Bayerlein, Fritz Hermann Michael, born 14-01-1899 in Würzburg, Franconia, as a son of the Chief Inspector (Oberinspektor), Donat Bayerlein and Luise Denkmann..His father was active in the state administration. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the Bavarian army. During World War I, Bayerlein was drafted into the 9th Bavarian Infantry in 1917 and fought on the Western front. Fritz Bayerlein began his military career as a 16-year-old private in the British sector of the western front. He was wounded and received the Iron Cross when he was in the 4th Infantry Regiment. After the war Bayerlein was briefly a member of a volunteer battalion but was transferred to Regiment 45 in May 1919. He went through officer training in 1921 and was one of the officers who remained in the 100.000 men Reichswehr. He had reached the rank of major. At the beginning of World War II, Bayerlein served in the Invasion of Poland as the First General Staff Officer of Generaloberst, Heinz Wilhelm Guderian. He continued in this position during the invasion of France. Guderian’s troops crossed the Meuse River near Sedan on May 14 and advanced until General Paul Ludwig Ewald Kleist ordered Guderian to halt and not attack the British fleeing from Dunkirk. Von Kleist died age 73, on 13-11-1954. With Operation Barbarossa , the invasion of Russia, during June 1941, Bayerlein was assigned to General Guderian’s Panzer Group 2 , Headquarters, as the Ia Operations officer. After the Kiev operation, Oberstleutnant Bayerlein was transferred from the Russian front and from the support of General Guderian to then Generaloberst der Panzertruppe, Erwin Rommel.
He was then transferred to the Führer Reserve in August 1942, then again assigned to the Afrika Korps as Chief of Staff under Marshal Rommel. He served under the command of Generalmajor der Panzertruppe, Kommandeur 1st Panzer Division, Walter Nehring beginning in March 1942 upon Nehring’s transfer to Africa. Bayerlein’s next assignment was in North Africa, in the Afrika Korps. In the battle of Alam Halfa, Bayerlein took command when General Walther Nehring was incapacitated on 30-08-1942. During the desert war in Africa from 13-09-1940 until Mai 1943, the Allied lost more then 250.000 men, death, wounded and prisoners. The As casualties were 620.000 men, included 250.000 men in captivity. Later he served under Fieldmarshal Erwin Rommel
and General der Panzertruppe, German Africa Corps. DAK , Wilhelm Ritter von Thoma . He again assumed command when British troops captured von Thoma at El Alamein on 4 November. When Rommel left Tunisia in March 1943, after the failed attack at Medenine (Operation Capri), Bayerlein was appointed German liaison officer under the new commander, Field Marshal, Giovanni Messe , Bayerlein acted as he saw fit, disregarding the Italian’s orders. Messe died age 85, on 19-12-1968. During the fighting Bayerlein developed muscular rheumatism and hepatitis. He was sent to Italy on sick leave before the German troops in Tunisia surrendered on 12-05-1943. He was rewarded for his efforts in Africa with the Oakleaves to the Knight’s Cross. Bayerlein was sent to the Eastern Front in October 1943, this second assignment to Russia, to lead the Berlin-Brandenburg 3rd Panzer Division . He broke out of a Soviet encirclement at Kirovograd against Hitler’s orders. He was later assigned to command the Panzer-Lehr-Division. They moved to Budapest, Hungary to train in March 1944. Bayerlein aided the Archbishop of Hungary, Cardinal Seridi in Budapest, in his efforts to stop the deporting of Jews in the Panzer Lehr Division sector. Panzer Lehr Division left Hungary in May 1944 to prepare for the Allied invasion. Unfortunately, due to his Mass services protesting the deportment of the Jews and condemnation of the racial policies, the Cardinal was murdered by the SD in October 1944. The Cardinal left notes in his diary praising Bayerlein for his humanitarianism. Panzer Lehr Division took a brutal pounding from Allied aircraft in the Allied invasion. Bayerlein stated his division would be more effective in Russia than Normandy fighting due to the long barrels of the panzers. Near the French village of St. Lo, allied carpet bombing decimated the Division and Bayerlein, along with his staff, had to take to the woods and fields to escape strafing and bombing. After the remnants of Panzer Lehr Division fled toward Vire in August 1944, he began the refit for his division for Hitler’s latest campaign, the “Wacht am Rhein” – The Ardennes Offensive – to take place in the winter in the Ardennes forest and mountains. He served under General der Panzertruppe, Heinrich von Luttwitz of the XLVII Panzer Corps, who reported to General der Panzertruppe, Hasso Erich von Manteuffell in the Ardennes Offensive which began on 19-12-1944. This was Hitler’s last-ditch and ill-fated effort to divide the Allies. After the failure of the Ardennes Offensive, (see Anthony McAuliffe)
(see Harry Kinnard)
(see Richard “Dick” Winters)
of the 101 Airborne Division, “Screaming Eagles” , Bayerlein took command of the 53rd Corps, LIII Armee Korps – Korpsgruppe Bayerlein, in February 1945 after his removal from commanding Panzer Lehr Division. General von Manteuffel was displeased with Bayerlein’s ‘lackluster’ performance in the Ardennes. On 15-04-1945 General Bayerlein, commanding the LIII Armee Korps, and his troops surrendered to the U.S. Army 7th Armored Division, Lucky Seventh , then under General, Commander Combat B 7th Armored Division, Bruce Clarke in the Ruhr Pocket. Bayerlein refused to comply with Hitler’s scorched earth policy in the industrialized Ruhr valley. Field Marshall der Panzertruppe, Walter Otto Model,
Commander of Army Group B, accused those who did not comply with sacrificial orders of ‘being an evil traitor of the community of the German people and will be treated as a state criminal.” During the failing days before the collapse of the western front, General Walter Model also berated Bayerlein’s performance. Model committed suicide rather than surrender himself or allow a surrender. The threat of the traveling court martial with the accompanying firing squads were close at hand to discourage those slacking in their fighting efforts for the failing Third Reich. Families of General officers were held as “Sippenhaftung” hostages – a law enacted by Hitler to discourage retreat, surrender and half-hearted efforts. Only full sacrifice and death were palatable to Hitler in the face of defeat. In spite of these threats, Bayerlein knew the war was lost, and had been since Africa, he arrested members of his staff who dissented with his plans to surrender, praising the ones that helped him put together the surrender of his Corps. His surrender in the Ruhr was the first mass surrender of over 30.000 troops. This mass surrender triggered the entire front to collapse and ended the fighting. Bayerlein surrendered to General Robert Hasbrouck, Distinguished Service Meda
Commanding General of the 7th Armored Division, on 19-04-1945. General Hasbrouck died 19-08-1985, aged 89 in Washington.
Bayerlein was a prisoner of war from April 1945 through April 1947. During this time, with many other Generals in Allied captivity, they wrote the European battle histories for the US Army Historical Division. Bayerlein cooperated with the Army historians. This, along with his surrender in the Ruhr, garnered him hostile threats from many of his fellow officers. Bayerlein was released from captivity on 02-04-1947. After the war he wrote about military subjects and continued aiding the US Army Historical Division’s efforts in documenting in the historical studies of World War II, European Theater. During the 1960s, he was also a technical adviser to the Carl Foreman production of The Guns of Navarone.
Death and burial ground of Bayerlein, Fritz Hermann Michael.
Bayerlein died in his hometown Würzburg in 30-01-1970, age 71, from his illness in Africa. Bayerlein who was never married is buried with his sister Ellen, who died old, age 86 on 28-05-1986, on the Hauptfriedhof of Würzburg. His burial site also lists the names of his parents Donat and Louise Bayerlein, as well as his older brother Richard Bayerlein who was killed in World War I. Close by the graves of the Generalmajor der Luftnachrichtentruppe, Commandeur Air Region Signals Regiment, Hermann Fahrig, Generalmajor der Flieger, Kommandeur Versorgung Regio VII, Ferdinand Hornung, Generalmajor der Luftnachrichtentruppe, Kommandant Berlin III, Hans Prockl and General der Infanterie, Chef der Wehrmacht-Streifendienstes OKW, Friedrich Siebert