Balck, Hermann

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Balck, Hermann, born on 07-12-1893 in Danzig, into a military family – his father, a General, had been awarded the Pour 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. The Schlieffen Plan was created by General Count Alfred von Schlieffen
 in December 1905. The von Schlieffen Plan was the operational plan for a designad attack on France once Russia, in responce to international tension, had started to mobilise her forces near the German border. The execution of the von Schlieffen Plan led to Britain declaring on Germany on 04-08-1914. Alfred von Schlieffen died on 04-01-1913, age 79, just 19 months before the outbreak of World War I. Balck was also nominated for the Pour le Mérity in October 1918. During the interwar years he was a supporter of mechanization, and a friend of Generaloberst der Panzertruppe, Heinz 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 Panzer Division , under General  403px-Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-2005-1017-520,_Rudolf_Schmidt Rudolf  “Panzer Schmidt” Schmidt in late October 1939, he served during the Battle of France. In the spring of 1941 Balck’s regiment was based in Austria. Rudolf Schmidt died age 70 on 07-04-1957, in Krefeld. 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. Friedrich von Paulus “Der Lord” 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 (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, re-situated 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 67 in 1969. On 04-03-1943 Balck 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 The 11th Panzer Division retreated south east, eventually surrendering to US forces in the area around Passau on 02-05-1945. 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 Corps, he succeeded General der Panzertruppe, Kommandeur 4th Panzer Grenadier Division, Walter Nehring
   This placed him in front of the massive Soviet offensive that destroyed Army Group Center. 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 Panzertruppe, Kommandeur 4th Panzer Grenadier Division, Fritz Hubert 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’s unit surrendered to the U.S. XX Corps  under General Walton “Johnnie Walker” Harris Walker    in Austria on 8 May 1945. Balck together with his Irish setter, wearing a camouflage jacket, a green para trouser, black para boots and one Iron Cross,  surrounded in the French Fortress Capucins to 1st Lieutenant James M Dunham, commander of the I Company of the 13 Infantry Division . Balck was a prime example of a class of German officers, who rose rapidly through the ranks during the war, together with Field Marshal der Panzertruppe, Erwin Rommel , Erhard Rauss, Raus died in Vienna General hospital on 03-04-1956, age 67 and Generaloberst der Panzertruppe, Josef Harpe.  General Hermann Balck displayed the same brilliance at the tactical and operative levels of war that Erich von Manstein   did at the strategic. 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.

Death and burial ground of Balck, Hermann.

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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.
 

 

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