to get Hitler and the Wehrmacht to listen to him.
Messed up my original link
Henning von Tresckow
Who studied the Germans closely, as would be expected of a serious professional. Sam Donaldson interviewed him in the command bunker during Desert Shield/Storm. In his monk’s cell of a room was a copy of von Mellenthin’s Panzer Battles, which he had clearly been re-reading.
Not a bad list. As for the most recent names, they were good at executing what they had been taught, but who taught them? Look at their teachers.
"Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein, we never had a defeat." - Winston Churchill.
The same thing was true of Midway. Before Midway we hardly won a battle. After Midway we hardly lost one.
One thing Adolph Galland mentioned in his book was that they didn’t all run around snapping to attention and yelling “heil Hitler”.
In fact he said when they see Germans doing this in movies they all laugh.
How’s this list of top 10 German Generals:
Elmo Zumwalt (Navy)
Spaatz (Air Force)
Harry Schmidt (Marines)
George Armstrong Custer
Molly Pitcher (Mary Ludwig Hays McCauly) and
Baron von Steuben (of course)
Finally, while the following person belongs to all Americans, I mention:
Washington (mother’s side)
John Monash, the German General who invented the blitzreig - Battle of Hamel 4 July 1918 (incidentally the first time American troops were in action in WWI) even though that pantywaist Pershing not only said it couldn't be done but pulled most American troops out the day before the battle (and tried to pull out all of them just 11 hours before). As a result victory was not achieved until two whole minutes after the planned time.
JFC’s a good one.
Thanks. That fight must have been amazing.
Rommel would qualify as a great general for two reasons. His mastery of tank warfare, and most importantly that he supported assassinating Adolph (who was a lousy strategist and war planner).
“Who was that German who led the Romans into an ambush that wiped out an entire legion?”
You mean at Adrianople? Looking it up yields the name Fritigern.
I’m not sure what were the eligibility rules. Perhaps they don’t count ancient Goths as “German.”
I read that the evidence against him was highly circumstantial; specifically, that he may have had some knowledge of the plot but did not participate.
They gave him a choice of sacrificing himself or having his family sacrificed. He chose himself.
Militarily, he was controversial among the Nazi general staff. He was not universally loved. Historians will debate his merits as a general forever, I suppose.
Herman the German, Teutoburg Forest, 9AD. And it was THREE Legions.
One of the most preposterous and hypocritical aspects of the postwar showtrials trials, aside from the fact that they were held and the Soviets’ participation, was his they condemned Germans for supposedly waging aggressive and preemptive war against Norway. The Nazis invaded it because the British were planning on invading it to cut off supplies and they wanted to forestall that eventuality. The British knew this to be true, and knew they had gone so far as to mine harbors prior to German invasion.
But Nazis were deprived of this defense, which was perfectly sound since you’ll notice no charges were made concerning “strategic” bombing. That’s because and only because the Brits started it. The purpose of showtrials would be defeated if everyone knew the allies got away with the selfsame actions that condemned people on the losing side.
So they set the rules of evidence, which were that whatever damaging to the defense would be presented and everything else would not. The defeated knew the British planned an invasion of Norway, but not being privy to what evidence existed could not prevail upon it in court. Even if they did know where lay the evidence, the court wouldn’t have allowed it.
There were exceptions, as when witnesses fell into defendants’ laps. It’s harder to squash a living person who can go to the press. But mostly it was, “Come again? What invasion plan? I know nothing of which you speak, sir.” Unfortunately for them ultimately the truth came out.
“There is probably not much new in military strategy”
Depends on how broadly you define it. There are all sorts of tactical revolutions given changing technology. Blitzkrieg is essentially a mixture of various new tactics designed to exploit tanks and airplanes, which were designed to get around machine guns and heavy ground artillery. But it also was a new strategic vision that reoriented us away from the defensive nature of WWI.
Rommel may be overrated because we want yge satisfaction of having beaten the best guy. That’s not the only reason, though. Were it, you’d think people would be able to name off the top of their heads more than one Japanese commander (that being Yammamoto).
I can name a few others, but, strangely enough, they’re all IJN, not Japanese Army.
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