Balck , Hermann
Born on 07-12-1893 in Danzig, Hermann Balck, into a military family - his father had been awarded the Port le Mérite, and was the author of a book on tactics. Balck entered the Hanover Military College in February 1914, as an officer candidate, Fahnenjunker, age 19. He served as a company grade officer in World War I, ending in command of a machine-gun company. His unit was closely involved in the German Schlieffen Plan, and led the Sedan crossing. Balck was nominated for the Pour le Mérity in October 1918. During the interwar years he was a supporter of mechanization, and a friend of Heinz Guderian (see Guderian). Balck served at OKH, the Army Headquarters, during the invasion of Poland, before in October 1939 moving to command a motorized infantry regiment. As Commander of the Schützenregiment 1 in the 1st Panzerdivision in late October 1939, he served during the Battle of France. In the spring of 1941 Balck's regiment was based in Austria. In March it was allocated to the force that invaded Greece. By this point he was commanding the 3rd Panzer Regiment, 2nd Panzer Division. His regiment helped turn the Metaxis Line, the main Greek defensive position, and captured Salonika on 09-04-1942. He then helped outflank the Allied defensive line around Mount Olympus. In May 1942, Balck went to the Eastern Front and commanded the 11th Panzer Division in Ukraine and Southern Russia. During his first two months in command his division claimed the destruction of 500 Soviet tanks, and on 1 August he was promoted to Generalmajor. His division or Panzerkorps engaged in the defense against the Soviet breakthrough at Stalingrad and the attempt to relieve Stalingrad in late 1942. (see Paulus) Balck was one of the two commanders responsible for the disastrous attempt to create and hold a Fester Platz at Tarnopol, the city was declared a fortified place by Adolf Hitler (see Adolf Hitler) (did you know) (see Hitler Paula) (see William Hitler), to be defended until the last round was shot. Extensive use of heavy artillery by the Red Army, resituated in the complete destruction of the city and killing of nearly all German defenders, 55 survivors out of 4,500. Balck was awarded the Oakleaves to the Knight's Cross for this achievement. In the spring he played a part in the destruction of the Soviet 5th Shock Army, under General Markian Mihajlovics Popov, Popov died age Popov died age 67 in 1969 and on 04-03-1943 he was awarded the Swords to the Knight's Cross. On the same day he was replaced as commander of the 11th Panzer Division by General der Infanterie Dietrich von Choltitz. (see Choltitz). He was allocated to command the 14th Panzer Corps in Italy, but was badly injured in an air crash and placed on the reserve until he recovered. Balck returned to command late in 1943, first as commander of the 40th Panzer Corps and then as commander of the 48th Panzer Corps.. He was then promoted to command the 4th Panzer Army, he succeeded General der Panzertruppen Walter Nehring (see Nehring). This placed him in front of the massive Soviet offensive that destroyed Army Group Centre. The Russians established two bridgeheads over the Vistula and threatened to break into Poland. Balck was able to eliminate one bridgehead and shrink the size of the second, and on 31-08-1944 he was awarded the Diamonds to the Knight Cross. Succeeded by General der Panzertruppen Fritz Huberet Gräser (see Gräser). As Commander of Army Group G in the Alsace Region of France in September 1944, Balck was relieved of his command and transferred back to the Eastern Front and demoted to command Army Group Balck in Hungary. Balck was captured in Austria by American troops, on 08-05-1945. Balck was a prime example of a class of German officers, who rose rapidly through the ranks during the war, together with Field Marshal Erwin Rommel (see Rommel), Erhard Raus, Raus died in Vienna General hospital on 03-04-1956, age 67 and Generaloberst Josef Harpe. (see Harpe).
General Hermann Balck displayed the same brilliance at the tactical and operative levels of war that von Manstein (see Manstein) did at the strategic. Retreated into Austria, where on 8 May he surrendered to the Americans. After being released from captivity in 1947, Balck in 1948 was charged with ordering the execution of an artillery officer in 1944, and was sentenced to three years imprisonment. He served eighteen months. Balck retired to Stuttgart. Hermann Balck, described by one military historian, as Germany's greatest field commander, died on 29-11-1982 at the old age of 88. Balck is buried with his wife Marianne, in the Balck family grave, on the Hasefriedhof in Osnabrück, next to his famous forefathers.