Bäke, dr. Franz Fritz August, born 28-02-1898 in Schwarzenfels, was a German Army officer and panzer ace. After attending school and receiving excellent grades, Bäke planned on a career in medicine. In August 1914, the outbreak of World War I he changed his plans. In May 1915, Bäke volunteered for the German Army. He was posted to Infanterie-Regiment Nr.3, based in Cologne After basic training, Bäke was transferred to Infanterie-Regiment Nr.11, which was in action on the Western Front. During his service with Infantry Regiment 11 he was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd class for bravery in combat in the battles near Verdun for the towns of Fleury and Thiaumont. In mid-1916, Bäke accepted an offer to become an officer candidate and was briefly transferred to Infanterie-Regiment Nr.10. In November 1916 Bäke was transferred to the artillery arm and served with Artillerie-Regiment zu Fuß Nr.7. In early 1918 he was wounded twice and was only returned to the front in September. After the armistice, Bäke remained in the army until his demobilization in January 1919. After receiving his credentials, Bäke established his own dentistry practice in Hagen, which became quite successful. Bäke remained immersed in his dental practice during the tumultuous events of 1933 to 1936, but in early 1937 he applied to join the reserves, being accepted on 01-04-1937. Bäke was given his World War I rank of officer cadet and posted to Aufklärungs Abteiling Nr 6, a reconnaissance unit. On 01-01-1938, Bäke was transferred to Panzer-Abteilung 65 under command of Oberstleutnant, later Generalleutnant, Kurt Thomas , where he served as platoon leader of the Abt’s light column.
General Thomas crashed with a plane on 05-05-1943, age 47. During the bloodless Invasion of the Sudetenland, he acted as the deputy company commander for 3rd Panzer-Abteilung 65. On 10-05-1940, Bäke and his 6th Panzer Regiment took part in Fall Gelb, the invasion of Belgium, France and our Holland (see About). The 6th Panzer Regiment formed a part of Panzergruppe Heinz Wilhelm Guderian (see Heinz Gunther Guderian ) (see Kurt Guderian) an army-sized formation charged with attacking through the Ardennes. During the Blitzkrieg campaign, Bäke, in command of 1st Kompanie, seized an undamaged bridge over the Meuse at Arques. In the following weeks in combat, he was wounded twice, on 17 and 19 May, receiving the wound badge in Gold. For his actions in securing the bridge, Bäke was awarded the Iron Cross first class. The 6th had famous commanders like Generalleutnant der Panzertruppe, Commander 6th Panzer Division, Walther von Hünersdorff, General der Panzertruppe, German Africa Corps. DAK, Walter Ritter von Thoma, and General der Panzertruppe, Kommandeur General XXXXVIII Panzerkorps, Werner Kempf. Following the campaign in the West, the 6th Panzer Regiment was moved to East Prussia, for the coming offensive against the Soviet Union. In June, 6th Panzer was attached to 4th Panzer Army under Generaloberst der Waffen SS, Hermann Hoth. The 4th Panzer-Armee was to form the southern pincer of the attack on the Kursk sailent, Operation Citadel.
For their attack, the Germans utilized three armies along with a large proportion of their total tank strength on the Eastern Front. The 9th Army, of Army Group Center and based north of the bulge, contained 335.000 men (223.000 combat soldiers). In the south, the 4th Panzer Army and Army Detachment “Kempf”, of Army Group South, had 223.907 men (149.271 combat soldiers) and 100.000 men (66,000 combat soldiers) respectively. In total, the three armies had a total strength of 778.907 men, with 518.271 being combat soldiers. Army Group South was equipped with more armoured vehicles, infantry and artillery than the 9th Army. The 4th Panzer Army and Army Detachment “Kempf” had 1.377 tanks and assault guns, while the 9th Army possessed 988 tanks and assault guns. The Soviets had massed about 1.300.000 men, 3.600 tanks, 20.000 artillery pieces, and 2.792 aircraft to defend the salient. This amounted to 26 per cent of the total manpower of the Red Army, 26 per cent of its mortars and artillery, 35 per cent of its aircraft, and 46 per cent of its tanks. The German Army suffered around 54.000 casualties and lost 252 tanks and assault guns in total during Citadel (July 5-16). In contrast, the Soviets suffered about 177.000 casualties, and their material losses amounted to 2.586 tanks and self-propelled guns (over 50%), roughly seven times the number of German losses. Bäke
led his Abt through fierce fighting against the entrenched soviet forces near Belgrorod. On 13-07-1943 he was wounded , but remained with the unit. On 14 July, the commander of the 11th Panzer-Regiment was severely wounded, and command of the regiment was temporarily delegated to Bäke. During the ferocious armored battles, Bäke led the regiment and proved himself a capable regimental commander. The offensive was cancelled on 13-08-1943, and Bäke’s regiment saw heavy combat during the withdrawal to the Dniepr. For his actions during Operation Citadel, Bäke as the 49th soldier, on 21-02-1944, was awarded the Oak Leaves to the Knight’s Cross.
Peter Bracke from Belgium reported me that he is the proud owner of the Oak Leaves with Swords of Generalmajor Dr Franz Bake, and sent me a photo of the item. On 01-11-1943 Bäke was promoted to Oberstleutnant of the Reserve and his command of the regiment was made official. In December 1943, he was ordered to begin formation of an ad-hoc reinforced tank regiment, titled Heavy Panzer Regiment Bäke. During the five-day battle, Bäke’s regiment was credited with destroying 267 Soviet tanks for the loss of only 4 tanks. Bäke single-handedly destroyed three Soviet tanks during the battle with infantry weapons at close range, for which he received three Tank Destruction Badges , worn on his upper right sleeve. Next, the regiment was sent to the area of Korsun-Cherkassy, where Gruppe Stemmermann, under Wilhelm Stemmermann had been encircled in the Cherkassy Pocket. Stemmermann died in battle age 55 on 18-02-1944 in Cherkassy, Ukraine. Together with a Kampfgruppe of the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler , under SS Standartenführer, Jochen Peiper
, Bäke’s tanks opened a route of escape for the trapped Germans and held it open while many escaped. During this month his regiment was credited with the destruction of 500 soviet tanks and assault guns. For his actions during these battles, Bäke received the Swords to the Knight’s Cross on 14-02-1944 as 49th Wehrmacht soldier. In March, the regiment was trapped in the Kamenets-Podolsky Pocket along with the entire 1st Panzer Army. Bäke’s regiment formed one of the spearheads moving west to break the encirclement, and effected a link up with II Panzer Corps under Waffen SS General, Paul “Papa” Hausser, creating an escape route for the army. After the encirclement of the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad, the 6th Panzer Regiment, now fully reformed, was sent to Ukraine to join Generaloberst, Erich von Manstein’s Army Group Don Erich von Manstein. Bäke had by now built himself a reputation as one of the army’s most capable tank commanders. Bäke was ordered west to take command of the 106th Panzer Brigade Feldherrnhalle , which was undergoing formation in Baden. The Feldherrnhalle formations were formed from a cadre of ex SA men, and as such Bäke was granted the honorary SA rank of SA-Sanitäts-Standartenführer. In battles against General, Georg Smith Patton US Third Army , Bäke’s brigade fought with spirit, halting several attacks and destroying many American tanks. Bäke was promoted to Major General and led the remains of his division in a successful breakout attempt towards the West and on 08-05-1945 surrendered to the American Forces. Bäke spent several years as a Prisoner of war, being released in 1950.
Death and burial ground of Bäke, dr. Franz Fritz August.
Dr Bäke returned to Hagen and resumed his dental practice. Bäke, dr. Franz Fritz August died, at the age of 80, in a car accident, on 12-12-1978. He is buried on the Waldfriedhof Loxbaum in Hagen and the Bundeswehr provided an honour guard at his funeral.